Drop Everything and Check Out My Biggest Breakthrough Of 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 2.05.48 PM[Warning: I predict that HomeAway or FlipKey or one of the other big companies will take this idea and turn it into an app within the next 2 years. Just remember, you heard it on Matt Landau’s VR blog first!]

I’m constantly on the lookout for new tools or secret weapons I can use to better engage my potential guests and convince them to book a reservation faster…

And when I first came across the idea of video messaging (not professionally edited videos like these ones, but rather homemade videos that you use in the correspondence process to build trust and personality) I had the following concerns:

My 3 Hesitations About Utilizing Video

1. Good video equipment is expensive and kinda complicated

2. Editing video is a skill I simply do not have (or care to learn)

3. I hate listening to my own voice on my podcasts and I hate even more watching myself on video: I just look so goofy!

So while I knew that using my webcam to make a short video messages to guests was a good idea (I’ve seen it done really successfully in other industries like real estate, financial services, sales teams), I wasn’t super thrilled to adopt it.

Until…I Was Convinced To Give It A Shot

My new friend Will Franco owns jiveSYSTEMS (a video marketing company) and he was just in Panama where we met in person.

He is the creator of “The Digital Handshake” in which you send a short video email to a potential guest to connect with them on a more personal level.

“Matt, you NEED to be using video for your vacation rental leads,” he said. “You’re absolutely ridiculous not to be doing this.”

And his argument (as it related to my 3 concerns above) went like this:

Will Responds To My 3 Hesitations

1. Equipment: Actually there are cheap webcams and microphones nowadays that give near-identical quality as the fancy shmancy DSLR cameras (heck, some laptops have them built in). Specifically, this Blue Nessie mic and this Logitech webcam.

2. Editing: It’s possible to adopt a more casual style of video in which you don’t edit at all (you just ride it all the way through, little flaws and all) and basically hit one button to upload

3. Embarrassment: Get over it! Everyone including the biggest actors on the planet hate the look of themselves on camera but they realize it’s something they need to do to make lots of money…so just do it and stop being all dramatic!

So I gave in.

To avoid complications of the learning curve, Will encouraged me to adopt a simple recipe of a) using a cheap but good webcam and microphone, b) not editing at all (I just do one take and then hit a button to upload to hosting), and c) doing more and more videos to get comfortable with seeing myself on camera.

And the quick results summary is that I’m absolutely crushing it.

Here’s an example of a follow-up video I sent out to an inquiry from a lady named Emily this morning:

She responded “Wow, Matt that was indeed unexpected! I will pay for the booking as soon as I return home. Thanks and looking forward to an amazing Jazz Fest!”

And this is not an unusual response.

And actually, pretty much every owner/manager in My VR Marketing Inner Circle who has tried it out is getting insanely good results.

Video is now like our secret weapon. It’s like a phone call…on steroids!

The 6 Video Techniques That Work Best

Of course I’m not going to claim ownership to this theme of video marketing, but I have developed some practices that seem to work especially well in the vacation rental industry.

I try to implement or consider each of these before making a new video:

Concluding Thoughts

So there you have it!

I’m guessing that many of you (who have been in the VR game for a while, or those just getting started) can see the value in a personalized video: either as a follow-up OR as the actual first communication response point blank.

After testing it for the past few months (and waiting to get this post juuuuuust right), I’m going on a limb and saying that video will be the future of vacation rental guest correspondence. One of the big guys reading this right now will (if they have not already) push it into their IT development priority list (De Nada, Dude).

I’d be curious to hear feedback from anyone who’s getting results or plans to give it a try in the comments section below…

About the Author Matt Landau

Matt Landau is the Founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings. Google+ | More Posts (230)

  • mark fitzsimmons

    hey Matt,
    New to your blog and fairly new to the Vr biz,(Vrbo 605926). I was just beginning to post a video of myself on our website doing a “voiceover” sales pitch, and btw feeling the same way as you about being on camera but this is so much better and you pull it off great, wish I could be as natural. I’m learning a lot from you but also getting a lot of affirmation that what I’ve done so far was spot on and am heading in the right direction.( I.e.I’ve already tied up some Lake Tahoe domain names) best, Mark

    • Matt (Himself)

      Attaboy Mark! Stick with it!

      • Jmaicavilla

        This is great, I was thinking of doing an introductory video embeded in my email response. Your went even further, I will incorporate your video reponse and test both my original and your.

        • Matt (Himself)

          Nice, Cavel! Report back with findings?

          • Jamaicavilla

            Yes, will do. going to the villa in two weeks, I wanted to make sure the video is done at the illa rather than at my home.

