VRS164 – Facebook Marketing for Vacation Rentals with April Burns and David Thompson

Social media experts David Thompson and April Burns fromInterCoastal Net Designs, join me in this episode to talk about the importance of engagement on social media for vacation rental professionals.

We’re often told to ‘Be Everywhere’ and it’s tough to keep up. Posting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even Google+ is time consuming and can be frustrating.

What happens if you don’t get engagement?

What if nobody sees your posts?

Which one should you concentrate on?

These are some of the questions I posed to David and April and they were generous in their replies. They shared:

  • The key starting point for someone new to social media marketing
  • Why you need a goal to start with
  • Which platform is the ‘go-to’ in social media
  • The importance of a content calendar
  • Why you review the strategies of similar companies & what’s working for them
  • How the 80/20 rule applies to content (one of those is fun!)
  • Why you should Google ‘memes’
  • What makes a ‘fun’ post
  • How often to post and how to schedule them
  • How to schedule using Facebook’s scheduling tool
  • Why you shouldn’t get discouraged at lack of engagement and how to boost it
  • How to use Insights in Facebook
  • Keeping social media to be ‘social’
  • What to take on alongside Facebook
  • Why you should not use Facebook as an alternative to having your own website

Facebook Insights

A Beginners Guide to Facebook Insights (Kissmetrics)

Intercoastal Net Design

VRM Intel – Best Website Design 2016

Get More Engagement Through Social Media (April’s slide deck)


VRS163 – Collaboration and The Vacation Rental Guest Experience with Alex Nigg from Properly

If you went to the Airbnb Open this year it’s likely you’ll have come across Alex Nigg and Tammi Simms from Properly. Or you may have met them at last year’s Vacation Rental Success Summit or a Home Away event. This is because one or the other, or both of them show up just about everywhere there are vacation rental folks involved.

And you won’t find two lovelier people to meet.

I caught up with Alex at his main office in New Zealand for a second interview (the first was VRSS131) and I wanted to find out what’s been happening in their world over the past 6 months. Alex shared his experience of the Airbnb Open which he said was an amalgam of Sundance (visual arts and entertainment), Tech Talk (lots of interesting ideas from interesting people) and oddly enough, Burning Man, which is about creating a temporary society and building a city around it.

And for him, it worked, although he called it more of a festival, than a conference. Listen out for him saying that his experience at the Vacation Rental Success Summit last April was more enriched from a VR perspective.

That’s what we love to hear!

We also explored the changing nature of remote hosting and VR management, as it now involves so much more than just changeovers. With the concept of ‘guest experience’ becoming a priority for owners looking to differentiate in order to stand out from the crowd, finding the right person to represent them becomes significantly more important.

Alex talked about the importance of collaboration and how his business, Properly, is allowing this to happen, and demonstrating huge success.

We discussed:

  • How Airbnb promoted networking at the Open
  • Why it’s important to make an ordinary listing stand out as extraordinary.
  • Finding a property manager via collaboration
  • What’s new with Properly
  • Automation and connectivity as an essential part of remote hosting

And lots more.

Sites and posts mentioned:

A guest’s experience at Villa Bulung Daya (Thibault Masson’s Bali villa)



Alexa fom Amazon

Burning Man

VRS162 – The Five Things You Must Do For Vacation Rental Success in 2017

With the industry growing exponentially, professional owners have to be on their toes to manage the changes that will come at them from all angles. Whether its dealing with OTAs moving the goal posts yet again, or the potential of short term rental legislation, or the massive competition we’ll experience, there is a challenge on every corner.

But fear not. You can be proactive, and put your house very much in order to meet these challenges.

In this first episode of the new year, Mike and I share our thoughts on what we all need to do to be successful in 2017.

We cover five actionable points and include a lot of tips to help prepare for success this year.


Expect The Unexpected

A hurricane is forecast, there’s an oil spill in the Gulf, a wildfire threatens to engulf a resort town, or more simply the AC packs up in the middle of a heatwave.

