VRS190 – The Vacation Rental Adventures of Travelling Matt Landau – Part Two

Part 2 of the Adventures of Travelling Matt (Landau) takes us to Italy, and Matt’s journey to Rome, the Umbrian town of Guardea and Le Marche in the eastern Italian region of Ancona.

Matt’s telling of the trip takes us to out of the way places and shares his experiences of visiting a renowned silversmith’s workshop, taking a Vespa tour, playing with a local soccer team where he nearly flattened the 70 yr old linesman with an errant kick, and meeting an medley of amazing people along the way.

From Henrietta Kiss, the Hungarian-born owner of Treasure Rome, to Bob and Ian, proprietors of a beautifully restored farmhouse and Debra Haddock whose vacation rental challenges we all share, Matt’s essays draw us into the unique, yet familiar arena of our business, with a European flair.

Throughout the episode, Matt reflects on the similarities that vacation rental owners across the world share and demonstrates how personality, commitment and the drive towards hospitality can make an owner (and a property) stand out.

And just some of the things Matt talks about…

  • How personal passions are the conduit to creating memorable travel experiences for guests
  • The network of locals that create a win-win for guests and the community
  • Why regular discipline of the business needs to be offset by having fun and enjoying life to the full
  • How a host’s personality plays a major role in the success of a business
  • Cultural immersion on steroids while playing with the local soccer team
  • How an entrance to a vacation rental can have a huge impression
  • The magic he experienced with the artisan who made a fisherman’s ring for the Pope.
  • Espresso, chocolate covered hazelnuts, focaccia and plenty of gelato!

And so much more, as Matt reads from some of his wonderful essays on the trip.

Links mentioned in this episode

Treasure Rome – Henrietta Kiss

Casai Dei Fichi – Bob and Ian

Casale Pratto Del Coccinelle – Debra Haddock

VRS189 – Wicked Awesome Vacation Rentals with Maria La Barbera Lamb

This episode in our Successful Owner Series introduces the owner of Wicked Awesome Maine Vacations – a small property management company comprising the owner’s three houses, one belonging to a cousin, and two third party homes. When I heard that, it reminded me of how my own property management company started – three of my own, my sister’s place, and one of my neighbours who wouldn’t pay any commission but wanted to give me a head start in the business.

There’s a big difference though between the way Maria is growing her company and my shaky start in the business. She is aiming for quality from the get-go…I was less picky, which resulted in building a foundation of less than stellar properties that had to be culled a few years down the road, when my standards gene kicked in!

Maria talks about the values that underpin her company and why it’s so important to create something that guests will want to come back to over and over. She also shares her thoughts on targeting guests in an area not as well-known as a vacation destination. Finally, we discuss her views on gaining independence from listing sites and the tools she is using get there.

In this episode Maria shares:

  • Her story of the start of Wicked Awesome Maine
  • How identifying her target guests helps with marketing
  • The tools she uses for distributing blog posts
  • Tips for anyone thinking of starting a property management company

Links from this episode:

Wicked Awesome Maine Vacation Rentals

VRS188 – The Vacation Rental Adventures of Travelling Matt Landau – Part One

Have you ever been a guest in a vacation rental in a location you are unfamiliar with? I’ve asked this question of many home owners to find that most have never experienced what it’s like to be a guest. And you should do this, at least once.

Owners will often say they’ve stayed in their own house and been to all the local restaurants, shopped in the nearby grocery stores and hiked the trails they recommend, so know what it will be like for their guests, but with respect, that doesn’t give the same experience they will have.

Until you’ve arrived at a strange airport or driven along unfamiliar roads, tried to find an address that’s not on a GPS, and negotiated entry via a fiddly lock box, you don’t really know how a first impression is made. It’s often not the bright white towels in the bathroom, or the beautifully made bed that delivers the first impact.

So, when I heard that the founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and the Inner Circle, Matt Landau, had just come back from a month of travels in Europe, I wanted to hear about his experiences in unfamiliar territory, and what it was about the places he stayed that really made his journey successful and enjoyable.

Matt visited Spain and Italy, and stayed in a five distinctly separate vacation rentals, from a resort-style condo in Marbella, to a city pad in Barcelona and a villa in Umbria. He met the owners and property managers, their friends and relatives, and the local people who helped him discover the culture of each area he visited. He also had the opportunity to connect and network with many other vacation rental professionals along the way.

Matt says his mom told him he needed to write everything down so he wouldn’t forget (Mom’s are always right!), so he reads from his trip essays which captured so much of what he experienced. In the first part of this two-part episode Matt talks about the Spanish part of the trip and his visits to Barcelona and Marbella.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Picasso Suites – Barcelona

Vacation Marbella

VRS187 – The 2017 Vacation Rental Hospitality Survey with David Jacoby of Hostfully

The death knell of property managers may be sounding if some vacation rental experts are to be believed. Martin Picard of VReasy talked of this at a VR Tech conference in Rome earlier this month. OTA’s are taking over much of what a property manager does, from marketing properties to an array of consumers; offering best matches for a guests criteria, and promoting their own brands, and the traditional role of a property manager may soon be reduced to the cleaning element.

