Direct Bookings For Hospitality

Welcome to Boostly Podcast Episode 496. In this podcast episode We will be sharing our insights on direct bookings.

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Here's the audio for this episode:

Here's the video for this episode:

Timestamps (audio)

00:00 Welcome
00:52 Direct Booking Masterclass
01:42 Vanny Intro
03:13 Damian Intro
04:04 Leo Intro
05:17 Initial tip on getting started
10:57 Don't just settle for one platform
19:43 You have to re-educate your guest
27:16 It could be really simple
39:59 What do you advise people on damage deposits
41:25 Closing thoughts

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Audio – Boostly Podcast




Transcript from the Episode

Welcome back to a very special episode of Boostly podcast, and I've got something really cool to show you. So last night I recorded a very cool round table, all about direct booking with Damien Sheridan of the book Direct Show with Vinny from Uplifting and Leo from Superhog us Four combined. We just chatted the shit, talked all about direct bookings, about trust, about what we need to bring into our websites to to turn a looker into a booker and it was amazing.

So if you wanna find out more about Superhog, check out The book direct show and obviously Uplifting is a PMs. The book direct show is, is a, is an event that is gonna be in Miami in October, and obviously Superhog is the, um, verification service. I've got to go, as you can hear.

Let's pass it over to the four of us as we chat all about direct bookings. Hello everyone and welcome to the book Direct Masterclass. Today I'm joined by industry experts, Damien Sheridan, Mark Simpson, and Vinny Breslin. How are you chaps? Very well, Leo. Thank you very much. I'm very, I'm very well on it and it's, it wasn't obvious that you're reading it at all, so well done,

And can I just say while we're here guys, We were supposed to be joined by Cindy Darling and unfortunately she had to drop out cause she's not feeling very well. So she was actually the only one genuine industry expert that we asked to get involved today. So she's a big loss. Big loss. Sure will struggle I'm sure Will struggle.

Yeah. We, we really will. Okay. Um, and, uh, as you're all here, it'd be great. It'd be great if you could introduce yourself. So Vinny, let's, uh, let, let's start with you. Yeah. Uh, I'm Vinny Breslin. Um, I'm founder or one of the founders of Op Uplifting, which is a property and channel manager, self serve, property channel manager.

Um, we operate all over the world. Um, have members from five to 500 properties, and, uh, we help you list across multiple OTAs, um, but also launch your own direct booking engine, um, or get, get started at least. And, uh, lots of automation features to help you put your business on auto pilot. Brilliant Vinny thanks for, thanks for telling us a bit about that.

And I'm gonna ask you more about this direct booking functionality that you, you help people build. Cause I think it's very interesting. Um, and then Mark, tell us a bit about yourself. So my name is Mark Simpson. I have been in and around hospitality since the age of five. Uh, born in a a little bed and breakfast in just off the Scarborough and wi in New Yorkshire coast.

2016, started helping hosts to generate diet bookings and I've just been talking about it nonstop since then. This year I offered my very first book, which was the book Derek Playbook, which I'll get on screen now, uh, on Amazon. You can go check it out and yeah, no, very fortunate. There you go. There you go.

Nice. Thank you. So now, very fortunate to have met some amazing people over there, my years of doing this. Um, obviously Damien, Vinnie, Leo, and so many, uh, cool people that I've met doing and talking about Derek Bookings. And so being part of this is, uh, is awesome. Thank you very much for the invite. Brilliant.

Uh, great intro. And you didn't reference being a Liverpool Fan even better. Um, and now my brother in arms as fellow Man United fan, Damian Sheridan, tell us a bit about, Hey, Leo. Thank you for the invite. Uh, team Superhog. Uh, yeah, as Mark says, look, uh, over the last few years I've met some great people, including your good selves.

Um, Damian Sheridan. I am an SEO consultant in the short term rental industry. Been doing that for about eight or nine years. More recently being, um, the host and director of the book direct show. Which is an event specifically, uh, dedicated to short term rental hosts and managers to help them get more, um, direct bookings.

And, uh, also a more recent conference that we've we're now hosting called Scale Rentals, which is in Barcelona later on this month. So, um, yeah, that's me. Great. I never know if you really need to introduce people because essentially, You've probably read the blurb. You've probably, you know, you've probably recognized the names, but you know, it's nice to do it anyways.

It, um, so for anyone who doesn't know, I'm Leo Walton. I'm one of the co-founders of Superhog Superhog exists to make the vacational rental industry safer. We always say prevention is better than cure. And we tackle the issue of rental fraud, bad guests, party bookings in many different ways, namely advanced guests screening with financial protections.

And we are interested in, again, how can we make sure the property managers aren't always on the back foot and don't always have to have their hand in their pocket to pay for damages. Um, guys, what a great lineup we've got. Let's dive straight in to the questions. Mark, can you start us off when, when we're talking about a direct booking.

What do we mean? Well, for me, for when you say the word direct booking, it means that you're getting a booking that is, Your terms as in your policies? I think a lot of people sort of misconstrue direct bookings with saving money, as in you don't have to pay the commission costs. But, but for me, the, the main benefit of when have somebody books with you directly and not via a third party is you don't have to play in somebody else's sand pit.

