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Direct Booking Simplified Podcast – EP15 – Not relying on the OTA and investing in your own marketing with Rose Tipka

On this episode, we have Rose Tipka. While she is listed on the OTAs, she emphasizes the importance of diversifying your revenues across multiple channels, including your own direct bookings. She uses good, old, marketing tactics to fill her. calendar. Today she breaks down where she focuses her energy and how she executes her marketing strategy.

Summary and Highlights

In our recent podcast episode with Rose Tipka, an esteemed figure in the hospitality industry, we explored into the complex of delivering exceptional guest experiences and crafting effective marketing strategies. Here’s a breakdown of the insightful takeaways from our conversation:

1. Guest Experience Excellence

Rose Tipka’s philosophy revolves around nurturing a guest experience that begins long before arrival and extends well beyond departure. She emphasizes personalized touches such as customized videos, handwritten notes, thoughtful gifts like magnets, and proactive follow-up via surveys and comment cards. These efforts are designed not just to satisfy guests but to make them feel like cherished family members on vacation.

2. Hospitality-First Mindset

Central to Rose’s success is her unwavering commitment to treating guests with the utmost care and attention. Her approach to hospitality permeates every aspect of her business, ensuring that every interaction leaves a lasting positive impression.

3. Targeted Marketing Strategies

Rose attributes her high direct booking rates to her deliberate targeting of her ideal guest avatar. By tailoring her content and marketing efforts specifically to resonate with this audience, she has created a loyal customer base that prefers booking directly rather than through third-party platforms.

4. Consistency and Patience Pay Off

Building a reputation for exceptional guest experiences and establishing a robust direct booking strategy doesn’t happen overnight. Rose emphasizes the importance of consistency and patience, revealing that it took approximately nine months of dedicated efforts before she began to see significant returns in repeat and direct bookings.

5. Strategic Partnerships with Influencers

Recognizing the power of collaboration, Rose actively seeks out partnerships with content creators and influencers whose audience aligns closely with her ideal guest profile. These collaborations not only expand her reach but also reinforce her brand’s credibility among potential guests.

6. Ownership of Marketing Efforts

A key piece of advice from Rose is for hosts and property managers to take ownership of their marketing initiatives. While online travel agencies (OTAs) play a role in booking, developing a strong direct booking strategy is essential for long-term sustainability and growth.

7. Conclusion: A Guest-Centric Approach

In summary, Rose Tipka exemplifies how a combination of genuine hospitality, targeted marketing strategies, and strategic partnerships can elevate the guest experience and drive business success. Her passion for creating memorable stays shines through in every aspect of her operations.

Incorporating Rose Tipka’s insights can empower social media marketers and property managers alike to refine their guest experiences and marketing efforts, ultimately fostering stronger guest relationships and increasing direct bookings.

Transcription


Rose:
I would encourage listeners to view their company as separate from the OTAs, as a real business off of those, and then really buckle down in old school marketing work of how to get your company, your product out there in front of your guests. To really take ownership of making these reservations to drive their revenue for your company and not relying on a nameless, faceless OTA to send you your business.

Gilbert: On today’s show, we have Rose Topeka. Rose and I actually shared an apartment together at WealthCon. And we didn’t even really know it, uh, Rose, welcome to the show.

Rose: Hello. Yeah. That was pretty funny. When we realized that we had actually shared an apartment at the STR Wealth Conference and it took us a couple of minutes into our conversation to realize that.

Gilbert: I was embarrassed that we were talking and I reached out to you and I didn’t realize that we actually shared an apartment together. That was hilarious. Yes.

Rose: Yes, now in our defense, it was a huge apartment and there are a lot of people coming and going. But as with anything, you know, when you meet somebody new, you always try to figure out like who you know in common.

Rose: I also live in a small town. This is like in our DNA here. And so when we realized that we knew people in common, and not only that we had shared an apartment together, we’re like, Oh, wow. Okay. Well, that makes it easier.

Gilbert: Yeah. I was like, you, I think you were asking, like, do I know this person from Branson? I was like, oh, well, you probably know Ryan Duffy.

Gilbert: And you’re like, oh yeah, we stayed with him. I was like, wait a minute. I stayed with him too.

Rose: Was it this year? Yeah. It was this year.

Gilbert: Did you enjoy the conference?

Rose: I did. Yes, it was a good time. It’s always a lot of energy there. There’s always a great opportunity for everyone just to come together.

Rose: Sometimes this industry can be kind of isolating because we’re all doing our jobs in different corners of the earth. So those opportunities where we all can get together and, and, you know, do that in person stuff is really invigorating.

Gilbert: Yeah. Did you attend the previous conferences as well too?

Rose: Yeah. So this was the second STR wealth conference that I had been to, and I’ve gone to some conferences kind of all over the world.

Rose: Cause I’ve been speaking at conferences down in Australia, over in London, um, all kind of all over the place. So there’s a lot of energy in Nashville.

Gilbert: There is, there is that one was a packed one. I did not expect it to be such a big show. And I hear like every year the, the two of them really like kick it up another notch.

Gilbert: So I’m, I’m interested in seeing what it comes to next year.

Rose: Yup. Always a lot of energy there.

Gilbert: Yeah. So Rose, do you mind giving folks a brief introduction to who you are?

Rose: Sure. So my name is Rose Tka and I am the CEO of your family’s place. But the most important thing that people need to know about me is I am a homeschooling mom of six kids.

Rose: So yes, I know how that happens. Um, but we have our company, your family’s place. We own and manage almost $3 million worth of vacation rentals in Ohio, right outside of. Amish country. So since we have a big family and we know the unique challenges of traveling with a lot of kids, all of our homes are specifically built and designed and stocked for multi generational family travel.

Rose: We’re trying to crack that nut on how to make family vacation fun for everybody, including the grown ups.

Gilbert: Yeah. Yeah. And, and that portfolio, you don’t co host that’s all self self funded, well not self funded, but it’s, it’s, it’s your own portfolio there.

