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Direct Booking Simplified Podcast – EP16 – Getting your MBA in Management with Michael Chang

On this episode, we get to do a collaborative interview with Michael Chang from STR Like the Best. In this two-way interview, Michael Chang leads us through his mindset of making short-term-rental investing approachable to anyone that’s committed. We talk through his technology stack that he uses to manage his rentals, and areas where he’s upgrading to improve his direct booking rate

Summary Highlights

In a recent engaging podcast episode, Michael and Gil discussed their personal experiences and realizations on the nuances of short-term rentals, emphasizing the pivotal shift towards direct bookings as a strategic milestone for property owners and managers. Here’s a breakdown of the insightful discussion and key takeaways of their discussion.

Evolutionary Path: From OTAs to Direct Bookings

Michael and Gil underscored the advantages of leveraging Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Airbnb during the initial phases of establishing a rental business. The gentlemen agreed, that in this period, typically spanning 1-2 years, is crucial for building visibility, refining operations, and understanding guest expectations.

However, as experience grows and a loyal customer base develops, the focus shifts towards diversifying bookings through direct channels. By years 3-4, aiming for 50-60% of total bookings via direct channels becomes a realistic and advantageous goal. This transition demands consistent effort and strategic marketing initiatives tailored to your property’s unique attributes.

Essential Components for Direct Booking Success

Achieving substantial direct bookings hinges on several key components:

  • Robust Website Presence: Moving beyond basic Property Management System (PMS) offerings to a comprehensive website that showcases your property’s unique appeal and offers seamless booking functionality.
  • Effective Email Collection and Marketing: Utilizing tools like StayFi for collecting guest emails and executing targeted email campaigns that nurture relationships and encourage repeat bookings.
  • SMS Reminders: Enhancing email effectiveness with SMS reminders, significantly boosting conversion rates by ensuring timely communication with potential guests.

Tailored Marketing Strategies for Success

Successful marketing in the short-term rental industry requires a tailored approach:

  • Niche Targeting: Identifying and appealing to niche groups such as fishing enthusiasts or adventure seekers through specialized content and promotions.
  • Engaging Social Media: Actively participating in relevant social media groups and communities to foster engagement and attract potential guests.
  • Value-Added Ads: Offering value beyond accommodation, such as destination guides or local experiences, through targeted advertising campaigns.

Strategic Growth Approach

Michael and Gil exchange thoughts on the importance of starting small and mastering one marketing channel at a time rather than spreading efforts too thinly. This focused approach allows for better measurement of effectiveness and optimization of resources.

Balancing Platform Risks and Rewards

While direct bookings offer greater control and reduced platform dependency, OTAs continue to provide valuable exposure and guest protection. Striking a balance between these channels is crucial for maximizing occupancy and minimizing risk.

Resources and Guidance

For those looking to enhance their direct booking performance, resources like CraftedStays and industry podcasts serve as invaluable sources of guidance and inspiration. This platform aims to provide insights into emerging trends, innovative strategies, and success stories within the dynamic short-term rental landscape.

Embracing Innovation and Opportunity

As a relatively young industry, short-term rentals present ample opportunities for creativity and innovation. New entrants can leverage this dynamic environment to carve out niches, differentiate offerings, and capitalize on evolving guest preferences.

In conclusion, transitioning from OTAs to direct bookings represents a strategic evolution for short-term rental operators. By focusing on building a strong online presence, implementing targeted marketing strategies, and leveraging valuable resources, property owners can unlock new levels of success and sustainability in the competitive vacation rental market.

Follow Michael on instagram @strlikethebest & @michaelchangbnb

Transcription

Michael: You don’t know where to start. Like find people that have done it before. Facebook groups are a great place. Your local real estate meetup, like wherever you can find people that I think it’s also important to find people that you connect with. Right. It’s, I mean, it’s hard. Like I’m, you know, 44 and I have two kids.

Michael: Like it’s hard to connect with probably like a 20 year old that like is just starting out and. thing, but like, you know, if you find someone else that is, you know, you and that person on the same wavelength, you know, similar values, similar background, whatever it is. Um, I think there’s that kind of like trust there that gets, uh, you know, that you can kind of bond a lot easier and then that trust factor is a lot higher and then you, you know, kind of take the advice that you’re given because sometimes it’s hard actually, it’s just like, You hear the advice, but like, you don’t take the advice and like, you got to listen to, you got to hear it from someone that you like believe in and trust to, to take that advice.

Gil: Hey folks, welcome back to direct booking simplified. We break down the tactics and strategies to win in direct bookings. Today’s show is me slightly different. We have Michael Chang on the line. He’s a short term mental host himself. He does Airbnb arbitrage and is also a coach on today’s show. We’re going to actually do a collaboration together.

Gil: Well, we get to interview each other. So let’s get right in. 

Michael: Uh, it’s my great pleasure to welcome Gil Chan to the show. Gil, thanks for joining us today. 

Gil: Yeah, it’s great to be here. 

Michael: And, uh, thanks for, uh, you’re, you’re my first guest where we’re live streaming, uh, the podcast. So, um, you know, anything, anything goes wrong, don’t worry about it.

Michael: We’ll just keep talking and, uh, and we’ll edit it afterwards, but hopefully we’ll have a few people watching. And if you’re, if you are watching, if you have any questions, feel free to, feel free to, uh, uh, To write your questions down and we’ll try to answer them. But, um, no, but, but Gil, like, no, great to have you on the show.

Michael: We met at STR wealth, um, conference in Nashville back in February. So, um, you’ve been, you’ve been busy ever since with, uh, with, with your properties and new projects. So I’m excited to talk more about that. 

Gil: Life has not slowed down at all. Um, 

Michael: but why don’t, before we start off, um, why don’t you give a chance to introduce yourself to the audience?

Michael: Um, kind of what you do and, uh, and your portfolio particularly. 

Gil: Yeah. Yeah. So I, I’m a short term rental host myself. I have three properties, uh, two in Branson, Missouri, sorry, two in the smoky mountains and one in Branson, Missouri, been hosting for a couple of years now, and then I’m also the CEO and founder of crafted stays, uh, which is a direct booking platform.

Gil: Um, yeah, I. Love what I do. Um, it’s been a wild journey. I never thought that like a few years back that I would transition my entire career to be all centered around short term rentals, but short term rentals pretty much is all consuming my entire life. Both, both on like the side hustle side. My, my, now my personal W2, um, is everything at all.

Gil: It’s all consuming now. 

Michael: Yeah, no, I, I, I, I totally understand that we, uh, my wife and I, similarly, it’s like we started with one property back in 2016 and now it’s like literally our full time jobs, both of us, uh, managing a portfolio and, um, you know, kind of be talking about our journey and hopefully getting others to, uh, to see that this isn’t that scary.