It is literally on your terms, your policies. So if something like, I don't know, a global pandemic comes around, you're not then having your whole revenue, your whole year dictated by, by somebody else. And I feel like for me, I dunno, people, other people may have different definitions of it, but for me that's what direct booking means.

Perfect. Um, very, very interesting. Damien. Um, what are your best tips, you know, for, um, you know, managing direct booking successfully and efficiently? I know you work with clients regular on this. What, what are you advising them? Leo. Um, there are, well, there's so many ways, you know, well apart from just looking at seo, which we might address later on, um, you know, there does, even if we forgetting technology for the moment, the good old telephone is, is an amazing way to communicate with our guests.

You know, a lot of people forget this. There are many thousands and millions of people out there who actually still want to speak to somebody. They want to know that there is a person there at the other end. Uh, you know, fraud is rife in our industry, so that, you know, helps in terms of our credibility if we're there to answer the phone.

But look, you know, in terms of all kinds of. New technologies that there is available. If we're looking at an actual, uh, book, direct website or a website, um, you know, more simply put, you know, things like WordPress or CMSs for me are the way forward, um, in terms of, um, driving more bookings, driving more traffic, and more interest in your particular brand.

Booking engines obviously help. Uh, communication tools like WhatsApp are great, but in terms of like managing the bookings themselves, look, I think the majority of people who are gonna be watching it, this probably have a PMs of some sort, like, like Finns tools, uh, or a crm. You know, to, to manage their communication with their guests.

So I think that those kind of things are really important. But overall, it's, it's the communication, you know, opening up that communication and, um, harnessing the, the steps all the way through from, from point of inquiry, booking, uh, during the, during the stay in post booking. Sure. Interesting, interesting point.

And I think you, you mentioned what, what Vinnie's doing and, and obviously we'll let you talk, we'll let you speak on that, Vinnie, but it seems to be like we've, in this respect, we've, we, we, we've maybe got it the wrong way around because as property managers often you start by. Approaching channel booking seems to be the first port of call.

I'd be really interested what, I'm sure you guys maybe have some stats in it, like what, what typically video will be able to tell us Where do property managers start? Are they starting with Airbnb and then eventually they realize they need to branch out? Like what, what, what seems to be the path? Yeah, definitely.

Um, for, at least for the vast majority of our, the members who sign up to our platform, um, who are typically, they've been around for maybe, you know, a few months at least. They kind have had, they've got a business, um, operating, they're looking to professionalize or streamline their, their operations is kind of at the point where they would look, look to use up uplifting, um, We get 99% of our members are on Airbnb.

So they're, they're starting off on Airbnb and they're thinking, Okay, how can I branch out? What other booking sites should I be looking at? Um, whether it's verbal,, Google Vacation Rentals, or whatever it is. Um, but, but also they're familiar with threat bookings and, um, as an option and they're kind of looking to explore and, um, start that journey basically.

And we, we kind of, um, yeah, that, that's how, that's, that's, that's what they're coming to, to us. Yeah. And do you, uh, do you find that that's something that everybody's asking for straight away? They're saying, Hey, get, build me that direct booking website. I need to, I need to start that process. It's a mixture.

You know, some people are really, really into it. Some people are. Um, I think we'll talk about this later, but, you know, scared of the, of, uh, the prospect of starting to collect that to, to work with direct booking. So like, if we're thinking of, um, or how we kind of advise people to start with direct bookings, um, Very much look, I trying to explain to them as it's a journey.

You know, you don't need to start off with all the bells and whistles. Um, so direct booking is a journey. You know, first and foremost get getting a position where you can take a direct booking and process a payment, um, before you have a, you know, fully bespoke direct booking website that, that Mark May provide, for example.

Um, so we recommend using, starting off with our, we have like a one click solution then up listing. So, Click a button, have a direct booking website connected to Stripe and start taking payments today. Um, then kinda looking towards where am I getting bookings from? That's, that's the second question. Like, where are these people coming from?

Um, the lowest hanging fruit for people starting out, uh, I think is previous guests. So having a simple email, SMS strategy to educate existing guests, First of all, just educate them that you can book direct next time, um, and just use your like post checkout message as a, as a way to do that. Um, and then once.

Get the momentum and you start thinking about how I can, you know, get better at direct bookings and um, look at things like SEO that DAM can help with and a, a more advanced direct booking website that Mark can, can help with. Um, sort of, you can get into that phase as you grow out and learn more about bookings on that kinda that journey that you on.

Yeah, very interesting point. Damien and mark, anything to add to that? No, I think he's nailed it. I mean, People that are coming to, to up listing, obviously, like they're going to be majority of the time on five properties and around and around five properties. So it's like by the time they've got to five properties, they've already will have, you know, been listed on the OTAs that have been listed on your, you know, your Airbnb, but maybe like linking calendars here and there so they know the process.

Like I speak to a lot of people that are just literally getting started. I do a lot of clubhouse rooms, like clubhouse is still a thing. And on, on the clubhouse rooms there's people that are literally getting started with one. And they just would love just the comfort of, of Airbnb. But I feel like it's, it's my job to say to them .