Rose: Yes. That’s our own portfolio. We do not do any co hosting mostly because the real boss in my life are my six children and I am not interested in working for other people other than them.

Rose: So yeah, my six children are my real boss. Um, and so when, when we’re working and our company is there to support our families, support our staff and our, and our turnover teams, um, we’re in the process of expanding to new locations. We just opened a new indoor pool, but we own and manage all of our own properties.

Gilbert: Nice. What’s that? What’s that journey been like? How did you kind of scale up to where you are today? What’s that journey have been?

Rose: So originally, um, at the beginning of our journey, uh, I was a stay at home mom and it actually starts with something that my husband did that I don’t recommend anybody else’s husbands ever do.

Rose: Um, but I will also say that he was right. So there we go. We have it. Recorded. My husband was right about something. Um, he actually was working in a different industry, but he was looking to make a career change because it was not someplace that he was really going to be able to stay for the long term. I was at home and at the time I was actually just about to pop with our fifth baby.

Rose: And if you’re around a pregnant person, you know that at the end of their pregnancy, there is nothing you That they are capable of thinking about other than getting this human being out of their body. And so the day before I gave birth, my husband actually bought what is now our, our property, the cottage at maple pond.

Rose: Um, and he bought it without telling me and against my advice. It was a very bold move, uh, but he was looking to exit and this opportunity came up and an auction. And it was, this was before real estate was. as crazy as it is now. Um, and so I actually, he didn’t tell me that day that we had won the auction.

Rose: And then the next day I gave birth and he decided that was also not the day to tell me. So once you start going down that path, it’s really hard to back out of it. And so I actually didn’t find out for six weeks until we were at a Christmas party with our real estate agent. And she told me, Oh, we’re closing on the property next week.

Rose: And I said, excuse me, what are you talking about? We haven’t bought a property. Turns out I was wrong. We had bought a property and that is how we got started. I think it was a pretty, it was a pretty crazy thing.

Gilbert: So that was number one. That was the first one.

Rose: Our first property. Um, so there was a little shack on that property, but the great part was, is it was 19 acres all in the woods.

Rose: Plus there was a two acre private Lake and the private Lake is completely within our property. So there’s no other homes there. So that property is now what is called the cottage at maple pond. And we have two homes on there, the cabin, which is the original property that I had renovated. And then the cottage at maple pond that we built from the ground up purpose built for vacation rentals.

Rose: And so that was really how we got started. Um, I W2 job. Um, we expanded a year later and we bought what is now Mount Pleasant Lodge because we knew that we needed to make more income than just a little two bedroom cabin. If my husband was going to leave his regular job, we needed more income. So we decided to double down on big homes that would be big enough for our family because if there was a problem for us.

Rose: Finding vacation homes. We were sure it was going to be a problem for other people too. So that’s when we decided to double down on big homes. So we bought Mount Pleasant Lodge and then in June of 2020, my husband left his W2 job and we finished construction of the cottage at Maple Pond. Last year we opened Middle Haven and that’s our biggest property right now.

Rose: It’s Sleeps 23. We have 32 acres there. And that was also built, purpose built from the ground up. Uh, we just finished a pool house and our first indoor pool, and our next project is, uh, it’s in the chute. We’re working towards, uh, another new build of a, of a really big house, like an 11 bedroom, you know.

Gilbert: Wow. What, um, so you mentioned your husband found that first property at an auction. I’m guessing you guys, you folks have talked about investing in real estate for a little while. And we

Rose: honestly hadn’t, uh, I knew that he wanted to change careers and that was something that we had been working towards trying to find ways to make that happen.

Rose: But I was in the process of like growing a new human being. And so I didn’t think that was what I needed to be worrying about. So no. We have never talked about investing in real estate. Um, but when it happened, you know, um, that was the path that we were set down. And so, um, I’m a very, I’m a very tenacious person.

Rose: Um, and so when this new when life kind of, you know, You know, veered to the other direction. I threw myself a hundred percent into it because I knew that this was something that my husband needed for himself, but also the opportunity for the two of us to work together on something and for him to, uh, be a father at home and work at home and really center our life around our family.

Rose: Like this was a career. This is a career path that allows us to live a home based life, to center ourselves around our family and really invest in our kids. I can work. For a long time, but my kids are only little for like this very, very small amount of time. So what’s great about this particular industry is we are able to generate the revenue that we need to support our family and pay our employees.

Rose: And we can do it from home most of the time.

Gilbert: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It opens the door so much. When did you, Or how did you kind of transition from getting the surprise look on your face, hearing about this six weeks in and really embracing it? What was that process like for you?

Rose: Well, the first thing was, um, we had to go to therapy, uh, to be honest, that, that was the first thing, like, I love my husband and I, I, um, certainly was surprised by it.

Rose: It w for him, but it was also that we needed to make a for his career, for our f enjoyment. And so, uh, we that decision and I reall myself into it. And part I have a hard time doing anything halfway. Um, I’m a maximizer a hundred percent. And so when it was clear to me, this was the path going forward. And the, not only that, but this was something that I was, I could be very good at.

Rose: I threw everything into it. Reading books, listening to podcasts, researching like everything. And I was, I was like a sponge just grabbing all of that knowledge. There are so many sources of education out there. And though some people love masterminds and all of that kind of stuff, but there are so many sources of knowledge, but you have to be humble and you have to be curious and you have to be open to feedback because you don’t know everything.

Rose: So you have to have that. You have to be humble about that. You have to be curious enough to continue to drive your knowledge forward. You have to be open to feedback because a lot of times your guests will tell you exactly what you need to know if you ask them and you’re willing to accept their feedback.

Rose: Constructive feedback. Yeah,

Gilbert: yeah, yeah, yeah, man. It’s, it’s been, it’s been a wild ride for you. I’m glad you, I’m glad you are really a big advocate for it now. It sounds, it sounds like you might even be a bigger advocate than, than he may be. I’m not sure if that’s true.