Michael: And it’s definitely a viable path. And I think that probably the best path for small investors to. To invest in real estate into cashflow. So let’s, but let’s definitely, let’s definitely start and let’s definitely hit on some of those topics. So you left your W2, what were you doing before? Um, what were you doing when you, when you first got, when you got your first property?

Gil: Yeah. So I was, um, a product director for. Um, I’ve been making software technology products, many products that many of our listeners may use, may have used at some degree. Um, I’ve done everything from smart home. So like if you ever use any Samsung TV and you saw a smart things on there, I was part of that in the very, very, very, very early days when we’re still a Kickstarter.

Gil: Um, if you ever bought anything from like Norsham, Sephora, uh, you Home Depot. And they sent you an email at the very end saying that your package is on its way. It’s coming tomorrow. Sorry, we missed you. Whatever those like the whole entire infrastructure, um, was built by a company called Narvar and I, uh, I kind of re re platformed them.

Gil: Back in 20, 20, 18 or so. Um, so yeah, I’ve been kind of building basically products for a long while now. 

Michael: That’s great. Cause I think, um, so that’s great. Like you had, you had this kind of really cool product management. Role or product, you know, product role with technology. And then, you know, and I think that kind of, that probably helped you frame when you became a short term rental investor too.

Michael: And now with, you know, your craft, it stays, but let’s, before we, you know, let’s talk about like, when you first started, like, what was your first property when you got your first, uh, your short term rental? 

Gil: Yeah. So like, for me, the reason why, like, kind of like the why first of why I got my first property, and it’s probably not the same why that I have now was, I was paying a lot in taxes and that’s kind of why I got in short term rentals and I did long term rentals for a little while.

Gil: And it just, when I went to my ICP and I was like, I’ve just bought a long term rental, like why is my tax the same? Like, why is it no different? Like, Oh yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s non passive income. So it doesn’t really like it’s passive income. So it doesn’t really offset your W2 income. So I later found out that like short term rental was the only way that I can offset my, my taxes.

Gil: And so I looked into it and. I ended up finding out like, okay, it needs a market to kind of get into. And at that time, the Smokies was still like really, really hot. The prices were still pretty reasonable. Um, we’re starting to get like a lot of new folks coming into it, but it was still like a very good entry point for me.

Gil: So back in, what 

Michael: was that 

Gil: actually? What was that exactly? 21, 22. Yeah. 21, 22. Yeah. So not that long ago. Um, but we bought our first, we bought our first cabin. It was a four bedroom cabin. Um, and we didn’t know what we were doing, but luckily, like I had peers in my area, um, that did short term rentals. Like I said, I later found out that like, actually within my network, there were two other, my friends that were doing short term rentals and we ended up starting a Slack group and we started joining a lot of Facebook groups and like, you know about this, but like we started just sharing a lot of information and that Ashley, like Lowered not just the risk, but the anxiety of getting started in it.

Gil: And so like if I were to like give one tip to anyone that’s getting started in short term rentals, um, it’s just like find folks that you can get mentorship from, um, that you can spend a good chunk of time, they’re willing to give you their time and they want see you succeed. Like those are gonna be the folks that really help you get started in the very early days.

Gil: And honestly. Once, once you get that first one, the second one’s super easy. The third one is super easy. Like it’s just that that first one is like, there’s a learning curve there because you’re not just learning how to start a short term rental. You’re learning how to furnish it. You’re learning how to do your financials.

Gil: There’s a lot of things that come together that you don’t realize when you first get into it. And it does feel like a pretty big weight in the very beginning. But if you have a good network, if you’re good, if you have folks around you that can help you guide you through the way you’ll. Be able to kind of like almost like take a bullet train straight through that whole entire journey.

Michael: No, I agree. It’s it’s um, and I think that first part is to your point, really difficult. Getting off zero is very difficult in the beginning because it can be very overwhelming, right? You’re like, look, I mean, you gotta find a property, buy it. And then, then all the work afterwards, um, like you and I, I think you and I connected through that Slack.

Michael: Channel, I forget someone, I forget who invited me into the Slack channel. Um, but that was probably like over a year ago now. And you’re right. Like, yeah, that’s right. Kenny. Yeah, you’re right. Sorry, Kenny. You’re right. And. I mean, it was great to, I mean, it was, for me, it was a different, different perspective seeing, you know, these owners that I never met and the way that they ran their business.

Michael: Like, even though I have been doing it for like five years, I, I learned a bunch and there was a lot of Smokies, um, owners there, like, you know, both you and I own there. And. You know, problem guests, like, you know, the, the vendor, you know, kind of being able to quality control vendors and get feedback and pricing.

Michael: It’s like super valuable. And, you know, and I think that is a really, really important point is like, if you don’t know where to start, like find people that have done it before, Facebook groups are a great place in local real estate meetup. Like wherever you can find people that I think it’s also important to find people that you connect with, right?

Michael: It’s, I mean, it’s hard, like I’m, you know, 44 and I have two kids, like, it’s hard to connect with probably like a 20 year old that like is just starting out and doing their, doing their thing. But like, you know, if you find someone else that is, you know, you and that person are on the same wavelength, you know, similar values, similar background, whatever it is, um, I think there’s that kind of like trust there that gets, uh, you know, that you can kind of bond a lot easier.

Michael: And then that trust factor is a lot higher. And then you, you know, kind of take the advice that you’re given. Cause sometimes it’s hard, actually, it’s just like, you hear the advice, but like, you don’t take the advice and like, you got to listen, you got to hear it from someone that you like, believe in and trust to take that advice.

Michael: Um, but that’s great. That that’s, and the tax part is, is huge too. Yeah. How did you, like, I guess, how did you figure it? Like, you know, the short term, you know, the, the short term tax loophole as it’s called, um, You know, how did you get comfortable with that? I think a lot of people have questions in that too.

Michael: Like, Oh, well, like, how do you actually execute that? Maybe just talk about your personal journey on that. Like, how did you learn about it and ultimately execute on that? Yeah, I 

Gil: think I got comfortable on it. So I did a lot of homework and I’m, I’m one to not be worried, weary about like just doing your homework and learning about things.

Gil: And I was listening to bigger pockets for a long time. I listened to like couple hundred episodes kind of in my long term rental. Yeah. Like I followed them for four years, uh, during my long term rental days. And I started hearing about this short term rental loophole. And then the more I dug into it, the more I understood it.

Gil: And when I understood it, then I wasn’t scared because like, if, as long as you understand the mechanics behind it, like. And then you know, what do you need to do to make sure that you’re doing it properly? Like material participation, how many hours do you need to put into it? How do you, how do you record those hours?

Gil: How do you make sure you validate those? Like, if you understand kind of like how I give you a word to get audited, what would be the worst case scenario and you protect yourself against that worst case scenario, then it’s, it’s not a problem. 

Michael: Yeah, no, agreed. And for folks that don’t know what the short term rental tax loophole is, it’s basically where you can, if you.

