Have you made yourself free?

In August I had a horrible experience.

With no prior warning, a friend my age who runs a holiday rental business had a massive heart attack and died.

It was a terrible loss of a fantastic person, but it got worse. He had done the entire booking and back office part of his business and his wife had done a lot of the polish that resulted in delighted guests. But she knew nothing about what happened behind the scenes.

Happily, after some very serious scrambling, his wife made some quick support arrangements for someone to help while she started to put her life back together.

It made me realise that my business was much the same. Although I had good processes, they were not pulled together in a single document that anyone could pick up and run with. Also my wife and business partner had not been thoroughly trained in the work I did.

I was in exactly the same position as my friend, with the same business exposure. The same double whammy if I were to fall sick.

Time for action.

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To succeed with a target customer niche, you need to specialise and serve those customers really well.

This hit home to me recently when I analysed the different customers who were coming to my 3 quite different properties.

About 75% of bookings from one house Treetops were coming from just one segment.

In our case it is dog owners who want to come on holiday and live close to nature with their loved family companion dog.  This a huge part of our rental income.

It wasn’t just accident, we made it happen.

In this article I reveal how we grew dog owners from 30% to 75% of our customer base.

I also explain why it works well for two of my properties but not a third.

Size of the pet owner market.

Huge!

About 40% of USA households own dogs and the market in Australia is similar – 36%.  The emotional tie is also very strong – 91% of pet owners report feeling ‘very close’ to their pet.

But there is a big gap in the market.

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Do you wonder what Google is up to that will affect us in the vacation rental industry? This year I decided to find out and went along to SMX Sydney for 2 days a few weeks ago. SMX runs at locations all over the world discussing the latest trends in online search marketing (SEM) and search engine optimisation (SEO). SMX Sydney was intense and wide ranging, but there are a few shifts that will help vacation rental / holiday rental owners.

Google ‘Local’

Google allows local businesses like holiday rentals to have a free listing on Google Local – that is the list of 7 businesses next to a map high in the Google search results for your target keyword search. Eg type in ‘lorne accommodation’ and you’ll usually see a map with flags and a list of 7 businesses below the top 3 search results. I say usually, because Google plays around with how often it shows the map and Local results. There are special rules like consistency of Name Address and Phone number (NAP), and you have to create a page in Google plus specific to your business. VR takeout: This is one feature we should all go for and it’s free. More details in a future post. [click to continue…]

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It is said that the difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that the successful grasp the obvious opportunities in front of their nose while the unsuccessful wait for the perfect next big thing, which never comes.

I think of this when I am asked “where should I list my property?”

The answer is not rocket science. Given that most guest searches start on Google the obvious thing to do is to think like a guest and search like a guest. Where are your guests and what are they searching for?

Local to me is a holiday town called Lorne, where “Accommodation Lorne” is a typical guest search and the top Google search result is the Stayz property listing directory, a directory based in Australia.

In fact, right across my local Great Ocean Road region, Stayz comes top of the results for town after town.

So here on the Great Ocean Road, the obvious place to advertise properties is Stayz!

Think local not global

Some owners think that they should go with the global consensus. Flipkey or Homeaway or VRBO or Airbnb.

Why would you list on a big international listing site if it is not near the top of Google locally? There will be some brand strength for the big brands but local search success is the obvious one to follow.

This was taken to the ridiculous a few years back on LinkedIn, where the owner of a villa in Portugal asked global readers, “where should I list?”

He was given all sorts of advice from people all over the world about their favourite listing sites. It was all irrelevant. What he needed to do was simply search like his guests and the answer was most likely a local European listing site.

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This is the most significant post I’ve done to date.  It has far reaching insights into Airbnb and its explosive growth into the vacation rental industry.  As this  post grew longer and richer in content, I realised I had to write an eBook with more detail.

But first, this is the story of how I discovered what was happening.

Strange Airbnb valuation

Alarms first started ringing on 21 March 2014 when I read a small item in the business press about Airbnb, the couch surfing website.

A capital raising gave an apparent $10 billion valuation to Airbnb.  Far more than the $4 billion valuation of Homeaway, the largest and longest established vacation rental listing company.  The big Gorilla of our industry.

What??

How could a small new player be valued much higher than the proven star performer? This graph provides part of the explanation.

Since launching in 2008, the numbers have been quietly building from zero base, but at a high growth rate. For many years the total numbers were small but in the last year, exponential growth propelled Airbnb into global prominence.

Airbnb growth impact on vacation rentals

In the latter half of this year, Airbnb will grow larger than Homeaway.  There is a new big hairy Gorilla in the vacation rental industry. [click to continue…]

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