Marketing Miscellaneous I’ve just come back from a great weekend where I was immersed in the podcasting world and can now proudly call myself a ‘geek’. At least that’s what the immigration officer at the airport seemed to think I was when I said I was going to a podcasting conference. I got that look. The one he probably reserves for anyone with a Comicon T-shirt and a full Star Trek outfit in a carry-on. Anyway, I have the Podcasters Paradise T-Shirt, a lot of new friends, and an increased passion for getting my message out via broadcasting. So, having spent the weekend with the most amazingly diverse group of people – over 600 of them, I thought I’d share a few things learned from the event, and the great people there. Bear in mind that I only came across one person who was a vacation rental owner – more about him later. Heard about #pm14 from @cottageguru. I think a #podcast for #vacationrental business could be the next big thing! The first and most striking thing was the reaction I got to my elevator pitch – the response to the question, “So what do you do?”, and my answer was: “I help vacation rental owners create successful businesses by sharing what I’ve learned from 15 years of renting out my own properties” – or a variation on that theme. This is what I got: “So you are an Airbnber?” “That’s Airbnb, right?” “We stayed in an Airbnb last week with our family” “My friends Airbnb’d last winter in Europe” Wow! I am not kidding here. There was almost no reference to Home Away, VRBO or Trip Advisor. This group of people – at least the ones I spoke to – were using a new vocabulary to describe a brand, in the same way as Google has become a verb, so Airbnb is being used as a synonym for vacation rentals. This was surprising at first but when I got thinking about it, I’ve been talking to more and more owners who are using the service, almost exclusively for marketing their properties. Joel Rasmussen, author of Vacation Rental Success (the book) who spoke to me in Episode 014 of Vacation Rental Success (the podcast) is an Airbnb host in Austin, Texas; Rex Brown of Holiday Rental Mastery achieves great occupancy for his Melbourne property by using Airbnb, and then there is Jasper Ribbers. When I interviewed Jasper, author of ‘Get Paid for Your Pad’, a few months ago, I was still naively thinking of Airbnb as a newcomer to the vacation rental scene, when in fact it is firmly established as a major player in the industry. This blinkered perspective came from immersion in the more traditional outlets for marketing vacation homes, and I don’t think I am alone in this. Jasper was also at the conference – and we had a short time together as he spreads the word about Airbnb through his book and podcast. So what else? Travel is woefully underserved by the podcasting medium. If you read my previous posts on the topic of podcasting, you will know I am getting a little evangelistic about it, and I make no apologies. After attending Jaime Tardy’s keynote address on The Future of Podcasting, I came away with the feeling we are so fortunate to be at the forefront of a podcasting revolution. The opportunities to spread the word about our locations, attractions and upcoming events, and regional information is enormous and I think we should be taking up the reins before the race gets more competitive. Just a couple of reasons for this: The podcast app which is currently downloadable to mobile devices will be included as a native app in the next generation of iOs and Android operating systems and new cars are being equipped with features that allow podcasts to be streamed directly. Broadcasts such as Walt Disney World Radio hosted by Lou Mongello are achieving massive results. Just check out his site and you can see how he has become the ‘expert’ on Disney via his podcast – which incidentally is now well over 300 episodes. If Lou can command this niche through podcasting, there is no reason why a vacation rental owner in St Josephs, Michigan, or Sedona, Arizona, or St Barths (hint to my friend Thibault Masson!), could not do the same. Let’s do this together I mentioned in last weeks podcast that I am looking for 4 – 5 really motivated people to join me this fall in a Vacation Rental Podcasters Group where we will work together to create our location specific podcast shows. I plan on launching the ‘Cottage Insider’ podcast (servicing my Ontario region) in January 2015 so that will be the target date for everyone. I’ll bring my experience of producing, launching and managing a show, but generally it will be a collaborative process where we all help each other with ideas for content, marketing and promotion. Are you interested? If so, email me and we can talk about it. As I said it will be a small group to start with, using Google Hangouts, Skype and a private Facebook group to communicate, and there will be a commitment to regular weekly meetings for accountability. A Vacation Rental Owners Event? I love conferences like the Podcast Movement. Hundreds of people all with one interest, spending a weekend totally immersed in learning, sharing and networking. I came away with so many actionable items; takeaways from the keynote addresses, the breakout presentations, panel discussions and just talking to other attendees on breaks, in the elevators, over a coffee or lunch. Home Away host seminars and I know these are well attended events; the Vacation Rental Managers Association has an annual conference and two shorter Eastern and Western events during the year; Antonio Bortolotti created the online Vacation Rental World Summit, which was a huge success, but I wonder if there is a demand for a big live event created for, and delivered by owners. What do you think? What if we could bring together all the big names in the vacation rental industry so you could meet with them face-to-face; have a variety of presentations on all the topics we love to hear about such as photography, staging, reservation systems, guest management, marketing, agency management, real estate….and so much more. Heck, I’d even do one on podcasting! Would you come? Would you spend the time and money on a trip to a live event? I know I would. Let’s see. If I could learn enough in one weekend to boost my occupancy by, say 5%; or learn how to make additional income out of my local expertise writing an ebook (see Lou Mongello’s site…again),or hear about ways to combat short term rental bans in our area, I think I would sign up in an instant. I may be way off base here so am just putting it out there to see if there would be interest. Let me know what you think in the comments below And in summary…. The major learning point from this conference was that there are so many people with the same pain points, with similar ideas but no idea how to put them into practice, and with such enthusiasm to create a higher standard of podcasting product. Heather having dinner with Cliff Ravenscraft, John Lee Dumas and other awesome podcasters. Most of us operate in a vacuum. We rarely get to talk to our peers and share ideas – in fact some are fearful of this in case our competitors steal them. From my experience, networking with other owners (and agency owners) in my area has increased my knowledge and assured me I am not alone in some of the issues I face with my owned properties and with those we manage on behalf of their owners.