      • Once you try Matt you never go back!.. or was it different!? : )
        Thanks as usual Matt! Never boring, not even once, just wonderful.

        • Matt (Himself)

          Hahah thanks Ale!

  • Jim Newberry

    Dang…. you’ve done it again! I love the unedited and authentic approach to this. That’s what I would like as a potential renter. I have 2 questions:
    1. Care to share any of your technical equipment other than uploading to jiveSYSTEMS?
    2. I wonder if its possible to add a few pictures (screen share) in the midst of the video recording. It would have been sweet to see a few pics of the jazz festival as you were describing it.

    Thanks for sharing another great marketing tool for us!

    • Matt (Himself)

      Yep for sure Jim. I took Will’s advice and am using the equipment from the bottom of this page: http://www.jivesystems.com/kickstart/

      They cost about $180 total.

      As for the pictures, I am sure that’s possible with some simple editing, but I was going for speed 🙂

  • I really want to go to to Panama, listen to some music and drink wine! Talk about an amazing connection with your guest.

    • Matt (Himself)

      Haha, you’re invited anytime! $215 per night!!!

  • Will Franco AKA Flywheel

    Hi all, Will Franco here (Founder of jiveSYSTEMS). After
    having just spoken with Matt on the phone and thanking him for all the
    amazing compliments, he gave me permission to post the following:

    For those of you who don’t know, I too have been a huge fan of
    Matt’s work for a long time: we embrace his “Help, Don’t Sell” mantra
    and LOVE seeing our clients’ progress using video to close more sales.

    So in the nature of generosity, I wanted to extend the
    following offer to all Matt’s loyal subscribers: 3 months FREE access to
    my full system + a special $29/month rate (should you choose to
    continue) which is available only to you folks. If you’d like to jump on
    the offer, simply sign up here: http://www.jivesystems.com/testdrive/

    Then email me at flywheel@jivesystems.com with the subject
    “Matt’s Crew” and I’ll switch you to the promotional deal. Look forward to
    introducing all you smart vacation rental owners and managers to the
    magic of VIDEO!

  • FABULOUS, Matt!! Loved the messaging. Am really thinking about trying this!

    • Matt (Himself)

      Give it a shot Karen (and report back with findings)!

  • Nanette Bulebosh

    Great idea. I’d love to try it. Problem is, I’m still new enough to have to rely on vacation home websites (airbnb, homeaway & tripadvisor) for my marketing. All of these sites quickly quash anything in an email to inquiring guests that looks like a website. Any ideas on how to get around this? I still need these sites because they are how travelers find me.

    • Matt (Himself)

      Sorry Nanette, no way to get around it. You can’t grow your VR business with video at this time 🙁

    • If you have the 1 year paid subscription to HA/VRBO or Flipkey they show you the traveler’s email. Reply briefly though their system to get credit for a quick reply. Then, just copy & paste the email into gmail and share your video.

      • Matt (Himself)

        Sneaky Sneaky!

    • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

      I have been using their personal emails for the past month (along with HA/VRBO’s) because of issues with potential guests not receiving my responses, which always includes an attachment.

      Joe’s suggestion was my plan of action as well as I am in the same boat as you in being new and having to rely on those sites for my bookings for the time being.

      Let me know if/when you sign up and how it goes. I’m going to do it as well.

  • That’s genius! As if just replying within a couple of hours wasn’t impressive enough, imagine throwing this out there too. It’s like establishing the personal connection you get from making a phone call (to the few that actually leave a #), and being able to connect with & impress anyone right off the bat. This will make any rental stand out big time when you get those copy & pasted inquiries that have surely gone out to 5-10 other VRs.

    • Matt (Himself)

      BOOM! I actually came up with the idea to do audio notes (inserted into emails) a few years ago…but ran into some issues as to why it wouldn’t work. With the right software, you could probably be answering every inquiry using a quick video on the road using your iPhone.

      • Holly W

        I think this is probably key for a lot of us — figuring out the video from the iphone angle. But I am going to start with the method you demo’d, to include I think I look better when not holding the phone, selfie style, so having a mounted camera, even if mounted on my monitor makes me look better in the video.

      • Holly W

        Also, I get phone numbers from 95% of my guests that inquire, but I usually DONT call because I find that most of my guests like to have the space to look over my responses before we talk on the phone, if ever. So, this video to me is BETTER than a phone call for the people who don’t really want me in their world on the phone, but still gives me a chance to give them personal attention.

        • Matt (Himself)

          Yeah, that’s what I was going for with the audio note idea (access on demand) but the video is way better.

  • Anna

    Great video Matt! Such a great way to connect with visitors…very personable and welcoming! Thanks for sharing.