Listen, don't just settle for one platform. Go and. Everywhere. And then once you've got everywhere, then you can go and tap into the the A major resources of uplifting and all these other PMSs that can give you the tools to sort of link it together. And then, like I say, with uplisting a one click website that you then got your direct booking website.

Fantastic. It is so simple. The main thing that we have to do as vendors is we can't overwhelm. The host. We can't overwhelm these management companies that are just getting started. Cause when they get overwhelmed, they just go, Right now, solve that. I'll go back to Airbnb. So that's like, I mean that's, that's our biggest challenge is why, why we're doing things like this to sort of help educate and just show that it doesn't have to be a massive step.

I, Yeah, I would, uh, concur with that. You know, and I think both of the guys have touched on this. It's, it can be quite daunting, uh, to start off with this journey. Um, you know, especially if you're looking at suddenly leaving the safety net of, uh, of a, you know, a secure ota. Which is taking all your payments for you, your, your damage deposits.

They, you know, they'll make sure if there's any issues with the guests that they will pay you a million dollars or whatever like this, you know, and then suddenly you're on your own. That's a really daunting step for a lot of people. Um, however, you know, it's not as tricky as you might think at all, and there's so many great tools out there to help, you know, Super hub being one, but, uh, there are so many tools out.

That make these processes so simple and uh, you know, give us such reassurance in the background. But it's just that first step. I think we all need to, we've all been there, you know, we all just need to, to take that first step and then, uh, you know, and then away we go. I think you dead right, Damian. Um, especially with that point you made about super.

That was really, that was a really good point. Um, the, um, people are gonna turn around and say, but it's expensive to invest the time and effort into this. I would assume, Mark, I'm looking at you here, like, is it. How easy is it to implement these strategies? Is it gonna save you money quickly? As far as how, as far as how easy it is to implement it, it really is simple and like there's companies like what, what I've created with Boostly and obviously everybody around here we we're, we're always trying to reinnovate and we're trying to make it as simple as possible cuz this is the one.

Thing that Airbnb in particular have done really well is their marketing message. If you look at their marketing message, it's click a sign up and you can have a listing on Airbnb within the next 30 minutes and make it so simple. And when, like Damian said, you've got somebody that is maybe got one or two properties, or maybe even five properties.

And they're now looking at, okay, right? They've looked at the, the commission costs, they've looked at all of the things and the profit margins aren't the best. And they go, Well, how can I get more profit out of this? Well, they, they hear about this, this beautiful thing called Derek bookings, but then they get overwhelmed cause they think of security.

They think of all of those things that Airbnb do for 'em and. So this is exactly what I've been doing for the last five, six years. Everything that we do here is to try and make sure that it is as simple as, like Vinnie said, one click and you've got a website, or it is as simple as putting a book together like this for less than $20, which has got a hundred tips on how to get your own direct bookings.

Vinnie mentioned one of them about how simple it is, but just messaging guests that already know, I can love and trust you. It's okay. Case of showcasing those little things that I've done and everybody here has done and, and all of our team boosting members have done, and it's just by consistently showing them and showing them and showing them how easy it's to do it.

For example, now with our websites, our WordPress websites, we've created one where it's literally 80% done. All they have to do is add their pictures, add their text, and boom, it's ready to. So we're always trying to reinnovate and trying to make it as simple as possible. So if we keep doing this, hopefully the message will spread and these more direct bookings and more companies will start to, to get on board sooner rather than later.

It's, I like that point Mark, the 80% point. Cause that's what I think, um, all three of you are working on in your own ways. You're, you're making it incredibly easy for people to make that switch. Damien, one thing that you can speak to certainly with more. Grab a task than I could is, is, you know, you're collecting your, your different bits of data from guests.

You're retargeting people, you are putting things on your email signature about booking direct and all sort of stuff, but then you still need to draw that traffic to your website. Um, can you talk to us about the importance of SEO and sort of initial tips for how you can get started there? Oh my. Um, well, it's, it's a long process, Leo.

It's, it's, um, it's not something to be entered into, uh, without a long term strategy here. This is something that you are not gonna see significant milestones for, for many months, if not even beyond the year. So it's something to to consider. However, um, you know, in the long run it's gonna pay off handsomely, so, um, SEO search engine optimization.

For those who who don't know, it's all about essentially structuring your website in a way to, to please search engines and to make your domain into a, a platform of expertise and authority. So that's about building up, you know, uh, the whole site in terms of. Fresh, uh, relevant and authoritative content in your, in your given area, your types of property, but also, you know, in blogs, uh, um, about events in your area, you know, new things that are going on.

And just, just really building up that, that level of, of authority in your area. In time it will happen, but it's not a quick process. Um, so it is something to be, it's an investment of time. Once it, you start to please those search engines, uh, whilst also pleasing your guest. Might I add? Because if you write too much for search engines, you have, uh, you know, if you write very robotically and just stuff keywords in there, it will not work very well for your guest, uh, engagement.