Michael: Buy a short term rental, right? Something that you rent out fewer than seven days on average. You don’t provide Any substantial services and you materially participate in that so you’re actually working on that rental Um, then you can You can basically take the losses from that property through bonus depreciation and offset your W 2 income.

Michael: So it’s definitely a mouthful there. And you know, you definitely want to consult like a tax professional and understand, uh, how to mechanically execute this stuff. But once you do it, it’s very, very powerful. Back when, you know, Gil and I worked together. First did it in 2021. You’re getting a hundred percent bonus tax appreciation now we’re getting 60.

Michael: So it’s not as good next year. I’ll be 20 didn’t zero unless these tax laws get changed. Um, but even at 60, it’s still pretty meaningful. We’re we’re in contract for a property that should close by mid. June here, and that’s going to knock off a six figure amount from our tax liability too. So it’s a very, very powerful strategy, but you know, you have to do it right.

Michael: You got to record your hours and do a whole bunch of things, but thankfully there are all these apps and stuff now too, that, um, we didn’t have before. I, I use this, uh, I, I forgot what it’s called. Um, but I, I use, uh, I use an app that records all the hours and everything. And so that’s, uh, make sure you record your hours.

Michael: If you’re doing this, make sure you record your hours. You’re not, you know, you can’t, you can’t do it all. 

Gil: I was, I was paying, I was paying for one of those apps and it was actually pretty expensive. It was like 20 a month to just record my hours. And I thought about it for a while and I was like, wait a minute.

Gil: All they are doing is they’re creating a table entry for every single time I do something and uploading a picture. And I was like, I can use notion. So I ended up redoing that whole entire thing and moved everything into notion. And so now I have, Yeah, I moved everything over. And so in, in our SDR community, I actually share that notion templates.

Gil: Like if anyone actually wanted to like record hours and have everything tracked and tied to the property and who it’s, who actually made the hour contributions, like, like just reach out and I can, I can share it. It’s, it was so easy. Oh, you 

Michael: got to me. Like I, so I use reps tracker as I pay 20 bucks a month.

Michael: That’s exactly what I was using. That’s exactly. Oh man. Cool. All right. Awesome. I I’ll, I’ll, I’ll hit you up afterwards to, uh, I definitely, I think I’m paying like 20 bucks a month for this thing. So yeah, if I could, if I can avoid 200 bucks a year on, on, on my subscriptions, I happily do it. That’s great.

Michael: Like, I mean, and I think that’s, that really speaks volumes of your, your product development, your, your tech, your technical background. Um, how has that helped you in like your short term mental journey? Cause you know, you have some marketing stuff too, right? Like, like you said, for some of the, um, e comm names that you mentioned earlier, like the, the posts.

Michael: Checkout flow is something that you worked on and that email marketing side is really important. Thank you again for sharing your, uh, your Smokies, uh, post checkout flow. It took us like a month to implement that on Clavia, but we finally got it done. It’s actually running out. So yeah, I appreciate that.

Michael: So yeah, we finally, it took, it took my VA is probably like, cause it was like a. Second priority thing that, you know, that I was like, you know, work on this when you have time. And so it took us like three, four weeks to, to get it right and get it all, get everything working tuned properly. So, uh, thank you for that.

Michael: I was very helpful. I appreciate it. Yeah. Yeah. But maybe talk about how that’s helped you. Like that, that mindset’s kind of like helped you be successful with those three rentals that you have. 

Gil: Yeah. I think for me, like I’m now in my seventh startup now. Um, so six startups, I’ve I’ve helped others build.

Gil: And so this is the seventh one. And the first time I’m doing it as, as, and as an entrepreneur, it was basically the one leading it. Um, I was like an early member on many of them, but being the founder is a very different story. Um, but the whole like startup journey, Really taught me just like take it one step at a time and you really don’t know what’s gonna be ahead, but if you can find folks in your network that helps you, um, it just makes it a whole lot easier.

Gil: Um, I do leverage technology, like you mentioned, like I have, like being in technology, being in e-commerce for so long, I know a lot of tools that folks don’t typically use for SDRs. So you mentioned Klaviyo, like Klaviyo is one of the most powerful tools in e-commerce. A lot of e commerce brands will use Clavio to send out email campaigns.

Gil: And it’s really, really inexpensive. It does SMS as well, too. It’s almost like a hidden gem that our industry doesn’t know about. But if you do any homework in e commerce and you use YouTube it about like sending out email campaigns for a new product that you build, they’re going to give you Clavio. And honestly, there’s not a whole lot of differences between the e commerce with industry.

Gil: And our industry, you’re, we’re both creating a product, creating a service that you’re trying to attract others to, to get to you, uh, in the e commerce industry, you have giants like Amazon that helps you with distribution on our side, you have giants like Airbnb and VRBO to do distribution. And if you don’t want to do that, or if you want to go independent, you can start your own direct bookings or in the e commerce world, you can start your own Shopify store.

Gil: So like, there’s a lot of parallels and like, because of that, like that’s kind of like where. How I even started with craft to stays like that was like the origin story is like I come from e commerce and I see how easy it is to be able to build your own storefront in the e commerce industry. Like you could, if you had a product that you wanted to sell.

Gil: Um, you can build a storefront in a day, but I look back in our industry, if you wanted to do the same thing, you would have to hire an agency. You can use the cookie cutter, like PMS, um, uh, website to tools, but like, there’s not a lot of good tools out there. And I was like, it’s gotta be a lot easier. Um, and I just, I just started building and I, I’d code.

Gil: I, I coded it myself, like the first version of it. And I relearned how to code. I’m not a developer, but I can learn pretty quickly. And I coded the first version of myself and I started shopping it around and folks like. folks loved it. And then my engineering friends were like, it’s great Gil, but you’re not an engineer.

Gil: Like it took you three, four weeks to build this. I can build this in a week. And I was like, you’re right. So I ended up eventually hiring engineers to take over my development job. And um, I do a lot of the design. I do a lot of like the requirements gathering and like really about the user journey and what the experience is like, but I no longer, Code it myself, which has been a real advice, like a really good advice that I took on early, uh, in that journey.

Michael: Yeah. And, and, you know, on that, on that note, the parallels between e comm and short term rentals, a big part of. What I try to get across to people too is that, you know, it takes time in the beginning to launch it and, you know, get it up and running, but fundamentally like you as the founder, as a CEO should not be doing like, you know, the short term equivalent of like answering answering phone calls and like writing your listing descriptions and writing your captions and all that stuff, right?

Michael: Like, you know, there are people out there that are better equipped to do that and as. As, as a founder, I think, or as the owner of the property owner of the business, it’s important to like, know those things, but also like, what’s the next property, right? Like, how do you like being able to think more strategically than like just being on that tactical level every single day?

