The Best Time to Visit all 50 States

 

Pablow Infographic

 

*In the event that a state had more than one best time of year to visit, I chose to map the month that best fit with surrounding state patterns. To read more you can find the article we referenced for this data here. *

Have you ever wondered where else your potential guests are looking for vacation properties besides your area? We set out to determine the best time for tourists to book a vacation rental accommodation in every state.

To determine the best time of year for tourism in each state we considered multiple factors including temperature, number of tourists and popular seasonal destinations as we collaborated with property managers across the nation. With all of this information we produced a color-coded map, indicating the best month out of the year to visit each state.

Notice the lack of popularity among winter months! Besides Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana the winter months are not well represented on our map. In Nevada, the holiday season is popular, but the best time to visit is actually as the holiday crowds begin dwindling. Colorado is popular during winter months because of its booming ski/snowboard industry. Louisiana’s peak month is when the streets are packed during Mardi Gras celebrations every February.

September is the best time of year for tourism in 13 states, making it the most popular month for travelers. This trend is largely borne from the mild weather and popularity of sports during that time of year. Not only is the temperature not as hot as the summer months, but also the weather hasn’t yet made the full transition to fall making it the perfect time to enjoy a football or baseball game.

The best time to visit most Midwestern states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio) is either immediately before or after July. With extremely hot and humid summers in comparison to the rest of the year, it makes sense that tourism falls as the heat rises.

Take Minnesota for example, while the temperature rarely surpasses 95°, the state’s dew point during the hottest days of summer causes sticky, thick air that prevents people from enjoying the outdoors. At its highest, Minnesota’s summer dew point reaches 80% making 90° feel like 110°. As a native Minnesotan, I would have to pick August as our best month for tourism. With summer temperatures tapering, it’s perfect weather to enjoy a day out on the boat or a long summer night sitting by the bonfire.

Do you agree with what we determined was the best month to visit your state? Tell us what you think!

 

Building a Brand on a Budget: Industry Trade Shows

After a couple of days in Orlando, Florida at the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association’s annual conference, I’ve realized that it can be difficult for start-up companies with tight budgets to exhibit at trade shows and conferences. There’s just so much that you can mess up!

When our company first started going to conferences we made some rookie mistakes and learned some important lessons that I’d like to pass along to other start-up companies. Our tips and tricks may not be applicable across all industries, but they will help you build a brand on a budget.

Why Do Trade Shows?

Start-ups often attend trade shows, and in the process give away valuable development time and money that they could use improving their product, creating new products or adding value to their company in a multitude of other ways. So why even attend trade shows and conferences?

First of all, exhibiting at trade shows gives you the best possible opportunity to get in front of many of your potential customers in just a few hours, which is in incredibly valuable for your sales person or team. Additionally, it gives you access to many vendors who attend the show and could provide value to your company as a supplier or partner.

Outside of the personal connections made at these events, we have found it particularly beneficial when it comes to keeping an eye on industry trends and problems that our customers face.

Design it Like Martha Stewart

The exhibition booth is your most valuable investment as an exhibitor and the easiest to get wrong. Like any other investment you’ll want to spend some time planning what your exhibition booth will look like, what materials you’ll need, how people will interact with your representatives and how your materials will get to the trade show.

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There are a couple of guidelines to follow when designing your booth’s layout. First of all, you’ll want to think of a draw, something that will engage the conference attendees and bring them to your booth. Let me be clear: free promotional TRASH is NOT a draw. Your draw will want to be something unique that any attendee can do or participate in, there’s a chance to win something, allows people to have some fun and keeps them in one spot long enough for you to talk to them about your company or even better show them your product. Once you’ve figured out the draw you’ll then want to make sure that you pull your chairs off to the side (it looks bad if you sit and takes up a lot of room) and create enough room to stand with multiple attendees in your booth.

Now that you’ve come up with your draw you’ll want to begin gathering the materials you need. If you plan on doing more than one conference, then avoid renting anything from the conference provider. It is the biggest rip off! Last year we rented a few high-top tables from the conference provider for about $500, and to avoid that cost this year, we bought plastic stands to go on top of the table they provide all exhibitors for $50.

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Finally, you’ll want to figure out how your materials are going to make it to the conference. Your best options are to either ship it through FedEx to another FedEx store nearby your destination, which is relatively cheap and allows you to avoid the outrageous handling costs the trade show will charge you, or to pack it all up and bring it in checked baggage on your plane. From personal experience I can say that checked baggage is cheaper for heavier materials, but for lighter packages it’s often easier and cheaper just to ship everything.

