Marketing and Promotion

In this article I am going to go over some of the ways that you can capitalize on your own website.  

Increasing Profits & Offering Savings!

With your own website the first thing to consider that your guests won't be paying the big red tax.  Airbnb charges guest 15.5% as of May 2024.  That can really add up over the months.  In a year if you average nightly rate is around $300 that could be almost $12,000 that Airbnb is charging your guests.

The reason I bring this up is that there are a few things you can do.  Mainly you can "lower" your price by not adding on the 15.5% or you can increase your profitability, or some combination of the two.  

Scott (Bookly's head software engineer) has a few short term rental properties, and he plans to only use his direct booking website for past guests.  So, he could offer past guests a 10% savings while still making 5.5% more.  

Set Savings & Discounts/Coupon Codes

That model above of using your website primarily for past guests is an easy and effective model.  You can schedule a message on Airbnb to go out a little while after your guest checks out thanking them for their stay and include the offer to save 10% on future stays. 

In terms of how you offer the discounted savings that can be done via 2 primary methods.  First you can simply have your price set so that it is cheaper than your price on Airbnb or VRBO after you consider their fees.  (As a side note PriceLabs has a great tool that allows you to have different pricing depending on the platform.)  Alternatively, you can use discount/coupon codes that customers need to enter at checkout to apply the savings.  

The first option allows all the enter your site to save, while discount or coupon codes can allow you to over variable discounts to different people depending on whom you share the codes with. 

Acquiring New Customers

So how can you leverage your increased profitability?  With direct marketing you can start gaining new customers.  Customers that may have never even found your property if you were only on a marketplace.  This is where things get really fun! 

A little backstory:

When we launched Scenic Orchard we had just come off of a roller coaster of business experience.  Our primary business of selling products on Amazon go torpedoed when they would only stock essential goods.  Then we pivoted to making face shields, which Amazon wouldn't accept either as they were deemed potentially fraudulent. 

So, we built our own website and started direct marketing.  This is when I realized the power that you gain by having full control of your business.  Is short order we were selling $10,000 a day.  We had some advertising campaigns that were getting us a 38X return.  For every dollar we were spending we were getting $38 back.   

With that knowledge, when we launched Scenic Orchard we ran direct ads for the first few months.  That is how were go over $85,000 worth of bookings scheduled within the first 4 1/2 months.  We spend a little over $8,000 in ads to do so.  It wasn't idea because at that point we didn't have a direct booking website so unlike our face shield venture we weren't able to optimize the ads.  

How do you optimize the ads?

This is actual pretty simple.  If you have your own website that is.  With your own website you can place/allow Facebook/Meta/Google tracking pixels. You may run into problems if you are operating your direct bookign website through your property management software (PMS) as these often use sub-domains which you won't have access to.

In general, when you setup pixels you have to go through the checkout process and tell facebook what each button is.   The Bookly widget actually has these pixels set up, so you only need to connect your ads account.  

What these pixels allow in a broad sense is for your advertising platform to learn.  This is where the real magic happens.  When you first start an ad campaign it is going to be pretty broad, and your return is going to be pretty low.  That's okay though because you are just paying to gain data.  

This is basically throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks.  With the pixels enabled Facebook/Meta will send over a bunch of customers and then it will see which ones turn into paying customers. 

After enough time and data is gathers then they will be able to figure out commonalities that all of your paying customers have.  From here you can create a "look a like" campaign which will target customers that fit this common customer.

Now this is when you will start to get higher returns.  I wouldn't expect the 38x return that we got with the face shields, but wouldn't it be nice if you could have campaigns running that were generating you 7x, 8x, even 12x?  

In Summary

By having your own direct booking website, you can cut out the high fees that marketplaces such as Airbnb, VRBO, and are charging.  With them out of the way you can increase your profits, offer discounts to your guests, and even start marketing to new customers.  Make sure to setup tracking pixels (although you may not be able to if your direct booking site is through your PMS (property management software)).  We these pixels setup you can start a general ads campaign to gain data and then with that create a look-alike campaign that targets people that match your paying customers (this is a simple press of a button). Now you can start gaining new customers! 

Certainly, there is more that can be optimized so let's tackle that in the next one! 

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