How to Increase Vacation Rental Bookings: Creating A Sense of Urgency

This is the third and final part of a series focusing on strategies and tactics that can help vacation rental managers and hosts increase their conversion rate among guests who are non-committal, comparing properties or “just browsing”. Each part of the series will introduce a new strategy or tactic and show you how it could play out for a vacation rental property manager in a simplified scenario. If you have missed part one (“Following Questions with Questions”) or part two (“The Expect to Book Mentality”), it is recommended that you check those out.

 

IN THEORY

Creating a sense of urgency starts with the qualifying questions that were covered in the first part of this series. Questions that will help property managers determine the budget, time, interest and need of a potential guest, can also help urge the guest to take action.

If property managers propose open-ended questions, guests will then have to explain why they are qualified to stay at the property, which in turn will increase the guest’s desire to book. The most powerful question to pose asks the potential guest to explain why they desire or even need to stay at a particular property.

Other commonly used tactics that can help create a sense of urgency include scarcity, time restraints, fear of missing out, responsiveness appeal, pulling away and making it difficult to book.

Scarcity and time restraints work because they put the potential guest in a difficult situation that often results in a decision to make a reservation. The two tactics can be particularly effective when combined together, or adjacent to a way that they can pull out of the reservation if they change their mind.

Property managers that can effectively target a potential guest’s fear of missing out (FOMO) are also incredibly effective at converting on-the-fence guests. The final push to book could alternatively come from a reward for making a decision, which could be anything from a giveaway during their stay to a small discount if they book directly and immediately.

The riskiest and potentially most effective tactics work against the natural instincts of most hospitality industry professionals. The first is to get an offer in front of a guest, but before they accept pulling the offer away from them, appealing to their desire to have something they can’t get. The other option is to make it more difficult to book than usual, for example with an application fee or a mandatory phone screening, which makes guests feel as if they earned the booking rather than simply receiving the booking.

 

IN PRACTICE

Scarcity and Time Restraint: “With the summer being our busiest season and new bookings coming in for our properties every few hours, I can only hold this property for a day without a reservation. Would you like to reserve it now so I can ensure that you will be able to stay there when you visit us later this year?”

Fear of Missing Out: “We are so excited for the upcoming music festival, especially with the awesome headliner. I heard they are amazing! Would you like to book our property now so we can make sure you have a comfortable place to stay when you arrive?”

Rewarding a Decision: “If you book today we can throw in a welcome basket with some of your favorite beverages. What types of beverages do you prefer?”

Pulling Away: “Thanks for your interest, but I’m not sure that our properties are the right fit for your needs. We specialize in luxury properties in high-traffic locations, which sound like it might not be right for your group.”

Be sure to check out part one and two of this series to determine potential strategies and tactics that you can use to improve the occupancy of your vacation properties and bottom-line profitability.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dylan DeClerck is the VP of sales and marketing at Pablow, a travel insurance technology provider and broker that works with vacation rental property managers to offer vacation rental travel insurance to their guests hassle-free and in a matter of minutes. The company is based in Iowa and provides travel insurance to more than 25,000 vacation rental properties in the United States. Dylan is also the executive director of a non-profit that teaches athletics to at-risk youth.

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How to Increase Vacation Rental Bookings: The “Expect to Book” Mentality

This is the second part of a three part series focusing on strategies and tactics that can help vacation rental managers and hosts increase their conversion rate among guests who are non-committal, comparing properties or “just browsing”. Each part of the series will introduce a new strategy or tactic and show you how it could play out for a vacation rental property manager in a simplified scenario. If you have missed part one (“Following Up Questions with Questions”), it is recommended, though not required, that you give it a read.

 

IN THEORY

Inbound inquiries in the vacation rental industry come at varying levels of decisiveness. It’s easy for property managers to book the reservation for guests who have already made up their mind, but it’s often difficult to convince those that have yet to decide to book. While a property manager needs to approach each of the preceding situations differently, their mindset should be the same regardless. They should “expect to book”!

When property managers expect the potential guest will book their vacation with them it’s apparent in their guest communications. Suddenly the wording is more helpful, positive and confident instead of pushy or uncertain, which makes a huge difference for guests.

Obviously there will be some potential guests who decide to travel elsewhere or stay with another local accommodation, but the best property managers don’t let this get to them or affect their mentality that the next potential guest will book with them.

