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No Vacancy: Maximizing ROI

5 Posts tagged with the marketing_techniques tag
2

"A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats" – John F. Kennedy

 

YearConventional Wisdom at Given Point In TimeCorrected Wisdom Beyond Said Point In TimeYear
1960We can’t walk on the moon, more than 10ft of space dust covers it and a man would “sink!”One small step proves minor amounts of dust, nothing a 6-iron couldn’t handle (see photo).1969
1999Older computers are going to crash, causing major global havoc and Lord knows what else!!Turns out a couple people had to reset the timers on their VCR’s, that’s about it.2000
100’s -1543Ptolomy had the whole world believing the sun and planets revolved around the earth.Copernicus, Galileo & others proved that 1500+ years of globally accepted FACT were wrong.1543
August
2013
An increasing number of vacation homes in my area is hurting my vacation home business!Keep reading, the Corrected Wisdom won’t fit inside this box, so we’ll have to get out of it…September
2013

 

 

Now That We’re Outside The Box


I’m going to challenge you to stay outside the box for the rest of this blog.  Like 1,500 years of people before us who thought the universe revolved around them, we’ll need to change our thinking to realize the profitability of your vacation home doesn’t revolve around your area.

 

When we started renting our first vacation home in Anaheim in 2007, our house was the 13th listing on VRBO in our area.  When I started writing this blog post last Thursday, there were 198 listings on VRBO.  By the time I finished it, there were 201.  No doubt some of you out there have seen the same rapid growth, maybe even more so.

 

 

Here Are 3 Reasons Why We Should ALL Be Happy About Increased Competition:


1. Competition Makes Us Better – The idea that someone is trying to take food off our table compels us to get better.  What are you doing to constantly improve?  Reading this blog for one.  Not everyone in your area is, so you’re already gaining on them!

            *Best Practice: After you’ve read through all the No Vacancy Blog Posts, try reading

             my competitor’s, I mean my friend Joel’s blog on VR Success

 

2. Competition Validates Us – If there are homes popping up all around you then you must be in the right place and doing something right, right?  Give such good service that the number of repeat guests outruns the vacation home growth and ride the wave.

 

3. Competition Creates Loyalty – Now that you’ve read all the No Vacancy blogs you know that we’re trying to create Customers for Life (CFL’s) because they are great for ROI.  By allowing #1 above to drive us, we create a gap that future CFL’s will recognize, appreciate and award you their ongoing business for doing so.  And when your CFL’s friends travel to your area and say “there are so many homes to choose from,” your CFL will adamantly say “don’t even bother calling anywhere else, stay where we stay.”  Smells like a Referral’s cookin’.   

 

 

Here Are 3 More Things You Can Do To Leverage The Rising Tide:


1. Get In Cahoots – What local businesses other than vacation homes are also benefitting from the rising tide?  Eateries, entertainment venues, touristy places?  What are you doing to partner with them? 

 

2. Partner With Other Homes – Find a home similar to yours in your area, establish a relationship with the owner/manager and fill each other’s vacancies.  We’ve all turned business away when two inquiries for the same dates go out. Lob one over to your new friend in anticipation that they will do the same.  Don’t forget to pay/collect that referral bonus!

 

2. Keep Your Sights Set On the Horizon – It’s easy to become narrow-minded and short-sighted when we are about to eat vacant nights, but remember we’re running an endurance race, not a sprint.  Keep doing all the Little Things right and the business will be there.

 

Moon photo.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But was JFK right about ALL boats rising with the tide?  Let’s ask Dwight from "The Office."


Dwight photo.jpg

 

Here we have to concede a point to Dwight.  Sunken boats are indeed unaffected by tides.  Don’t be a sunken boat.

 

 

 

Here Are 3 Ways to Not Be Sunk In A Rising Tide:

 

1. Don’t Cry About It – If you are committed to your business, always look for the upside.  Whining is terrible for ROI. 

 

2. Don’t Immediately Slash Your Rates – Continue to sell the value of your home to inquiries, and do it over the phone, not email.

 

3. Don’t Be Like Everybody Else – If you haven’t figured out your market niche, what is it?  Value? Luxury?  Family?  Location?

 

 

The Bottom Line: 

 

All boats rise with the tide, unless they are already sunk.  As the number of vacation homes in your area increases, so does the number of vacation home guests.  Every time one of your guests (or theirs) has a great experience in a vacation home an incremental potential CFL for you has been created.  Do what you can to leverage the rising tide.  The formula we are working from is: 

 

More Vacation Homes = More Vacation Home Guests = More Potential CFL’s For You = Higher ROI

 

Here’s to high tides and higher profits.