There can by myriad situations that can threaten your rental livelihood, and if you prepare for each and every one of them, you will be more likely to weather the storm than your neighbours. It’s just a matter of planning.

From major to minor incidents, we talk about how important it is to carry out a disaster planning exercise so that handling an emergency is simply about putting a procedure into motion.


Create a Remarketing Strategy

Every guest that comes to you from a third party site gives you an opportunity to market. Even if they don’t come back to you, they may have friends who will. So even if you didn’t get the traffic from your own site to begin with, you can surely bring them back there next time.

Mikes shares the five points to cover in a strategy to keep your guests and have them come back to you again and again.



Getting together with other owners, networking and collaborating, is going to be a theme for 2017. We cannot operate in a vacuum any more, and need to create alliances in order to challenge potential legislation with a common voice.

You can also share common pain points and work collectively to resolve them. I talk about several ways in which you can collaborate and present a united front in 2017.

  • Meet ups
  • Conferences and seminars
  • Avroa chapters
  • Local alliances


Show Your Uniqueness

The Airbnb platform has shown millions that they can list their property and make some money so you now have a broader competition. Most will simply use Airbnb and rely on that for traffic. To stand out from the crowd you need to be unique, target a niche, become a local expert, and set yourself apart.


Update Everything

And last but not least, an action every owner needs to take at least once a year. Look closely at your property, your listings, your social media profiles, text and photos, and you can be guaranteed that something needs to be updated. We talk about these at the minimum 

  • Welcome book and tourist information
  • Technology
  • Bedding
  • Photos on your listing
  • Amenities

Mike and I are both working on our respective vacation rental updates as I write this. For me, it’s new furniture and bedding as well as upgrading some technology. For Mike at Sea Breeze, he’s working on updating his facilities for children – a niche group for him.

We hope you consider all of these points, and take some positive action this year.


Sites mentioned in this episode:

Vacation Rental Formula

10 Steps to Emergency Preparedness

Drip (for remarketing)



Short Term Rental Advocacy Centre

Vacation Rental Success Summit May 6/7


Guest Hook

8 Reasons to Attend the Vacation Rental Success Summit

When we were thinking about the why of putting on a face-to-face conference back in early 2016, we brainstormed a ton of reasons people would have to attend.

And then I saw this blog post from the founder of the Agents of Change podcast and organizer of the Agents of Change annual conference. It listed every reason we’d put on our wall-board.

We took these ideas and created the Vacation Rental Success Podcast and had our first event in May 2016. With over 100 attendees, numerous sponsors (including CanadaStays – Canada’s Biggest Listing Site)

So here they are – in no particular order and with our industry spin on them.

[Read more…]

VRS161 – 2016 A Year in My World of Vacation Rentals

What a year this has been! From launching the Vacation Rental Formula, to being part of the team behind the mega-successful Vacation Rental Success Summit, to having the best year ever in our management company, it’s been a blast.

In this episode I share the ups and downs of 2016 as we navigated a full-scale conference, the transition to a new reservation management system and the launch of our new website.

  • Here’s what’s covered:
  • Why Wifi is ‘more important than water!
  • Rising expectations and lower tolerance – how to achieve success when the odds are stacked against you.
  • Accidents, liability and the importance of emergency management
  • The importance of connection and networking and what the Airbnb Open and Home Away Summits don’t provide.
  • Shiny new things and why research and being selective saves so much time and money
  • The #1 complaint from owners and what we need to do to
  • How one owner literally went the extra mile!
  • How to make a mom’s vacation happy
  • The importance of providing dedicated tech and charging space

VRS160 – Crowdfunding For The Future Of Vacation Rental

2016 has been a turbulent year for the vacation rental industry and it seems that there’s something in the air. An unrest and dissatisfaction that is going beyond simple griping about traveller fees and the control that OTAs are tightening around our business models.