Um, but, um, it will, you know, you will start to climb those rankings. You will start to appear on the first page for certain keyword that you might have researched and you're targeting. So it's, uh, yeah, it, it do, the rewards are there and, uh, you know, and I work with, with, uh, clients and, and myself and the, the simplest things can pay off amazingly.

Um, you know, I've, I've spoken about this with Mark before on, uh, on videos, um, webinars. But I've, you know, from my own side, I did, uh, just a simple page on, um, bars to watch the football in my local town. And, uh, you know, it's little things like that that nobody necessarily writes about. But people do search for.

And um, you know, whilst you may not necessarily get a booking from those straight away, it's like, Oh yeah, I, I, I remember that, that brand cuz they answered that question, you know, And it's just little things like that to get your brand into, uh, people's minds. So, um, copywriting. And, you know, um, and Mark, and I know Louise Brace as well.

She does an amazing job on, um, on this kind of, um, content that's relevant for your local area. This is all the kind of thing that you can build up for your business and then your, your direct booking website that works wonders for seo. But as I said, you know, I don't want to, uh, go on about it too much, but the, it does take time.

Good on. There's a disclaimer there, isn't it? Look, sign me up. But it takes time. I like that. Yeah, I like that. Um, well it seems to me there's lots of little elements to this aren't that, that, that, when, when sort of accumulated it become your strategy. Right. Which I'm sure is, is the point. You've gotta do all the little things really well to, to, to, to make sure you're not missing opportunity.

One of those things is making sure the website is super enticing. Vinny, you can probably speak on this a bit. What tips would you give people to make your website enticing so it can compete with that, the OTA experience that they're, that a lot of guests are used to being? Yeah. Well, I mean, there's the, or Mark touched on price there.

That's an, that's an obvious one. Um, you, you can have lower prices, so you're, you got about at least 10% margin to play with. Compared to what guests are seeing on, on OTAs. Uh, so you, you can use that, you know, you can give a 5% discount, you give a 10% discount, whatever it is you want. Um, that's, that's one obvious way to do it.

And we make that really easy and uplifting. We have like, you know, custom markups that you can, if you enter a hundred dollars, for example, on, on uplifting and on lots of other software, um, it marks it up or down based on where. Going to, So Airbnb might be higher, might be even higher and direct are, are lower, Uh, loyalty programs is another one.

Um, can be really as simple as just member only. Rich doesn't have to be a really complex, uh, you know, system. Um, and then you, you also have more opportunity, you know, through a website that Mark might provide. Um, To have additional content and guides and, and videos even that, you know, you're, you're limited on Airbnb or to, um, what you can display to a guest.

But on, uh, your direct website, you have a lot more, uh, room to play with. So I think there's, those are three ways that, um, you can, uh, stand out, um, from OTAs. I just wanna just touch upon that. I think the main thing that every host, everybody that's got a website, everybody that has a direct booking website, you have to reeducate your guest.

You have to reeducate your future potential guests, because a lot of people don't know what direct booking means. I mean, we, in 2016, when, when I was still based in Scarborough there was a local news crew came down and we did a, a piece together. We went on Scarra, Seran and we interviewed like 20 people like and tourists.

Like how did you book your stay, uh, to come tocara? And majority of them said And we asked why. And they sped out the same old thing. It was, Oh, we got better raise, better cancellation policies. And it was like, nah. You get all of that when you, when you book their, it's just really good marketing.

So us as hosts or us around this table right now, this, this virtual round table, we're like having to reeducate hosts, but hosts have to reeducate their guests. And the best way to start is on your website, on your homepage. Like every single one of our websites, we have, uh, benefits of booking direct section, and it's not in big fancy.

Paragraphs. It's just icons. It's just icons saying, you know, best rates, better incentives, et cetera, et cetera, and that that really is a great place to start and it doesn't. End at your website. It has to be everywhere. Every social media channel that you have, even in your property or properties, you know, you've got, you've got amazing, uh, pa key parts of your property like your, your fridge or your front door where you can just reemphasize best rates.

When book direct, and I see so many people, one of Benny's customers, Ryan Luke, of um, Luke days. He's branded his pillows right now. I've seen his pictures on social media. He's branded his pillows. We've branded saying best rates. When you book direct, it's all about reeducating your guests and it starts with your.

Fantastic. That, that's really good advice. Mark. I just hope Ryan Luke's face is not on those pillows. Um, we can all hope for that. Um, and , um, I'm gonna stay . I'm, I'm gonna stay with that. I'm gonna stay with you, Mark. Um, clearly there is, uh, the OTAs play play a big part in, um, in, in the, in people's booking mix.

And they're not gonna be able to, Um, sort of overturn that straight away. So, you know, what, what do you think though, and I, this question probably goes to all of you afterwards as well. What, what's a healthy mix so you're not overly reliant? Well, as much as, like I say, you can't go a hundred percent OTA reliance and you can't go a hundred percent direct bookings because you've got to use the might of the OTAs and the marketing message to, to draw the attention.

And so, I mean, if you just go on the, the basis of a 50 50, that's, that's beautiful because then you've got a nice healthy mix. That's the, that's the starting point. I know so many people that are still 80% plus reliant. On Airbnb or or VRBO or combine bringing in their bookings that, that's too many.