  • Hey Matt, Thank you for this post. I am absolutely digging this. Most of all I will remember that I heard this from you first. Simply genius!

    • Matt (Himself)

      My pleasure Darrel, keep us updated on your progress and welcome to “the club”!!!

  • EurekaFred

    Love it! And you don’t look goofy……but friendly and welcoming. We’re on a shoestring budget with our VR (in Roatan where AC costs are killing us!) but I may try this with the special deal offered. It’s so personable and shows potential guests you’re not just a run of the mill VR. Which is what’s needed to put us ahead of the competition!

    • Matt (Himself)

      Amen to that Fred! Keep us updated on the results?

  • Holly W

    Ok, wow. This is cool. One thing that is great about THIS idea is all of us reading can act on it immediately. Maybe we need to go to Amazon and buy the camera and the mike, and google up Jive Systems (thank you for keeping us professional), but then we can do it. Many other good ideas, like getting a pro photographer at our places, pro copywriting, 3D drawings of the home, and our OWN website are things that we will do, but put on a projects list, knocking them out one thing at a time. Jeff and I have not done the 3d drawings or website yet, although we will soon. But, this can be done NOW. So, I am getting on amazon and getting ordering. I am only bummed that I will have to make my videos in Three Rivers, CA gateway to Sequoia NP instead of Yosemite, where our rental is, since we are not usually in Yosemite when answering inquiries.

    • Matt (Himself)

      Agreed Holly, maybe the next time you go to Yosemite you can make a few “evergreen” or generic videos to keep on file?

  • I can’t wait to get started on this idea! Thank you Matt! 🙂

    • Matt (Himself)

      Nice! Glad you like it as much as I do!

  • Hi Matt! I signed up about a month ago, and my equipment (purchased through Amazon) arrived the very next day. I’ve been watching the tutorials that Will has sent, they are short, easy to understand and I’m getting ready to practice. Watching your reply to Emily helps me frame how I want to start using this in my work … and I’m going to practice by sending video emails to my kids. Thanks for bringing this new feature to our attention, and I’m excited about getting started. (Gotta say I have been a little nervous about the first videos, so appreciating your example … )

    • Matt (Himself)

      Don’t worry Debi, I think everyone is awkward at the beginning. Here’s a tip that I actually sent to Will to relay to his clients, which helped me get comfortable on video: try recounting a story that you have told many times on camera. Since it’s in your memory, you won’t have to think much and you’ll get used to the experience. In fact, that’s exactly what I did in my first video post here: https://www.vrmb.com/long-term-guests/

  • Rick Oster

    Matt, I signed up and ordered my equipment! I can’t wait to dive in. I like that it can be used two ways; I can respond to inquiries with videos (and thank them personally with a video after their stay) and I can embed videos on my website. I’m sure this could be done on my mac using photobooth, but that is much more complicated. I’ll let you know how it goes and thanks for posting!

    • Matt (Himself)

      Nice, good luck Rick! Keep us posted!

  • Antonio Bortolotti

    I’ve been using video for the last 5 years and anyone who may have watched the session I gave online at the Vacation Rental World Summit can recall the same exact concept Matt is explaining here so nicely. It works Matt, it’s been part of my secret sauce for a long time now and I too believe it’s the way to go.

    • Matt (Himself)

      You’re a smart man, Antonio! I shall follow your lead…

  • Okay this is too ironic. I hadn’t been to your web site in several weeks so yesterday I delved into a couple of past posts and followed a link to jiveSYSTEMS after you mentioned it. I went to the site but couldn’t quite see myself using it from just a testimonial by a woman on their page. It just didn’t hook me because though I got the idea, I didn’t see myself using it and how it could be used in many different ways. So today, fearless leader Matt posts a sample of how he would use it to answer a typical inquiry. Eureka! Now I’m thinking of more ways to use it…like for tutorials on how to reset the internet, tips on troubleshooting our entry door lock if it won’t open, and promoting my photography if guests would like a family photograph taken while there. Definitely looking into this and thanks Will for the special offer. I think for a dollar a day this could be a great investment.

    • Matt (Himself)

      Awesome Amy, glad to be of use 🙂

    • PJ Smith

      And this is too ironic also Amy. As I was watching Matt doing his video my first thought is “This is perfect for Amy Greener!” And then I started thinking well maybe I need to think about this too. It is pretty cool Matt and adds such a personal touch. It would be nice though to just have a couple of generic videos. Not sure I would want to do a personal one (like the Jazz Fest) to each and every inquiry.

      • That’s funny, PJ. After years of being on camera, I detest the thought of having to wear make up so I’m presentable from my home office. Being off-camera for the last 10 years has spoiled me. If I go this route, now I’ll have to wear something other than my jammies and keep my office a whole lot cleaner. Ugh. I hope you’ll consider giving it a try. I think it has real potential.

