The Importance of Maintaining Brand Fluidity

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In this podcast, Liam and AJ Raber, a short-term rental host with 80 units in the USA, discuss brand consistency. AJ emphasizes practicality over extravagance and the importance of a strong back-end system for uniform guest experiences. 

They mention tech tools like StayFi, Key Data, and Guest View Guide, as well as using Breezeway for cleaning coordination and a custom website for better guest bookings. 

AJ highlights the role of homeowners in finding local maintenance support and their team handling high-density areas, covering onboarding, design, photography, and listing optimization.

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Timestamps (audio)



[00:00:00] Liam: If you go and stay in one Marriott hotel, it will be very similar when you go and stay at others. And it's something which is so, so important for, uh, hospitality in general, but it's really hard to replicate short-term rental owners. So what we're going to be doing is discussing today, how to keep that brand fluidity.

[00:00:18] And, uh, here to help us with that question is an awesome short-term rental host. Somebody who has got over 80. Short-term rental units are based across the USA and are going to help us understand how you can keep that consistency throughout your short-term rentals. So today, uh, my name is Liam Carolan, and this is the Boostly podcast.

[00:00:40] If you've not listened to this before, um, that gives you the tools, the tactics, the training, and most importantly, the confidence to go out there and get more direct bookends and, uh, every. Every few episodes, we dive into a host's journey and that's exactly what we're doing today. We've got AJ Raber and he's from, uh, bnbbreeze.

[00:01:01] co. So if you go and check their website out, it's awesome. As I say, he's got over 80 units, so he's well placed to, uh, to give us some help today on our journey. So, uh, Let me introduce AJ. Welcome along.

[00:01:14] AJ: Well, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. Um,

A bit about AJ

[00:01:16] Liam: So many people listening to this might not be familiar with your brand and your business.

[00:01:20] So what I'd love to ask is, can you give yourself an introduction where your business is in the world and, um, anything you'd like to share?

[00:01:28] AJ: Yeah. So our, uh, business started with, uh, a guy named Landon Schlabot in North Carolina who was well connected with a lot of different investors. And that's been interesting.

[00:01:39] Our company's grown through investor relations, not post mailing, going after owners. It's been through just nurturing connections. And once you prove it once to a homeowner, they want to invest again. Um, so we have homes anywhere from Pennsylvania up in the mountains, Poconos, um, everywhere outside of Pittsburgh, Amish country, Lancaster.

[00:01:59] Down to, uh, down the east coast, down to Sarasota, Florida. So it kind of just grew due to our, where our investors were going in, um, and where they wanted their vacation homes. And it's, it's grown since 2019 when, um, Landon would have brought, got the first company, uh, the first property started then.

[00:02:18] Um, I actually would have joined in 2020, no, 2021, um, and kind of just went from there. Have a little bit of a background in corporate sales and marketing. And so, knew that's not what I wanted and I transitioned into this space and it's been awesome ever since.

Advice for the midterm rental space  

[00:02:35] Liam: What advice would you have for somebody listening who wants to get into the midterm rental space?

[00:02:39] What should they be considering in their units which have attracted you to stay at these places? You and your partner stay at these places. What things have either frustrated you that hosts should have or some of the things that, um, they have got that you love?

[00:02:52] AJ: So when it comes to short term, I, I'm a huge.

[00:02:56] Trying to go all out, flashy, appealing, uh, it's marketing for medium term, it's opposite for me. So practicality, logic, what works. Um, and so like comfortable places to work. If you can have a nice, spend a little, maybe the money that you would have spent on a hot tub and some of these others.

[00:03:16] Nice office chair, nice desk. Um, Big refrigerators, big couches, comfortable beds, king beds, TVs in bedrooms because there'll be spending more time there. So like, take all the things that you'd want in your house and put them in this home. It doesn't have to be the one that has the 5,000-article couch and all this everywhere.

[00:03:39] But functionality is at the root of all midterm rentals.

[00:03:44] Liam: Obviously, we're here to talk about the brand fluidity. Um, the 80-ish units that you've got at the moment, first of all, how do you keep them consistent considering there are ones in different locations and also perhaps different, uh, you might be serving slightly different guest avatars, different size groups.

[00:04:02] What? What is the key to keeping fluidity and, um, consistency?

[00:04:08] AJ: And first, you're right. That's been one of our biggest struggles is when you have a home that sleeps 30 in the mountains of Pennsylvania and an apartment in Greenville, South Carolina, very different people. And so it's, you're not marketing the same avatar.

[00:04:23] However, one of the ways that we've found that works to keep everything fluid is to have really good back-end systems. So, like, really good information for our, uh, communications teams. Really good automated messages that are taking care of everything and spending time, not just, Hey, hope you checked in.

[00:04:40] Hope everything's great. Like, spending time customizing things, taking care of guests, um, checking in on them at the homes, going above and beyond with their experience. So, like, there's never a guest that would check into a home. In Virginia and Florida, that would be getting a different experience from us.