 

IN PRACTICE

Poor Wording: “Hello, I remember a couple of weeks ago we spoke about your family trip to Utah in July and I was wondering if you and your partner had made a decision about what kind of accommodation you would be staying in. By the off chance you haven’t made a decision yet, we would appreciate it if you would take a look at our property.”

Improved Wording: “Hello, it’s good to speak with you again! Our team is busy gearing up for a busy summer season and we are so excited to be opening up our property to so many families. I know that you said you were looking for a week in mid-July and I wanted to get your final selection of a date before we’re completely booked. Do you have an exact date that will work best for your family?”

To put this mentality into practice for your vacation rental or property management company start by writing down five positively framed sentences that you can use in your guest communications. This blog post was inspired by and based off of Bill Guertin’s article “The Secret, Subtle Language of Winning Sales Calls”.

Also be sure to check out part one and three (which was previewed in this blog post) of this series to determine potential strategies and tactics that you can use to build around the “expect to book” mentality.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dylan DeClerck is the VP of sales and marketing at Pablow, a travel insurance technology provider and broker that works with vacation rental property managers to offer vacation rental travel insurance to their guests hassle-free and in a matter of minutes. The company is based in Iowa and provides travel insurance to more than 25,000 vacation rental properties in the United States. Dylan is also the executive director of a non-profit that teaches athletics to at-risk youth.

How to Increase Vacation Rental Bookings: Following Questions with Questions

This is the first part of a three part series focusing on strategies and tactics that can help vacation rental managers and hosts increase their conversion rate among guests who are non-committal, comparing properties or “just browsing”. Each part of the series will introduce a new strategy or tactic and show you how it could play out for a vacation rental property manager in a simplified scenario.

 

IN THEORY

Whether a potential guest reaches out via email, website message or phone call it’s extremely important that the reservationist is fully prepared to quickly answer their questions about the vacation rental property. Every hour an inquiry goes unanswered the chances the guest will book the property decrease! Because of this property managers should monitor their messages, know potential questions guests might ask, and save responses in a FAQ document to improve future response times.

In addition, while answering the guest’s questions it’s important that the reservationist follows up with their own open-ended questions to determine if the guest is really worth their time. Potential guests are qualified when they have the right budget in mind, are truly interested in the vacation rental or area, and are in need of an accommodation similar to what is offered. Additionally it’s good to ask a few questions about the potential guest and their upcoming trip as a way to build rapport.

If the potential guest is truly on the fence there will be a point where they stop responding to emails or they say something on the phone that indicates they are not ready to commit. At this conjuncture it’s the company’s job to listen to their concern or objection, clarify their point to ensure understanding, empathize with their concern, give a genuine response and then ask if the response was appropriate.

 

IN PRACTICE

Guest: “Hello, I had a chance to check out your property online and would like to determine if I could rent out just a portion of the space for a three-day weekend?”

Manager: “Hello Guest, thanks for reaching out! Right now we only allow guests to rent out the whole property as the room units are all connected to the main living space. Is there a reason that you might only need a portion of the space for your trip?”

Guest: “I’m traveling to the area for work with another colleague, so we only really need two rooms.”

Manager: “I see the dates you’re traveling. Do you plan to attend the local film association conference in just a few weeks? My partner and I love to watch independent films and thought of attending ourselves!”

Guest: “Yes it is! Glad to hear that you’re also interested in independent films. I’ll be releasing my first feature film at the festival. Unfortunately I think I’ll keep looking for another place in the area given your accommodation just seems too big for us.”

Manager: “So you’re saying your primary concerns are the size and comparative cost of the accommodation?”

Guest: “Yes.”

Manager: “I understand that because we can host larger groups the cost of our property seems a bit more than other smaller accommodations, however because of our location right across from the festival you’ll save money on transportation and we can lower the cleaning fee if you will only be staying in two of the three private rooms. Does that sound fair?”

Be sure to check out part two and three of this series to determine potential strategies and tactics that can help you close a sale similar to the one above and book more guests.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dylan DeClerck is the VP of sales and marketing at Pablow, a travel insurance technology provider and broker that works with vacation rental property managers to offer vacation rental travel insurance to their guests hassle-free and in a matter of minutes. The company is based in Iowa and provides travel insurance to more than 25,000 vacation rental properties in the United States. Dylan is also the executive director of a non-profit that teaches athletics to at-risk youth.

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!

 

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!

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

danpink-drive

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?