 

Cheers!

Michael

1

“You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
know when to walk away, and know when to RUN!”

Kenny Rogers - The Gambler


You may be thinking “What does Kenny know about the Vacation Home Business?”  Well, maybe not much.  But those lyrics above are very appropriate when it comes to dealing with security deposits.  Humor me for another 660 words and I’ll explain.

 

Why Have Security Deposits? 


We like security deposits for two reasons:

  1. They constitute an agreement between the vacation home owner/operator (O/O) and the guests.
  2. They provide a great opportunity to create incremental bookings and maximize ROI.

 

Think of it like this: 

deposit1.jpg

 

“Look, I realize unforeseen accidents can happen while you are in my home.  In the event that they do, I just want to know you are good for it if it was your fault.

 

deposit2.jpg

 

“If I damage something I’ll pay for it so I don’t mind the deposit…as long as you don’t look for reasons not to give it back to me.”

 

 

 

 

Therein lies the problem: how to establish a clear line on when to keep deposit funds or when not to.  Ultimately you hold the money so it’s you that determines the line.  We break ‘em into four categories.

 

Take it away Kenny!

 

Know When To Hold ‘em – O/O and guest both agree that deposit money should be kept.

Guest’s kid climbs the pool umbrella and breaks it.  Dad calls, apologies profusely and along with insisting to pay for a new umbrella assures you that his kid “never acts that way at home.”

 

Know When To Fold ‘em – O/O wants to keep deposit but the guest doesn’t openly agree.

This is the biggest opportunity of the four because it will likely have a direct impact on your future business with that guest, specifically their likelihood to:

  • Consider your home for their next trip
  • Give you a positive review
  • Recommend your home to others

 

You may be able to turn these lemons into lemonade if you can find middle ground.  Let your guest know the costs you will incur and explain that prior to their check-in the damage did not exist.  Ask them what they think should be done about it, and then use that as a starting point to find an agreeable solution for both sides.

 

**Possible Best Practice:  On two occasions we have offered guests a credit toward their next stay in the amount of the withheld deposit funds.  Full disclosure: Neither has taken us up on the offer…yet.  But, we recovered our loss, planted a seed for future business and the conversations ended on a positive note.

 

Know When To Walk Away – Keeping the deposit is expected by the guest, but you choose not to keep it.

Here’s where we can make a customer for life.  For three years in a row Rick and Raul have stayed two weeks with us while attending an annual convention.  This year one of them accidentally walked through our screen door and destroyed it.  At checkout they apologized and asked us to take it out of their security deposit. 

 

Valuing their business we elected to eat the $150 and use the opportunity to tell them just how much we appreciate their business.  We jump at every opportunity to show some Love to our high value guests.

 

Know When To RUN! – Flagrant damage happened and the O/O doesn’t ever want the guest back again.

This has happened with us three times out of 500+ bookings.  Gross negligence resulting in excessive damage to our home gave us no option but to withhold deposit funds.  As Lovingly as possible we informed our guests that there was substantial damage at checkout and provided an itemized detail of the expenses incurred, including our time to repair them.

 

**Best Practice:  The Loving approach meant we recovered our loss AND avoided a nasty guest review.  

 

The Bottom Line:  How we handle deposits when damage occurs in our homes provides us with an opportunity for incremental business in the form of Repeat Business, Strong Guest Reviews (our next topic) and Referrals.  If we can utilize the Fold ‘em or Walk Away approach effectively we turn a negative experience into a positive experience, all but obligating our guests to reward us with more business.   

 

Here’s to customers who take care of our homes and won’t stay anywhere else!

 

Cheers!

 

Michael

 

5

The Little Things Can Make a BIG Difference!

“The drain in the bathtub was clogged.  And the toilet made noise all night.  And three light bulbs were out.  And we could have used some Scotch tape.  But other than that, it was a great NY apartment.”

 

pic 1.bmpThat is my feedback about the trip Angela and I recently took to New York where we stayed in an apartment we found on VRBO.  As a vacation home owner, maybe I’m more critical.  But nonetheless, that’s my honest response about the $625/night (peak) apartment we stayed in.  We didn’t pay near that, but will we stay there again?  Maybe.  Or maybe we’ll explore other options first.

 

How many “maybes” are your guests telling everyone but you because of neglected little things that require more thoughtfulness to fix than time or money?  What is your system for making sure the little things don’t give your guests the wrong memories (as in, not DELIGHTFUL).