[00:04:58] Um, the same type of communication, it'd be the same thing. Like when you go to Chick-fil-A, you talk to somebody, you're going to see that same kind of rhetoric coming from them as you would anywhere across the country. And that's what we're trying to do.

Diving into the tech

[00:05:09] Liam: You mentioned some of the systems. So let's dive into the tech, the systems and some of the cool, uh, I guess, uh, apps and things that you use.

[00:05:18] What are they and why do you use them?

[00:05:20] AJ: Um, so the first that this is not a flashy one, we store all of our data just in Google Drive, um, and have everybody sourced to whoever needs to see it. Some of our other data, like the tech stack that we like, is, um, stay five for collecting. emails. Thanks, loosely slash Mark Simpson.

[00:05:38] Um, that would have been a big one. Key data. So data analytics. That's been a nice one just to plug into our company, pull out our reports, can see ADRs, your rev pans, and occupancy rates are super easy for any given amount of time. Um, the guest view guide is another one that we just merged with. So, um, I forget, they're probably like, Two by three-foot photo.

[00:06:04] Um, live screens that you put in your walls that guests can. That's a way. That's another way that we keep brand fluidity. Every time somebody clicks on this. There's a video of us three me, Heather and Landon, some, uh, um, in our company saying welcome to our home and giving them kind of a little bit of a 30-second rundown of who we are.

[00:06:23] Every single home that has one of these gets the same video. Um, and then when they're done watching that video on the screen, it says shows our website. A discount code to rebook. Um, and that's a way that you can retarget Airbnb guests once they get to your home. Um, another tech stack would be we use Breezeway for our cleanings.

[00:06:44] Um, the fact that I don't know how to use Breezeway shows that it works. Um, if I don't know how to use it, doesn't need fixing. Um, one thing that's been nice lately, even if it's not a tech stack, just build a new custom website that's just Been performing well, and it's very, our old one was just pre-built with a P M Ss, and, uh, to get to home was not the easiest thing.

[00:07:09] And now we just, every, every filter, every icon, every, how everything's set up. We would have brainstormed on why we wanted to do this. And we guess experience. So like we spent the last year, we, haven't gained that many homes this last year, but it's because going this year, we realized we wanted to pause, we were growing fast and get all these systems in place, automation.

[00:07:33] Um, so that we can. give a smoother experience for the guests going forward.

Who uses Breezeway?

[00:07:38] Liam: In terms of the, um, team that you've got on the ground doing this sort of thing, uh, you mentioned you use Breezeway, um, do you have, who uses Breezeway? Is it the, um, you know, do you have maintenance people in different locations and if so, how do you find them?

[00:07:54] AJ: Yeah, so because we have remote locations, Either homeowner, we like for homeowners to find their maintenance person on the ground. Now, if they don't, we do. So like in populated areas where we have more than five homes, we already have the same plumbers, handymen, maintenance, pool guys, and cleaners, and we just plug them into the system.

[00:08:14] However, if there is a homeowner that If they bought a house in Utah right now, we don't have anybody there. A lot of that, we like for them to find relationships on the ground because it is their home. Um, and they'll be having that for a long time, but who's in charge of that? And are we internally, we would have a full-time person that's over, um, maintenance and cleaner relations, and we're expanding this, possibly bringing on another person to do this.

[00:08:39] That's one thing we found, for certain people in the business to be able to focus on increasing revenue, bring on owners and all that, like. Stuff in the business that's increasing in value. You can't be worrying about a lot of the day-to-day problems that are going up. So like outsourcing, bringing on good people who can think for themselves and tackle those problems is an amazing key.

[00:09:02] Um, and then she would deal directly with us. But yeah, we have, were you asking about company structure? Like how we have people doing what? Is that what you were asking as well? Yeah, yeah, go ahead. All right. So then we'd have, um, our CEO who would deal with a lot of the just overseeing, um, who still stays very involved and is in the process of branching out, we'd have a Heather who's over in charge of onboarding and design.

[00:09:27] It's good onboarding and design We go hand in hand because you're buying furniture you're starting at properties. Um, we have a photographer we have one of these is one of their favourite things. We have a listing optimizer. So we used to always go in, like, whenever you play with a listing on Airbnb, and you boot, I don't know exactly how the algorithm works.

[00:09:47] However, we noticed when you make changes, bookings come in. Like, it just, it's, if we go edit a listing that hasn't been touched, almost guaranteed the next week, two bookings will come in. Just by changing titles, so, like, we usually like to go back and forth, like, have two revolving titles. And so our listing optimizer just plays with listings, goes into them, um, changes them, updates them, plays around, and usually, those homes that they follow with do see an increase.

[00:10:16] Um, so, and that's, that's been a probably a, we've had pretty good ROI on that position because of that. Um, one of the biggest things that we did then was having a, a va va team. So we have a team of five that's handling our communications and that has made all of our hair not fall out. So, um, that's been, that's been a, a really good growth in the last year, having a blast.

[00:10:41] Gonna get it on the Boostly podcast. Bruce Lee. Like Bruce Lee. 'cause it's so hard on the teas. Loosely making up those rhymes. Don't write it, just do it loosely.