Attacking Attendees

As an exhibitor you only have a few minutes of the attendees time to convey what you do and how you’re going to provide value to their business. Besides having a well-crafted elevator pitch that works within the flow of your booth you’ll want to have an attack strategy for each attendee.

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For those attendees that are a great fit for your product and would be worth your time you’ll want to walk them through your draw, continue the conversation, show them how you can create value and leave with some sort of commitment from them (e.g. “I would be interested in doing this”, “You can follow up with me next week”, “I will share this with our partners”). For those that don’t fit what you want in a customer you’ll want to share your pitch and move on, they are not worth your time if there is no potential partnership or opportunity to work together.

When your conversations go well with potential customers be sure to make some notes about their company and what you spoke about so you can properly follow up with them soon. A successful show means that you’ll have a list of potential customers divided into warm leads and hot leads that you’ll be able to follow up with in the next two weeks after the conference. Anything later is impossible to convert!

Eyes on the Prize

When done strategically and with effort an industry trade show or conference can be very fruitful for startups that are trying to get in front of as many potential customers as possible. These tips are just the starting point for those who are interested in doing trade shows correctly. If you have any additional questions or simply would like to learn from our experience please reach out and let us know how we can provide advice!

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Bootstrapping Pablow

With five years of experience working for small businesses and non-profits I’ve learned that budget constraints are difficult to deal with. To navigate these constraints, I’ve learned how to think with a bootstrap mentality.

This blog will explore the four main ways that Pablow bootstraps our startup and provide ideas of how you can bootstrap your own small business or non-profit.

SOFTWARE

Although bootstrapping software is not always a possibility (i.e. everyone must purchase the Microsoft Office product suite), it is an extremely useful strategy in software categories with plenty of competitors and similar features.

For example, instead of using SalesForce for our customer relationship management (CRM) software, we use Zoho and HubSpot for free. Zoho in particular is an effective tool that allows our small sales team to set up contacts, take notes and set reminders.

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Zoho is a great CRM option for companies on a shoe string budget

Our development team requires a software development platform to collaborate on the projects they are working on, and instead of paying for a platform we’ve set up free accounts with GitHub. GitHub gives our team the ability to point out issues, assign team members to projects and chat about solutions to our problems.

INTERNS AND CONTRACTORS

Small businesses often rely upon interns to complete projects that are outside the organization’s current capacity and resources. At Pablow we take this a step further to utilize interns not only in positions that are outside our capacity, but also will bring significant value to the business. It’s a win-win in doing so, because we receive work that will ultimately contribute to the bottom line and interns receive valuable work assignments.

Additionally, as a technology startup our company qualifies for an Iowa Economic Development grant that allows us to split the hourly wage of our interns with the state of Iowa. This grant ensures that we are receiving quality intern help, without paying more than minimum wage.

The important projects that won’t be covered by our permanent team or interns are handed off to contractors, who have helped us with our product launch, cold email campaign, development and marketing content among other tasks.

TRADESHOW

Tradeshows are an important part of the vacation rental and insurance industries, but they’re often incredibly expensive! To avoid breaking the bank we’ve developed a few creative solutions and one very important rule to spend less money.

Rule #1: Instead of renting at a tradeshow, buy the materials you need ahead of time. This will require some additional work and planning, but figuring out what you do and do not need before the tradeshow will save you thousands as an exhibitor.

There are plenty of cheap ways that you can have a fun and engaging booth at a tradeshow. Why pay $1,000 for a fire breather when you can purchase a mini-golf putting green for $20?

At our most recent tradeshow we wanted to set up computers on a high table so that people could create their own travel insurance website without having to sit down. Instead of renting the expensive tables for just a few days we bought two computer stands on Amazon for $40 that will work even better for our booth.

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The tables I wanted to purchase were priced much too high for the conference, so I decided to improvise with a little help from Amazon

PROFESSIONAL EVENTS

One perk of taking classes for my MBA while working full-time is my student status. Besides receiving discounts at baseball games and the movie theater, purchasing student tickets for professional events and conferences saves my company thousands each year.

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Student tickets for those in MBA programs or taking classes are often unbelievably cheap

At one recent conference I was able to sign up for a $40 student ticket (regularly priced $495) and participate in all of the same events as those who had paid full price. I essentially paid for my food costs for the two days and everything else was covered!

CONCLUSION

Bootstrapping is an incredibly useful strategy to save money and cut costs, but it’s a practiced mentality. I challenge you to start bootstrapping by thinking about five different ways you can cut costs in your organization without materially altering the product or service you deliver to customers. I promise it’s possible!