Instead of rolling over, many PMs and independent owners are fighting back by doing the one thing that an OTA cannot – offering personal hospitality and relationship building.

In a survey compiled by the digital guide company, Hostfully, property managers were asked about their perspective on hospitality, what they currently do and what they would like to offer guests if time and resources allowed.

President of Hostfully, David Jacoby, joins me to talk about the results of the survey and what PMs can do to pull back control and cast aside the anonymity the OTAs are threatening. We also discussed the work of the Home Sharers Democratic Club of San Francisco, an organisation with the aim to:

“Organize the home sharing community to work politically to bring about fair and reasonable laws and regulations concerning home sharing and the sharing economy and for the promotion of the welfare and well being of home sharing hosts and their guests.”

In this interview David talks about:

  • The challenges property managers face in a time of OTA dominance
  • What is on property managers’ wish lists
  • The peripheral industry bridging the gap between PMs and guest wants
  • The 84-point gap between mainstream software and what PMs would like to offer
  • How managers (and owners) can streamline communication & deliver what OTAs cannot
  • A 4-point plan for initial communication with guests
  • Short term rental advocacy and the need for owners/managers to organise in the face of pending legislation

Links to sites mentioned in this episode

Home Sharers Democratic Club of San Francisco





VRS186 – Vacation Rental Marketing Automation Explained with Jason Beaton of Airtight Marketing

I’m joined today by Jason Beaton of Airtight Marketing to talk about jargon in online marketing. As we build our vacation rental businesses, most owners realise that simply listing isn’t enough. We’re at a time in our industry when control over how we market and advertise has been wrestled from us, and without being overly dramatic, we’re at the mercy of a few behemoth listing sites. Don’t comply with Instant Booking and you’ll end up struggling at the bottom of the listing feed; comply, and you may rank higher, but take on the added risks of accepting reservations with no prior connection with guests.

Many independent owners don’t want to go that route so in looking for alternatives, realise they need to learn about online marketing. This comes with a steep learning curve because there is a lot to take on board, not least of which is the jargon.

The online marketing world has a language all of its own and we hear it every day. From funnels to landing pages, re-targeting to back-end automation, there’s a new vocabulary to learn, and it’s really worthwhile understanding what it all means and how it hangs together.

Whether you want complete independence from listing sites – and many have achieved this and lived to tell the tale – to getting a broader understanding of how to get there eventually, we can all take away something from this episode with an online marketing expert.

Besides having a lot of experience in the world of digital marketing, Jason is also immersing himself in our own niche of vacation rentals. He braved the full weekend of the Vacation Rental Success Summit (for the second year) , and co-presented a day training course with Mike Bayer as mentioned in VRS185. This means he’s in a perfect position to explain all the jargon and give us an insight into automation processes as they can impact us, and propel us forward to more autonomy.

In this episode Jason talks about:

  • What marketing automation means and how it can streamline our business
  • Definitions of funnels, automation, opt-ins and Call to Action (CTA)
  • How an investment of $9 per month in an email platform is worth every penny
  • Landing pages and how to use them
  • The difference between remarketing and retargeting
  • What AB testing is used for
  • Why the term ‘above the fold’ has less impact in the world of mobile marketing
  • The importance of Google Analytics

Sites mentioned in this episode:

AirTight Marketing

Thrive Themes

Lead Pages

Optin Monster

Click Funnels

Optimize Press

Thrive Leads



Active Campaign


Google Analytics

VRS185 – Are you planning on building a new vacation rental website?

Are you planning on building a new website, or want to make some changes to your current one? If so, this episode could be for you.

The topic came about in response to a request from Sanjiv Sandhu, a member of our Vacation Rental Formula Facebook Group (VRF members only), and at the start seemed a simple list-based question:

What are the key elements for an amazing website?

That seemed easy – a great home page; amazing photos; easy to access rates and availability; an amenity list; an About Us page to help create a relationship; FAQs; a blog with consistently delivered posts; quality content; easy navigation…all with well-written copy.

Well maybe not that easy or simple, but given that list, most owners could start creating their website without too much difficulty.

Then I came across a post on the Say NO To VRBO Facebook group, and it gave a different perspective on it.

Here’s the post:

“I say this to be helpful, not critical, so please take it as such.
I made a Facebook post on one of the Facebook pages sometimes mentioned here, asking blindly for rentals over Thanksgiving. I mentioned a state I wanted to visit, but I wanted fresh ideas on locations. I did ask for NO VRBO links.

