Direct Booking Simplified Podcast – EP09 – Designing and data goes hand-in-hand with Janice Pollard

On this week’s episode we have Janice Pollard. She comes from 20 years of marketing and advertising background and she stresses the importance of good design and branding to get more direct bookings. She walks through how she works with her clients, data that she’s gathered on expectations about guests and how this isn’t just a fundamental of direct bookings but overall guest experience.

Podcast Summary

In the world of short-term rental businesses, understanding the underlying motivation – the “why” – and knowing your ideal guest avatar are paramount. This comprehension serves as the compass for decisions spanning branding, design, amenities, messaging, and beyond. Utilizing the “5 W’s” framework – who, what, when, where, why, and how – helps hosts align their offerings with guest expectations. Additionally, relying on data and insights rather than subjective opinions is emphasized, enabling informed choices based on factors like competitor analysis, market trends, and guest preferences.

Starting small and building incrementally is advocated as a prudent approach when embarking on new ventures within the short-term rental sphere. Cultivating a supportive community aids in both learning and accountability. Transitioning towards direct bookings is highlighted as advantageous, affording hosts greater control over the guest experience and access to invaluable first-party data not provided by Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). Furthermore, attention to detail in areas such as color psychology and branding can subtly influence consumer decisions, underscoring the importance of thoughtful curation in these elements. Finally, the discussion touches upon the benefits of having a dedicated booking website, which allows for enhanced optimization for conversion and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) compared to generic website builder tools.

The dialogue encapsulates a wealth of practical insights, spanning from leveraging data for informed decision-making to refining brand positioning and enhancing guest experiences. Janice’s expertise in marketing and advertising enriches the conversation, offering valuable perspectives on strategy and execution within the short-term rental industry.

Essential Highlights

Here are a few key takeaways from the conversation:

  • Defining the “why” behind your short-term rental business and understanding your ideal guest avatar is crucial for guiding decisions around branding, design, amenities, messaging, etc. Ask yourself the “5 W’s” – who, what, when, where, why and how?
  • Data and insights are invaluable for making informed decisions rather than just going off subjective opinions. Leverage data on your competitors, market trends, guest preferences, advertising performance metrics, etc.
  • Start small with manageable steps when trying something new, and build a supportive tribe or community to learn from and stay accountable.
  • Transitioning to more direct bookings can give hosts more ownership over the guest experience and access to valuable first-party data that OTAs don’t provide.
  • Color psychology and branding evoke emotions that subconsciously influence consumer decisions, so being thoughtful about these elements matters.
  • Having a direct booking website allows for better optimization for conversion and SEO compared to website builder tools.

The episode covered a lot of useful ground in terms of utilizing data, defining your brand positioning, designing a great guest experience, and strategically moving toward more direct bookings over time. Janice brought an insightful perspective from her background in marketing/advertising.

Follow Janice on instagram @marshmallowhill


The avatar is important but I feel like it really  comes down to who they are, meaning their family type or their are they a couple  or do they have kids and if so  what are the ages of the kids? After that, you don’t really need to know all the psychographics and the demographics. They don’t really know need to know how much they make.

There’s that whole marketing side. What really matters is what are their expectations

  hey folks, welcome back to direct booking simplified, where we break down the tactics and strategies to win in direct bookings. Today we have Janice Pollard. She spent 20 years in marketing and advertising and is now a short term rental designer. Today we’re going to walk through how she designed spaces with our clients to drive more direct  So let’s bring her in.

Hey Janice. Hi Gil, how are you? 

I’m good. I’m good. I’m feeling really good now. I was terrible. Over the weekend. I feel like I’ve gotten sick three times in the last, in the last two weeks. Yeah. I don’t know what it was. I actually, I do know what it is. It is kids. It’s young kids. Yeah. Oh gosh. That’s awful.

When you’re, you know, you have so much to do as entrepreneur and you have to keep moving forward. Oh gosh. So you’re, you’re on the, on the up and up now. 

I am on the up and up and up. Um, you may, I may go on mute every so often to, to, to, to get out a good cough. Um, but I feel  10 times better than I did like last Sunday, this past Sunday.

Gosh, that’s a long one too. Usually I’m sick for about three days, but.  

It’s, it’s less so the sickness was like only like two days, but like. It’s that lingering cough that I just can’t get rid of. Yeah. 



Well, you’re forgiven. If you have to cough, go cough. We’ll be, we’ll be here.  Yeah.  

Thank you. I appreciate that. 

So how you been?  

I’m doing great. I’m, uh, in Michigan and the spring has sprung. So people are coming out of the woodwork and it’s just, there’s this feeling in the air that Summer is around the corner and I don’t know if you are in touch with pro football, but the NFL draft is downtown Detroit. So that was very exciting.

We watched it last night. Um, and  whole city, there’s I think 275, 000 people downtown in. Wow. It was really awesome. So,  yeah, it’s just, we’re hitting this like really awesome time of year that, you know, when you live in a winter state where there is like legitimately storm, snow, ice, it makes it all the much more worth it when you see buds coming out and birds singing and it’s just really lovely.

You’re coming out of hiding now. 

Yeah. Yeah. 

This, this is, um, this is a period of time where we’re many of the, our properties are coming out of our low seasonality side of things. Um, so like I’m really looking forward to, um, the summer months, but like, gosh, it’s been the occupancy has been a lot, it’s been a little bit slower this year.

Um, but yeah, I’m, I’m looking for things to pick up. So I look forward to that. 

Well, you have what remind me the two in Gatlinburg and one in Branson. Yeah. 

Yeah, that’s right. Okay. Yeah. And so those are like super family friendly like no one’s traveling right now Like folks are enjoying their local town.