Rose: Oh, so my husband, he, he has a background in business.

Rose: Um, and so he loves the business side of things and it’s really great that we have sort of landed in this place. place where both of us are working together, but our spheres are also very different. He loves the business side, the accounting, the spreadsheet, the quick books. He loves that he has not met an excel spreadsheet that he doesn’t love.

Rose: I hate that. I hate every part of that, but I love talking to guests. I love taking care of our homes and making them magical when the guests arrive. He does not want to talk to guests ever. And so it’s great that like we’ve become this team that allows us to operate in what we would call our spheres of genius, but we’re working together on the same company.

Rose: And so it really has come together very nicely for us.

Gilbert: Yeah. It sounds like it, um, you said something interesting that as you kind of grew your portfolio, you purchased that one property and it was a property that was already on, on the land. And then you decided to build on that same land. And then it sounded like each subsequent new addition was kind of ground up development.

Gilbert: Is that right? Did I follow that correctly?

Rose: Yes, that’s correct. So we started with, uh, we did some renovation on the property that was originally there. Um, and then when we did purchase Mount Pleasant Lodge, it was already built. It was an estate sale. We bought that property actually before it hit the market, which was an amazing deal.

Rose: Um, but that property, while it was very well loved and very well taken care of by the previous owners, you could tell that it was their family home. They loved it. Um, when you are, purchasing a house that’s already built, you are also purchasing any problems or issues that you didn’t create. And nine times out of 10, you probably don’t know about it.

Rose: So for us, um, construction made sense for a couple of reasons. I have had a lot of experience in the past with project managing construction projects for us personally and for family members. We also live in an area of the country very close to Amish country. And because of that, um, construction is something that is much easier to achieve down here.

Rose: All of the trades, all the materials, all of that kind of stuff is local. And it’s also very price effective when you’re building with Amish and Mennonites. Um, they’re Craftsmanship is so, so amazing. It’s superior and they, and they do it at very competitive prices. And so I already had these working relationships with a general contractor and all of the subs that we needed to pull this off.

Rose: So for us, it made sense to start with something from the ground up. We know where all the lines are buried in the ground. We know where all the electric is. And we are working with folks that we’ve had relationships with for 15, 16 years. So we are investing in our community and in our friends businesses who are subcontractors and general contractors.

Rose: And then we are working with a product that we know exactly what it is. We know where all the electric is. We know where all the water is and we have total control over that final product.

Gilbert: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It sounds like you also build a community around your short term rentals as well to your, your.

Gilbert: Employing you new jobs. You’re actually taking advantage of the local community. You’re not, you’re not getting resources from outside. It sounds like.

Rose: Yeah. So all our contractors are all going to be local folks. Um, you know, things like electricians, plumbers, you know, concrete people. Um, you know, those are local people in our community.

Rose: And especially like if you’re building over the winter, um, a lot of times. These companies like a concrete company, they’re going to lay off their folks over the winter because they don’t have very much work. But you know, if we’re building over the winter, we can keep them going and they can keep people on payroll.

Rose: So those, those kinds of things, you can’t really like outsource concrete work, you know, to another country that has to be local by its very definition. So, um, it, it’s been a way that we continue to reinvest in our community. This is where we live. These are our friends. These are our neighbors. You know, I’m going to see these people at church on Sunday and at the coffee shop during the week.

Rose: So we are a community and we’ve all worked together to push this forward.

Gilbert: Yeah. How’s the regulation where you, where you are? Are they pretty STR friendly?

Rose: So in Ohio, we do not have any preemption laws in Ohio yet. There is some discussion at the state level for what that might be. mean. But I do think a lot of the hype around short term rentals has not quite made it to the Midwest yet.

Rose: I don’t think that we are seeing that kind of pressure that you’re seeing in markets like down in florida out in phoenix or in California. And I think part of it is because it’s the Midwest and people just haven’t quite woken up to the opportunities that are here. We are also in an established tourism area.

Rose: We’re right outside of Amish country, and Amish country brings in about a million visitors a year, which is more than most national parks do. So there’s a well established tourism market in our community. So, um, certainly there are some larger communities in Ohio, larger cities, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, that are dealing with much different types of dynamics when it comes to short term rentals.

Rose: I think it’s Our obligation as good hosts and as professional hosts to be proactive and for us, it’s really based on safety. We see a lot of hosts out there who are, um, renting homes that really don’t, uh, that shouldn’t be rented. That’s just what it is. They’re not safe for guests. They’re not safe for the neighbors.

Rose: They’re not safe for the community. And when one bad host, um, you know, Has an accident has a problem with their home. It affects the rest of us. So that goes back to the professionality within the industry and our need to really raise the standards from within. If we are doing a great job of educating hosts, making our homes safe, not only for our guests, but for our communities.

Rose: I think a lot of that argument about short term regulation becomes redundant.

Gilbert: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That makes sense, Rose. You, you do fairly well in, in direct bookings. Um, as I hear it, um, can you talk to our guests a little bit about some of the, some of the strategies and tactics you use to really get really those high percentage of direct bookings?

Rose: Absolutely. So this year we’re tracking about 70, 75 percent direct bookings off of our website, which is, which is really great. Um, last year we were a little bit closer to 80, but it’s still early on in the year. So we’ll kind of see where we end at the end. Um, now folks that are listening to this need to understand that a direct booking game is a long term plan.

Rose: You don’t just pop up a website and then people just come clamoring to it. That is not how it works. And we sort of have to, um, forget some of the lessons that we may have learned on the OTAs. Okay. What the OTAs are very good at is marketing. Um, when people even talk about vacation rentals, they don’t even call them vacation rentals.

Rose: They call them Airbnbs. And what that is, is marketing. Airbnb has been so successful at marketing. That’s why most people can put up just about anything on Airbnb. And it will get rented. That’s the power of marketing. So what we as hosts need to do is take back control, take back, um, our business into, you know, our hands and get better at marketing any company out there.

