The following is the March 16th edition of VRMB's Monday Morning Motivation Newsletter, shared via email. Due to a number of subscribers requests, we have published the entire email below. You can sign-up for the newsletter here.
Dear Vacation Rental Heroes,
In my 15 years of vacation rental work I've never experienced a moment that has required so much of a community to act so quickly. I know that the amount of required change will affect each vacation rental professional differently. But none of us are immune to increased anxiety and stress. These are truly historic times. And the image (above) from VRMB illustrator Katie Chandler really captured this for me.
The bad news is that travel will take a major temporary hit. The good news is that vacation rentals are poised to prosper long-term thanks to our privacy, small scale, and control (compared to traditional hotels).
Back in 2016, I predicted that vacation rentals would topple hotels in 2020. I definitely did not expect it to happen this way, but I do believe this will be the inflection point due to new sanitation expectations from the traveling public. People will never stop taking vacation and our product is about to become infinitely more attractive.
Your MMM’s over the course of the next few weeks will continue and they will be characteristically action-oriented and fun. This is a crisis, but it doesn’t mean we cannot smile. For starters, enjoy this Italian man wearing a giant circle prop to keep virus at bay 🙂
The Good News: Independence
Everything that VRMB has ever written, shared, or presented on stage has to do with independence. It is time-tested. Sometimes independence in branding: presenting yourself authentically so people remember, refer, and come back to you. Sometimes independence as marketing diversification: not being too dependent on any one given listing site, person, region, or demographic. And sometimes independence in self-care: treating yourself and your body well so that you can treat guests that way too.
If you are a member of the Inner Circle, you know my mantra is: the more independent your business is, the more you sustain industry blows and market corrections. If you have been practicing independence over time, you sustain shocks far better than businesses who have not. While the short-term outlook may be rough, I can assure you that when it subsides, all your hard work over the years will pay off. This is what we’ve been working towards!!
Here's a link to VRMB's "Listing Site Independnce" Self-Grader
Got Cancellations? Try This...
If guests cancel for the coming weeks and months, depending on how the situation evolves in your region, you can...
- Offer guests re-book for later in the year (or same dates 2021)
- Be confident holding your ground: so long as the booking was not made through a listing site (more on this below) you and your contractual agreement get the final say. If on the fence, you have the obligation to put you and your family's own well-being first.
- Email all bookings for 2020 preemptively allowing the guests to cancel if they choose (this proactive stance — instead of waiting for the inevitable — earns respect, credibility and goodwill). Thanks Rick Oster for this one.
Marketing During Downtime
Might as well make the most of the lull. Some VRMB subscribers are using the quarantine to revamp their website. Others taking new photos, doing deep cleans. Some just a hefty dosage of therapeutic gardening. Here are three project ideas we’re featuring this week:
- Get Ya Newsletter Freak On: For a lot of managers this has been left on the back burner. There is no better way to stay in touch than a monthly or quarterly update. And there is no better time than now. Make your newsletters funny, interesting, informative, heartfelt.
- Riches in Niches: New traveler demographics WILL EMERGE out of this mayhem. Here are some we’ve discussed on the Inner Circle: those looking to vacay-quarantine or social distance themselves for weeks/months, idyllic “work from home” retreats, young/single travelers who are more intrepid and looking to take advantage of deals when they arise. Get a head start on these groups: they are your future guests.
- "Groupon"-Style Deal for Future Bookings: Offer all your past guests the chance to purchase $1000 of future credit at your vacation rentals for $500 (or whatever ratio you choose). Tapping good reputation earned over time can generate cashflow in low months.
Recalibrate Your Goals
It's a good time to re-assess your numbers. They certainly aren’t what they were even 1 month ago. Recalibrate your goals in order to have a gauge how much gas you have in your tank. Decide exactly how much money you need to break even on your business for the next 6-12 months. If it’s realistic, or if you'll beat it, great! If you don’t have a chance of reaching it, consider...
The Deep Pause
Some managers will be using the next few months to do the Deep Pause. Also known as "Family Mode," my definition of a Deep Pause is a temporary halt of most/all business operations in order to reduce overhead expenses (ie. survive) WHILE preserving the brand of the business for a powerful launch strategy when re-opening. Whether one week, month, quarter, or year, the key is to induce relief from stress and take some forced down time.
Seasonal business models are NOT new (just ask the waiters at Joe’s Stone Crab who earn so much money in 5 months that they can afford to travel the world for the rest of the year). But "going seasonal" does require some tough decisions (with regards to staff) and a powerful and organized re-launch strategy. We will be going over this in the coming weeks MMMs: new subscribers can add themselves free of charge here.
+ Listen to Durk and Heather Bayer talk about cleaning during Coronavirus on this podcast. You'll want to be prepared and ready to promote yourself as a hygenic alternative to hotels very soon. So knowing the technical requirements is key.
+ In case you thought Airbnb had your back, they don't. Amy Hinote thinks this will mark the moment that we all realized that we were living in a world of complacency -- so enamored with the OTAs driving revenue and bookings for us that we forgot that they really don’t understand this business and they have little to no regard for their suppliers.
+ Oh and Cloudbeds just raised $82M for their vacation rental (and hospitality) management software. Interesting time to take in this cash! Terry Whyte thinks they are a sleeper PMS lots of vacation rental managers should know about. We'll be including them in the next version of PMS Selector Tool.
This newsletter is brought to you by PointCentral, the home automation experts of our industry. Here's a compelling reason for home automation: HVAC Analytics: software that analyzes your thermostat and compares it to your home's address and outside temperature, determining if your HVAC system is on the fritz. VRMB members who sign up for a demo with PointCentral get HVAC Analytics fo free. Nice thing to get set up during a seasonal lull.
I will leave everyone with one final thought...
Tough times present new opportunities and seizing on opportunities requires instinct, agility, and leadership from the ground up. This is something I have always felt vacation rental professionals have in spades. I am sure I'll be hearing from many of you over the coming weeks with brilliant glimmers of light.