I got a few great ideas.

And I got some horrible websites.

Here are some of my complaints:

*i have no idea where this is located (no map)

After getting frustrated I asked one lady about a map. She said you click this, hover over that, scroll down, and click map. Ok…right. I should have known that.

*i have been on the website 10 minutes and I still don’t know if you have a pool

*so much STUFF I can’t find the basics

(All these plug-ins like weather and 10 other things make it so busy and overwhelming I just want to leave the site. I am NEVER coming to your site to check the weather. I have an app for that. That’s just one example but I’m at your site to see your property. Not 50 other links about what the dolphins had for dinner last night and how he sun’s ray can damage your skin).

*some links don’t work

*one lady I told her NONE of her links worked from PC. She said they work from phone and mac and to try back later. Ok I did. They don’t work. ?

In my opinion less is more. Within 20 seconds on your page I want to see a map, pictures, rates, a calendar, and an amenity list. If you have tons of rambling text I am not going to read any of your text

I agree with a lot of this, and some I disagree with, so thought it would be interesting to speak directly to the poster and ask her more about what she looks for in a vacation rental website.

So thanks to Danica Thornburg Connell for posting, and for joining me to talk about it in greater depth.

The remainder of the episode explores some of the issues Danica raised in our conversation and covers:

  • What is useful and what is not on a website
  • Why it’s important to know your personas and speak to them in your website content
  • Whether less is more – the arguments for and against
  • The 8 key elements of a website (my personal opinion)

Links mentioned in this episode:

VRS184 – Vacation Rental Marketing 2.0 with Mike Bayer

Marketing for your vacation rental business can seem like a hard slog. There’s always something to do and be planning, even when you only have a finite number of weeks to rent. It can be overwhelming and often feels like an uphill challenge given the nature of OTAs and their ever-changing demands.

The first thing to grasp is that it’s a business, and like any other business there are strategic and operational aspects to it, each of which needs to be systematically approached. Once you have those in hand, it should all come together and become a seamless process.

In principle that sounds simple, but we all know the reality is different and it’s what Mike Bayer and Jason Beaton addressed in their one-day workshop at the Vacation Rental Success Summit.

VR Marketing 2.0 covered a complete system for a new or established owner to create a solid business marketingframework. From identifying an avatar or persona to developing a website, methods of list building to branding and remarking, the workshop was a comprehensive package.

In this episode, Mike delivers a Cliff’s (or Cole’s) Notes summary of the workshop with some tips and suggestions you can use to take immediate action to start the process of creating a new marketing strategy.

In this episode Mike shares:

  • The importance of defining your ideal guest
  • Why building a website is the foundation of everything you will do
  • The reason WordPress is the best platform
  • How good branding can impact your web traffic
  • Why you don’t ask for a marriage commitment on a first date!
  • His favourite digital marketers and online experts

And much more….

Links and websites mentioned in this episode:

Fetch My Guest

Airtight Marketing (Jason Beaton)

Active Campaign

Digital Marketer

Seahorse Diamond Beach

VRS165 – PR for Vacation Rentals with Jessica Gillingham

VRS183 – Why Content Will Win For Your Vacation Rental Business with Alan Egan

There’s two types of vacation rental owners. Those that accept bookings, and those that make bookings. So says today’s guest, the one and only Alan Egan. For those of you who know Alan, he has been in and around this industry for over two decades and was one of the first owners/managers blogging about how we should create niche sites for ourselves and become independent from the pack, before the pack really evolved into what it is now.

Alan believes strongly that our current marketing is failing us, and while we may be booked solid now, this won’t be the case in a few years’ time if we continue to go along with the dictates of the current behemoth listing sites. His argument is that we need to create massive and brilliant content that can be used to guide travellers back to our own websites, and it’s an argument that has proved successful for a lot of owners he has coached and trained over the years.

Alan has featured on this podcast twice before – the first time to discuss his strategies for Google Plus which he still feels are effective for those who are using it the right way. On the second occasion we moved onto his real passion – WordPress websites. More recently, Alan has been giving away websites to anyone willing to do the work to set one up under his video tutelage.

In this episode Alan shares:

  • His views on the current state of vacation rental marketing
  • Why we need to stop griping about traveller fees and start working on the alternatives
  • Why we cannot go back to the ‘way it used to be’
  • The five core topics you need to create content around
  • The need to understand how social media works
  • How one family flew from China just to go to a remote California location
  • The real reason owners don’t create content

Sites mentioned in this episode:

Holidays on Bornholm (Alan’s site)

The WordPress Website Giveaway

Rent More Weeks

Smoky Mountains.com

Emerald Coast By Owner

St Johns Villa Rentals

Wherewaterfalls.com (Amy Blomquist)

Amy’s Google Plus page

VRS182 – How to Create a Vacation Rental Mastermind Group With Ellory Wells

As we saw at the recent Vacation Rental Success Summit, getting together can be the start of something awesome. We saw owners and managers deep in conversation and hopefully they went onto exchange contact details and promise to stay in touch.