Why I Refuse to Offer Travel Insurance

Finish this sentence: “Travel Insurance is …”

When we pose this question with new business partners we hear “a hassle”, “rigged”, “complicated”, “out of reach”, “costly”, “too regulated”, “bad for my brand” and more. We certainly understand the reluctance of property managers and vacation rental companies to offering travel insurance to their guests, and we’ve specifically designed our travel insurance technology to avoid many of the problems that property managers face.

LICENSING

The first hesitation many property mangers have to offering travel insurance is the licensing process; after all they want to help people have great vacations, not worry about offering them insurance. Most travel insurance providers require property managers to obtain licensing in their home state, which takes time and money, just to provide guests with an in-path insurance offering.

At Pablow we’ve completed the licensing requirements to offer travel insurance (all the way up until 24 hours before a guest leaves for a trip) in Australia, the entire United States, and soon in Europe. By partnering with our company, you’ll be able to avoid licensing and immediately direct guests to your white label travel insurance website. It takes just two minutes to create!

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An example of our customizable white label website. You can personalize the subdomain, logo, background, and text heading.

TECHNOLOGY

Other travel insurance providers in the United States market ask that you integrate their travel insurance into your booking path and don’t offer many other technology solutions.

Pablow does not design technology FOR property managers; we design it WITH property managers! We’ve explored many different ways to integrate insurance with our partners’ booking processes including a post-sale widget, advertisements, email messaging, and icons and tabs on their current website directing to their travel insurance white label. If you need something different for your company, just let us know and we’ll see what we can do.

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An example of what our dynamic post-sale widget looks like on one partner’s website.

RESPONSIBILITY

Even after licensing and technology are taken care of, much of the responsibility and work still lies with the property manager. Other providers expect property managers, as the merchant of record, to create a spreadsheet of your insurance sales every month and send in a check for the cost of their policies.

Why focus more of your time to something that isn’t managing your properties? Pablow allows property managers to simply direct their guests to a white label insurance website, and we handle the rest, automatically depositing your monthly affiliate fee in your bank account.

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Why worry about travel insurance? Let Pablow worry about offering travel insurance so you can focus on managing your properties.

RECAP

While this short blog did not respond to all of the reasons why property managers and vacation rental professionals avoid travel insurance, we hope it gave you some compelling reasons to consider a partnership with Pablow. If you have any additional questions or hesitations not mentioned, but are interested in learning more about travel insurance please reach out to our team.

How to Make Your Company More Enjoyable

“We have three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When those needs are satisfied, we’re motivated, productive, and happy.”
― Daniel H. PinkDrive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

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Daniel Pink pictured alongside his best selling book Drive.

As Pink explains in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, there are a few innate psychological needs that must be filled to generate satisfactory and enjoyable work.  However, once those psychological needs are filled, what separates the most enjoyable companies from those that only provide above average levels of satisfaction and happiness?  This blog post will explore and try to answer the question: “How do I make my company more enjoyable for everyone?”

“A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted”

At Pablow, doing things in a way that is enjoyable is one of our key tenants that motivate our actions.  Even if we are on a roller coaster ride as a start up in the insurance industry, we recognize that the journey should still remain fun.

Why do we value being happy, laughing a lot, and enjoying our work?  Enjoyable work, happiness and laughter all provide significant physical, mental and social benefits.

Laughter alone helps you feel good by releasing endorphins that fight stress and provide an almost immediate benefit.  It also helps relax you muscles for up to 45 minutes at a time, with exception of your mouth muscles, which can actually hurt if you laugh too hard.  Been there and have almost cried from laughing too hard!  Laughter improves your resistance to disease by increasing infection-fighting antibodies and immune cells and by decreasing stress hormones.  It can protect your heart by improving blood flow and blood vessel functioning.  Laughter helps dissolve disagreements between people if it’s shared and both parties agree to put their problems behind them.  It surprisingly has also been shown to help adults with short-term memory.

Put simply … you can’t afford to not have people laugh at work.  If you value your employees and their happiness, then you need to make the commitment to integrate humor and enjoyable situations into your company culture.

One great story about how humor and laughter were embraced in the company culture comes from Delta Air Lines.  A couple of years ago a frequent flyer complained to the CEO that a flight attendant was joking around in her safety briefing, which the flyer considered a very serious procedure.  Instead of apologizing, the CEO told the frequent flyer that he was sorry to see him leave the airline, because humor was a key part of their company culture and thus he stood behind his flight attendant’s right to laugh and help others laugh.  Today Delta Air Lines has further embraced this humor by incorporating it into their pre-flight safety videos that both deliver an important message and have some fun in how they present it – I’d definitely recommend taking a look.