Rose: That’s a B to C a business to consumer company. They have to figure out how to get their product, their service, their product, their, whatever. In front of their potential buyers. So for us, our potential guests. And so we as hosts have got to do a better job of educating ourselves on how to market ourselves and our products, our homes to our potential guests.

Gilbert: Yeah, 80, 70, 80%. That’s a phenomenal rate. That’s, that’s a lot higher than I’ve, I’ve heard even many established hosts there. What was that journey like? Was, did you year one, did you already start off on doing direct bookings or were you mainly on OTAs and kind of how did you transition towards that, that amount?

Rose: Yeah. So we were, um, we’d say about two years in to our journey here in vacation rentals before I got really serious about direct bookings. And part of that is I think that there, there’s a learning curve. Um, not everybody is good at this. That is the truth. We can say it out loud. And so there is a learning curve, okay, where you have to get good at hosting.

Rose: You don’t open day one and you’re great at hosting. It doesn’t happen. Um, and that’s a. That’s a process that takes time to unfold. It’s also about, you know, that process to develop your brand. Because, uh, people can be very, very loyal to brands if you give them a brand to be loyal to and you clearly identify what that is.

Rose: So, the first part of really getting people to continue to come back is to hit the low hanging fruit. And the low hanging fruit in our industry are people who have already stayed with you. So repeat guests. Okay. So how do you nurture your existing clientele, the people that have already stayed with you or will stay with you in the future to educate them on how to, how to book direct why they should.

Rose: Um, and again, it goes back to actually being good at this. If they don’t have a good experience, they’re not coming back. If they have a great experience, they might really want to come back. And we usually hit between 40 percent of our, of our, our rentals year over year, our repeat guests, their folks who’ve already stayed with us.

Rose: We’ve already had a great experience with them. They’ve had a great experience with us. And so nurturing those relationships with your existing guests is it’s really the low, it’s not easy, but it is the low hanging fruit. So it’s things like, um, I do handwritten notes to our guests. Um, when they book, I do a really quick video.

Rose: I just, I grabbed my phone, I do a really quick video and I’ll say their name and I’ll say, you know, thank you for choosing Mount Pleasant Lodge in September. And then I use a magic phrase and please everybody who is watching or listening to this, please steal my magic phrase. I tell my guests that they can relax and know that I’m going to take excellent care of them.

Rose: That’s the magic phrase. You can relax and now I’m going to take excellent care of you. I, I text that video to them, um, when they book. So if they book, you know, today, I’m going to text them that video today. One of the very first thing that happens to anybody making a big purchase is, uh, buyer’s remorse.

Rose: So, they’ve spent, they’ve let go of their hard earned money to reserve my homes. How can I reassure them that they made the right choice? That video does that. I’m also going to write them a thank you note and I’m going to send them a refrigerator magnet and that refrigerator magnet has the logo of the property that they’re staying at.

Rose: So, I am giving them a note. Sort of like a gift and they’re gonna slap it up on the refrigerator every time they walk by. Oh, I’m going on vacation there. Somebody’s at their house and says, Oh, what’s that? Oh, we’re going to go on vacation there. So I have pre gifted them something of value to let them, you know, have that, you know, reminder that they’re going to go on vacation.

Rose: That all goes into that relationship building. Those are the kinds of things that I’m doing, like even before my guests arrive.

Gilbert: So Rose, let’s, let’s unpack that a little bit. Um, it sounds like you are actually, you’re thinking about the whole entire guest experience through and through. It sounded like you were a host for the first two years before you got into direct bookings.

Gilbert: What was that? And I don’t think it’s purely just strategy and tactics. There’s a, there’s something in your mindset, the way that you think about the guest that allows you to deliver this experience. Um, let me know that I’ve captured that rice, but I don’t think it’s, I don’t think it’s just purely like a bunch of different strategies that you heard.

Gilbert: There’s a certain mindset that you have about how to deliver a good guest experience. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Rose: A lot of that I think comes from me as a mom. Um, I am here to take care of my family and I’m here to, um, When I take my family on vacation, I want to make sure that my family has a great time.

Rose: So I view myself in my relationship with my guests is I’m sort of like the mom who’s taking care of their family on vacation. And it’s a mindset, it’s a mentality. And I also would credit a book that I read. Um, and it’s called never lose a customer again. Um, it is an excellent book that talks about how to nurture any client, any customer, through the customer journey.

Rose: Our customer journey for, in our industry, is not just when people, you know, punch in the door code and walk in the door. That’s not where it starts. It starts, you know, at the door. Way, way, way before that. And so understanding that it’s a whole journey that happens, you know, before they book, when they book, all the way through, you know, to the point that they get home, what are they going to come home to?

Rose: Because I also mail a letter to their home while they’re staying with me so that when they get home, They have something there too. It’s this whole journey. So I kind of view myself as like they’re their mom on the ground. I’m the one telling them which playgrounds to go to, which restaurants to go to.

Rose: Or, you know, maybe if you’re going to go to this museum, you need to show up at eight in the morning, right when they open, because by 10 o’clock, it’s so busy. So, and, and that’s a mentality. Um, and not, yeah. And not everybody has that, and that’s okay. That’s all right. Not everybody has that as part of them.

Rose: And if it’s not something that you have, you need to find somebody on your team who can. And, uh, and I highly recommend the book, Never Lose a Customer Again. Um, I’m actually going to be teaching that book or doing a book club with the STR book club in October. So if folks are, they love books as much as I do, which is pretty hard.

Rose: Um, I’m actually doing how to lose, never lose a customer again for the STR book club, um, coming up in October.

Gilbert: I think I tried getting into that book club. It was, if I remember correctly, it was sold out and I was, I don’t know how I came across it, but I was like, wait, what is this? I love books and hearing like in book recommendations from others in the industry sounded like a really good idea.

Gilbert: I don’t, I don’t know who came up with that, but that’s a really good idea.

