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Archive for March, 2013

How to spend less than 30 minutes per day on social media [INFORGRAPHIC]

Social media for vacation rental in 30 minutes a dayA crush course to social media

Whether we want it or not but social media takes more presence in our personal and business lives. How to get it under control and use more effectively?

Our friends at Pardot put together an awesome infographic to help you determine which tasks are most important, and how much time you should ideally be dedicating to each of your social channels. Your strategy will likely differ (and should!) slightly from the infographic below, but the import thing is to identify your key channels, plan for a set number of tasks, and allot yourself a set period of time and stick to it!

Let’s have a look:

Rock Social Media in 30 Minutes a Day [INFOGRAPHIC] - Pardot Infographic

Embedded from the Pardot Blog

What is your strategy in social media? What social channel works better for your business?

2 simple ways to update your vacation rental calendar

Vacation rental availability calendar reservation blocking

Don’t Wait to Update Your Vacation Rental Calendar: Time Blocking and Reservations

Like many of my neighbors and fellow owners in Hawaii and Lake Tahoe, I love surfing, skiing and snowboarding, so why would I own property anywhere else?  It comes as no surprise that, like me, most vacation rental owners buy homes in the places they like to visit themselves.  And they visit a lot.

During my first year of owning a pad in Maui Kamaole, Hawaii, I visited 5 times. I stored my two surfboards in the closet, bought an annual pass on ATA airlines and eventually realized the importance of manually updating my vacation rental calendar.

In my previous post I talked about a very simple way to setup automatic calendar synchronization, once and forever. Here we discuss how to update your calendar manually.

At Rentini we have two options for updating calendar:

1)   Create a blocking – an easy one step process

2)   Create a reservation  –  a two step process which requires you to record payment.

There are multiple ways to add a reservation or time block to your calendar. The most intuitive would be by following navigation tabs:

  • Rentals >> Blocking >> Add Blocking
  • Rentals >> Reservations  >> Add Reservation

Another way of adding a time block or reservation would be by opening the monthly calendar page from the Dashboard or on Edit Listing page.

Select a month and roll your mouse over any date until an Update button appears. Click on the Update button or anywhere in that cell. A new window will pop-up, which will let you choose a type of action. Available options are:

  • Add Blocking
  • Add Reservation
  • Add Rate

We will discuss how to add different types of rates in future posts. For now, let’s just focus on blockings and reservations.

Time Blocking

Rule of thumb: Use blockings to mark dates unavailable.

To block, choose your start and end dates and hit the Update Calendar button. You can also put in a note for future reference, such as “My last minute getaway!!!” or “Uncle Sam promised it’s his last trip this year

The process is a bit more complicated with reservations as there are a few different scenarios worth considering.

IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that the dates on your calendar will not become unavailable until payment is submitted by the guest or the homeowner marks the reservation paid manually.

Reservation on Guest’s behalf: You are Expecting Payment

You may create a reservation on guest’s behalf and assign a custom rate to it (optional).  Let’s say someone calls you and says, “I would like to rent your place. How do I proceed from here?”

All you need is their name and email address.  Just open Rentals >> Reservations and click Add Reservation button. Select the Yes option for email notifications. This way your guests will receive an email invitation to pay the required amount as well as all future reminders. This is convenient, as you do not need to remember important dates to remind your guests about payment dues. The system sends out reminders automatically.

If you do not want them to receive automatic reminders,  just select the No option for email notifications.

Reservation on Friend’s Behalf

If a friend of yours wants to visit and you only want to charge them a cleaning fee, they may leave a check for the housekeeper or pay in advance.

To facilitate the pay in advance option, just click Add Reservation and enter $1 into the Custom Rate field (sorry, the system doesn’t allow to enter $0).  Select the Yes option for Email notifications and then hit Update Calendar. An email invitation will then be sent to your friend so he/she can pay online. Once they complete the payment process, the dates will be marked unavailable.

Reservation Payments

If a guest calls you and wants to submit a payment, you may accept credit card payments over the phone. However, it is important to note the recent PCI compliance standards, which do not allow keeping your guests’ card on file unencrypted.

Protecting cardholder data is also good for your business because PCI security prevents stolen customer data, and:

  • Prevents lawsuits
  • Saves you money

Rentini payment portal becomes handy when you need to accept payments and stay PCI compliant. We incorporate all the latest standards, which could also be another selling point for those guests who are concerned about Internet fraud and unauthorized credit card abuse. Working in IT data security for 13 years taught me to keep my hands away from sensitive information wherever possible. When a vacation rental guest offers me their credit card over the phone, I politely refuse to accept it. Accepting payment via a PCI compliant online system gives you the piece of mind that you won’t be liable for any data breach.