Let's try, and first and foremost, let's just tweak it a little. I, I ideally, our family business, we were always 80% direct and then we used the OTAs for about 20% when we needed them. And it, and it worked really well for us. And it's been the, the massive shock to me since I come in away from being running a day to day hospitality business, to now helping host and just to see, How much reliant they are on, on these OTAs to bring in their bookings.

And March, 2020 proved that you shouldn't be doing so because literally like that at day in March, everybody can remember this had a hospitality business. Literally Airbnb just sort of went. Doesn't matter what your policy is. Anybody can cancel . And it really messed up so many people, so many people didn't make it out of it.

So let's just say if you are more than 80% reliant, you need to be listening to this, uh, podcast, this interview, and, and doing some about it to sort of start to tweak it back to at least 50 50. Really good advice, Damien. Yeah, I would, you know, the, the, there's no, there's no right or wrong percentages here.

Um, you know, we, we carried out a, a survey last year and one of the questions was, you know, approximately what percentage of bookings of yours generated are from OTAs and, uh, are direct that the average probably was between 15 and 20. So across the board, generally it is still quite low, but growing. Um, and I think in Europe perhaps we're a little bit better than our North American cousins on this.

Um, but it's still, this is something that's still growing. Guests still, for the most part, are not aware of these benefits at all. So as, as has been touched on before, the education is hugely important and it is our job to do that. You know, email marketing, as Benny pointed out for speaking and communicating with our guests and letting them know, Hey, do you know what, There is another option out there.

I'm sure we all have pals out there who. First, uh, point of reference is, and they, they book a hotel there and they don't even dream of, of, uh, actually trying to search for the hotel or they, um, the short term rental property itself. Uh, it's just not even, it's not in their mindset. So we have to change that, um, collectively and, um, in order to move forward.

But we are, and guests are becoming more, a little bit more savvy too. So it's our job to, to get that brand in front of. To get them to remember that brand as well. I think that's a really good point, Damian. And I guess, you know, another use of the OTA is to get one booking, isn't it? And, and then, and then Retar, Um, which is a lot of what about what you've been talking about.

And, uh, back to Ryan Luke's pillows, right? Like it's a, it's a smart move. It definitely is. Um, uh, Vinnie obviously you are, you've probably got a good insight on the, the movement towards direct bookings data wise. What, what are you seeing, What are you seeing with your clients generally? What, what's the mix for.

Yeah, well, I, I have the over the entire, um, all bookings and not listing, and that's hundreds, thousands. What have I got here? I got some numbers. So up, uh, the first few months in 2022, 14% of our bookings are direct. Um, and that's compared to 55% in Airbnb, 26 and Um, 2020, just to give you some history, 2020 was a bit of an outlier.

We had 20, 22% of our bookings were direct. That was, um, covid related and, but, but, uh, 2019 it was 9.5%. So there's definitely growth there. Over, you know, the past few years, at least on our platform, um, we see a lot. Uh, a lot of, we have some, we've got some members who, uh, do direct bookings incredibly well.

So we've got a few very large operators like Ryan, Luke, um, in the service accommodation space in the uk, like up to 500 properties, and they will, and they're very much, you know, their, their, um, corporate stays are a big part of their, um, their bookings. And you'll see these repeat bookings every week with this same, same guest in the corporate stay.

So some, some people do incredibly well. Others not so much yet. Um, it's a total spread. We, I, I always say in for 30%, um, that's just based on something I saw one time years ago, I think, in the hotel space. Um, but yeah, we're not, not quite a 30% yet. But it's, it is a young industry, isn't it? In many ways, and I do think that we're all finding our feet.

Someone touched on, I think it was you, Mark, It was the, the, the, the Covid crisis. I mean, that's the first for a lot of people in this industry, the first big travel crisis they've gone through. Whereas the hotels have been through nine 11, lots of, you know, countless things before which stopped people traveling and moving around and.

I think that was a wakeup call for everybody, um, in terms of realizing that, you know, 100% was a real, real trigger for sure. Yeah. Um, and obviously the, you know, the tools you, you guys are talking about Vinnie, I, I, I think, I think you mentioned it, the, uh, the, the idea of a loyalty program. Um, and I think this is great.

Like, can you be a bit more, uh, instructional in terms of that, um, you know, what, how someone could set out, set out to. Well, it could be really simple. Um, it's just a, you know, a list of email addresses and you offer a promo code to your, to members to book again, you know, if they book multiple times, you can keep track of them.

Um, say they've booked five times to get an extra right, uh, free, for example, so you can keep it, you know, fairly simple and manual. Um, but then you can build that out into. To be a much smarter kind of solution. We, we don't have a built in loyalty program without listing at the moment or just yet. Um, but, uh, you can definitely build something out on a, you know, a Google spreadsheet or air table or something and, uh, keep track of, um, how, you know, how many, how many nights someone's staying.

Doesn't have to be too complicated. Not yet anyway. Not yet. It's coming. Everything's coming. . Yeah. It can go a step further. It can go like a little step further. And this is something that we did at our family business and it worked so well because as much as you dangle, you know, the carrot, you gotta give an incentive.