In September, UK based Rentivo sent out a survey asking their clients and blog readers to comment on their use of the major OTA’s (Online Travel Agents) such as Airbnb, Home Away, Trip Advisor etc.

Over 500 independent owners and property managers responded to the questionnaire, and Richard Vaughton, CEO and founder of Rentivo joins me on the podcast to talk about the results of the survey and Rentivo’s crowd funding investment programme.

I have recently joined 70+ other investors of Rentivo because I believe there is another way, and although it’s not going to be easy, it’s an optimistic way forward I want to be a part of.

We discussed:

  • An overview of the survey results
  • The top 3 comments towards OTA’s
  • The ‘necessary evil’ of OTA’s
  • Whether we are at a tipping point in the climate of OTA’s control of our businesses
  • How we can bring control back to the independents
  • The solutions that Rentivo can offer
  • The Rentivo business plan

Links mentioned in this episode:

Rentivo Survey Responses

What owners and managers really think about OTAs

Rentivo on Crowd Cube

VRS043 A Melting Pot of Complexity

VRS159 – December Vacation Rental Mashup With Matt Landau

Here’s another great conversation with Matt Landau from The Vacation Rental Marketing Blog. In this episode we explore our first experiences with Airbnb – Matt tried it out in a New York apartment, and I have just booked a house in Ottawa for a 3-night stay in February. It’s been a bit of an eye-opener for both of us and we describe how we feel about the differences between the traditional vacation home reservation and the Airbnb method.

We talk about the Vacation Rental Success Summit as Matt is part of our Steering Committee, and is a huge supporter of the event. Since we just announced our full line-up of speakers, I get Matt’s take on the wealth of experience we have got together to educate and entertain over the weekend of May 6th and 7th, 2017.

If you missed Will Franco’s (Jive Systems) webinar last month, I share what I took from that and how I’m now fully equipped for doing video handshakes. Will has just confirmed his attendance at VRSS17 too, so listen in to how I’m using the system, and then come along and meet him in person and learn more about it.

Matt’s contribution to the “What’s working for me” segment is something I’d never heard of called ‘Read it for me’ – a service that condenses great business books and presents summaries in text and video presentation. Sounds great and I’ll be trying that one out.

Finally, we kicked off a new series we are calling Five On Four. This is where we get to review 2 owner websites each and have 5 minutes to say why we chose them. In this episode we cover:

Sea Horse Diamond Beach – owners Dianne and Chris Denton were recently presented with the 2016 NSW Tourism Awards Silver Award for Excellence in Self Contained Accommodation. Their site is unique in that it specifically targets their avatar – horse and dog lovers. It’s a wonderful example of finding a niche and fully exploiting it.

Villa Carpe Diem – OK I’m biased since I stayed here in September and loved it. That’s not why I chose it though. The unique feature is its accessibility and the comprehensive Access Statement on the website. While many properties may claim to be accessible and cite vague references to wider doors and ramps, this site comprehensively details every aspect of availability to people with a range of disabilities.

Caragh Lake House – we say visuals make a site, and this one demonstrates it in the best possible way. There is very little text, because there doesn’t need to be when the photography is so stunning. It also shows why websites should be mobile responsive.

Hill Country Sinya – Social proof is important and when your vacation rental is mentioned in numerous publications, and in the broadcast media it’s important to showcase the publicity. The owner of Sinya has created a one-of-a-kind place and Matt explains why he thinks this is an important concept to hear about.

Links mentioned

Read it for Me

Jive Systems (Video Handshake)

Sea Horse Diamond Beach

Caragh Lake House

Villa Carpe Diem

VRS134 with Dianne Denton

Sinya on Lone Man Creek

Gatlinburg Relief Fund

Smoky Mountain Wildfire – David Angotti

Dollywood Foundation

VRS158 – Why You Need Emotional Gunpowder For Your Vacation Rental Business

After over 40 years in the vacation rental business, Twiddy and Co have amassed a lot of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t in the industry. In this episode, I talk to President, Ross Twiddy, about his experience with the family company, what’s behind its growth and success and what he considers to be the foundation of their marketing strategies.