They’re trying to get their graduation all those things So I think Memorial Day is when like our occupancies are like like it’s really picking back up  

Yeah, you get a spring break crowd  

we do Um, we do actually, um, and it’s kind of scattered. I find that, um, spring break is like from a Branson market. We were booking up like back to back to back to back.

Um, so it wasn’t like spring break. It was like spring month. And I ended up finding out, I was like, where’s, where are these guests coming from? So I look at the hometown and their hometown is having spring break at different times of the year. So it’s like, yeah, it’s like spring break from like early March, all the way up to early April.


for sure. And then you have Easter. Yeah, that’s the way it is in Michigan. They can really stack on top of each other. So you’ll have You can guarantee March for, you know, people leaving the state, not coming here generally in March. Uh, but yeah, so I just, I think they do that mostly around the country because I know kids in the South, they go back to school in August.

So they’re out in April, I feel like. 

Yeah. Yeah. We, so we’re, we’re in San Francisco. Um, and our spring break’s really late.  I think it was like the second week of april. So april 8th was our spring break Yeah, we just we just came out of it, which is I feel like it was super late. 

No, it is kind of 

late Yeah Well, everything’s slower when we when we get to get to go, uh traveling.

So that’s good. Yeah, that’s true 

Everybody’s back already. 

Awesome. Well, it’s great to have you  on the show. Um before we get get too deep into it Do you want to give folks kind of an idea of who you are and what you do? 

Oh sure You So Janice Pollard, I am founder of Marshmallow Hill, which is a short term rental design company.

And it’s all virtual, for the most part. I’m in Michigan, so if I can get to a property easily, I will do it because I love it. Uh, but most of the work we do is virtual, and so from  All the furniture selection, the room layout, the measurements, the shopping, the selections, the mood board, all of that upfront work is done virtually and we hand it off to the client for them to implement on their own timeline and with their own team. 

Um, I also Aspire to have my own short term rental and I’m on zillow when I’m not with people I’m physically on zillow all the time looking for something that is in michigan because I wanted I want to be able to use it As well. Um, so i’m kind of I have a little addiction to my phone in that way, but uh, I also spent 20 years in marketing, advertising, branding, communications, PR, both on the agency side and as a client and as a leader of director of the director of marketing.

I’ve been a copywriter, so I’ve kind of run the gamut of all these different brand experiences and marketing techniques and communication channels. And. I really want to fold that into my service level because short term rental owners are small business owners and they come from all walks of life and I I learned this from being in franchising where  People who open a franchise  come from all walks of life.

They could be in finance They could have been in health care They could have been in business and then they go to open a franchise and it’s a whole new world that They don’t know anything about marketing. They don’t know anything. Well, they might You But chances are, you know, they’re, you know, they’re coming, they’re a composite of all these different people who are really starting from the ground up.

And so I thought just recently, could I fold that in and help small business owners and short term rental owners be successful in creating a direct booking site or creating a logo or defining their brand. So that’s the track I’m on. And I just feel like I’m in a zone. It’s just, it’s awesome. 

Nice. So you did a, you did a nice little pivot from a long stint in, in, in marketing and advertising and now into, uh, short term mental design and really thinking about the whole experience there.

Is that, is that right? 

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’ve always done design in, in some way. Like I’m the person people ask the question to, I  overhauled my parents house without them asking. I’ve always just been doing it. But my career, my W2 was marketing. That makes sense. So 

yeah, yeah. I’ve worked with, um, virtual designers as well, furnishing my place as well as, um, local designers.

I actually, I like both. I think the experience for me was actually really good. Me. I’m not much of a.  Design  focused person, myself, like my home, um, I think that the things that we have around our house are, are, are not bad, um, but putting it together for, for different guests and really having everything come kind of come together.

I, I’m so happy that I’ve hired someone else to, to help me in that process. And I never thought that having a virtual designer was going to be  Something that would give me the same amount of impact of having someone else like that was there, has seen the plays and is like furnishing it from, from end to end.

But for me, virtual designers actually worked out pretty, pretty well. 

Well, if you’re not on site, you’re in California. So how did you end up implementing the virtual design work?  

Um, Um, so when we bought our second cabin, uh, I got a referral for a virtual designer, uh, and she, uh, I gave her the floor plans.

I gave her all the listing pictures. Uh, we walked through kind of who our ideal guest avatar is, what type of designs do I like? Um, we ended up kind of going through the whole kind of process of like how we wanted the space to it. I’m going to be at the very end. What’s our vision of that? And then she ended up helping us help me put together a mood board and we talked about the different furnitures that we might want and what do we want to spend our money?

Um, and it was big, a big negotiation between myself and the designer. Um, and at the end, like she put together a long list of Hundreds and hundreds of items that we had to, we had to get, um,  yeah, but it worked out like we ended up swapping out different pieces, but it, to me, it was a good experience and it was fast.

We ended up doing it really, really quickly.  

Yeah, it can be because on our end we have systems and processes, so it streamlines it upfront.  What could happen on the backend when it gets, you know, is as a client shifts things, the delays in shipping, or  as you open boxes, the And realize something’s damaged and something’s got to go back and you have to negotiate that whole timeline with the vendor those those are times when things get tricky but on the design side it’s so efficient and with systems and that makes it cost efficient because  I’m sure you’ll know this on the, like full time in person interior design is expensive because they’re worth their weight in gold.

They do so much work that actually they don’t even get paid for because it wasn’t in the contract and something happened and you just got to keep moving forward. So they’re 100 percent worth it. But the idea is when you have this done virtually digitally, you know, it can just shorten timelines and shorten, like really, really be done well on a budget.

Yeah. You mentioned something that kind of interesting, the hardest part of the whole process is not the design part. It’s getting everything all there,  getting it all there and getting it all staged, um, especially if you try to limit your downtime. So like we ended up purchasing our, that, that specific property. 