Like you gotta say like, Listen, if you do, this is something in return. So what we did at the farm is, um, on our family business, and bearing in mind this is 2000. 11 to 2016. So it's not recent, but so it's like the technology is there to make it even easier to do, but for every guest that recommended us, so they went home, they talked to their friends, their family, they put a picture up on social media, they talked to the coworkers or wherever, and if they recommended us and somebody booked and on their arrival form, if they mention their name, then what we did is we sent them Amazon vouchers or we sent 'em Summit in the post to say thank.

Like people love to get like a little thank you for, for, for sort of recommend and most people will recommend you and not expect anything in return. But we would always offer that as an, as an incentive. And we found that people were much more likely to do so. It's amazing for market cause if any market is watching this, like cost per acquisition and all that stuff, k all that numbers that people geek over, it was simple.

It was literally recommenders. Thank you very much. Here's a whatever Amazon voucher or whatever it may be, bottle of wine, whatever you want it to be. And it was, it was such a cool little way. Social proof out of all the selling out there, especially in this industry, social proof is the the biggest driver.

If you've got a friend that's saying, I went there, I stayed there, it was amazing. They're gonna go, Oh, I'm just gonna go and check that place out. Done. Don't even need to do all the research. They know, but their friend who they, they like and they got a similar setup like family and whatnot. They had an amazing time and they're gonna be your best guests.

So it's so easy to do. You don't need to have all this fancy, fancy technology, whatever it, that technology is here and it is usable. And people like Vinnie and and myself are trying to implement it into what we do on a day to day. But it can be as simple as recommenders and you'll get X and it can be done really well and easy.

Yeah, on, on that, I, one thing that we're seeing a lot of is people, um, going to influencers and providing them a promo code. So you can basically build a promo code, um, say, uh, summer 10 or something. And, um, when they book direct, get direct, they get 10% off and you can then, um, as a host or as a property manager, um, See how many, uh, redemptions there've been from this influencer.

It's another way, it's not, it's not quite a loyalty program, but kind of touches a bit more on what Mark's saying there. Another way to attract direct bookings. If you wanna look at an up uplisting client is doing that really well. It's Shail in May Vela, so go check out May Vela on Instagram. He is a, is an up, uplisting, um, client and he works so well with it, with with influences.

Influences, I say mm-hmm. and, and people on Instagram. And like, he, he does it so well and it's so easy and it, and again, it's so easy to implement. Leo, if I can just refer back to the, the point about loyalty here. I, I think this is an area where we are really lagging behind hotels and the OTAs because we, you know, look, it's, it's gonna be very hard for us to compete without the OTA experience anyway.

You know, so many people,, they know they're gonna get their, their genius, uh, discount. That will be their first point of contact. They, you know, they're not going to come generally to short term mental and, um, you know, uh, direct booking website and think I'm gonna get a great loyalty program there and I'm gonna go back and back and back.

You know, it's gonna be very hard for us to compete with those, those OTAs. Uh, and you know, if Airbnb does introduce one themselves, you know, it's gonna make it extra difficult for us. But also hotel groups, you know, the Marriott have, have absolutely nailed this. Mm-hmm. and people do come back, you know, stay upon, stay.

So, um, I, I think we we're, we're, there's an opportunity there for us. Um, but we, it, it's, we, we are lagging behind. There is a big gap there. And, uh, and I think this is, this is a, this, it's an unfortunate one for the short term rentals because I think otherwise direct bookings would be, uh, the numbers would be significantly higher if we, if we could.

Somehow get that, that loyal, those loyalty kind of programs in place? Well it's, it's, it's simple. You just reduce what you offer on the OTAs and reserve them for when guest book direct. And this is something I've been saying a lot for the last three months. I went to Liverpool recently to watch a Liverpool game.

Amazing team. And what I stayed, Well you, Tim, can we meet him? No. Fine , I, I stayed in a, in a, in a short term and accommodation in Anfield really nearby and we walked in and it's amazing place, brand new, lovely. And they, they offered literally free teas and coffees. Uh, there was a bottle of bubbly, et cetera, but it was just there.

It was just literally out. And it, there wasn't a song and dance about it. And I said to 'em, like, literally, go to your b and m. Go buy one of those wicker hampers and just have it stored away. And just make, make a note to the cleaning team that when a guest book's direct, you get that welcome hamper. You get the coffee, you get the tea, and get whatever else you wanna do to make it look nice and put it on the table when they arrive and say, Thank you so much for, for booking.

Direct direct with us. Here's a, here's your welcome hamper, and just have that as a welcome hamper. When you book direct, you're not having to spend any extra money. You're not having to go and do all these new systems and processes. They're already doing it. Just put it in a little wicker hamper and call it your book.

Direct Welcome hamper. It's, it's simple to implement. We're just trying to think in our heads why we making this so hard. I'm literally on the premier inn website right now, so the premier. Budget chain in the uk they've got the premier inn, um, loyalty program. And it's, it's, it's as simple as when you book direct with them, you get free wifi.