Michael: Because fundamentally, if you’re, if you’re like, if you’re coding all day, you have no time to really grow the business. And like, if you’re answering customer service messages all day, you definitely don’t have any time to like grow your portfolio because you’re going to be so burnt out dealing with like.

Michael: A broken AC or have clogged toilet that like you have no energy afterwards to like deal with anything more high level. Um, but that’s a, you know, I think that’s a great way of framing those two industries together while we’re on the topic that like, what other great, you know, Clavio, great tool craft to say is we’re going to talk about like what other great tools that are like not as well known that you can pull from the Econ, the Econ background to short term rentals.

Michael: Yeah. I’m trying to think. And I asked this. I asked this selfishly because Clavio is a great tool. So, uh, you know, I’m hoping for others on that we can incorporate too. 

Gil: Yeah. So I haven’t found a good, like back in CRM, uh, on that Clavio kind of does a bit of that. I started actually with MailChimp, um, and MailChimp is actually pretty well known in the e commerce industry as well, too.

Gil: The other ones, the other ones are less. So obviously, you’re going to want to get a lot of their content out because really like the trends just aren’t going to go as far as they’re going. So, yeah, that’s the most important thing as well. Second thing, the last thing I want to touch on is, is the embed. So there’s a lot of really great products out there.

Gil: So, like I said, we’ll talk about that in a moment, right? But basically what is an embed? They’re basically a shared product. 10. And those basically schedule it out so that they have one post every day or one post every week, whatever their cadence is. And they don’t have to think about it until the next month or the next period.

Gil: Um, so like tools like metricals is used pretty heavily. Um, another one is on the advertising side, like Facebook ads, Google ads are pretty used pretty heavily. So like The thing I learned is that like, if you need help on some of these things, very likely, if you go on YouTube, you won’t find any short term rental specific guides on it.

Gil: But if you want to learn how to run ads, go on YouTube and say, run ads for a Shopify store or run ads for whatever. And you’ll get a whole bunch of folks creating really good content that have gone through it. Like that is probably like the one thing Secret sauce from the e commerce world that like, I want users to be able to like learn from another industry and try to apply that back in here.

Michael: Gotcha. Oh, that’s, that’s, that’s really smart. Actually. No, there, there’s very little, and that’s, it’s a good segue. That, yeah, there’s very little content on how to properly market your property. And, you know, and I think that’s, that’s the problem that, um, that’s the problem that you’re trying to solve a crafters days and, you know, I do wanna hit on that, but I wanna, um, I, before we hit on that though, I want to round out your short-term rental portfolio.

Michael: So you have the one in the S Smokey’s Yep. And then the two in Branson, you know, how have those done? Right? Like you started in 21, so you started buying in 21. Yep. Like what shifted the market have you seen? Yeah. Just to, you know, kind of run on that, run on that, um, that, yeah. 

Gil: So I think in my journey, I could have bought.

Gil: Um, properties faster earlier on. Um, and I think my first property underperformed to my standards. Um, that made me hesitant to buy the second one. And what I learned later on was that like, not. And you, and, uh, I think David Green talks a lot about this in the bigger pockets, like your first property is not always going to be a home run.

Gil: And I was expecting a home run or waiting for it to be a home run before I got to my second property. And that was a huge mistake. I basically wasted a whole entire year where I was trying to optimize this one property to make it perform better and better. And it’s just. I could have bought a little bit better on that first one.

Gil: It didn’t have a view. It was big, but it didn’t have a view. Now we’ve actually added a lot of amenities to it. So like it’s in kind of the Valley side of Gatlinburg. So you don’t get views, um, but it’s very easy to get to. So like a lot of like RVs, a lot of big families that we have a big drive A that can fit like six cars on there.

Gil: Uh, we have a huge lawn, so we ended up. Um, you know, it’s like, it’s going like, it’s the law when it comes down to it, like when it comes down to it, it’s like, I don’t want to put it on my lawn. Right. Cause that’s a good question. And so like, so like that that, that’s been really, Like that is like the thing that I learned is I like I couldn’t have optimized the pricing any better.

Gil: I couldn’t have optimized the pictures any better. Um, and it took me a little while for me to buy my second property. And my second property is my pool cabin Gatlinburg when I went to Branson. That pool cabin does extremely well. It actually outperformed my four bedroom and the costs are actually a lot lower too on that one.

Gil: Um, so that was like a big surprise to me. So like I started to learn a little bit more about the market. I’m going to be talking a little bit about what works, what doesn’t work. And for me, it’s more important for me to learn what works and what doesn’t work. And then apply those learnings on my next one.

Gil: So if I were to buy another cabin, it would be probably closer to similar to the second cabin that I purchased there. And Brenon like, well, what’s the 

Michael: second cab? Yeah, go ahead. What’s the second? What, what’s the second cabin look like? Was it a, does it have a view? So has a, is it like a nice indoor pool or is it like a, you know, glorified hot tub?

Michael: Like, I have one, it’s a pool cabinet. It’s candidly like a glorified, like hot tub. It’s just like, you know. Yeah, it’s not really, you can’t really swim. You’re just kinda like white waddle in there. 

Gil: Uh, it depends on how like. Um, it’s not that big. Um, it takes up maybe a third of the entire footprint of the, the length of the building.

Gil: Um, so it’s not, it’s not, it’s not, and it’s almost as wide as the, the width of the building minus whatever the walls and the buffer there. Um, so it takes up a pretty good portion. It’s not one of those where like, I see a lot of pool cabins where you step into it and. Like you take two steps and you’re already in the pool and you, you can pretty much touch all four walls.

Gil: Like it’s actually like a pool. It’s, it’s, it was like a converted bedroom into a pool room, but this is like, it takes up the entire basement of the, of the cabin. So we have a loft, which has a bedroom. And then we have the main level that has a living room, dining room kitchen. And then we have a rec room that has an extra bunk bed in there as well, too.

Gil: And then the whole bottom basement is all pool. Um, so it’s nothing else in the bottom basement, just a football and we’ve done everything. We’ve done like really like nice seating in there. We put it in a theater in there. Um, so it’s a, and we put in the theater because we have two young kids and when we, when we stay in there, we’re like, gosh, we’re all like the kids can be in there for hours.

Gil: And like, we didn’t want to be bored being in there. So we’re like, okay, it would be nice to have a movie here. So we decided to put it in a theater so that we can enjoy the space and not have to feel like we have to go upstairs and do something else or entertain ourselves. We want to be near our kids.

Gil: So like, Oh, 

Michael: like you put a TV, you just put a TV in there and the seating, 

Gil: there’s a hundred inch projector in there. Yeah. Oh, shoot. Oh, yeah. It’s a pretty sizable projector. Um, but yeah, it it’s, it’s performed really, really well. And everybody loves that cabin. 

Michael: Got it. Got it. I got it. That’s awesome. That’s awesome.