Uh, right in the start of summer. And I made the mistake the first time where I shut down the first few weeks of summer, actually it was a tail end of summer so that we can do furnishing. That was a mistake. I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t advise doing that. If you can launch with what you have launched with what you, what you have, if it’s in the peak season. 

So the second time around, we ended up launching with what we had, my wife and I and our kids, we flew out there and we stayed there ourselves and we did like a light.  Updates. So anything that a guest touch, anything that they sit on and sleep on, we would replace. So like the mattress and so on. We didn’t replace the sofa, but like the, the mattresses, um, all the linens, all the towels, all the kitchen stuff, like we all replaced those and we got everything as much possibly locally.

And then we just launched, and then we did our  furnishings in September when it’s really slow for us. So we try to keep that. That block window only down to like two weeks. So we crammed everything in two weeks. We end up having to ship everything to a different place and then having everything hauled over.

So that’s how we were able to like limit our, our downtime. Um, but that like that, It gives you a chance to like 

experience it as a guest too. Like you’re living in it, you’re sitting on it. You’re like, what is the, what is my experience and where can it be improved? Right. There’s, there’s a lot of benefit to being on site.

Yeah, yeah, yeah living in there the like right when we got it was a good idea like we ended up  ended up putting a  TV in the pool area because we wanted to be able to watch TV ourselves there So like we were able to live into it and really I guess be our ideal guest avatar ourselves. Yeah 

So what’s been, uh, what’s been like the transition for you from that marketing into design?  

Oh, you know what?  Not that different. It’s, I, you would think it’s totally different for me.  Okay, so coming from a marketing world Brands, you know, they, we’ve worked with huge huge world class global brands like Coca Cola and Starbucks and Samsung and Kraft and Johnson Johnson, like we, I’ve had a backstage pass to all the ways that they’re trying to engage their consumers, um, and you know,  I realized that, you know, every brand, every communicator has an audience.

So in marketing world, it’s, um, target audience in short term design world, it’s guest avatar. I mean, those are the same thing. You, you want to know who you’re speaking to so you can best. meet their needs and and be the chosen brand or the Short term rental of choice.  So when you start doing kind of like this apples to apples comparison of the two worlds They’re not really that different you You learn  because you’re iterating over time.

You’re trying new things you are  Testing that happens a lot in marketing and I find like the interesting thing about having a longer marketing career And i’m only 23. So how is that possible?  I’m kidding, but you know having that hindsight of  When I first started out, things were not digital at all. I mean, you, marketing wise, advertising wise.

So, when you think about  newspaper, radio, billboard, TV.  You had Nielsen ratings in somebody’s home, like you’d have to volunteer to have a Nielsen box in your home, and the media company would get that data and find out what you were watching. Newspaper and, uh, magazine had subscribers so they could say, Oh, we have 30, 000 subscribers in your demographic and we hope they saw your ad, you know, good luck.

And then, you know, radio, same thing. So it was pretty limited. And then when digital happened,  we started to see how many people are pinning this, posting this, tweeting this, sharing this, you know, commenting, engaging. Now we have all the data in the entire world that we could leverage to make better decisions.

And the same thing is happening with. Design, which I, I just put a video on YouTube yesterday. I never saw that coming. I would have never seen data entering the design, like into your design world,  but it’s super interesting when you partner with people who are really good at data, even short term rental owners typically leverage people who have,  you know, a spreadsheet to help them make the right decision.

Like, is this going to be profitable? Am I focused on the right amenities? Who is my guest avatar? Am I doing all the right things from a data perspective? Before we ever go into  design. So it truly is like, there’s this thing in design where like form follows function.  So the form, like the design, the beauty must follow the function.

How is it going to work? Like you just said, TV in the pool area, like that’s the function that you need. It doesn’t really matter what it looks like unless you know what it is and what, how it needs to function. So. The two worlds are pretty parallel and I did not see that coming, but it’s, it’s a pretty interesting transition.

It’s seamless for me so far. 

Yeah. So talk to me, like as you’re walking through your clients and you’re designing a space, how do you guys, how do you folks go through that process of defining that ideal guest avatar and figuring out what belongs in that space that really resonates with them versus something that may be looked past?


Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Um, the avatar is important, but I feel like it really comes down to who  they are, meaning their family type or their, are they a couple  or do they have kids? And if so,  what are the ages of the kids after that? You don’t really need to know all the psychographics and the demographics.

You don’t really know, need to know how much they make. There’s that whole marketing side. What really matters is what are their expectations? So, um,  When I first started the business, I put out a survey and I surveyed 300. Oh, I got 370 responses across the US about what guests really want in a short term rental and that reports on my website and I You know, some of it is the basics So it’s leading a client through or short term rental host or owner through what are some of the basic expectations?

Um, you have to meet those needs or people are just going to look elsewhere because there’s a default like Wi Fi, TV in almost every bedroom, washer and dryer if it’s a one week stay or more, and those kind of things. But, um, I ranked them based on amenities. So you can see, um, I feel like in the data pool, having a pool on the property versus in the community.

Ranks higher than having a hot tub, which kind of surprised me. Um, so I really wanted to understand what a composite of guests want. For the client, the short term rental owner,  Do they know, do they have a landscape on what they’re trying to achieve? Like, do they just need to refresh one room? Like you and your wife went back and kind of assessed, like, how do we  furnish this?

And then, or do we just, are we starting out from scratch and I just bought the place and everything needs to be painted and everything needs a total overhaul. Um, So it really can look different based on who’s using it and then who’s owning it and what their plans are.  

Got it. Got it. Got it.  Um, so, so, so it sounds like you will kind of, I think the most, the first thing you do is like kind of look at the data.

You look at the market, you understand kind of who’s traveling there, what’s the profile look like and how does your property really resonate with that? That base and is there, do we need to niche down to say folks with younger kids or folks with that are traveling with, with teens and really try to tailor that space for that specific market?