It's like, it's, it's so easy that, that we, that we can do this. We just have to think a little outside the box. We've got to just implement it into it. And even if you just wanna give it a name, like we, we had the Grainery, the Grainery VIPs, or the Graineryites and all I did was I created a, a Facebook group back.

2014, and we just invited all of our guests into there and we called it the Grainery vip. We made people feel special and we built a community around our business. And I feel like looking at uplisting, looking at super, looking at my community and like the community that Damien's created, we we're creating a community.

And the community then promotes our business. Right, and, and I think that's what every host needs to start doing. Build a community around your business and the people within your community, they will sing and dance and tell everybody in the world about how good you are and what whatever you wanna do around it to make it beneficial.

To book direct. You just gotta reeducate. So whether that is a welcome hamper, whether it is a bit earlier check-in, or a bit of a late checkout, it's super easy to do. You just got to start to, to put some things in place. Thank you, Mark. All really good, simple offline things as well. That's important.

Offline stuff. Damien, anything to add on that? Marketing. No, No. At all. Um, no. I think that they're great perks to, uh, to get people to book. Um, I, I, perhaps, I, I'm just thinking in terms of the, uh, you know, if we can give people a reason to know, uh, That our brand, they can come back again and again and again and will get rewarded, you know, And uh, there, there are great examples of, of very simple ways to do it.

Um, but I, you know, perhaps I think there's, there's a more kind of official way that we can do it perhaps, um, on our, on our websites and make it, and make it a little bit more obvious than, Hey, you know, you're gonna get another bottle, uh, upon arrival or, or something like that. You know? Um, I think there.

There's ways, but we, as, as Mark says, we need to think outta the box, but, but make it more obvious. I, I always go back to this thing. So my entry into the vacation rental world as a, as a punter was that we used to go to Devon every year as kids and, um, I probably shouldn't reveal this cause my dad might get in trouble, but I'll reveal it anyway.

I think the only reason we went to Devin was cuz he could, he could expense his petrol with his job. Um, he, he's retired now, so, so it's fine. But yeah, I hope he's not listening. And, um, anyway, we used to go to Devi and what happened is they'd find they'd find this place in a magazine and then, They'd meet the host and then they'd go back year on year.

So the repeat rates must have been incredible back in those days. Cause people, it was so hard to find something decent because search was so challenging that actually you'd, uh, you'd just go back. He, he would definitely be exspensing his petrol at the moment.

Familiar familiarity goes a long way, you know, And in my, my place in Spain, we have probably about eight or nine guests come back every year because they love their familiarity. They don't want to go to the hassle. Of trying to find a new place because they know that one place is special, they know it's there, it exists, and that they're gonna have a great time.

You know? So I think that is, that's almost half the job. If you provide a great, uh, guest experience or at least a decent one, uh, you have a pretty good chance of, of getting these people to come back again and again. What, what Damien just nailed down a hundred percent, is that you've got to know your customer avatar.

You've got to know who you are appealing to, because people that travel to. A place in Spain may be different to the people that are gonna travel to a Burma city center. So you've got to first and foremost, look at your property, look at where your property's located, and figure out exactly who you're appealing to.

Because when you figure that out, this all becomes so much easier because, and, and it, you know, it's really, it is a bit of a challenge to do this. This is something that you're gonna need a bit of advice and guidance around Cough $20 book. It's there, but then once you've figured that out, And once you've, and, and once you've figured it that specific bit out, you'll know who comes to the area, how often do they come back, why are they booking, they're booking motives.

And then you can work with someone like Louise Brace at Rental Tonic, and then she'll be, just be able to pin it all together. And then you'll have a beautiful looking website and the words are actually speaking to the people that you wanna attract into your property. Perfect. I think, I think, I think you, you're dead right?

This is, this is some, some really great advice. Can we talk about trust and safety for a minute? I don't think you'll all let me talk about that for a second. I'm sure. Wouldn't you like, um, one of the reasons why people are a bit addicted to the, Well, I think, you know, they, they perceive the OTAs are safe is cause they feel safe from a insurance and a security perspective.

Mark, how, how would you answer? So, yeah, I mean, we're talking about Airbnb air cover. It was very widely promoted at the back end of last year, just like they would do if they're gonna do something like this. I wanna sing and song and dance about it, and it's really funny. But recently, are trying to play catch up now with something similar.

But I mean, if, if you look at it, and this is why Damien mentioned right at the very start, people get in their little blanket and they don't wanna move. They don't wanna leave, they don't wanna go to like the, the direct booking site because they feel like Airbnb is covering them. But all air cover is, is just really good marketing.

That is literally it. Because as somebody on this call with us right now, they have a company that offers the protection and the safety to guests and owners, which is exactly what air cover is, is, is offering. And I feel like if hosts just did a Google search and just had a look and just saw what was out there, they'd realize that everything the air cover gives you.

Is there an available indirect book in terms, and this is why, you know I love Superhog, I talk about it all the time on clubhouse rooms, on just wherever and the amount of times that I say, and this is what's really must be encouraging for you, Leah, and the company that's behind you is, is that, I mention it so many times on clubhouse rooms and I still get people messaging.