Rose: Yes. It’s Skylar and Maddie. Um, Skylar and Maddie have the STR book club and, uh, the Carwell’s who are up in, uh, Michigan. So they’re, you know, Midwest Midwest people like me, um, I’m actually hosting the car wells for a retreat in October.

Rose: And so we’re going to be doing, um, their tickets are going to go on sale for that here real soon. They’re going to be, uh, they’ve rented all of my property. So we’re going to be bringing in folks from all around the industry to come stay at all of our homes. And, um, they’re going to be hosting a retreat there.

Rose: And, uh, the SGR book club is going to meet in person for that one. And I’ll be doing never lose a customer again.

Gilbert: I need to find some way to get, get myself onto that, into that club. Um, that’s, that’s amazing. I’ve, I’ve heard about the book, never lose a customer again, but I haven’t picked it up myself. So I think I might have to.

Rose: People, a lot of people love to recommend unreasonable hospitality and I’ve, I’ve read that book. I think it’s a great book. I’m not gonna, I don’t have anything negative to say about Unreasonable Hospitality. Um, a lot of people focus on that book. Um, great book, but we don’t have restaurants. And the, the, the difference between what they can achieve, um, is different from us because when you’re in a restaurant, you know, they are watching you consume their good.

Rose: Their food and their service. We are not watching our guests consume our goods and services and we should not be doing that . So that’s what makes it tricky is how do you achieve that level of hospitality? ’cause you can’t watch them do it. You have to, you know. Find the right ways to extract that information and data from your guests.

Rose: Um, you know, restaurants, they see what did you eat? What did you not eat? They talk to you in the whole process. We don’t do that. So it’s a lot trickier for us because we have to kind of tease that information in different ways.

Gilbert: That’s a good point. Um, it’s almost like in the restaurant business, that feedback loop is, it’s apparent it’s there in hospitality.

Gilbert: We have a very short review at the very end and maybe messages along the way that gives us that feedback loop. Have you found anything to help you give that feedback loop of are you doing enough? Should you be pushing harder in certain areas? How do you get that feedback loop?

Rose: So I it is my opinion that the people with the most valuable information are the people who have picked me Picked our homes to stay at and have stayed in them They have the information that I need and the easiest way to get it is to just ask And you have to ask in different ways because people respond in different ways, and you’re not going to get 100 percent response rate like in college.

Rose: I took a research methods class and I know you don’t get 100 percent response rate. That’s not realistic. So first of the first thing I do is actually before the guests actually arrived. Um, I send them a survey. Um, it’s embedded into an email that goes out once the reservation is paid in full. I’m going to be asking them a couple of questions in that survey.

Rose: I’m going to ask them where they found us. And that allows me to do things like track, did they come from Verbo? Was it from a Google ad? Um, and also, did they find us on social media? So I’m actually seeing that I’m driving about 20 to 25 percent of my reservations just through our social media game. So a lot of people say, like, you use social media, how do you know if it even works?

Rose: Well, I know because I’m measuring it and I’m getting 20 to 25 percent of my reservations there. And that’s all direct. Um, so I’m going to send them that survey asking them, you know, like, what’s your goals for the vacation? You know, what were you looking for? Where did you find us? And then I ask them if there’s any additional information that I could provide that would be helpful.

Rose: So I have found over the years that people ask these kinds of questions. Where’s the closest grocery store? I have an email ready to go. If they ask that question, here’s the grocery stores. Where should I take my kids out to eat? I have an email ready to go. Here are the best kid friendly restaurants. Um, what kind of like family activity should we do?

Rose: I have an email ready to go. So if they indicate that information on their form, I have that email ready. I just shoot it out to them. I also ask them if they have a property specific question. And if they tick that box, then I’m going to call them. I’m not going to text. I’m going to call them on the phone and say, Hey, thanks for filling that out.

Rose: You said you had a property specific question. How can I help you? And so that’s what I do before they even stay. Um, in all of our homes, we also put comment cards and it’s old school. It’s like a five by seven card, thanking them for choosing our homes. And I’m asking them what they’re looking for. If they have any suggestions for improvements, and that really helps to fend off negative reviews because they can give me feedback on the property.

Rose: And then I asked them the third question, what was their best memory? Um, and I’d say about half of our guests filled that out. That’s great. You know, they may tell me things like that’s, that’s pretty darn good for somebody who did research methods, 50 percent is pretty darn good. So that gives us information like, Hey, is a light bulb out?

Rose: There we go. That’s good to know. Um, so those are ways that I’m kind of teasing information out of our guests. Um, we do ask for reviews both on the OTAs on our, our Book Direct website and Google reviews, trying to gather that information. I do also mail our guests a thank you note. Thank you for choosing our, our homes.

Rose: We would love to host you again and if you would like to recommend us to your friends or family, we would really appreciate that. I don’t ask for a referral until after they’ve stayed with us ’cause I’ve shown them, I’ve demonstrated the quality of our product. We also have a very robust email marketing system.

Rose: We send two, um, email newsletters a month, keeping everybody up to date. Um, we use the, uh, what I call the friendly ant voice. Um, just want us to keep everybody in the loop.

Gilbert: That’s amazing. You’re doing a ton in terms of, I heard a few things where you’re reaching out to guests to record a video right after they booked, you’re sending them a magnet, um, prior to their stay so that they, you’re basically on top of mind until their stay.

Gilbert: They’re getting really excited about that. And you’re also sending them things. After they stayed with you, a thank you letter, how, how do you sustain this? How do you, how did you find, like, especially being a mom of six, six kids, like you already have a full time job, if not more, how do you sustain all this?

Rose: Well, this is what it is. This is my job. And having put the time into developing these systems, I know they work. And so, you know, we all have the same amount of time in the day. And I’ve been told by other people who don’t have six kids that they have just as much time in the day as me. Okay, sure. I believe them.