Is that, is that right? 

Yep. And that’s right. And I’ve also recently partnered with a data  Um,  he’s going to come in and do a full assessment of a very specific property. So if they’re my client, I will say, I have this, here’s the address. Um, give me the full report. And what his team will do is not only look at.

Opportunities within the market. Like what’s happening in the market? What is your competitive landscape? Oh, your neighbor has a pool. This one has a hot tub. This one has great views. This one’s a short walk to the beach, et cetera. Like what is happening right around you that people are also booking? And then what are your opportunities for improvement?

Do you have  a crappy write up? Do your, are your photos dark? Are they in the wrong order? Are you leveraging this extra space for a game or an amenity that you could be Missing out on serious revenue and ROI, right? So that’s the data that I love to start with because it really helps me be successful.

It’s not this arbitrary, like, you know, normally with interior design, you kind of have to vibe with your interior designer. Like, are you on the same page? You kind of get me. Do you get where I’m going with after that? It’s fairly subjective, but when you start with hardcore data, it’s super easy to be successful because you already know what’s working in that particular market and what people are.

They’re voting with their dollars. They’re going to choose the one with the pool in the community  or a hot tub or wifi. If you don’t have that. 

Yeah. One method that folks use is the, the enemy method that, uh, Luke, um, coin from short term shop. Um, and it’s really around like, Going on Airbnb, putting it in incognito mode and kind of look in your area and look at your neighbors and see what their daily rates are, see how much they’re getting.

And that’s how Luke suggests kind of pricing against your competitors and seeing kind of how competitive you are. But I can see that really playing out also in the design space where you’re looking, you’re zooming into your area, you’re looking at folks that have 50 or more reviews and just really seeing how they’re priced at, but also how they’re then designing their space.

What amenities are they putting in there? How it’s the quality of the pictures and really using that to help you in that early phase of the design process, not just when you’re trying to do revenue management after you’re launched.  

And the funny thing is design and branding are emotional and what I mean by that is they evoke an emotional reaction that you don’t even know you’re having  even if Apples to apples everything is the same.

You have a condo on 30a and It’s in the same complex like  and something about there’s like whole color Psychology people react to certain colors colors have meaning and marketing they have a whole different Meaning, some good, some bad. And so, they evoke an emotional reaction, which begets, you know, decision making.

So a lot of consumer behavior is actually made  through emotion, which is, you don’t even know what’s happening. It’s like, you could say, why’d you choose that one? Whatever it is. And they’ll be like, I don’t, I don’t know why I chose it. They’re not going to say, because it gave me an emotional, visceral reaction.

It’s probably going to be some innate thing that they can’t identify.  

Yeah. Yeah. I would love to have you kind of walk through some of our, uh, our website templates at craft this days and kind of get your reaction on, on color psychology and our call to action.  Yeah, that’d be, that’d be fun.  

I would love to do that.

I would, I actually want to know more about how, I mean, if this is okay to have a Just a two way conversation. Like, what was your journey to creating crafted if crafted saves that co, right? Yeah. Okay. Yeah. 

Yeah, that’s right. So 

how did, how did, where did you come from and how did you end up doing? Yeah. 

So I come from like 15 years of tech.

Um, so I’ve been in the, in the, the tech industry for a long while. And I’ve been also in e commerce for the last six years. Um, and have built many technologies. I’m more, almost every listener I bet have used some technology that I’ve built in the past, whether or not that’s technology in your Samsung TV, uh, or even like some of the brands that you, you talked about earlier, those top IR companies. 

I was at a company called Narvar that did the post purchase experience for them. So the emails that you got when you placed an order and it says your delivery, your, your delivery’s on this way. So I, like 

Nordstrom, right? 

Nordstrom was a big customer of Narvar. Yeah. So if you did Nar, if you did, Nordstrom’s, uh, Sephora,  Home Depot,  Saks, all of them use Narbar.

Um, so I built the whole entire, like I rebuilt the entire tracking infrastructure, um, when I was there. Um, and then more recently I’ve been working with Shopify. So for the last four years I’ve been working with Shopify on a lot of shipping technology. And I reflected back on how Shopify was able to enable eCommerce company from scratch.

Um, if they had the passion, they had the product, uh, they’re able to manufacturer and they wanted to build their e commerce store they can do that and you can pretty much do it you can spin up a Shopify store pretty much the same day and I reflect it back on our industry and I was like you have all these hosts that are leveraging the platform Airbnb VRBO but if they ever wanted to go direct it was really difficult and  Look at this one can you tell us more about this one?

That’s a good question. And I put together So this is the first time I’ve been able to tell someone. I’m really excited about this cause this is going to be great. This is something I’ve already, I already had my hands on. This is going to be something that people are going to be observing, you know, different And I’m really excited right now about it because I’m going to be working with a couple 

It’s been really good.

Uh, I mean, I’ve gotten to help a lot of hosts get into direct bookings, really help them build a really beautiful site and starting to see that engine turning and having them getting direct bookings and having them build that engine over time has been very rewarding for me. Um, so now kind of, I’m in that process of just trying to help more and more hosts out there as much as possible.

So not only are we building the product, but like part of that, this podcast is really to help educate other hosts because it’s not just about that. landing page, that site that you have on there, but the strategies, the tactics, the things you think about to drive more traffic in there. Um, so it’s, it’s been good.

Um, and I’ve gotten to work with a lot of the PMSs as well too. Um, so a lot of different industry players and it’s just, it’s been a wild ride. Yeah.  

Oh gosh, I know. And doing everything yourself is exhausting, but I feel like when we originally met, you were, you had made a point that some of the standard  Website development software like a Wix isn’t that search friendly and and so you your mission was to change that.

Is that true? 

