How To Diversify Your Marketing In 2024

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In this podcast, Thibault discusses dominating Airbnb,, and Verbo in 2024 with speakers Mark, Pierre, and Phil. They stress the importance of diversifying marketing strategies after running the business for a few years.Β 

Understanding the historical context, Pierre compares to Windows 95, Verbo to Windows XP, and Airbnb to the iPhone. Each platform has unique strengths and weaknesses, and hosts should tailor their approach accordingly.

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Timestamps (audio)



[00:00:00] Thibault: Hello. Welcome. Welcome to this, uh, conference. For small hosts, we'll be talking about Airbnb, booking. com and verbal for the moment, I will let you all come in. Um, so my name is Thibault, I'm the head of the rental scale-up. I'm happy to welcome you here. Um, I will be introducing to you our three speakers of the day.

[00:00:22] So, right. So without further ado, we're going to get started. Um, I've got. Uh, four slides. I promise. That's just four slides. Just make sure I introduce our speakers properly. Um, let me share my screen right now. So today I'm very lucky to be here. Uh, as part of the rental scale-up with the three companies, boostly hospitable and future stay.

[00:00:47] And we going to be talking about how you, a small host, can dominate Airbnb, Booking. com, and the verbal 2024. That's pretty ambitious, but I think we can give you pretty good actionable tips today. Uh, as I said, I'm Thibault, I'm the founder of Rental Scale-Up. It's a medium that talks about the short-term rental industry.

[00:01:08] Uh, I also happen to be working at Price Labs, which is a dynamic pricing tool. Um, we have a free newsletter. Feel free to join. That's it. That was my plug. That's it. So today, uh, we'll be answering four big questions, right? We'll be talking about why you even, you know, imagine you're just an Airbnb host.

[00:01:28] You are an Airbnb host. Why do you even need to be on other platforms? We'll be talking about the need for you to understand what each of these platforms is about before you want to master them. We'll be talking about tips that work on every platform. And then each of the speakers will be giving their actionable tips for Airbnb.

[00:01:48] Booking. com and then Verbo. So I want to make sure we get value. And to give you value, I have three great people here. We have Mark from Boostly, uh Pierre Camille PC from Hospitable and Phil from FutureStay. There we go. Mark, do you want to get started?

Guest Introductions

[00:02:07] Mark: Yeah, no, thank you very much for including me in this discussion.

[00:02:11] I'm excited to dig into everything today. Uh, so my name is Mike Simpson, founder of Boostly, and, uh, we give hosts the tools, the tactics, the training, but most importantly, the confidence to increase their direct bookings. And, um, yeah, we've been doing this for seven years now. Uh, we've just passed, uh, 50 million pounds worth of tracked direct bookings on our websites in 2023, which is epic.

[00:02:32] And we've got 10, 000 listings going through Boostly right now. About 2, 500, uh, customers. So yeah, really, really happy to be part of it. Thank you again for having us.

[00:02:41] Pierre: Hey, hello. Thank you very much for inviting me Thibaut and fantastic to be with you, Phil and Mark. Um, so I'm Pierre, PC. I'm based in Brussels in Belgium where it's already dark outside.

[00:02:51] So good morning to everyone based in the US. Um, I'm the founder and CEO of hospitable. It's been about the same time as Bruce Lee, uh, to be up. So about seven years. And we are catering to small host, but small host unites is the theme of it. So small hosts with fewer than two properties represent 70 per cent of the vacation rental, short-term rental market.

[00:03:12] Uh, and we're to have them in particular first by automating the automating and professionalizing, uh, the guest experience, then later their operations, especially as they professionalize to adding more channels, and we're going to talk about that. At length mark a big flashing number. I have to do the same.

[00:03:30] Otherwise my marketing department is going to be upset. Uh, so hospitable represents about 180 million in payout every month that we'd see customers pay out. So that represents a big number, uh, when the smallest indeed unite together. Thanks to everyone.

[00:03:45] Phil: I'm excited to, uh, to get to, to know all the guests here better.