Rose: But here’s, this is the reality. This is real work. This is not passive income. And this is my job and it’s my job to do this so that our company, Succeeds. Our company thrives. We support our employees. We support our family like this is my job. And you know, some of this stuff could certainly be outsourced, but I’ve also, um, created myself as this host character.

Rose: And it certainly is me, but it’s a, it’s a much more refined version of me, but this is my job and jobs take time. It’s not glamorous. It’s not always easy, but it’s I know that for our customer base, it works. And so that’s why I execute on it.

Gilbert: Yeah. That makes sense. How do you keep the consistency there?

Gilbert: Are there, you mentioned you have processes and systems to keep talking to me a little bit about like, how do you keep track and make sure that you’re delivering at the high quality on a very consistent basis, not just doing it here and there, but you’re doing it with every single one of your, your guests.

Rose: Like when we talk about like email. You can set up triggers. So in my brain, I have triggers that events happen. And so I do X, Y, Z. So I have a new reservation come in. Um, as soon as that reservation comes in, I add that to my, my to do list and I’ll, you know, put the person’s name and I’ll put video and note.

Rose: And so when I, you know, it’s at the end of the day, the kids are done when I have 15 minutes. I mean, that video literally takes 20 seconds to do. That’s, that’s what it takes. And so how do I not forget? I added to my calendar to do it. Um, and then usually about every two or three days, I’ll sit down and I’ll write all of my thank you notes, um, for people who are new reservations and I’ll get those cleared out.

Rose: Um, when it comes to the notes that I sent to guests. For after they’ve stayed my trigger in my brain is on check in day. That’s the day that I write the note. And so I have these rules that I follow for myself to make sure that I get those things done so that I have that consistency. And I tend to be a more organized person and I get that not everybody is that way, but that’s why I use my calendar.

Rose: I mark things down and I check it off as I go. Um, that’s, we, we have to, we have to find a way to be organized and consistent. And if that’s not something that’s in your wheelhouse, then you need to find somebody who can help you do that. Because consistency over time is what leads to 70 to 80 percent direct bookings.

Rose: It’s not being consistent for a week. It’s consistent for a long time. This is a marathon. You have to keep going. And if you don’t personally have those triggers that work in your brain, find somebody who can, and they can do that for you.

Gilbert: Yeah, that, that’s the one thing I hear over and over again from folks that have really high direct booking rates is that consistency is really the key.

Gilbert: You can’t try to do this for one year or even a couple of months and expect to see mammoths change when you’re, especially when you’re talking about annual guests that come back to you over and over again. If you’re 40 percent repeat, that means that you really don’t see those results until the second year comes around.

Gilbert: Um, so you really, it needs time to really compound.

Rose: Yeah, because I started doing the videos and the notes, um, in, it was maybe like April of two years ago. And so I really, and I didn’t really see that return until the following January. So I had about nine months into it before, These folks started coming back around and booking again.

Rose: So, um, I had to believe in it. I had to make it happen. But, I mean, it, it’s not, it’s not as glamorous as some folks on social media might make it look. Um, it’s, it’s, it’s a real job and, uh, you have to be consistent about it. And that is where so many people, I think, fall apart, is that they can’t, they can’t go the distance on these things.

Gilbert: Yeah. Yeah. I hear you on that one. Have you tried anything? To deliver a certain experience and you ended up pulling back on on that Have you because it sounds like you try a lot of different things out and you see what really sticks Has there been anything that you tried and you’re like, oh, that’s actually probably not worth our time to continue on

Rose: Yeah so one of the things that I know I feel and my kids feel whenever we arrive at a Vacation home is number one.

Rose: We’re gonna go to the bathroom number two. We’re hungry number three. We’re thirsty You So obviously people are going to go to the bathroom. So my question is how do I satisfy hungry and thirsty with my guests right away? And so early on, I would, um, I would do like, Oh, I had banana bread. That’s going over there.

Rose: Or I would go to the donut shop and I would get donuts and it was inconsistent. And I needed a way to replicate the food experience in a way That was very accessible and enjoyable for the maximum number of people that was on brand and that I could continue to crank out time after time after time.

Rose: This is a way that I get to talk about my chocolate chip cookies. Did you have my chocolate chip cookies in Nashville? Cause remember there wasn’t a stove and I had to go somewhere else to bake them. Yes. So, so it’s kind of interesting where, um, the chocolate chip cookies have become like a really important part of our brand.

Rose: Um, so what I realized was the best, all I knew this all along, chocolate chip cookies are the best cookies in the world. And my husband will tell you it’s oatmeal raisin, and that is not true. If it’s an oatmeal raisin cookie, it’s fine, but you still wish it was a chocolate chip cookie. So, and I make a really good chocolate chip cookie.

Rose: So good. In fact, I won first place at the county fair with my chocolate chip cookie recipe. So it’s good. So instead of trying to kind of play, you know, a game of what food item can I slip in here? Um, I decided to be super consistent. Everybody gets chocolate chip cookies. I can make them ahead of time. I freeze them.

Rose: My 13 year old vacuum seals them into 12 packs. They’re ready to go. It streamlined the whole process and it was actually less work for me. Um, one of the things I tried was like a gift card to the ice cream shop and that was a nice idea, but not everybody used it. And then that was just lighting money on fire.

Rose: So for me, it was just being very clear on the brand. What, how can I replicate this experience in a streamlined, consistent way? And then people, you know, they comment on the chocolate chip cookies. They ask me, where can I buy them? And I say, sorry, they’re only available in our homes. Can’t buy them anywhere.

Rose: And that actually has become one of the reasons that people come back year after year is these darn chocolate chip cookies.

Gilbert: Yeah, I bet that plus just the whole entire experience. It sounds like it’s the experience is really, really crafted. I can tell, or I can, I can see why you have such a high repeat rate, because you really cater and you really care about each one of those guests.

Gilbert: And to them, although you may have processes and, and things that may be automated, but to them, it feels very natural. It feels like it’s dedicated just for them.