Yeah, so like when you build a Wix and like Squarespace like the you’re they’re built on WYSIWYG Creators there. So there’s not a lot of structure So the the site creator doesn’t know what the intentions of that site is what you’re trying to elevate in there How you’re how you want to show things? 

So it’s really hard for them to be Like really SEO optimized. Um, whereas from us, all of our sites are all built towards conversion. All of our sites are really built towards, um, getting people to book. So it allows us to create the right workflows, allows us to really put in the right meta tags in there, really like.

Really optimize the entire page, both on the front end from the customer experience side, but also on the back end for crawlability and SEO. So we get to really dabble in both of those and really create a really well performing site. Um, so it’s, yeah, it’s, 

it’s good.  

That is really important. Yeah. I feel like you and I should be having weekly meetings.

There’s so much overlap. Like we could,  the whole point is helping people do it well and do it successfully. And there’s so much opportunity to learn. You know, from both technology background, marketing background, and, and really help somebody come out of the gate being successful at it, because if they’re not successful, they’re not going to do it, right?

Yeah, I mean, not everybody has to start from scratch. That’s, that’s, that’s the thing. And not everybody has to learn from, from, from scratch and coming from the technology world, like many industries have, have, have done things like this. Like, again, like the biggest example is e commerce like no one builds a, a site from scratch.

Um, not anymore. There used to be WooCommerce, but like WooCommerce is barely used now whatsoever. Like WooCommerce is built on basically WordPress. Um, and there’s just so many platforms out there because it’s the same thing over and over again. You can style it the how you want, but the backend performance of it all is already optimized and you don’t really need to recreate the wheel.

So we try to really lower that barrier of entry.  

Yeah. I mean,  It’s like one of those things you hear somebody innovating and you’re like, Oh, now everything’s been thought of. Okay.  It’s real. It’s a gap and and somebody’s solving a Consumer problem. It’s amazing. 

I mean like I like I think about like the hotel industry Like I, I think of like the hotel industry and how their direct booking sites perform and how tracking that they have and all the tactics that they have, all the tools that they have.

If you visit a Hilton website, more likely you’ll see ads for you’ll they’ll know which which type of properties that you looked at and they’ll make sure that they’ll try to get you back in there to book again. 

Right. Yeah. And 

yeah, retargeting, but also like the data that kind of goes behind it. And I, I want to be able to  enable.

Smaller hosts to be able to do something similar to understand where the traffic is coming. Is it coming from the social? Is it coming from their paid ads and really leverage all that information so that they can run more effective campaigns?  

Yeah, that’s the whole point of data, right? You might think you just need a website  But you’re gonna quickly as a small business owner short term rental owner you’re gonna quickly become a data analyst because  If you don’t, you’re not going to learn anything, glean insights, and be able to pivot where needed.

I mean, data is becoming,  or it already is, central to pretty much everybody’s career. Like, you know, to innovate, to do well, to be successful. You’re going to need to know how to analyze data. 

Yeah. I mean, kind of going back to like what we were talking about earlier, you mentioned in the very early days we had TV  and the only way that you’re able to get data on who was watching what and what average, what ads are being served is to put that Nielsen box inside someone’s home.

And that was the only way that you got feedback. And otherwise people are running  like advertising campaigns for thousands, tens of thousands, if not more on running advertising campaigns. And they don’t know which ones are resonating. 

Right. Yeah.  

And then they, and back, not only that is like when they get the feedback on the sales go up, there’s so many different variables that come into play. 

Um, so like, you don’t know if that advertising campaign actually resulted in a conversion at the very end of the day. And  like fast forward to today’s day, you do, we, we, you have what we call attribution.  

You can 

attribute that person that saw that ad and that ended up seeing all these other subsequent steps that end up purchasing with you.

And so the next time you’re running a campaign, you can actually  design a campaign using all that data and really optimize for that so that you’re not having basically a leaky bucket or spilling advertising budget on things that just don’t work.  

Yeah, and what’s happening with LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Ads,  they want you to set up multiple formats of your ad, they want multiple versions in one campaign so they can, Decide how to place it and you get attribution based on that.

So if you’re on a certain website and you only have a space for a banner at the bottom or a small, small amount of real estate that’s horizontal, give us some assets that we can work with. Even though it’s one ad, maybe you have a horizontal photo that you can upload. Maybe it’s a vertical side panel, but it helps those platforms be more successful.

And then you can track it and see which one is being served up and, and, and And being the most effective so you can kind of pull back on what’s not.  But yeah, attribution is huge. I feel like we’re just lucky to live in this digital age where  even though we have TV and cable and there’s a lot better metrics around who’s watching what shows  most marketers, I would say any huge global brand is Multi channel, they’re on TV, on print, on Facebook, on Instagram.

Like they’re a multi channel, they’re omni channel because you don’t know  where you’re going to hit your next customer. So you have, if you have the budget to be everywhere, it’s in your best interest to do so. 

Yeah. Given. Just how much complexity there is and all the different things that you can think about in terms of like branding, your branding, your,  your, your whole property management, all your properties, how you do advertising, how you do organic.

Do you think that small  hosts that may have only a handful of properties can be successful in that whole process?  

Oh my gosh, yes. I, I,  I feel like when people who are not familiar with the space hear branding, you know, you could hear  brand strategy, brand affinity, brand loyalty, brand measurement, and just feel like, oh, that’s, that’s  what I could not get into at all.

But if we simplify it for a small business owner, branding can just be.  Down to the essentials. Like we talked about the guest avatar, knowing them and what their expectations are, but knowing you, like, are you the brand is your place? The brand, do you have a brand umbrella with multiple properties?  And then I always think about it.

Like, um, I, I had a journalism class in my advertising curriculum and I thought it was super interesting because every news story.  Who, what, when, where, why, and how. So, and those come in different orders on the news. If you watch six o’clock news, you will hear a who, you will hear a what, when, where, why, how, um, and based on whatever’s happening, those might be about the who, it might be about the why or the where,  but you can take that formula and put it into practice as a brand and say. 