[00:03:49] Um, and I'm a big fan of Mark and, Pierre appreciate, uh, joining everyone today. I'm Phil, the founder of FutureStay. Uh, FutureStay is a, uh, is an ultimate tool for helping rental renewers. So people like me that have just a handful of properties, um, make more money with less effort. Um, a lot of people think about return on investment.

[00:04:12] That's how businesses think about where they're expending their resources. I think about the return on effort. I'm not a full-time rental. Most of my time is spent running and growing my future stay. And we've been around for, like, like Boots Lane Hospitable, uh, the better part of a decade. Um, we've grown to over, to serve over 100, 000 rental partners around the world.

[00:04:32] And, uh, excited to share some of, the tools, the tips, the tactics that we've learned and help everyone dominate the OTAs today.

Being on multiple platforms

[00:04:40] Thibault: What's your view on this? Uh, what's your view on the necessity of being, should I be a multiple platformer? At what point do I get started with multiple platforms? Phil, do you want to get started with this?

[00:04:53] Yeah,

[00:04:53] Phil: 100%. So, uh, you know, the way I think about it is as a rental preneur, as someone who is not doing this full time, but instead, I look at my short-term rentals or long-term rentals as an opportunity to build some additional wealth. Um, and, you know, maybe leave a nest egg for the next generation, uh, and have a couple of places to go to when I want.

[00:05:15] I look at it how much effort do I want to put in? And what am I willing to get? What am I willing to put in to get more? So I tend to focus on one channel on one OTA and that OTA can be very different depending on where your properties are. We'll talk more about that later on.

[00:05:31] And the reason why is because you can think of bookings. It doesn't matter what channel they're coming from. They can be from Airbnb, booking. com, Verbo, or direct bookings. You can think of, think of your booking flow like a machine, right? Guests come in the top, they discover you, they go through the middle, they may click on your listing, and then they have to come out the other side and make the booking.

[00:05:52] If your flow isn't working well on one channel, why do you think adding two or three more channels to that is going to make you more money? You have to optimize it for where you're currently already working. And get it the best possible and only then and only then will your return on effort be adding more channels, right?

[00:06:13] You got to get what you're doing working correctly before adding more channels. That's the way that I look

[00:06:17] Pierre: at it. PC, what's your view on that? Yeah, I was ready to disagree with Phil for some reason, but actually, I can be plus one, whatever he said. Uh, no, it's right. I don't think we see a lot of starting hosts among the customer base that are just starting to get a trial.

[00:06:33] And I think it's. over-optimizing too early, uh, they need to, you need to learn the ropes of at least one channel to be able to understand your environment and especially nail the parts. Have you, are you doing a good job marketing your listings? Are you doing a good job pricing it? Are you doing a good job of operationalizing the different parts of it?

[00:06:54] You, there will be a time for you to automate and make that significantly more efficient. But first, you need to do things that don't scale you need to understand every part of your little business to then see, to then see grow. But once you're there, I think there is an important part is that you are on a path of professionalizing.

[00:07:13] If you consider yourself a real estate investor. You want to extract, uh, root word, capital, but we're all capitalists here. We want to extract the most revenue, the more bang for your buck, uh, from your property or your properties. And you're going to have to distribute to another channel eventually.

[00:07:30] Why not now? Once you have something that's already running, it's a good time to start distributing it elsewhere. And you rather have an incentive as a platform to do it earlier rather than later because the supply is going to increase over time, it's going to become more competitive. There is a path to commoditization of the OTA.

[00:07:47] So that means a little difference that's going to be on the opportunities for the smart operators today are going to disappear and be blended in a mashed potato that's going to be impossible to differentiate. And that's the time when you can, uh, you have an opportunity to be present. And then, uh, see what works.

[00:08:02] Um, so you, the other thing I want to say is that on the other side, when we talk about it, OTAs are not easy business in their own right. And their products are changing sometimes the host experience side very quickly. And the winter update for MariaDB is showing that again and again, there are going to be more features, and more development happening on the OTAs to try and keep you captive.