We all know that when the busy-ness of business takes over, that these intentions can often get filed away, along with the business cards, and often it’s not until the next event that people reconnect and recall the buzz of motivation that networking can bring.

Starting a Mastermind group is one way of keeping together long after the energy and group-hype of a conference has died away. We’ve heard about them, and perhaps you’ve considered joining one, but if you’ve never taken the leap to organise a group you might not have experienced the power that binds these groups together.

The expression as it relates to groups was coined by Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich. He described a mastermind ‘alliance’ as:

“A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.”

He believed that when two or more people come together in a friendly environment, for a particular purpose, there’s a powerful element of creativity and support, that individual endeavours cannot emulate.

With this in mind I wanted to find someone who was thoroughly experienced with Mastermind groups who could explain exactly what they are, how they work, and what it takes to get a successful group formed, and maintained.

Ellory Wells is a a business coach to entrepreneurs and he joins me to share his wisdom on creating and running a successful group. Those who were at the Vacation Rental Success Summit may have chatted with Ellory, as he was there to support one of his clients, Jason Beaton who was giving a presentation on digital marketing. Ellory wrote a great post after the event that really summed it up – We’re More Alike Than Different

In this episode Ellory talks about:

  • What a mastermind group is and where the concept came from
  • How joining a group can benefit a vacation rental owner or manager
  • Why it may be beneficial to include people outside the industry
  • The general rules of running a successful group
  • How to ask people if they want to join
  • The two essentials for Mastermind success
  • The common reasons for a Mastermind to fail
  • The best platforms to run a group on
  • Why it doesn’t have to be all business all the time
  • General tips on getting a group started.

To download Ellory’s guide to creating a successful Mastermind go to ellorywells.com/heather

Links mentioned:

Ellory Wells Mastermind Weekend

Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

Zoom.US (Meeting Platform)

VRS181 – Where to find knowledge in the vacation rental business

Where do you look for education and resources to help you manage your vacation rental business better? Maybe you have a go-to expert, or regularly visit a Facebook group or forum, or you’ve bought a book from Amazon that claims to be the A-Z of the industry.

Wherever you go, it’s clear that education in vacation rentals is as fragmented as the industry itself. If you went into real estate, you’d find a prescribed route to achieving a licence, but there is no college course or standardized curriculum that can guide you along the exact path you need for success in all the elements that make up this business.

So, we muddle along and pick up bits and pieces of information from here and there, and generally hope for the best. Unfortunately, the growth of vacation rentals has spawned a lot of ‘pop-up experts’ – mostly in the Airbnb space – who claim they’ve uncovered the holy grail that will lead to 6 figure incomes, if you just get your listing posted. Buy their ebook, or training course, and you’ll be on the way to wealth before you know it.

For most of us who have done the hard graft, we know there is a lot more to creating a solid and consistent income-producing business than throwing up some photos, a grainy profile pic, and waiting for the rewards to come.

If you’ve listened to a few episodes of Vacation Rental Success you’ll know I only recommend resources I’ve tried and feel merit mention. This goes for all the resources I’m sharing in this episode as I talk about where you should go to find balanced expertise.

From podcasts, to forums, blogs on social media, digital marketing and general VR issues, print and online magazines, to face-to-face events, there’s a range of resources now available. Here’s my recommendations, and you can listen to why I’ve made them in great detall.

https://91digital.net/blog/ (Posts on digital marketing for vacation rentals)

http://vacationrentaltravels.com/ (Online Travelers magazine)

http://rentalsunited.com/en/ (Who’s Who in Vacation Rentals; List of VR Events

https://www.lodgify.com/blog/ (Range of posts of interest to owners and managers)

http://www.vrmintel.com/ (Online and free paper magazine with excellent content)

https://www.smarthosts.org/ (Content aggregator)

http://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/blog/ (Matt Landau’s blog)

http://vrmastered.com/ (Boot Camp event limited to 20 attendees in Nashville Tennessee – October)

http://www.vacationrentalsuccesssummit.com/ (Next event San Antonio, spring 2018)

http://www.vacationrentalworldsummit.com/ (Next Event, Florence, Italy, September 2017)

https://www.facebook.com/TheHostingJourney/ (Evelyn Badia’s Facebook Group)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/568782883285173/ (Say No To VRBO Facebook Group)

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/69889 (Vacation Rental Professionals Linkedin Group)

https://www.lodgify.com/blog/podcasts-vacation-rental-pro/ (7 Podcasts that will turn you into a vacation rental pro