 

Below are some easy ways to manage the little things:

 

1. Stay a While – We make it a point to stay in each of our homes at least once a year for at least three days, more often when we can manage. pic 2.bmp There are little things that our guests simply won’t take the time to point out. A good way to identify that the guest bathroom has a slow drip or the master bedroom door is difficult to shut is to experience those things yourself.  

 

*Best Practice – Invite friends to stay with you and ask them to be on the lookout for anything that might need attention.  This is a great way to spend quality time with Loved ones, enjoy your vacation home, and get a fresh set of eyes and expectations that will make your home better.

 

2. Check It Off the List – We have checklists for our PM’s that break out the little things.
Some items on our lists include:

 

Every CheckoutCheck Regularly and Replace As Needed
  • Tubs, Toilets, Sinks Drain Properly
  • Welcome Basket Snacks & Drinks
  • Billiard Chalk, Ping-Pong Balls, Dart Tips
  • All Light Bulbs, Spares Available
  • All Spa Jets are Working
  • Outdoor Stereo is Working
  • Electronics Remotes in Place
  • Flower Beds Refreshed
  • Dead Palm Leaves Removed
  • Central Air Filters Changed
  • Pool Toys, Rafts, Arm Floaties
  • Board Game Pieces, 52 Cards in Decks
  • Pens, Batteries, Tape, Notepads
  • Dishes, Tableware, Placemats

 

*Best Practice – For a FREE copy of our PM checklist, email Michael@USCVH.com.

 

3. Help Them Help You – Make it as easy for your guests to communicate little things that need attention. We call them “Uh Ohs” and “Oh Wells.” If they say “Uh Oh…” about something during their stay we ask them to let us know about it right away so we can try to fix it for them during their stay.  If they say “Oh Well” then we ask them to let us know at check-out so we can fix it for their next stay. 

 

*Best Practice – Three easy ways to gather feedback:

      • At check-in encourage them to reach out for any little thing - email and text messaging work great for this.
      • Hang a little dry erase board on the fridge with a note asking for the “Oh Wells.”
      • In your follow-up Thank You email/card ask them if there was anything that could have been improved upon for their next stay in your home (See my blog post on Soliciting Referrals).

 

The Bottom Line:  Minding the little things is a great way to maximize revenue through repeat business and referrals, and most little things are inexpensive and easy to manage. 

 

We all spend a great deal of time providing outstanding accommodations to our guests so they will rave about us to anyone who will listen.  If we don’t manage the little things that can detract from their stay we undermine our efforts and hurt our future business. Standing in shin high water during showers or having to go out and buy a new light bulbs can be the difference between “It was AWESOME!” and “It was alright but…”   

 

So here’s to doing the little things that make a big difference!

 

Cheers!

 

Michael

2

How many of your bookings in 2011 have been from referrals?  Or more to the point, how much of your revenue in 2011 is from referrals? 

 

Are you content with your answer to these questions?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have one or two more referrals each year?  In this blog we’re going to look at five ideas that, when used together effectively, will help to drive incremental bookings through referrals. 

 

  1. Be Worthy of a Remark – The best form of advertising for any business is a customer testimonial via word of mouth.  Give your guests a reason to tell anyone who will listen about their time in your home. Whether it’s your attention to detail, your amazing collection of board games or your 120” home theater screen, give them something to be excited to tell others about.
  2. Get “Real” Business Cards – Invest a little money and have some professional business cards on heavy stock printed up (rather than the cheap looking “print at home” variety). Business cards are often the first impression someone gets when hearing of your business.  Include your HomeAway.com and VRBO.com listing numbers along with a one-liner or a few key words that articulate the reason why someone should consider calling you for their next vacation.   
  3. Implement a Guest Referral Program – Give your guests and others who know about your business a reason to refer people to stay with you.  Money is always a great motivator, it’s what we’ve used for several years now.  We pay $15/night to any person who refers a booking to us, that’s over a hundred bucks for a week long booking.  Cash is a good reminder and incentive for someone to mention your business.
  4. Ask for Referrals – Without being pushy, ask your guests and those acquainted with your business to refer anyone who they think may be interested in staying with you.  With our business we do this a couple different ways.  First, in each of our homes we have placed an 8.5 x 11” acrylic stand with a full color flyer in it that talks up our referral program and encourages our guests to take several cards to hand out when they are back home. The acrylic stand has a built-in business card holder and our property managers make sure they are always full. Second, in both the checkout email and in the handwritten “Thank You” cards (remark worthy) our guests receive we remind them that we have a referral program and point out that if they enjoyed their time in our home the best compliment they can give us is to refer us to a Loved one.
  5. Stick with the Plan - Given the nature of our business, long sales cycles and relatively few annual transactions, referrals can be few and far between.  But, that makes each referral even more valuable to business such as ours.  Angela and I diligently performed the actions above for nearly a year before we actually booked our first referral.  Yes, we frequently discussed whether it was worth the extra effort, but that first referral payment we made for $105 on a 7-night booking that was clearly incremental (and off-peak!) made it all worth it.  You are planting seeds that may or may not bear fruit down the road, but at least you are giving them a chance to bear fruit if you keep planting.  