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Delta safety videos went as far to include 80’s icon and TV star, Alf!

But What Can I Do?

So a happy, laughing, satisfied, productive and motivated workplace is great, but what can most small to medium sized companies in the vacation rental or tech industries do to embrace these values?

The first and easiest step is to begin to laugh at yourself, and model the kind of behavior that you want everyone else to embrace.  You can also find friends, hire employees, and build professional relationships within your community with people that you enjoy being around.

Teams can be more enjoyable if you push everyone to be spontaneous and encouraging of humor.  This can be as complex as surprising the team with tickets to a comedy show next Friday evening or as simple as telling jokes as you leave the office and sharing funny videos with the rest of your team.  As funny as jokes can be, make sure to keep them positive and not a roast of anyone in particular, as that could have just the opposite effect desired.

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Don’t conform to typical networking rules – ask daring and novel questions that encourage interesting conversation and funny stories.

At networking events or job interviews ask people what they enjoy doing instead of about their job and encourage them to tell you a funny story, but you should also be prepared with a funny story of your own to share with them.

Laughter is Contagious

Regardless of how you make your organization more enjoyable for your staff, laughter and happiness is contagious.  Try just one of the tactics mentioned above and let us know how it works for your organization.  We’re interested to learn how it goes!

The Six Best Productivity Tools for International Entrepreneurs

INTRODUCTION

Pablow has always been an international company and for more than 20 years I’ve been a well-traveled global citizen. That’s really long for a guy like myself who looks 30 years old, am I right?  With our company’s key personnel scattered across the globe, I’ve found a couple of resources and tools that help keep our business running as smoothly as possible.

THE TOOLS

  1. Google Calendar: It shouldn’t be a surprise that the ultimate productivity company, Google, made the list, but I’ve found that many people have yet to discover the true possibilities of their Calendar application.  Personally, I use the calendar app to keep my meetings and events in order, remind me of tasks that need to be completed throughout the day, and to determine the best times in my schedule for a break … which usually doesn’t ever happen!
  2. Calendly: I know, I know, I just suggested a calendar application for the first productivity tool on the list, but I use Calendly for something entirely different.  I’ve been using Calendly as a simple and easy way to schedule meetings with clients, prospects, contractors, and external business partners.  The application is simple to use with a sleek external and internal-facing design.  When using the tool all I have to do is select a pre-determined type of meeting and dates that I’m available and the tool will email the other party to set up the meeting for me.  On their end, customers and prospects only see the time slots that I am available for the specified dates.  Once a meeting time is selected then we both will receive a confirmation email from the app.
  3. Google Analytics: As a retargeting company pursuing customers via online ad buying, we use Google Analytics in combination with Google AdWords in an attempt to maximize our ROI.  While a lot of what we do using Google Analytics is confidential to the company, I can say that my favorite capability of the application is being able to discover and experiment with what words are driving traffic to our websites and white label websites.
  4. Crowdfire: In order to manage our social media I used Crowdfire for a while, and Pablow’s marketing intern has continued to use the application for monitoring our Twitter account.  The application comes in handy when it comes to following/unfollowing accounts with the idea that we want to provide and receive value to our community on social media.  It also is helpful for sending automatic direct messages to followers almost immediately after they follow, which our company receives a lot of through Twitter, but we are unsure how professionals feel about these messages.  Runner up in the social media category is Hootsuite for scheduled posting to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
  5. Upwork: As we spoke about in our previous blog “The People Power of Pablow” our needs as a growing company are too large to cover with internal talent, but seemingly too small to warrant hiring another employee.  To solve our problem we use many online independent contractors, each with their own area of specialty that provides Pablow with the best quality of skills.  Upwork does a great job at helping you hire talent even if you have never done so before, and when it comes to selecting a contractor the website even recommends contractors that are within your price range and have the experience to complete your project successfully.
  6. GitHub: This application allows our programming team to work on our technology improvements and fixes simultaneously.  Teams could use the online program in a variety of ways, but generally our team uses it to post fixes or new projects, creates steps to achieve our end-goal, assigns responsibility for each step to a team member, and marks the step as done so the rest of the team can see their progress.  A huge benefit of this program is the transparency and ability to hold others on your team accountable for achieving their goals and adding to the technology.

DISCUSSION – Please Share Your Opinion in the Comments Section Below

What do you think of the accounts that send automated “Thank you for following me” messages to all of their followers?  Is it professional or unprofessional to do so?  If we were to have an effective message to followers, what should it say?

What productivity tools do you use to enhance your chances of success as an entrepreneur?