Rose: Yeah, and I think as more and more things become AI and more and more things do become automated We are our guests are savvy. Our customers are savvy and there’s a certain amount of automation that they are absolutely willing to accept Um, but the other side of it is that personal relationship building those personal messages that can’t be That can’t be chat gtp and people know that and it’s also the way that That’s smaller operators can absolutely outcompete bigger operators.

Rose: They cannot do this at scale across a hundred units. They can’t. And the reviews from all the OTA show that smaller operators have better reviews because we can absolutely outcompete when it comes to this type of customer service.

Gilbert: Yeah, I, I a hundred percent agree with that. I think a lot of folks, especially the smaller folks, um, with smaller portfolios, they feel like, Oh, I can never get my direct booking rates that high that I don’t have enough portfolio to, to share across a single market.

Gilbert: But you’re absolutely right. Like, I think that being small, being nimble, being able to cater to your guests specifically is a huge advantage against some of the bigger PMs.

Rose: Yeah. I mean, everybody likes to throw out numbers. Not everybody. Some people do. You know, I manage this many units. I manage this many units.

Rose: That’s great. If that is your goal, you should absolutely chase after it. And I will be first in line to cheer you on. That’s not my goal. Um, but my goal is the family that’s in my home right now. The grandmother, um, she brought all of her grandkids together. It’s the first time they’ve been able to vacation together.

Rose: You know, that person is my goal in making sure that her vacation with her family is amazing. That’s, you know, having a hundred units, not my thing because I can’t do what I do with a hundred units.

Gilbert: Yeah. Yeah. And, um, please correct me if I’m wrong. I’m sure that the few units that you do have probably outperforms much larger portfolios.

Rose: Oh yes. Oh yes. Well, um, and so there there’s two sides to that where we are probably driving more traffic than we can actually Convert on because you know, we only have a certain number of doors and once those doors are booked, they’re booked Um, and so there’s always that that fine line where you know, we we can drive a bunch of traffic But you know once our calendar is full we might not get new reservations for a week or two Um, but compared to other houses in our geographic area Um, we’re booked and they’re not so much um And there’s a lot of reasons that go into that.

Rose: Um, and there’s all different types of experiences, but I also happen to know that I’m competing the pants off of my local competitors.

Gilbert: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Um, talk to me a little bit about working with content creators. Um, I know we, we talked, we talked a little bit, uh, prior to the show and that’s one of the, one of the things that you’ve tuned over time.

Gilbert: Can you talk to our guests a little bit about that?

Rose: Absolutely. So, um, sometimes when we think about working with Instagrammers or content creators, um, people start to like lose their mind about what that actually means or what it could look like for their business. And so I would highly recommend that hosts look into working with content creators, but also view it as a form of Advertising as a form of marketing, just like running a Google ad, just like doing a meta ad.

Rose: It is a form of advertising. So, um, I listened to a podcast, uh, from somebody who had worked with a content creator and use it to promote their vacation rental. And, and I thought to myself, well, I can do that, which is actually how a lot of my ideas, a lot of my projects get started. I see something and I go, let’s do that.

Rose: So, um, what I really wanted to be sure of. Is if I am hosting somebody, um, I wanted to make sure that their audience, their followers had lots and lots of overlap with my ideal guest. I think that’s one of the pitfalls that people make is they work with a content creator who might not be in the right niche, who might not have the right followers that are actually going to be people that are going to book their home.

Rose: Okay, so it’s important for us as business owners to know who is our guest avatar, who is our ideal guest, because that is the person that you need to be marketing to. So there’s lots of different ways to go about that, but once you’ve really nailed down who you want to target. Um, you know, go to Instagram and look for content creators who have overlapping audiences.

Rose: So for example, for us, most of the people who are making our reservations are coming from the Cleveland area. Cleveland, Akron Canton, that sort of geographic area. So that’s my first filter is I’m looking for content creators who are creating content for people in the Cleveland ish area. The next thing is most of the people making my reservations are moms.

Rose: And they have kids, usually younger kids. So I’m looking for content creators in the Cleveland area who are moms, who are making content for moms and probably have younger kids. The job of a content creator is to find followers. Those followers are going to be attracted to their page based on that content.

Rose: So it’s just like a big game of SEO. So find those content creators who have an overlapping audience with people who are already going to book with you. That is one of the, that’s, it’s so important. Otherwise you’re really wasting your time. So once you can find those people who have those overlapping audiences that, that match people that you want to host or are already hosting, that’s when you need to reach out and.

Rose: Then we go into that relationship building phase, feel that person out. Are they a good match for you? Are you a good match for them? And see if you can come to an arrangement that they can state your properties and promote it. It’s really like a review on steroid.

Gilbert: Yeah. How, how do you, so you mentioned like you had your criteria there.

Gilbert: What are their searches in within Instagram that you’re looking for? Are you looking for people that post in particular areas or locations? How do you pinpoint and find those? Or are you asking, are you more so having Instagram recommend folks to you based on the people that you follow?

Rose: So content creators, like all of us on, you know, let’s say Instagram, we’re creating that bio on our page and our bio has keywords.

Rose: And if we’re strategic about that, it gives us the, it gives, you know, people looking at your profile, the information that they need right away. So when I am looking for a content creator, I’m looking for, you know, their location. I’ve had folks in California reach out to me to work together. I am not pulling people from California.

Rose: Okay, I’m not. Okay. Um, so I’m looking for, you know, does their profile say where they’re located or can I tell from their content where they’re located? Um, you know, they will give some biographical information about them. You know, moms love to tell everybody they’re moms. So. You know, they’re going to have that information in their bio.

Rose: And all of that stuff is keyword searchable on Instagram. Now, if you don’t want to search on Instagram, you can also do a good old trusty Google search for, and so you could, and I’ve done this and, uh, you know, I would put in like, um, mom content creator, Cleveland. Um, and so, and I found a news, a newspaper article of the, you know, the top 10 mom content creators in Cleveland.