If you have any suggestion on how to make our reservation system better, please leave your feedback in comments!

Happy rentals!

6 Simple Reasons to Love Your Vacation Rental Website

Escapesolutions.rentini.com , A template based website created by Peggy Yelland for her 11 properties

Don’t Wait to Reap the Benefits of Your Vacation Rentals: Get your own website!

In the past we discussed the importance of a vacation rental website and were delighted to see how this topic struck a cord with our readers.

Drawing from my own experience managing vacation rentals for the last 9 years, here are 6 reasons why I have a vacation rental website:

1) Website name is unique

Your vacation rental website must have a unique domain name if you want to make an impeccable first impression.    You can’t rely on the random ID number assigned to your listings.  Just think about it — who would remember those six digits a month later?

Names like http://www.WaipouliBeach.com or http://www.HeavenlyCabin.com are memorable.  Numbers are not.

You may even want to take it a step further by printing business cards.  You never know where you will meet prospective renters! Some guys will even print them overnight.

2)   No competition

While I have befriended many of my fellow homeowners, I understand that those residing in neighboring locations compete with me for renters. Therefore, it is best not to give your potential guest a link to a vacation rental listings site with zillions of other choices. Instead, you want to lead them to a place where no other competition exists – your own vacation rental website. Once your client is on your website, it’s your job to convince them that your rental is the best and that they should proceed with booking immediately.

3)  A Call to Action with a Book Now Button

In online marketing, every page or message should have a Call To Action. But, now you may be wondering what a Call to Action even means.  In simple terms, it is a quickest way to make a sale.  For example, ‘Book Now.’  This will increase your conversion rate, a term that describes how many users buy vs how many users visited your website. You can also increase your conversion rate if the Call to Action is in the right place, of the right size and in the right color.

The ‘Book Now’ option is also something that world travelers are so used to. Airline websites have it, hotel websites have it, restaurants have it, even activity desks providers will give you an option to book a tour right away.  Somehow it’s not that common in the vacation rental industry. Influential bloggers like Matt Landau think that 2013 will change this for good. I hope so!

In my particular case I rent out short term rentals. I want my users to come to my website and rent my property. Then, I want them to have a great time during their vacation, visit my favorite restaurants and experience things that I love to do when I visit my rental.

4)  Stay in Control with Real-Time Calendar

First thing’s first — I don’t consider a vacation rental booked until I got money in my pocket. I hear a lot of whining from fellow homeowners after they’ve come across an unreliable customer. The guest promised to send a check but the check never arrived.

If you agree to keep your rental dates on hold for a week until a guest’s check arrives, you are giving up control of your own business while giving your potential customers the time to find a better deal.

Make your guests compete for your place.

For example, If I have three inquiries for the same time period, I never give the same quote. The first customer to inquire receives the lowest quote, the next one receives a higher rate and all others the highest rate possible. I tell everyone that dates could be booked anytime by anyone. When people are aware they may lose your deal, they tend to act faster. Often times the highest quote I give triggers the payment first. So it’s a double win. I get a booking faster and it’s sold for more.

5)  No limit on the most essential things:  Photos, Reviews, Calendar

I hate when someone limits my abilities in anything. 24 photos limit on my listing? Who came up with this magic number? What if I have a nice shot #25 from my best customer and I would like to upload it? Do I need to remove one of my nice looking photos? The magic of your own website is that you are in full control of everything. Not only can you upload numerous photos but you can add long activity descriptions on the guests’ toDo list. And all these things combined work well for converting your visitors into paid customers. Research shows that 30% of travelers make their booking decision based on photos and reviews. You as a homeowner should have full control over these marketing tools.

6)   Organic Google Search Traffic – Yours Forever!

This one is not very obvious at all. We advertise our vacation rental properties on zillions of different websites. We put our time, sweat and money into making it look better, while not always realizing that we are improving a vacation rental listing site and not our own. At some point, when we have to discontinue advertising service, all our previous efforts become wasted. Search engines, such as Google, Bing, Yahoo etc., work day and night crawling and analyzing the great content of the world web. Once your ad is shut down, it’s gone for Google. Put all your efforts into making great content on your own website and let Google discover and index it. This is a real asset that will stay with you as long as you want it to. Over time, it only becomes more valuable!

and of course, the social!

I almost missed out on one of the most important item – social engagement! It’s so big with latest changes in role of social signals in search algorithm. It will require a separate blog post. So stay tuned!

Do you have your own vacation rental website?  Let us know your success story!

In case you would like to create a vacation rental website, you can do it in 3 simple clicks at Rentini.  Here are some of the Rentini’s templates (remember it could be your own domain name or a subdomain of rentini.com) :

ModernLakeTahoe.rentini.com

WaipouliBeach.com

ItalyMountainCabin.com

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