I already know who I, who my avatar is. I know who we are,  but  where are we? Are we somewhere that when, when does somebody visit? Are we only at a peak season or are we year long? Why does somebody wanna visit? That’s the most important one, is that whole theory around Simon Sinek of starting with Why,  um, I dunno if  the audience knows, but like it’s the older video.

I feel like it’s from 2009 or 10, but he has this TED Talk on start with why.  And it really flipped the script from a marketing perspective on don’t say what you do.  I mean a million other companies do what you do. Why do you do what you do?  Why are you in this business? Yes, it’s to make money. Yes, you know, you can create a huge portfolio with generational wealth But why is this?

Why why does this have your heart and people buy the why and it’s such a huge myth when people skip that part Because they’re just thinking oh, how can I make it look pretty? How can I? You know, make sure I have amenities, but if, if, if, you know, messaging is part of that, your, your whole tone and how you go to market  that why should be the cornerstone of everything you do. 

Yeah. And it touches everything. It touches even the guest communications that you send out and how you send out the words that you use and kind of how you treat them. They, they can get the kind of that, that why out there. 

Yep. Yep. For 


Yep. So I think, you know, in the corporate world, they think, what are, what’s our mission vision values? 

Totally legit. Like, what do you value as a company?  What is the vision, your aspirational goal that you want to be in 3, 5, 10 years, and then what are the mini missions that are going to help you reach that vision. But for a small business owner,  I just feel like the landscape is so much easier to break down when you think about those five W’s because  you can get your hands on that and you don’t have to feel like you’re in this corporate world. 

With a mission statement,  but you can just simplify it and simplify the process. And it’s a really fun thing to do with your business partners, your family, and say, well, let’s gather on the table. Like, why, why are we doing this? And who do you think we are? How are we going to go to market? That has so much to do with naming your property and.

The extension of your brand from a color scheme and logo and all that.  

Yeah, you mentioned um, The,  the why people travel in the first place. I think that that one’s a really important one. Um,  and if you really understand kind of why your guests are traveling there,  it really helps you under, helps you with your messaging and it helps you on furnishing the place.

it helps you kind of all over the place because if you know that It’s a, like for us in, in, in Branson, Missouri, we’re right off silver dollar city, and we have a lot of families that travel there with kids within kind of like the age range of like five to 12. Um, and so when we, when we built our place or when we, we furnished our place,  We knew that that family was traveling there to escape their day to day and they’re trying to just get away from it all and they want to forget it and they just want to have fun and enjoy family time.

So as we’re designing the place, we So try to make it so that we cater towards that family. And we understand like they’re traveling to get out of the space that are trying, that they’re trying to relieve the stress. They’re trying to spend time with each other. So we want to make sure that like, they know that they don’t have to worry about things.

They don’t have to worry about bringing a pack and play. If they have a younger one, they don’t have to worry about, um, bringing things to, to keep the kids busy because we’ve actually put a lot of amenities in our place specifically for them.  Try to be pretty vocal about it in our listing, uh, in our pictures and also in our guest messaging leading up to the stay.

Um, so they know that like, okay, we got their back. We understand why they’re traveling there and that they don’t have to worry about these types of things. 

Right.  And you know, the value of a direct booking site is  It gives you a front row seat to getting your own data. I think AirBnB and AirBnB are going to be so limited because they’re controlling the post and, and, or the pre and post guest experience.

But let’s say now you have, you’ve got the direct booking and. Somebody has just completed their stay. I mean, that might be put off a little bit by some of those demographic questions. Like, you don’t really need to know how much they make, you know, all that stuff. But if you know, like, how far did you travel to get here?

Are you, you know, if your place is near a national park, chances are people, especially in the summer, traveled pretty far. Are they weary? Do you need to take care of them, you know, with, uh, A little more TLC, like gift basket or soft robes, you know, do they fly from Europe? I mean,  once you start gathering that data, you will have your own composite of your guest avatar that you can refine over time.

It’s better as you go, it’s, there’s so much value in direct bookings because you own  your policies, you own your, the guest experience, and now you can own the data and start to analyze that. 

Yeah. Yeah. That’s both data before and after as well too. Um, you can see where your, your site traffic is, is coming from and which site traffic is actually converting in there.

Right.  Yeah, you can, you can can pick up. So are you 

say, are your, are your properties both on Airbnb or on the OTAs and, uh, direct booking or how are you managing that? 

Yeah, yeah. They’re both on, they’re both on the OTAs on both Airbnb and vrbo. We don’t do booking.com. We just find that there’s just too many headaches with that right now.

Okay. Um.  Um, so we’re mainly on the two main channels there. And then we also do direct bookings and we’re, uh, slowly kind of migrating more and more of our traffic towards the direct booking site with a lot, mainly email marketing is probably the most effective that we’ve, we’ve seen so far. Um, so that’s when we’re, we’re, we’re pouring out energy right now.


and, and you’re getting their emails through what channel? 

Oh, so we get their emails through, um, stay Phi. So all of our properties have the Stay PHI router there. So every, we don’t just get the email of the person that booked with us. We get the whole entire profile there. So anyone that has Brilliant.

Yeah, anyone, anyone that’s basically staying there. Uh, we get their emails, so it allows us to do a much broader retargeting. Um, and what we do is we take all the emails. Um, and we run it back to meta and then we do a lookalike profile. So it allows us to then create advertising based on folks that look like the folks that have visited in the past.

Um, so that’s been, that’s been really effective.  

That’s key. Yeah.  It’s like if anybody has data, it’s Facebook,  right?  Helping you be successful. 

Facebook has a lot of data. And like, I, I’m just kind of scratching the surface on like how to leverage that. And like the one, the other, one other thing that I’m, I’m also doing is doing retargeting because I find that it’s not just the webpage.