 

The Bottom Line:  Referrals are one of those areas of business that can seem easier said than done.  But each referral is an incremental booking, which can be the difference between a good month and a great month.  Word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising for any business.  Giving your guests a reason to tell others about their experience in your home, and making it easy for them to do so, is an effective and inexpensive way to maximize your revenue. If you will give them an experience that is worthy of a remark, and if you make it easy for them to refer you to others, your bottom line will reflect your efforts.

 

Here’s to bigger bottom lines…

 

Cheers!

 

Michael

6

Delightful Memories = Repeat Guests + Referrals

Hey everyone, sorry I’m late!  Angela and I have been eagerly putting the final touches on the new house before our first guests arrive this week.  We are setting this home, like the others, with the primary goal of creating delightful memories for each of our guests.  

In my previous blog, I mentioned that we should be generating repeat guests and referrals.  The simple answer for getting more repeat guests and referrals is to create more memories for your guests.

 

As vacation home owners, we have a unique opportunity to go far beyond providing accommodations at a good value with friendly service.   

Picture1.jpg

 

POP QUIZ:  What product do you sell? 

 

A.    A comfortable night’s sleep? 

B.    A base station for your guests’ vacation? 

C.    Service with a smile? 

 

Those all sound a lot like what motels sell to their customers.  

 

In our business, Angela and I sell delightful memories. 

 

Ultimate Comfort.  Ultimate Convenience.  Ultimate Memories.

 

That’s our tagline, and it’s what we do in a few short phrases.  Comfortable, convenient and  memorable.  Everything we do with our vacation home business revolves around these three concepts.  Delightful memories get talked about over and over; sharing delightful memories allows the Love to live on.

 

We have found that delightful memories are the ones that keep our guests coming back (as repeat customers) in addition to recommending our home and sharing their experience with others (referrals).       

 

A guest review we received on VRBO.com a couple weeks back made me think about the memories this new home will create.  The review says “….We had the time of our life….we would most definitely return here….Thank you for giving us our favorite family vacation!!”  

 

Those sound like the words of a highly satisfied customer.  Their words; ”time of their life, their favorite family vacation,” and most importantly, “we would most definitely return here” to our home. 

 

So how do we create memories that delight our guests into coming back while recommending our homes to all who will listen? 

 

If we are intentional about creating scenarios for delightful memories to unfold, we can more easily identify the opportunities to create those memories for our guests before they arrive.  The idea is to be intentional about creating scenarios for delightful memories to occur.

 

Here are three examples where being intentional resulted in incremental bookings for us. 

 

Opportunity 1:  During the booking process, a youth basketball team mentioned they needed to cook lots of rice.  We purchased two large rice cookers for $40 each and let them know several weeks prior to check-in we had done so… just for them.

 

Result:  The team had a great time; have stayed with us three years in a row and are booked in two houses for a week this July.  Plus, now we have rice cookers at the houses for other groups. 

 

Opportunity 2:  Two years ago, a couple with a 3-year-old daughter booked our house for a week.  It was her first trip to Disneyland so we purchased Tinkerbell pajamas, an autograph book and mouse ears hat that were left out on her bed.

 

Result:  Their daughter calls our home her “Disney House,” and they recently booked their third vacation with us for November 2011.     

Picture3.jpg

 

Opportunity 3:  Four businessmen checked out of our home two years ago and mentioned what a great time they had playing ping-pong after long days of seminars.  When they checked in last year we left four premium ping-pong paddles and 3-star balls with a note that read “Let the games begin!”   

 

Result: They immediately called to thank us when they found the paddles and booked their week for 2012 the day before they checked out this year!   

 

The Bottom Line:  Giving your guests a reason to come back and refer your home can reduce your marketing costs, build your customer base and your annual revenue.  So far, in 2011 we have seven reservations accounting for 49 nights that are repeat guests, an incremental seven percent increase in occupancy for both houses! 

 

For many of us peak season is around the corner, here’s to creating delightful memories that keep them coming back for more, the kind they’ll tell all their friends about… 

 

Tell me about some of the things you do to create memories.

 

Cheers!