From a handful of homes in the village of Duck in 1978, to over 1,000 properties in Duck, Corolla and the 4-WD areas of the Outer Banks today, the Twiddy story is one of persistence, strong values, and an adherence to a philosophy of hospitality. Ross shares how his father’s early influence, together with his own passion for the industry is shaping the company’s continued growth. [Read more…]

VRS157 – Vacation Rental Stager & Designer Sally Lauren Nichols

Today’s episode is the second in our two-parter on design and décor in vacation rentals.

As we are planning the Vacation Rental Success Summit for 2017, I’m reminded how valuable the face-to-face networking is, and just why I love going to conferences to make new connections and learn a bunch of new stuff.

I met Sally Lauren Nichols at the VRMA conference as she was attending with her husband Darik Eaton – owner of Seattle Oasis Vacation Rentals. Darik had explained in an earlier episode that the successful operation of their business is dependent on the owners relinquishing design and décor decisions to a professional designer and stager – and Sally is that professional.

With a solid background in design, Sally has a full complement of skills to create guest-ready properties in a timely and to-budget manner, and in this episode, we talk about how her role with Seattle Oasis give her the scope to meet the needs of a defined market.

She explains in details what it’s like to work with a designer and how it can save significantly in time spent on a project without having to shop at pricier outlets.

In this episode Sally tells us:

  • How to make a small space look much bigger.
  • What projects are better handled by a designer.
  • What a designer wants from a client.
  • Her five best tips for preparing a property for rental.
  • Why the little things are just as important as major renovation projects.
  • The one item of furniture every property in their portfolio has in common
  • How to make a bedroom look ‘grounded’
  • Why you can never have enough artwork.

Seattle Oasis Vacation Rentals

VRS132 – Vacation Property Management with a Difference with Darik Eaton

Where you can find Sally:







VRS156 – Vacation Rental Design Made Easy with Sarah Honaker

Design and décor is an overlooked topic in most vacation rental expert websites and podcasts, including this one! When I looked back over the last 150+ episodes, there’s only been one that really focuses on design and that was back in September 2014, with Mercedes Brennan.

With so much emphasis on staging and great photography to sell in an increasingly competitive marketplace, getting the furnishing and décor right from the start has become so important. With that in mind, I’ve talked to two design experts to find out what we need to do to attract first-time and repeat guests.

My guest in this episode is the founder of Design Made Easy, Sarah Honaker. I heard of DME a while ago and fully intended to visit the booth at VRMA in Chandler in October. Unfortunately (or fortunately for Sarah), the booth was busy each time I went past so I didn’t have a chance to meet her face-to-face. So, it was a pleasure to pin her down for an interview and discuss the issues facing owners who, like me, have less design flair than we would like.

I had a lot of questions to ask about the mistakes owners make when they purchase a property and start on this journey. After talking with Sarah I realised I’d done many of these, and in retrospect, when I look around my own vacation rental, I know it’s time for a refurb, and this time I will get some help!

This episode, and the following one with my guest Sally Lauren Nichols of SLN Stage and Design should give you enough tips and suggestions to get started on a DIY revamp, use online tools, or engage the right design professional to create a fabulous result.

In this interview Sarah tells us about:

  • Her own vacation rental in Water Color, Florida and how she created the successful design makeover
  • How she used her own app to refurbish and furnish the property
  • The mistakes new owners often make when they prepare a place for rental
  • Her design tips for color selection and furniture purchase
  • The solutions available for owners who don’t want to do this themselves
  • Why your local independent retailer could be your best friend
  • How to get trade discounts from Wayfair, Overstock and Amazon Prime
  • The DME app and how it works


Design Made Easy

Wayfair.com & Wayfair.ca for Canadians

Amazon Prime


Farrow and Ball (colors mentioned are Borrowed Light, Parma Grey, Light Blue, Dorset Cream, Pavilion Grey)