We have to say. What's that word you said? Cause I don't understand my accent, even though I spell it . So I, uh, I talk about it so much and I'm having to type up afterwards. Afterwards. I, I literally should be a shareholder in this company, , I talk about it so much. But yeah, it, it's there and it's available.

Just stop being lazy, do a search or just go to 'em directly to, literally in my left of me, where I see on a Zoom window. Um, and I think Thank you, Mark. And I think it does add to that point, doesn't it? It's, it's what we, what we've talked about through this call is do your research and try lots of different little things, lots of different techniques.

And um, a part of that is making sure you've got your own trust and safety, um, you know, process. It leads me on shamelessly to ask all of you the next question, I think, which is what? What do you advise people when it comes to damage deposits? How, how are you ta telling people to, to tackle them? Um, Damien, let's start with you.

Oh, well, yeah. There's only one answer to that, you know, you know that. Um, but, you know, I, I think we, we touched upon this, you know, with, with Airbnb, how you know people that they, they, they feel safe in, in that bubble. And, uh, and we need to make them realize that actually, you know, it is not that difficult.

And there are tools now out. That not only, you know, help you take a damage deposit, but that actually help you not to have to take a damage deposit, which make a direct booking even easier, because we all know, you know, we, we've booked on Airbnb and, and a lot of these listing sites were sometimes the, the deposit that they hold is.

Ridiculously large, uh, it's, it can be more than the actual cost of the rental itself. So, um, you know, that that can put people off in itself. So I think we need to, um, embrace all of those extra tools and, uh, really just, you know, just come out of that, that safe little bubble that we think is safe, but an actual fact.

When it comes down to it, if you're gonna have issues, um, there, you know, these, these, uh, policies are not necessarily going to cover you at all. Yeah, I think, I think that's fair, isn't it? Um, guys, I think we've kept our audience long enough. Absolute masterclass from, from you three. And again, sorry, Cindy couldn't have been willing with us.

I'm sure she would've added, um, added her, her own element to it as well. Um, any closing thoughts? Let's go round. Vinnie, anything from. Closing thought on direct bookings. Uh, it's, I mean, it's the market's booming for SDRs. Direct booking is gonna become, I think, more and more important as the market professionalizes.

You need to have your own brand, um, you need to be really standing out and, and direct bookings is, is critical. I think, um, as part of a long term, short term middle strategy, uh, we, we can see growing in our platform. We're gonna do 30 million this year in direct weapons for our members. 14 last year.

That's a lot. Like, it's huge growth, at least within our, even our own community is huge. Um, so yeah, direct bookings, it has to be a part of your strategy. Um, you need to get started and you can get started today. You can have your first direct booking tomorrow if you wanted. Yeah. Thank you Vinny. Uh, Mark.

Yeah, so one thing to close on, and this is something that we're not in our community being mentioned. Is that on the back of the pandemic, um, people, and this is your future potential guests, even if they're on the, the actual credit card section of your pirate booking page, they are still wanting to ask questions.

They're wanting that personalized experience. So it's really important on your website, and this is something that we're implementing like as of yesterday, is we're implementing live chat tools, uh, on every single one of our on, on our websites, because even. Even at the point of booking, the guest is still wanting to ask a question X, Y, or Z.

It's sort of going back what it was 20 years ago. 20 years ago, when there was no instant book, you had to inquire. You had to like sort of chat to the host before making a booking. We're sort of going back to that where everybody wants to ask these little questions before actually. Pressing the book button.

So if my one bit of advice to everybody would be, have some thought, some of live chat on your website, even if you're just sending someone to your, your WhatsApp number, Have that in place. And if you are not wanting to do the extra admin, Hire somebody. It's so easy now to hire a virtual team member.

There's so many amazing resources to do so, and that would be the one thing that I would recommend. And if you wanna get a D book in right now, open your phone, find 10 of your contacts, people that know, like, and love and trust you, and tap type 'em. Follow little words. Do you know anyone? Do you know anyone that needs accommodation in X?

Send that out consistently over the next sort of 10 days to 10 different people. And like Vinny said, you'll easily get a direct booking and they're there. You just need to go and work for em. Brilliant advice. Brilliant advice. Damien. Yeah, echo what the guys have said. Um, I think for me, probably the, the main message for anyone who's on the cusp of, you know, jumping into this, this whole new world is that it's not, it, it's not as daunting as it may seem.

We, we get bombarded by tech out there. You know, uh, your tech is great, by the way, um, Leo, but, uh, we, we do. And Vinnie, uh, and Mark, all your tech is fantastic. Um, but you know, it, it doesn't need to be that daunting. Take it one step at a time. You do not need to implement all of these bits of technologies the exact same time.

Do what's right for you to start off with, work with your website or whatever it is you need to, to take that first initial step and then, you know, you can look attacking things on, but um, but just one step at a time I think is important so you don't get too daunted by the whole process. Brilliant. Well thank all three of you for some fantastic advice.

I'm off to get some Superhog pillows made. Having a blast. Gonna get it on the Bruce Lee podcast, Bruce Lee. like Bruce Lee cuz it's so hard on the tee years loose leaf. Making up those rhymes. Don't write it, just do it loosely.

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