[00:08:23] The problem of that is that at one point it may become most helpful to go and on any PMS, on a PMS that is relating with you, to set ifs once and for all across all the channels that you're having, rather than doing it multiple times over on each different OTA, and then making a list of what's the feature gaps of some and the opportunities of another.

[00:08:46] It makes sense to a point that more platforms bring more complexity, but because of the complexity that currently happens on any booking channel, it started making more sense to have this no man's land between all the channels to try and have a, have a streamlined operational, a streamlined experience and operational efficiency.

[00:09:06] Thibault: So picking again, one-man channel, streamlining the experience first. That's just your view. Yeah. So, um, um, Mark, so what's your view again? So why should I even be on several channels?

[00:09:19] Mark: So, I think the question, I mean, the way that I would answer it, and again, I, I asked the question just now is, as Pierre was talking in the chat, how long have you had or been open as a business?

[00:09:28] How long have you had the business fall because? It's not a case of how many properties do you have. It's a case of how long have you been running. And you know, there are people in here saying two months, some people saying a year, and the majority of people in the group only have one property. So if you're just getting started, you've got so many plates to spin.

[00:09:45] So the chap, Daniel, two months, you've got so many plates to spin as you start up any business. So you've got to, you know, got to get the property ready, got to get it open, got to get your staff, got to make sure everything's running smoothly. If you're doing it all yourself, you've got even more things to worry about.

[00:09:57] And we're very fortunate in this industry. For short-term rentals and hospitality, there are free websites that you can go and place your business on and be pretty much-guaranteed revenue, depending on obviously location, your nation, et cetera. And with that being said, let's just call it what it is, Airbnb.

[00:10:14] That's where the majority of people will go because they'll have done the research and gone, right, that's, that's the one to go on, or they've just seen a YouTube video and seen a guru talk on it and gone, you know what, I'm going to put it on there. Right. And if you're just getting started by placing just one website, Airbnb makes a ton of sense.

[00:10:31] Because again, you've got so many things to box off. You've got so many things to get right. But if you've been doing this again, I can see Nicole for two years. I can see David for five years, and Ashley for two years. So if you've been doing it for a few years now and you're a couple of years in, you've had two seasons under your belt, you've had two years of dealing with guests and all that good stuff.

[00:10:51] Then that is when you need to. Start to diversify your marketing strategy. That is where you've got Airbnb and you've got this other thing that people keep talking about, which is Verbo, and you've got this thing that everybody hates, but they have to go on there for now and again, it's booking. com. Right.

[00:11:08] For so many reasons. So at that point, it makes so much sense after a year or two years. And you go to diversify your marketing strategy by getting on, on those, on those platforms, which I think is a must because the more places that you can be seen. Then at the end of the day, there's more traffic that could potentially be driving into your, your business and your property.

[00:11:24] So it's not so much how many properties you have. It's a case of how long have you been in this game.

[00:11:30] Phil: Yeah, that's, I'd like to dovetail on that. That's a really important point. And I think to kind of close the loop there, I'll touch on, I'll touch on the point right in between. Right. It takes a significant amount of time and effort, almost like a flywheel effect, to build traction on a new OTA.

[00:11:49] It's not like, once you've mastered Airbnb, maybe that's your first channel, you can now go put a listing on Verbo and Booking. com and be a success story overnight there. It takes work and it takes dedication and you have to learn the algorithm because they all work a little bit differently. And you also have to build up the traction, and we'll talk about the specific tactics in each.

[00:12:07] So there is a little bit of a balance game you're playing. I want to remind everyone here that something which is, which is the scary side of the industry, 40 per cent of Airbnb listings that go live and get at least one booking in their first year, close by the end of that year. They take the listing down by the end of that year.

[00:12:24] There's a 40 per cent churn rate is what that's called. And software, right? That's a tremendous amount of people that actively take a booking and then say, no, this isn't for me. And the number one reason that people in, in, in the exit interview when they say, I don't, you know, why did you get rid of your Airbnb listing?