It often takes many different impressions for them to really book with you. 

Oh, absolutely. It can be a lot. Depending on the brand, it can be a lot. 

Yeah. Um, so really retargeting them so that when, yeah, they might not be ready the first time they look, they may need to c come back and, and, and see and talk to the family.

But what we want to do is for them not to forget about us and for us to be able to, to surface back up to them and be top of mind. Yeah.  

That’s huge. I actually have, um, a course as I fold this into my business where I’m helping.  owners who are on Airbnb and VRBO  transition to direct booking. So there’s a couple of little, this one’s a mini course and it’s just a couple of tricks that get people over to a direct booking site.

But I’m, I’m also on these Facebook groups of short term rental hosts and I see what they’re struggling with. And a lot of them are, I mean, I could see an influx over the next, I don’t know, two to three years where people are just saying, I’ve had it. They, like Airbnb. Totally favors the guest. I like I’m a legitimate host.

I’m doing everything right and I’m still like getting burned on this issue or that issue and I can just,  I want to help people bridge the gap from  somebody else owning the experience to putting it back in their control, which I feel like a lot of people will once they get comfortable with how to do it or if they’re working with you.

And like, Oh, okay. I don’t have to figure this whole thing out. I, I feel like a lot of people will start doing this.  

Yeah. I mean, I’ve already started to see over maybe like the last year or so, more and more hosts are going direct, um,  There’s direct booking links like all over the place now. Um, and I can see that being a pretty big, like not just a trend, but like we’ll start to see more and more hosts as doing that as a, as a standard practice.

I think so too. Yeah. And, and it’s not like there’s,  It’s easier. I mean, there’s still going to be, it’s still going to need to advertise. It’s going to still have to pull all the levers and figure some things out. But, um, I feel like the more you can control your own destiny, that’s going to be a win for a short term model owner.


Like I think about like each  stay of mine, I’m giving probably a couple hundred dollars to Airbnb. 


is money that I can be spending on advertising dollars. And I bet that if I spend the same amount of two, 300 on advertising dollars. It’s going to go way far than that’s one single booking.  

I mean, it’s not to say they don’t have value.

I mean, they’re providing protection and, and policies and that kind of thing. And, you know, screening with reviews, but  so there, there, there is value there. They need their business and they need to make money. But I just feel like, um, as you start to learn the game, learn the business, we’re going to see more and more people wanting to  have more direct influence over it.

Yeah, I, I, I think that like Airbnb is not going to go away. Uh, and it’s not, it’s, it’s going to continue to thrive. Um, and for hosts that are in that first year, Airbnb VRBO is a hundred percent necessary, because there’s no way that you can launch on direct and be able to sustain enough revenues to cover even your, just your, your mortgage, like not the first year you need, you need Airbnb and VRBO to really start that engine to identify your ideal guest avatar and identify who you’re going to be running your advertising campaigns against.

Sorry, collecting those emails for past guests. But over time, like my hope is that people have the ability to go independent.  

Right and think about that post guest experience where you’re not only saying how well did we do? What could we improve and that’s private between you and your guest like, okay, I can improve that That’s really good feedback, but not the whole world doesn’t need to know about it And then also ask some of those survey questions like survey monkey is super easy to use You can create a quick form that just says, you know, by the way I’d love to learn more about you and ask whatever key questions are going to help you run your business better for You The next guest as you build that. 

How many people did you travel with or, you know, did you, do you prefer to travel with pets? Like, should I consider it not in these words, but should you consider being pet friendly or, um, did you end up using the beach for school? Like, tell me how, tell me what actually happened so I can better provide an experience next time. 

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.  Um, hang on one second.  I’m looking back at our, I’m going to cut this part out.  I’m trying to figure out where should we go next. We were at that like the 40 something minute mark.  

Okay. Um, We talked about data. We talked about  media.  

I think we probably have time for like one short topic 

or we can start to wrap it too.  

Well, let’s I think we can wrap. Um, well, I thought you might ask about tech stack. I don’t know that that applies to a short term rental owner because it would be different for me. Um,  But I, I, I was prepared for like mindset advice. Um, I have a book recommendation. I have some  test.

So if you want. Yeah. Well, we’re at 45 minutes of recording. Yeah. Okay. So that’s, I mean, if you’re good with that, I think we’re,  we’re getting a good spot. I mean, we could talk about, I do, I do have courses. I’m, I’m finishing a course and then I’ll have a bonus course. We can talk about that. Or I have the, Free download on my site. 

That’s the report I talked about because I’m becoming more data driven  But we can also just put those in the show notes if you prefer. So  I’ll bring I’ll 

bring up that one thing and then we’ll transition off.  

What one thing?  

The the resources that you have 

So what are some of the resources that you have for our guests? You mentioned that you’re, you have like courses, are there workbooks that you have or some of the things that like our listeners can really take away and kind of learn from your experiences being in, in marketing and advertising? 

Oh my gosh.

Yeah. So I, just because I’m, Believe me, Gil, I never thought I’d be a data person. You can ask my husband. I’m not a numbers person. I’ve always been rooted in words, concepts, creative, but it’s changed the game so much for me that like we were talking about earlier with insights and insights, driving action and helping people be more successful.

So when I started the business, I set out with a survey. So that I could see what guests really want out of their short term rental. That’s available on my website And it’s a free report, but it’s just seven key questions on what are your expectations? How often should I be communicating with a guest if at all?

Um, what bugs you about? Online listings, you know our gmany pet peeves So we kind of went through seven key things like what happens when you travel with groups What do you expect to when you have a kid friendly? What are the top key? You Kid friendly amenities that you expect so that some of those questions that help an owner be successful That’s on my website And then I’m also I have a course on the branding side because I want people to be able to DIY it I don’t want them to spend thousands with a marketing agency because it’s just not necessary So in that my thought was how do I simplify this brand landscape?