Rose: Boom, there it was. And I had, and now I’ve worked with like the top five of those on that list. Turn to Google, type it into Google. If you’re located in upstate New York and you’re looking for, you know, somebody who, you know, maybe you’re pulling from New York city, um, but you’re folks that want to do adventure.

Rose: So New York city adventure content creator, see what you find, you know, do some Google searches. I mean, it sounds, it sounds a little funny to say, but really do a Google search. And you will find one, you will find one.

Gilbert: There’s actually a neat, a neat trick on Google. If you type in like site colon and then the URL of it.

Gilbert: And so they’d be like site colon Instagram. com it’ll filter out only folks that aren’t on Instagram or only sites are on Instagram. And then you can put in your keyword searches on top of that too. So that has for me been really effective of like, if I’m finding like specific blog articles or specific things on a particular site, I can use that.

Gilbert: Like I, I’ll, I’ll do that for like Reddit. If I only want to find Reddit ones, I’ll do like site Reddit.

Rose: Yeah. I mean, it sounds, it sounds simple, but like, you know, what would you even think to do with Google search? Give it a try. See what you come up with. You might find the answer. I mean, like finding an article that lists the top mom content creators in the Cleveland.

Rose: There we go. That was golden for me. Now that’s not the only decision I’m also going to like. You know, go and look at their page and make sure that they are somebody that, you know, would work well with our brand. I’m going to do my due diligence as much as you can on that. I’m actually going to, I’m really going to do that.

Rose: Um, but that’s a good way to just, you know, start with that list, start developing it, and then, you know, move into that relationship building phase.

Gilbert: Yeah. Yeah. And you, you also post content yourself. Um, yeah. Talk, talk to me a little bit about, about the, the time and energy you invest into that.

Rose: Yeah. So I do, I, you know, I, I have my face on our account because I think it’s easier for people to identify with, you know, one person, their face, their story, all of that kind of stuff.

Rose: Um, so I’m posting, you know, stories about me, I’m sharing a lot of pictures and reels of what it. Feels like to vacation with us, what sets us apart? You know, what do you not have to pack? You know, that kind of stuff. Um, and it’s, it’s also, it’s a consistency game. A lot of people fall off the social media wagon by not being consistent.

Rose: Not everybody who sees every post is ready to hit book now, right now. But when they are, are you going to be top of mind? That’s something that you need to think about. So, um, it’s that consistency with providing information, showing how we are, you know, always updating our properties, inside information about what’s going on in our community.

Rose: That kind of stuff is, and you, you have to be consistent. Now, if that’s not something that’s for you, you can absolutely hire that out. Uh, I know lots of folks that hire out, you know, Their Instagram, their social media pages, and that’s fine. Consistency is much more important than anything else there.

Gilbert: I 100 percent agree.

Gilbert: Awesome. Rose, we went pretty deep into a lot of different parts. Was there anything else that you wanted to share with our guests today?

Rose: Yeah. So, um, when we’re talking about, um, working with content creators, it’s a great way to launch a new property or a new feature. So recently we opened an indoor pool.

Rose: Recently, as in three days ago, we opened an indoor pool. And so our first guests were a content creator that I’ve worked with before. And so she came down, they were the first people to be in the pool. She made a number of posts, a number of reels. And just over the weekend, her content focused on the pool, um, brought in over a hundred thousand views.

Rose: screenshot of my social media page. So that’s just a great way that you can really launch something and, and get it out there so you can start filling that calendar up.

Gilbert: Yeah, that’s awesome. All right. Well, Rose, we end typically with two questions. Um, one is a mindset question and one is just like a overall recap.

Gilbert: we covered a lot of topics here today. So first one, the mindset question, what’s One piece of mindset advice that you would give to someone that is starting something completely new.

Rose: Yeah. I think that one of the things that’s hard for us is to push through when we’re not getting positive feedback from other people.

Rose: And so when you view yourself as your hype person, and you treat yourself with the hype that you want to have, that can help help you keep going. So thinking of ways that you can treat yourself, take care of yourself, celebrate your wins. Even if it’s just you yourself, this business can be isolating. This business absolutely can be a grind.

Rose: And sometimes it’s only complaints and there’s no compliments and it’s hard to push through that. And so you have the opportunity to treat yourself and be your own hype person. Cause sometimes that’s all you’re going to get. That’s

Gilbert: a good advice. That’s good advice. Yeah. Awesome. And last question. Um, what’s the one piece of advice that you would want all of our listeners to really get, uh, get from this, this episode today?

Rose: Yeah, I would encourage listeners to view their company as separate from the OTAs as a real business off of those, and then really Buckle down in old school marketing work of how to get your company, your product out there in front of your guests to really take ownership of making these reservations to drive the revenue for your company and not relying on a nameless, faceless OTA to send you your business.

Gilbert: Yeah, that’s really good. That’s really good. That plus all the consistency that we talked about. And I think that that’s a, that’s a very big takeaway, at least for, for me that I hear over and over again that I want folks to really, really gather. All right. Rose, where can folks learn more about you? Follow you, follow your journey.

Rose: Absolutely. So my, my company is called your family’s place and you can find us on Instagram, sometimes on TikTok and on Facebook at your family’s place. I also have a separate page called hosting in the motherhood, and that’s where I post more content focused on hosting. My guests don’t give two hoots about the inside secrets of hosting.

Rose: So I have a separate account. Hosting in the motherhood. I’m also part of hospitable hosts. We are the 124 best hosts around the world. And I, my story is featured in volume two of hospitable hosts, and that’s a great place for folks to follow and get hosting content for the people who are in the trenches doing the real work every day.

Gilbert: Yeah. Awesome. Well, Rose, it was really good having you on the show and having you kind of follow your entire journey through how you got your first property in the story behind all of that and how you actually think about really delivering beyond really that five star experience, but really experience where folks really want to come back to you and book with you over and over again.

Gilbert: Thank you for that.

Rose: Absolutely. Well, thank you for having me on.

Gilbert: Bye.

Bye.

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