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

VRS180 – Direct from VRSS17 Vacation Rental Sofa Talk From The Goldfish Bowl

After a great first day at the Vacation Rental Success Summit, we set up our podcast studio in the ‘goldfish bowl’, a small room off the social centre and bar, and invited whoever wanted to come in to chat, to join us on the sofa. It was so great to have a stream of owners, managers, and exhibitors coming through to share their insights.

David Angotti shared how a small nugget of information from a 2016 keynote had impacted the way his staff provided excellence, while Rick Oster also picked out one tip from the previous year that he had implemented and then shared with someone else.

Of course, we invited Matt Landau to the sofa and asked about his Friday meet up with Inner Circle members. He admitted to getting ‘teary’ when he looked around at the 45 people who turned up and realised the impact his Inner Circle was having on them.

In this episode you’ll also hear from Andrew McConnell from Rented.com, John Bower (Your Welcome), Dean Curtis (Serenity Vacation Rentals), Rick Oster from Oster Golf Homes and many more.

You’ll hear about:

  • Why you have to be excellent in the eyes of your guests
  • How being 100% impactful is the only way in today’s industry
  • Not being everything to everyone and why that can lead you to more success
  • The small things that make a difference
  • Why carving out a niche and being narrowly focused can achieve greater profitability
  • Adding video reviews to a Your Welcome tablet
  • Facebook lead ads

You’ll hear from:

Andrew McConnell (Rented.com)

Matt Landau (VRMB)

David Angotti (Smoky Mountains.com)

John Bower (Your Welcome)

Dean Curtis (Serenity Vacation Rentals)

Conrad O’Connell (91 Digital)

Mark Pedeferri

Phillip Kendall (Futurestay)

Nikki Woodson Blair (Clanventure)

Rick Oster (Oster Golf Houses)

Sybille Kim (Villa Ausblick)

VRS179 – Vacation Rentals – A Risky Business

Whatever you do to protect your interests, there is risk in this business. It could be from potential overcrowding, noise, liability, general damage and use of amenities such as hot tubs or pools, or any number of other issues.

Mitigating those risks is an important element in your business plan and isn’t something that you just do at the start of the business. It should be revisited annually. Whether it’s updating an emergency plan, rewriting guest contracts or sourcing new products to make the process more efficient and effective, working on the plan is an ongoing task.

One of today’s guests talks about it as being like the advent of the Model T Ford. At the time of its production, there were few vehicles on the road, there were minimal safety measures, and no licensing for would-be drivers. Yet, over the years the industry changed dramatically and the function and design of vehicles had to change too, to meet the demands of rapidly advancing technology.

When I first started out in vacation rentals, it was all simple. A few lines in a classified ad would get some interested people on the phone to talk about their wants for a vacation. Now, online booking is wiping out the element of personal relationships and we have to trust that what we are being told on a profile is an accurate representation of the guests motivation to rent.

This can lead to the types of stories that both guests on this episode have to tell and why they were driven to find a solution to some of the problems they encountered. Amanda Mills from Party Squasher and David Krauss from Noise Aware have both developed products that can help in mitigating risk from overcrowding and neighbour issues when guests get rowdy and the noise gets out of hand.

Amanda and Dave talk about their respective journey’s to the development of Party Squasher and Noiseaware, and how these devices are a part responsible ownership.

Special Offer for Listeners of the Vacation Rental Success Podcast
Order on Party Squasher and get a 20% Discount off the published price.
Use code VRF17

Party Squasher

Noise Aware

VRS178 – Practical Vacation Rental Investment Part 2 with Michael Hamilton

Do vacation rentals make a good investment?

This is a question you see occasionally cropping up on the investor websites such as Bigger Pockets, and is invariably answered in the negative. The argument is that they are too time-consuming, are way more involved to set up than a traditional residential rental, and don’t have consistent cash-flow. However, there are many vacation rental owners who consider themselves to be investors and see the process in a different way.

Michael Hamilton is one of these. He was my guest on VRS170 when he talked about his properties in San Diego and South Carolina; how he has renovated them to bring the highest return and why Airbnb is his favoured platform for marketing. In today’s episode Michael helps me understand more about the principles of vacation rental investment.

He explains why it’s important to define the type of investor you are before you make your purchasing decision and why you need to start with the end in mind.

Michael offers a detailed 7-point investment plan that covers market knowledge, financial analysis, and how to develop systems to remove yourself from working in the business so you can spend more time ‘on it’.

If you are considering investing for the first time in vacation rental real estate, this is a brief but concise strategic and operational tour through the steps to be successful. And if you are already in the business, and thinking about your next property, you’ll find it equally valuable.

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • How not to get on over your head
  • Evaluating your money ‘mindset’
  • The ways to look at it in the long term
  • How to find the intimate market knowledge so you can laser focus on location
  • Evaluating cash flow, returns, and upside potential
  • Ways to identify potential investment opportunities
  • The basics of a vacation rental investment plan
  • Reducing and eliminating ‘time for money’ work

Enjoyed this episode? Be sure to listen to Part 1 > VRS170

VRS177 – The Vacation Rental Collaboration Revolution with Vince Perez of Fetch My Guest

There’s a lot of talk about independence in our industry; how to achieve success without being swallowed up by the behemoth listing sites, and whether branding is worth the time and effort.

I have a personal stake in all this. As a small property manager facing the challenge from sites wanting to wipe out our personal touch in the name of a more streamlined booking experience, we are in the thick of it. Every day we face the frustration of not being able to talk with our guests before they book; we hear their annoyance when they realise they are paying additional fees for the privilege of booking, and we salvage what we can out of the mess. And, we wonder if we are a dying breed at times.

Then I talk to today’s guest who not only understands the issues but has spent the last few years working on solutions. Vince Perez first joined me in September 2015 when we talked about his company Fetch My Guest. Vince has first-hand experience with his involvement with California-based Beach House Rentals, and he brings this in-depth knowledge of the industry, along with a passion for hospitality and technology.

In this episode we talk about:

• Marketing and automation in the VR business
• How we can break free of the OTA stranglehold
• The continued impact of branding
• What owners can do to regain control over their business
• How collaboration works to deliver more guests
• Vince’s session at the Vacation Rental Success Summit
Sites mentioned in this episode:

Beach House Rentals
Fetch My Guest