Michael: That’s great. Do you have a mural? Do you have a mural in there? No, 

Gil: I probably wouldn’t actually, uh, because like the projector, it comes down on the wall that wouldn’t normally put a mural anyways, um, um, and it’s for families, like I know my avatar and my avatar is families and my kids are not gonna stand in front of a mural and take a picture, um, and it probably won’t post it and go viral.

Gil: So like, I’d rather put in amenities that actually stick with my avatar. Um, so I, I never considered putting a mural in there. Hey, 

Michael: can you talk about that? Actually, how important, cause that’s a really great point. And actually, I think that’s kind of gets lost in when people are thinking about, you know, even before they’re buying a property, like as they’re coming, coming into this journey, like how, when they buy that first property and then How important is to like know your avatar?

Michael: And I think, I feel like you, you’re like really good at this. So, 

Gil: um, I would say in the buying phase, your avatar is not that important. I think the more important parts are like, does the numbers figure out, does the numbers actually like math up? Um, it’s when you go into like the designing and the marketing phase where the avatar really is really important.

Gil: Like you want to make sure that you’re choosing furniture that fits in with one, the aesthetics of what people want, but also the functionality, like do they want big comfy couches to sit on or do they need a sleeper sofa? Because there might be extended stays from other family members. Like, so I think the avatar is definitely important during the design phase.

Gil: And definitely important when you’re building out your website, doing your marketing, uh, doing your listing photos, any of that stuff is like, that’s really important. But when you’re buying, it’s really about like, are you getting in a cash on cash return? Is there the ROI there? Does it pencil out? Um, that’s like the most important part.

Michael: The art, the number is definitely super important in, uh, in the initial phase. Is what I was mentioning, or at least the way I think about it, when we’re buying the property, like this property that we’re buying in upstate New York, when we think of avatars, like actually for me, it was more of families or am I looking for like two families where they’re going to come together and enjoy the mountains and the kind of the natural amenities around where they are versus.

Michael: Um, an area where it’s much more known for like gatherings, like not partings, you know, kind of like a lot of single people from New York city to come up and hang out. And I was like, I don’t really want to, the numbers kind of shook out, but like, I really didn’t want to deal with those kinds of. That, that client avatar, just given what I know, you know, kind of the, the second order impacts of that.

Michael: But that, but that’s what I meant, but you’re absolutely right though. The design phase, which we’re in now is super important on like, what exactly, what exactly that you want to, you know, how you want to show the property, the amenities are going to be really important. And then, you know, kind of onto our next point, um, you know, the marketing part, right?

Michael: Like how do you write the copy? How do you, you know, when you’re building a direct website? So, you know, like, I mean, in short term, in short term in Atlanta, you. You mentioned this earlier in the beginning, it is like Airbnb, Verbo, you know, slash Expedia, Google travels. Like, you know, there’s some real big aggregators there that, um, really control distribution and what we mean by that is the, the first thing people do is when they want to go.

Michael: You know, stay at a short term rental is they go on Airbnb, right? Like, just like if you want to buy something, you’re probably gonna go on Amazon or walmart. com, right? If you’re in the U S like you’re probably gonna go on Airbnb or Furbo if you, you know, so those are always kind of the first, there’s always the first choices, right?

Michael: And so they really get all those first eyeballs. You have to be on those platforms. So let’s hit on that first. Like,

Michael: do you, how important from your perspective, like how important are the Are, are these, are these aggregators and like, what’s the best, what are some like tips that you can give on, you know, show up on page one and performing really well on, on Airbnb, for example. 

Gil: Yeah. So I think like the first and foremost, like a lot of the industry would not be where it is today without these aggregators or marketplaces, however you want it, or these platforms, basically.

Gil: If you wanted to get into short term rentals and Airbnb didn’t exist, you would have. It would take you a long while to drum up enough eyeballs onto your website to be able to sustain your mortgage and whatnot. So like. I think it’s super smart. And like every host should be on those platforms and heavily invest into those platforms for the first one to two years.

Gil: Um, if not, maybe even more, but like that for first two years, you’re really, you’re trying to one, you’re trying to make, make sure you get a mortgage and you’re hitting your targets, but you’re also using that as your marketing mechanisms. So you’re collecting emails with every, every guest that stay with, stay with you.

Gil: You’re starting to find out where your guests are coming from. Um, and you’re using, you can use all that information. So come year two, you’re starting to build out your direct booking engine. And the main reason like I got started in direct bookings in the first place was I have a lot of anxiety of having all my eggs into one basket.

Gil: If, for whatever reason, if they don’t delist me, but they bought me from page one, two to like page 12, there’s a good chance that like you won’t hit your revenue targets and just having all that control on their side and me not having the ability to influence that gives me a lot of, a lot of fear. Um, whereas like in direct bookings, if you need to fill the slots, you can send out email campaigns.

Gil: You can run advertising. Like if there’s a particular week that you’re trying to fill, you can advertise specifically for that week without having to drop your prices. So you have a lot more control on the direct booking side, but if you’re launching your first Airbnb or your first short term rental, Airbnb, VRBO, booking.

Gil: com, like those are all really good platforms to help you really. Um, Like stretch out that first year and really get that, those traction there. But as you progress into your journey, especially as your portfolio grows, you definitely want to start to diversify your mix. And even if you don’t direct diversify to direct, definitely diversify between the different OTAs as well, too.

Michael: Yeah, that’s a great point. You know, I think the first year really, at least for me, I did kind of think more broadly that for your first year, you got to get, you know, get your master’s degree on all the OTAs, right? Like Airbnb, you start, but that’s like a month, like get that up and running, get your three reviews so you can get your score.

Michael: And now, you know, they’ve kind of changed it around a little bit to it. We’re super hosts and guest favorites and you know, they’re, they’re really trying to differentiate the product on platform. So that’s something that is, uh, we’ll be here. I’m curious to see how that evolves, but then getting on book, you know, depending on the market, getting on VRBO, getting on booking.

Michael: com, getting on Expedia, getting on Marriott, getting on Google travels, there’s like a long tail of distribution that, you know, I think for us now, like when we first started and Airbnb was like 90 plus percent of the business now we’re like 60. 60 ish. Um, the other ones make up 35 direct bookings, like candidly or like 5%.

Michael: Um, I think, and, and, and, and, you know, this is kind of where I want to go. I would like to get that, like, what is a reasonable, like any, for most of you are like, what is a reasonable number to get to, if you have, so you own, you know, you own three or four properties. Like what’s a reasonable number to get at?

Michael: What should be, what should be a reasonable target? 

Gil: I think like over the span of like three or four years, you want to get to that, that 60%, 50, 60%. Um, at that point, yeah, because you’ve at that point, you’ve now collected emails from hundreds if not thousands of guests. So it’s not just the guests and like I use state fire.