And have people like super quick walk away with how to name their property coming up with a color scheme that works on their direct booking site and how to DIY a logo. 


And then, yeah. And then the bonus would be making that transition from  Airbnb or not even a transition, but let’s say you just want to supplement it like you’re saying you need at least a year or two on the platform  to drive an audience or to get, you know, to get going. 

But if they want to supplement it with a direct booking site or eventually transitioning a direct booking site.  Using promotional items to do that is is a key trick So i’m i’m I want to be an educator not just a designer and I come in and do the whole Peanuts thing with the christmas tree like I don’t want to just come in and flip it and then like move on I want I want to arm people with resources to to really be successful in their business. 

Nice. Nice I will make sure to include all those links Probably a, a handful. I’ll I’ll ask you  for those. And I’ll include those in the show notes, um, to kind of wrap things up. I normally end with two questions here. One’s a mindset question and one’s kind of a, um, kind of a big takeaway question. Um, so first off with the mindset question, what’s one mindset advice that you would give to someone that is trying something completely new? 

Probably a couple things.  There’s this saying called, don’t boil the ocean.  You’re never going to be able to do it. So  start small,  take one micro step forward, and it could be the smallest thing. Like, let’s say  you’re learning a software that intimidates you. What would happen if you just created a log on and you,  that’s the only thing you did that day. 

What happens is that gets you into motion. Like, okay, that small micro step, creating a login, creating a profile,  Like I can handle that. Can I handle the next thing? Can I handle the next, can I do a demo? Can I take a tutorial? Can I watch a YouTube video?  Um, those micro moments are, they all add up. And once you get into motion, you just find yourself going, Hey, look, I’m farther along than I, than I realized I could be.

And look where I was a year ago. And all of a sudden it’s cumulative.  And then the other thing, um, when trying something new is 

I think like you and I were talking about being entrepreneurs.  yourself, but  can you find a tribe? Can you find a squad? Can you, and what I recommend is no more than five people and make it mandatory to meet,  you know, at least monthly and say, okay, does everybody in this tribe bring something different to the table?

Like you’re in marketing, your tech, your finance,  your business. Like I want people in this space. Who bring something that I haven’t thought of because it’s going to help me do my business better. And the reason I say no more than five is because.  You want people to be able to speak up. I feel like, you know, if you’re at a big party, kind of making rounds and you talk to like,  have these little conversations, but you really want something to be needy and have everybody to be able to get some takeaways from it.

So, those are a couple things that come to mind, just because I think, Starting anything new can be a little intimidating and might make you procrastinate a little bit, right? 

Yeah, yeah, you’re you’re right on absolutely the the second part like when I started to build out my My team now we have a pretty sizable amount of team members there.

It’s really helped me because I now i’m accountable to other folks that are dependent on on me  On top of that,  we’ve ended up joining a bunch of accelerators as well, too, that helped fueled us. They’re giving us mentorship there. And there’s a lot of peers in that where we get to share stories and we meet on a weekly basis every Wednesday without fail.

And we talk about what are our wins of this week, what are our challenges, and we get to feed off of each other and really try to help each other out. So I a hundred percent, I a hundred percent agree with like, if you’re starting something new. Work with the tribe, work with folks that you can lean on. Um, if it’s in a space where you get to bring your tribe is like other mentors, other folks that have are in it with different skill sets, that helps a lot because you get to lean on each other’s strengths, like you say.

Yeah. And I love that you said you make it well, you said without fail.  But that’s the one easy thing to let it slide. Like, oh, I got that monthly thing. I can’t, I can’t, I gotta, I have so much to do.  First of all, it’s your, it’s your chance to just take a,  and like catch up and say, okay, well, I’m overwhelmed.

But I’m gonna go talk to other people who know what it’s like to be overwhelmed and get some community from it, right? 

Yep.  Yep. Yep. Absolutely. All right. Last, last question. What’s uh, What’s the one big takeaway from this whole entire conversation that you want folks to not forget and really solidify in their minds? 

Um, there’s a lot, I feel like we covered a lot of ground, but.  Data doesn’t have to be, data can be your best friend. I did not see that coming, but here we are. It’s for, for myself. Um, so you leverage data, and if you’re not great at analyzing data, find somebody who is, who, that can, like we’re just talking about your tribe, who can break it down for you.

Um, But it really helps you avoid mistakes. It helps you really learn quickly to pivot and where to pivot and where to put your dollars and where to put your time and your investment.  Um, so that’s probably the biggest takeaway. Um, partnering with people and leveraging data are really going to help move the needle, um, much quicker than, um, 10 times fast. 

That’s awesome.  That’s awesome. Especially coming from  someone usually in like a company, the design side of things is like farther away from the data. So here, hearing that from, from a design person is actually, it’s actually pretty good.  

I know. It’s so exciting that I could cry. Like, it’s just changing everything because  it’s not subjective anymore.

I mean, the selections might be subjective. You might say, I don’t like rattan furniture, or I don’t like velvet or whatever. That doesn’t matter. If you start with amenities and your competition and what’s happening in your market, what people are gravitating to, You’re already going to be way more successful than you were a year ago.

So that it just,  it’s, it gives me pride to say that I can help somebody really be successful leveraging  core data. 

Nice. Nice. Very nice. Awesome. Janice. It was really good to have you on the show and really bring your, your outside perspective, um, and really, um, Tap into all the things that you’ve learned throughout your career, but also some of the things that you’ve already started to, to get into with design and how to bring that back in there.

So I really appreciate you bringing in that perspective.  

Well, I thought it was a rich conversation with you, Gil, and I’m happy to come back anytime. So I hope we stay in touch. 

Absolutely. Thank you. Thank 


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