[00:12:42] It's not that I didn't have enough bookings. It's that it was too hard or complex. And so when I think about, you know, how do you maximize your chances for success as an entrepreneur, it's taking it in bite-size pieces, depending on how experienced you are like Mark said, and also plotting ahead in terms of what you're going to be able to need to do in the next year, two years, three years to be successful, like PC says, right?

[00:13:08] It's a mix of, it's a, it's a mix of all of those things. You're learning how to thread that needle in real-time.

[00:13:14] Pierre: I love this.

Why it’s important to understand other platforms

[00:13:14] Thibault: And that's the transition to my next question, right? You just said, I mean, I work for. booking. com at the headquarters in tech and strategy for five years. Bill said, you know, flywheel, booking.

[00:13:26] com will, you know, if you if you ever work at booking. com, if you want to get a job there, say the word flywheel. They're all about flywheels, but it's true, right? Because some stuff is like, it's like a video game is a gamification. Some stuff kicks in, right? You need three reviews to get a rating score. And once you have a rating score, you show up, you know, you know, people filter out, maybe looking for places that have a review score, uh, a Boston threshold, if you don't even have a real score, you can't even compete, you're not even playing right.

[00:13:56] So all this buildup, uh, as we said, at some point, if you want to get started, maybe you have to focus, be successful in one, but I just talked about how it is at booking. com, but, um. Maybe can you, each of you, uh, tell us about what, so why is it important to even understand how, you know, Qualcomm works and think, or how their teams think, or Airbnb think, or, uh, or Verbo, how they think, or how they think that they're part of Expedia.

[00:14:25] Why is it even important for me before I even start, of, um, um, want to dominate them? I know that, you know, you, People always quote the art of war, that you have to know your enemy first before even entering the battle. So I'm not going to say they are enemy because that's pushing a bit too far to my taste metaphor.

[00:14:43] But why is it important to even understand that these platforms are not the same? Uh, Mark, do you want to get started on this?

[00:14:50] Mark: Yeah. Um, and I won't keep it for long 'cause I know Pierre's got a fantastic answer on this, but you've got to, just like any social media. So you've got Facebook, you've got X, you've got LinkedIn, you've got Instagram.

[00:15:02] When you post on different channels, you've got to craft your posts to different audiences because different people will use those channels. And that's not even including TikTok, right? So you've got a diff, a different method and a different way of posting, on each of them. And it's the same. With our online travel agents, the OTX.

[00:15:20] So you've got the booking holidays group, which is booking. com. You've got the Expedia group, which is Verbo Airbnb and different channels give you different ways to communicate your business on each. Right. And this is why you must do a little bit of research beforehand. One of the simplest things that you can do if you want to just sort of go, okay, well, which one's the best for me?

[00:15:43] Go onto each platform, do it on a computer, and go into private mode. So incognito mode. So it's not one that's tracked all of your data beforehand and just go click around in where your location is. So where, wherever your city, wherever your location is, wherever your destination is, go have a look at how different properties rank on each one.

[00:16:02] What are they, what are they got? How many pictures and all those things? It's a really good way of trying to understand, from a front-end point of view, how each system works. And this is before you even create your. Your account to go and dig in on onto the back end, but it is really important to know that you just can't spray and pray.

[00:16:18] You can't just go and, you know, sign up for a property management software tool, connect up Airbnb, connect up Vrbo, connect to booking. com, or show your data and just sit back and go, sound, I'm going to get bookings on the back of this. You've got to be able to tweak and test each one, which is obviously what we're going to talk about and test about today.

[00:16:39] Thibault: Quick test everything. Uh, PC, what's your view on it?

[00:16:43] Pierre: Yeah, I've been taking my corporate historian kind of hat on this one, but that's the bit that I like to talk about because indeed, booking. com variable and Airbnb are so completely different. And there's a part of that that's coming from the history.