Gil: So like a lot of people talk about state fire. The good thing about that is you’re not just collecting emails from the person that stayed with you. Okay. Or the person that booked with you, but also the 10 other people that might be staying there as well too. Um, so you have a much broader audience that you can start to market towards.

Gil: So at the end of even one year, you can have thousands of emails coming from just a single property that you can start to market towards. So if you start to extrapolate that towards like many years, you can, You have a lot more ability to market to a wider audience and be able to directly book with them over a period of time.

Gil: And it takes a long time to get there. Like most folks, they’ll try direct bookings and after like four or five months, they don’t start to see the traction. Then they start to give up. It’s something that you have to nurture for a longer period of time. And I find that folks that do spend the time and the efforts and they continually monitor as much as they monitor their Airbnbs, um, Um, they’re listening on Airbnb.

Gil: Like those are the ones that can get to get to that rate. Um, but it does take effort. Um, and I think like some properties can get there easier than others. So like for instance, in our, our Smokies place, a lot of folks that visit Smokies are our annual visitors, people that go in there year after year, or maybe they’ll skip a year, but very likely they’ll come back again.

Gil: And if you have, if you’re in a, that type of market, you’re more likely to get repeat bookings. On top of that, um, they, if you have a larger portfolio where they’re able to get the same experience that they got with you the first time, but they’re able to experience a different cabin of yours that starts to up your, your, your, your conversion rate as well, too.

Gil: So there’s a different combination of different things, but definitely like. If you’re in markets where you have multiple properties, it’s an annual visitorship. Like those are, those are folks that really perform really well in drip booking. The other, the other side of it is like, if you have a unique stay, if you have something, if you have a nice a frame or you have properties that just shine itself and people like to send traffic towards that, those are ones that.

Gil: You actually don’t even need three years to get to that point. Like you can actually get a good amount of direct bookings in a very short timeframe because a lot of folks are sending traffic back to your drive booking site. 

Michael: So let me ask you, so that’s okay. That’s great. And I think a lot, you know, okay.

Michael: You know, me as an investor, I think a lot of people would love to be 50 percent direct, right? There’s a lot of benefit. There are a lot of benefits direct, right? Like to, you know, you hit on a lot of them, direct marketing, you can avoid the. You know, platform risks of they delist, you know, they, you write something bad on social media and then your account gets banned, you know, that’s something recent that’s happened with some people and you just have a lot more control over that distribution.

Michael: Now, I think there are some downsides to that too, um, that aren’t kind of sad, right? Like you gotta keep, you gotta build the same tool in yourself. You gotta build all the marketing. And also you don’t get the protection of. Airbnb, right? Y yes and no. You don’t get the, you, you know, you get, you, you, you have to do your own payments.

Michael: Yep. There’s some chargeback risks. Yep. You have to, if you know there’s a liability part there that you’ll have to manage, you know, you can find third parties to manage that risk for you too. But, you know, damage, uh, from a liability property perspective, liability perspective, um, you don’t have, there isn’t a review system where you can kind of qual, you can qual, you can quality control your guests as well.

Michael: Yeah. So I think there are, there, there definitely are. Protections built in to Airbnb that are very valuable is for my perspective, very, very valuable. Now, is it worth 20%? Is it worth giving up a bunch of strategic autonomy? Like, no. Right. But I think it’s, I think it’s, it’s an important consideration. At least for me, as I think about, um, distribution and, and, and risk management to be candid too, because I mean, slip and fall or, you know, you, you get a bad guess, like you.

Michael: You don’t really want that. That’s a, that’s a world you don’t want to kind of stand alone. Like having Airbnb air cover program is a pretty nice kind of fallback tool. And, and, and again, and also like, you’re not the merchant of record to there. Uh, they are. And yeah, so I think there, there’s a number, there’s a number of facets there, but I definitely agree.

Michael: Like, for me, that’s like one of the biggest things that we’re focused on is like. Doing better on the direct booking site. So for us, we use HostAway and we definitely, we use the, uh, the, the PMS, um, direct booking site, which is really just a landing. It’s not a really a direct booking site. It’s really a landing, a glorified landing page.

Michael: Um, maybe on that, like, let’s talk about that. Like what, you know, what craft the stage or just with a different solution, you know, you know, other people like Boostly is a big into space too. They have their own direct marketing site, but let’s talk, let’s just talk Kind of the PMS direct booking site versus a more bespoke solution, a more unique solution, a more crafted solution.

Michael: Um, maybe let’s start there first and then we can talk about you versus crafted stays versus like the competition, your, your, your, your competition. 

Gil: Yeah. I would say like we partner pretty well with the different PMSs. So crafted stays is partnered with owner as we are partnered with hospitable host away.

Gil: And we’re looking at a few more as well, too, probably in the next. Six weeks. Um, but they know that they’re directly inside. the search in category of folks and for folks that want something a bit more mature. They are more than happy to kind of redirect them towards us. So like, honestly, like if you’re just getting started and you need a direct booking site, like, like just like you, like the PMS site is actually good enough.

Gil: Um, if you’re looking for just somewhere for someone who’s like, hey, Can I book with you directly again, like just send them the link and that’s, that works really well. Um, but if you’re starting to send email marketing campaigns, if you’re starting to do social, you’re starting to do a lot more marketing towards it.

Gil: Then you want that brand consistency. You want it to look a little bit more polished. You may want to have different amenities and different like showcase different things on your website. For instance, like we have a lot of hosts that are co hosts as well too. So they actually have dedicated pages built on to our craft essays.

Gil: And this is like one of the big requests that we had is like, Hey, go like, we love your templates. It looks really good, but like, I want to be able to advertise my co hosting services, or I want to be able to showcase things to do in my area. So I, I show better in search results. So like those types of things.

Gil: Um, you just don’t get from the property management websites. And that’s, that’s not their, that’s not their focus. The PMS is really there to help you scale. Your operations is there to help you automate a whole bunch of things. And a lot of them invest into the direct booking sites because they want a low barrier to entry folks thing for folks to be able to.

Gil: To like be able to rebook, but they’re not spending, you mean probably like 10, 20, 30 percent of their resources towards that feature set. They rather spend it on AI automation for messaging. It’s been a big one that I’ve seen. Yeah, 

Michael: for sure. For sure. 

Gil: Yeah. I am for sure. Go ahead. No, and there’s some differences, like some, some like hospitable actually spends a decent amount of effort on, on, um, the direct bookings as well too.

Gil: So it kind of varies between the different PMSs, but mostly the PMSs, they focus more on automations and the direct booking side of it. They do a fairly good job for something that’s just out of the box, but if you want something a little bit more, you’re doing a lot more traffic driving, then you want something a bit more polished.

Michael: I agree. Okay. I a hundred percent agree. It’s great for, for us. It’s great because. The people that have come to us that want, yeah, exactly. That message judge sent us an email afterwards. Say, Hey, love it. Like, how do I book next time without paying the OTA fees, without paying 20 percent of the Airbnb and we’re like, here’s the website.