  • Sarah Peabody

    I am going to give this a try soon! Its cheap and easy and totally unique. My vacation rental caters to families so I am not going to worry about looking nice for the video (what mom of 2 toddlers has time for that?) and will probably bring one of my kids into the video for a cute little cameo shot.

    • Matt Landau

      Awesome Sarah! Report back with results?

  • Great idea. This is essentially a video sales letter. Personally I prefer basic video follow ups as opposed to “slick” “produced” stuff. My question is: are you publishing the video on your site then sending the link or are you publishing it elsewhere? Or are you simply attaching it to the email? Thanks!

    • Matt Landau

      It’s actually hosted on the jiveSYSTEMS server. I’m pretty sure you could be using Wistia or Youtube even for the hosting.

  • To Video or not to Video – That is the question!

    I always believed that it would be a good idea. Therefore I tried it out last year but have never ha any feedback.

    I may get some here. Firstly, I am a complete amateur at making videos and I haven´t a clue how to edit videos.

    I took these 2 minute videos with my iPad and iPhone and uploaded them to You Tube with figers crossed.

    Here they are.

    Two bedroom apartment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDTER0aYTv8&feature=youtu.be

    Garden and pool area: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N35J0zpMt8s&feature=youtu.be

    One bedroom apartment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0-X5b_sZBs&feature=youtu.be

    My homemade webpage is here. http://www.rogercummiskey.com/holidays/

    I would value any feedback. Thanks Folks.

  • Renate

    Hi Matt,
    great tips and thanks for sharing! I wonder if there’s a way to use jive and still
    keep all the information about the conversation with the client in one place?
    If one use for example mailchimp but send the videomail with jive how can one
    keep track on everything?

    • Matt Landau

      Well, I’m not an expert on video…but I’m pretty sure you can just embed the video into your MailChimp email using the embed code (copy/paste). You can also just put a snapshot jpeg of the video in the email with a link which leads to a hosted version of the video (that’s what I’ve been doing). Lemme know what you find…

      • Renate

        thanks Matt for quick reply. I’ll check with the guys at jive system and let you know.

  • SSBN

    I wonder if the videos could be hosted from your wordpress site, perhaps imbedded in your bespoke template? I realize you don’t get the jive systems video tracking.

    • SSBN

      Just answered my own question. Not recommended however you could embed your video on your bespoke page and host it in one of several locations.

  • Vacation Rental Guru

    As ever a great idea and it will totally close more bookings. The key is then to make sure the guest can pay directly from the email.
    Did I tell you we can do that for owners? (Shameless self promotion!)

    Thanks Matt


  • Great idea Matt! You know I love video so this is another great way to add to the authenticity and “yes I’m a real person” of our niche vs. stuffed suite at a hotel. Love it!

    • Matt Landau


  • Amy

    Matt, I want to try this video messaging and ordered the microphone and camera and now that I’ve received them, I want to sign up with Will. What happened to the special offer for your readers?

    • Matt Landau

      He may have taken it down because he filled his quota. I’d sign up for the free test drive and ask him if you can still get the deal he posted here. No guarantees however.

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  • Holly W

    I have been working on this, and I have an EASY TIP if you don’t like looking at yourself on the video and feel really self conscious. I found that my using “mirror image” I feel more comfortable with what I see. To the viewer, its exactly the same. But to ME and YOU – seeing ourselves on the video exactly the way we see ourselves all the time, which is in a mirror, it makes you feel more comfortable with the image. Especially, probably, for women. I think I look so strange in “real image” as its not the way I think my hair and face looks. Click mirror image (in the Logitech software its easy) and Bam– so much better!

    • Matt Landau

      Hahah this is such a good tip. I totally do this. Another tip, when you feel like you’ve done a good “take” — just publish it and never watch it again. Not sure what FlyWheel would say but, HEY, it works for me!

  • Carey Alexander Beasley

    Hi Matt 🙂
    I’m so brand new my paint isn’t try yet! Ridiculously, my career has been and healthcare and I’m looking for a transition. Just stumbled into VR and LOVE! I’m great with the guest side of it (all 5 stars) but am struggling with acquiring more inventory (other people’s property to manage). I’m only charging 15%, which is very competitive, but there are so many “big dogs” here on the Gulf Coast….any suggestions???
    Thanks for sharing all your expertise!!!!

    • Matt Landau

      Great a DIY guide for property owners to get those 5-star managerial reviews. Give it away for free. The creme of the crop of owners who read your expertise will bubble to the top and be drawn to your services.