[00:16:56] When booking. com was launched, it was the time of Windows 95. So it's not relevant, uh, for the, for the young travellers or digital nomads of today. It's, for me, far more in the advertising or performance marketing business. And this goes with the money flows. As they started with the hotels, the point was advertising established players that already could process payments and already had staff.

[00:17:21] They expanded short-term rentals, uh, five, six, seven years ago. Um, but it's still relatively new and still a fight, uh, internally too, to get it to work. What it means is that there was also not a particular focus on the host experience because they're the users of booking. com at the time would have been marketing teams paid for it, paid by hotels would have been professional users of another software that actually would be integrating with booking.

[00:17:47] com in any case. So there was not a lot of investment into the user experience for hosts, at least to that, but they have some fantastic benefits to And that's really, it's a far more international brand in that. It's probably based on the weaknesses. They are still trying hard to enter the US market and get a significant market share in Europe, uh, in, uh, in Asia Pacific.

[00:18:09] It's a very big brand in a very large group of group of companies. So if you are exposing yourself to a lot more, uh, international travellers, wherever you base, you need to, I would recommend that you get listed to booking. com, but there are also a lot of drawbacks. And we talk about that.

[00:18:24] Verbal. is not a company. It was a brand, uh, basically, uh, uh, written with an amalgamation of different vacation rental websites, but that was the core focus. As much as booking. com is for hotels, Verbo is for vacation rentals by owners, supposedly, but they became an OTA. Uh, they still have this bit of an anomaly in their names.

[00:18:46] They are focused on entire homes where everyone else is open, open, to everything. They are focused on everyone, on, their homes and means the best properties for the best guests, with the best staff, for the best company. Um, there is, however, a big problem that I see, for Verbo compared with Airbnb and Booking.

[00:19:04] com, which are basically in the hundred billion range of valuation. They are at 19, 19 billion. And they're really, it's been really difficult for them in the past few years to position themselves and grow, uh, out of. Probably a more declining inventory is chasing more Airbnb than the other part, but they have a demographic that's very loyal to the brand.

[00:19:25] Airbnb has a different strategy to acquire the guests and retain their guests. It's loyalty to the system, more like the reviews that you see and are going to be giving you a lot of information about the listings that you're shopping around. The brand is loyal, but that's driven by economics.

[00:19:40] It's cheaper. There are a lot of things we're going to talk about also in the next few, next few minutes. Uh, but at the time when Airbnb was launched, it was an iPhone. Booking. com is Windows 95, and Airbnb is the iPhone. You can see the gigantic gap that's been happening. And I think Airbnb is the one company of all three that's really in the travel business, the travel and hospitality business.

[00:20:02] They own the guest experience end to end. They've processed the payments, which is not even something that Verbo is doing or keeps on doing depending on the connection that you're having with Verbo. Uh, booking. com is starting to deploy that because they need to catch up in the US. Airbnb is not a problem.

[00:20:17] The process, they own the cost, they own the guests. And that may give them a feeling that they are probably more guest-centric compared to other businesses that are invoicing the host. But that, I think, is a bit unfair. They are working more on iteration, having a great product, and having a fantastic UX.

[00:20:34] That is going to be a challenge. If you are. Addicted to Airbnb and saying that, uh, you are an Airbnb host rather than a short-term rental host is going to be very challenging for you to get to another, uh, to another support, to another product, and that's where third, middleman, property management software may come in easy, but that's really up to you.

[00:20:54] So, uh, yeah, Verbo, I didn't say the equivalent, but when Verbo was launched, it was Windows XP. And that's the kind of image that I have, a reliable, steady partner that was acclaimed, but you don't hear about it much at one point.

[00:21:09] Mark: Having a blast. Gonna get it on the Bruce Lee podcast. Bruce Lee.

[00:21:13] Let Bruce Lee 'cause it's

[00:21:13] So hard on the teas. Loosely.

[00:21:16] Looking up those rhymes. Don't write it, just do it loosely.