Michael: Cause cause there, it’s like, you already kind of built it. You’re not really marketing anymore. It’s actually just a booking. It’s actually just really like a scheduling site. It’s a checkout. They like 

Gil: check out. Yeah. It’s a checkout. 

Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Like I know you, I’ve been there. Like, I know this isn’t scammy.

Michael: Like, I just don’t, I just don’t want to, I just want to book direct and I can save some money and for us it’s great to do that. We don’t have to have someone to go and check all the calendars and do all that fun stuff. But then like, you know, there’s a next step, right? To your point. Like when you are.

Michael: Marketing to people that aren’t that ready to buy it. They need some more convincing. They need some more marketing. So maybe talk about, so like, why, how, how do your templates or like, how do you think about, how does a website help convert people that aren’t just looking to buy it? Make that purchase, but need a little more convincing.

Michael: Like, do you, do you know what I mean? Like, how does that help? Like, how does that help me to do that? Accomplish that goal? 

Gil: Yeah. So I think of it as like the, the, the user journey or the story that, that, that folks go through, like they’re landing on your site. If, if for instance, you run an ad and you’re driving them towards it and you’re driving them to a, like a PMS site that is, doesn’t have a whole lot of content, doesn’t tell you about your story, why you got started and gives you that connection there.

Gil: It’s really hard for that person to convert. But what we try to do is on like on our templates, we try to guide the user through who they are, how they resonate with, with us. So for instance, like on my direct booking site, like I make it very clear that we’re specifically for families. All three of our cabins are family friendly stays and.

Gil: On multiple parts of a website. We try to make that very, very clear. And we have dedicated sections of our website that kind of clearly lays that out so that it helps connect with our avatars much better. Um, down the road that we, we want to actually do a lot more. We want to be able to do more advertising email collection on the websites itself.

Gil: It’s like, I think for us at craft, it’s like, Um, the website is just like one part of what the, the longterm journey for us is it’s really, how do we bring the tools and, um, how do we bring the tools to short term rental hosts to be really successful in direct bookings? Uh, and maybe, maybe, maybe emails down the road, maybe, maybe welcome guides, whatever it may be, but we’re thinking about the whole entire journey of how someone finds you for the first time.

Gil: Yeah. Yeah. How they may find you again and really provide them with the tools. And we might not do it all alone. Like we, we definitely won’t do it all alone. We’re trying to find like the best partners to, to work with the folks that do things really, really well. Like, like stay five is a really good, really good friend of ours.

Gil: Like they, they do email collection better than anyone else. It’s like, can we partner with, with partners like those and bring the tools together so that people don’t have to learn everything from scratch? 

Michael: How do you, how do you think about like for, for safe, how, for example, a, You know, I’ve seen people out there kind of, you know, they’ll put a QR code next to the Wi Fi and say, Hey, if you want the, you know, QR code scan here, and then like, you know, there’s a pop up that says, you know, please provide, you know, give us your email.

Michael: We can send you something cool or something like that. Yeah. Like, how do you think about that versus, I’m just trying to think about like, you know, folks that are. I don’t want to have more hardware, like more costs, like, what’d you think? Like those solutions are fine. Or like just go with battle tested solution.

Michael: And like, instead of trying to Jerry rig a bunch of stuff together, 

Gil: I mean, at the very end of the day, what you’re trying to solve is like, can you collect emails from as many folks are possible that are likely to book with you again? Um, or likely to book you for the first, for the first time. So if there’s a QR code and that’s how they get their wifi passwords, uh, or the wifi password and that works and you get a pretty solid rate of maybe there’s 10 guests that can stay at your property.

Gil: And on average, you’re getting eight, eight email entries or seven email entries, even five. Like that’s not a bad rate and you didn’t have to invest into a monthly service. You didn’t have to do, um, you didn’t have to do any of that stuff. Like that’s, that sounds pretty solid to me. Um, but if you’re, if you’re looking to like get to that a hundred percent and, and like the other alternative is like you collecting one email, then like, yeah, go with stay by that.

Gil: Like, so it really depends on like, are you, 

Michael: are you, are you getting a hundred percent? Are you getting a hundred percent? 

Gil: Yeah. 

Michael: What are you getting? 

Gil: Pretty close. Pretty close. Yeah. I mean, our cabins are in the Smokies, so there’s no sales. Like a lot of our cabins don’t have great self service. So if you want to use the internet, you’re going to be using our wifi.

Gil: The only way to use our wifi is to go through Staphy. So like, yeah, we’re getting a hundred percent. Um, and we, and, and Staphy does good at like. Take out the under 18 and so on. And to do email validation for us, which I’m sure like, if you couple something together, like you can do some of those things.

Gil: Like you can have a checkbox that ignores under 18 and so on, but for us, like it just works, um, 

Michael: yeah. It’s, it’s more about, yeah, 

Gil: I mean, it’s, it’s more about like, what’s works like in our industry. I, what I love about it is like, we’re all trying different things. We’re all trying to see what sticks, what really resonates.

Gil: Um, and what are the tactics that we want to keep on trying to go over and over again? So like, if you’re rolling something out. You can put Staphy in one of your cabins and you can try a QR code on one of the other ones and, and see which one works better than the other. And if it’s worth continuing to roll out Staphy and all the other ones, um, but yeah, like just try it out and see if it’s worth what you’re putting into it.

Michael: So to get to, to get, to get the 50%, right. Okay. So there’s some, there’s some, there’s some steps that you have to get to. You, you need a, you need a proper website. Right. So the PMS website probably isn’t the right solution. You know, we need a solution like crafted stage or something similar. You need a way to collect more emails than just the booker.

Michael: Right. So stay fire, a different solution. What other pieces of a puzzle that you need to email? What other pieces do you need? 

Gil: Email some way to send out emails and remind them. Uh, and the thing that I learned probably more recently is that. Email does good. If you add on SMS to send them a reminder that does that amplifies it quite a bit.

Gil: Like the conversion rate can, can multiply by just sending them a text reminder saying I left, I sent you an email a couple of days ago with the coupon code, there’s a few more days left at now or something along those, like along that, like that amplifies your conversion quite a bit. Uh, and I’m just now learning about some of these tactics.

Gil: We started a podcast because. I have to say is because we found out like a lot of hosts with our tools can build a really good looking website, but to actually market and figure out the best way to market, there’s not a whole lot of resources out there. So we try every week to bring on a new guest that has their own niche, that has their own way of doing things and trying to just educate folks on how to be more better effective marketers.

Gil: Um, and that’s one of the things I learned on the show. 

Michael: No, that’s a, that’s a great. And I need to start, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll definitely look that up too. Cause I, we definitely it’s, that’s a hole in our strategic planning that we need to button up is getting that direct booking stuff up, uh, direct booking percentage up on the marketing side though.

Michael: Right. Like maybe, you know, as you’ve had some of your guests on the show and just from your experience, like, I think that’s a hard part for a lot of people. At least, you know, and I’ll speak for myself personally. You know, you’re getting, you know, the organic emails are free, you know, free ish, right? Like you need to pay for an email marketing solution, state file, whatever it is.

Michael: Um, and then you pay for someone or you can write your own emails. Um, but those are the people that have only stayed at your property, right? You’re not touching anyone else. That’s never been there. Facebook ads are expensive. They’re really expensive. Like, how do you, like, what are ways that you found that, you know, get good ROI to, to.

Michael: Get more people onto your site. 

Gil: Yeah. So it depends. Um, again, like what I like about it, like is what I like about like our industry is that everybody’s properties, everybody’s portfolio looks a little bit different. And we found that like we had one guest come on that has a property in a non typical vacation market.

Gil: And they get a significant amount of direct bookings. I think they’re in like the forties percents and they get a lot from folks that travel there for fishing. Um, so they work with the local, the local fishing companies to send leads back and forth. And those folks, once you go fishing one year, they start to come back over and over and over again.

Gil: So what they’ll do is they’ll go on the Facebook groups in particular for that area. And anytime someone’s asking, like, where can I stay or what do you recommend for this area? They’re able to inject themselves into that conversation. And because of that, they’re able to like get a significant portion of their direct bookings in a very short time frame.

Gil: So it really depends on what your, what your makeup is for something like for our cabins in the Smokies. It’s a lot harder because Whenever someone asks, is there a great place to stay in Smokies? Like there’s a dozen different messages that come in. It’s hard to bleed through that noise. Um, so we have to use other, like other campaigns to, to try to, to try to win those, those, those guests over.

Michael: Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and some people may not get to 65. 

Gil: There is, there is like in some places you may not get to that 60%, but if you think back, like before Airbnb came around, there were only direct booking sites. Made by the big property management companies and a hundred percent of the bookings were direct.

Gil: Yeah. So we just, we just live in a different day now. 

Michael: Yeah. I mean, you know, lived in day before for Airbnb, right. Um, it’s no, but like, I mean, like, I mean, if I can get to 20, if I get 20 by 12 months from now, I’ll be happy. So I think that’s, I appreciate, yeah, no, I, I, well, I’d love to talk to you more about that.

Michael: I’d love to, Uh, implement, you know, the Klaviyo’s has helped already, you know, just getting, getting, uh, getting a, a place where there can be an email, there can be a communication sequence, post check, post checkout, like that already is really, really helpful. Now, how do I, you know, how do you continue to build on that?

Michael: And I think for anyone that’s listening right now, that you have your own, either you have your own properties or maybe you’re not doing as well on Airbnb as you were, you know, a year before, or if you’re, if you’re new to the industry and you’re. Worried about that Airbnb concentration risks, right? I think, I hope that one, we all fear that risk, but it is kind of just the, the, it’s just the industry, the way it is.

Michael: And it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s actually helpful because you’re going to get a lot of eyeballs for, you know, free quote unquote, without having to do a whole ton of work. And it really is that next 12 months, 24 months, as you. Become an expert on the OTAs and then think about like, what’s the next step.

Michael: And then, um, you know, crafted stays is a great, it’s a solution that I’m definitely going to explore. Um, so Gil, what is, uh, you know, for folks that are interested at, you know, have their already have their booking, you know, have a PMS website or have their own properties, what’s the best way to learn more about craft just days.

Gil: You can definitely visit our website, craft just days. co co, Um, we also have a guide on our website. So if you visit the website, um, you can download, I’ll leave you with the link of the guidebook, but in the guidebook, we kind of walk folks that are just getting started in direct bookings. It’s like, you would be a great one to kind of read through that guide, but it talks about like, what’s the first few stages of like building out your brand.

Gil: Building out your website and how do you market towards that? And then towards the end of, um, that guide, we have like 42 tips on how to drive more traffic. 42 . Yeah. I don’t know why we came up. I don’t know how we came up with the number, but like we basically, we’ve interviewed. So many hosts through our podcasts that we started adding more and more tips from each one of those podcasts into, into that ebook.

Gil: So there might be a 20, there might be like a 20, 25, 25 version next time with how we’re doing anymore. But like that, that has helped a lot of folks on like just getting started. Um, uh, then there’s a bunch of tips, like if you’re ever running ads. Run value added ads. Like if you drive them towards a website and they’re not very likely, if you’re running ads, you’re, they’re not ready to book at that time.

Gil: But if they’re thinking about visiting the Smokies and you have content about things to do in the Smokies and you’re collecting their emails, then you’re, you have a, a warm lead that you’re able to drive. More interest into that is similar to someone that has stayed with you in the past. So there’s a lot of different tactics and how to think about it, but you kind of have to do put on that marketing hat.

Gil: Um, but like you said, like that first year, it’s really about getting your master’s degree and operating a short term rental. And then you start to explore, how do I juice my revenues a bit more? How do I make it more sustainable? How do I like, like de risk the business risk? Yeah. Um, of my, of my short term rental, my business, um, by investing into some of these things.

Gil: Um, it’s definitely not one of the things like, Oh, you just launched your short term rental. And yeah, like that you’re, you’re consuming so many things like, and even the marketing side, like just start small, start with something that you think is, um, that you can do on a consistent basis. And try to refine that, try to learn that over time.

Gil: So it could be collecting emails, it could be sending out emails, it could be social, whatever it is, but don’t try to like peanut butter and try to do it all, try to get really good at one thing and learn what works because it’s that feedback loop that helps you get to that higher percentage. 

Michael: Love it.

Michael: All right. It was awful. We will have, I’ll put in the show notes, um, a link to, uh, the Crafterstates website and definitely like, I’m going to be, after I get off the podcast, podcast with Gil, I’m going to go and download it and read it myself. So. Uh, I’m sure it’s a great resource and, you know, with, with your podcast as well, to, to listen to other guests and other, other hosts.

Michael: I think that’s really important to, if you’re thinking about the industry, just listen to people that are already doing it, you know, I think one, it demystifies it, it makes the barrier to entry lower, like these are all real people, we’re all trying to figure it out. The industry is still young enough where like.

Michael: Unique solutions can work, uh, and probably do work and, you know, don’t be afraid to get started like it’s not too late, there’s plenty of room for creativity, uh, and entrepreneurship. Um, Gil, congratulations on launching Crafted Stays on your three short term rentals, uh, and, you know, helping us. De risk the, this business, it is a big risk, actually the platform risk.

Michael: So, you know, de risking that, uh, you know, I think it’s a, it’s a very, very worthwhile endeavor and, uh, you know, appreciate you coming on the show today. 

Gil: Thanks for having me on the show.

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