Conference Travel Ahead: Q&A with Director of Fun, April Burns

ICND will soon be jet-setting for conference travel and we’re excited to say the least. In September we’re attending Streamline Summit and Rezfest, with VRMA International on the horizon in October. In preparation for September travel, we sat down with resident travel expert, April Burns. Come see us on the road!

On Conference Travel:

Q: What’s your favorite part about gearing up for conference travel? 

AB: It is an exciting time of the year when conference season approaches.  The energy in the office goes up as we work on new campaigns, swag and new products to showcase.

Q: What do you most enjoy while at the conferences?

AB: During a conference it is great to explore a new town and get to see the local sites, but in the end it is the opportunity to see current clients and meet new friends.  There is a core group of vendors that travel to these events and become your second family while you are on the road.  They are there to help in times of need and for a good laugh. We also have our usual attendees that come to each event.  Some of them may be your client, but some become friends that you get to see and catch up with each year.

Q: Tell us a bit about ICND’s conference theme for Fall travel.

AB:  Each season we love to come up with new theme and play off them for our swag and booth.  We have many VRM’s looking forward to our t-shirts every year and this year will not disappoint.  I think that might be all I can really say…but have you ever seen Better Call Saul(s)??

Q: What are your tips for keeping the conference energy in forward motion after returning to the office/daily routine?

AB: It is important for your team feel the energy when you return to the office. They enjoy hearing about the trip, the people and a little swag for them definitely helps!  I have also found that if you take time to make a list on your return trip it will help you stay focused and energized

There is a core group of vendors that travel to these events and become your second family while you are on the road.

-April Burns, Account Executive

On Streamline Summit:

Q: Is this your first Streamline Summit?

AB: This will be ICND’s second Streamline Summit and I have been fortunate to attend both of them.   

Q: What is unique about Streamline Summit?

AB: Streamline really rolls out the red carpet for their clients and vendors.  Each year they have a unique theme and provide great events.

Q: Tips for Scottsdale, AZ?

AB: I have never been to Scottsdale, AZ, so I am very excited to explore this town. I have heard so many positive things about Scottsdale.

On Rezfest:

Q: Is this your first Rezfest?

AB: No, this will be my 3rd time attending RezFest.

Q: What is unique about Rezfest?

AB: RezFest gives us the chance to connect with our current Homeaway clients, while meeting new people.  It also gives us the chance learn about the next exciting steps with Homeaway. RezFest offers a great conference experience while allowing time to really mingle with the attendees and getting to enjoy the area.

Q: Tips for Marco Island.

AB: Marco Island is a gorgeous beach town, so take time and get out to explore.  We get to travel to some gorgeous locations so make sure you take time to get outside and see what they have to offer.

Travel Tips from April:

Q: You’re an experienced traveler, how many countries have you been to?

AB: I have been fortunate to go to over 30 countries.

Q: What was your most recent trip?

AB: My most recent international trip was to Australia for RezFest Australia.

Q: Tell us your tips for the novice traveler.

AB: Great question!  I have a few key items that I always do when traveling internationally

Tip #1 –   I try to travel with a carry-on, as I have had my luggage delayed in the past, but when I do have to check my bag, it is important to place a card with your name, phone and where you are traveling to (including airline details) inside your checked luggage – baggage tags can be ripped off and this will give them the chance to locate you and reconnect you with your bag.

 Tip #2 – Make a copy of everything – may passport and travel itinerary, and keep it in a separate location, in the event I lost my documents.

Tip #3 – Be a good ambassador for your country – prepare for long flights, research the location you are going to ahead of time and pack your patience! A smile and a good southern hospitality go a long way!

Be on the look out for April when she hits the road for our September conference schedule. April wears many hats here at ICND, but she’s widely known among our crew as the Director of Fun. However, after reading her travel tips we may have to add another title, Director of Travel! We’re excited to see you on the road!

ICND & Key Data Partnership: Visualizing Vacation Rental Data

InterCoastal Net Designs is excited to officially announce our partnership with Key Data Dashboard. Key Data Dashboard’s products are a natural fit for our vacation rental client base. Their software integrates seamlessly with your Property Management Software to provide real-time insights focusing on the health of your business.

What Can You Expect from Utilizing Key Data?

Key Data Dashboard’s software provides three integral ways to plug into your metrics – performance, benchmark & pacing.

  1. Performance: visualize vacation rental data, instantly! Regarding performance, Key Data provides an instant look at your revenue sources and can get targeted insights per property. Additionally, the software provides a unique geo-targeted heatmap. See exactly where your guests are coming from!
  2. Benchmark:  Keep a pulse on your competition. Key Data’s benchmarking allows you to easily compare how your metrics stack up within your particular market. For instance, did you book more nights than your market competition?
  3. Pacing: Examine future performance as of today vs. last year’s performance as of the same date. Pacing allows you to visualize your revenue and insights in readily available charts.

Demand Data with ICND:

ICND & Key Data’s partnership provides a unique opportunity to enhance the product with Demand Data. ICND will provide Key Data with insight search analytics on a per client basis. We will be able to provide Key Data with unique data such as dates and amenities a guest searches for on the site. Previously Key Data did not have access to this information, however, the partnership with ICND provides a full look at your site’s data and analytics. This allows Key Data Dashboard to provide our clients with a comprehensive view of your site’s performance and how best to market towards your clientele.

What does this partnership mean for ICND Clients?

Key Data Dashboard’s products eliminate hours of reporting and analyzing your data. Our partnership with Key Data presents a very unique offer for our current clientele, making the adoption of their product suite a no-brainer.

Starting August 1, 2018 – all ICND clients can receive Key Data Dashboard for FREE lasting through July 31st, 2019. There’s no reason not to try this software that is sure to be an integral part of your business moving forward.

Contact us today to get started for FREE with Key Data Dashboard. You can also connect with your account representative directly or call 910-575-6095 and reference this offer.

We’re excited to partner with industry leaders and provide this unique opportunity for our client base, and look forward to this successful partnership with Key Data Dashboard.

 

What’s Next for GDPR and Your Website?

On May 25th the European Union officially implemented GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation.) The web design industry has been abuzz with this news for quite some time. At ICND we’ve put in the research and developed tactics necessary to assist our customers with this transition.

There are many moving parts to GDPR, but the three main points are listed below:

Users must consent to the processing of their personal data and companies must explain how data is collected and the intention for utilizing data.

Users have the right for their personal data to be deleted/forgotten.

If a website experiences a data breach, it must be reported within 72 hours.

We know GDPR can be confusing, but for our customers primarily operating and marketing within the United States, this is what GDPR means for you:

Updating Your Website Privacy Policy: We have created a new privacy policy that can be adopted by our customers. This revised privacy policy was specifically developed in response to GDPR, providing website users with more in-depth information on how their personal data may be collected and used.

Readily Available Contact & Data Controller Information: The updated privacy policy needs to include clear and concise contact information for website users. This will assist users wishing to request information your company has about them, correct any of that information or delete the information altogether.

Opt-Choice for Email Marketing: Upon completing a contact form on your website, users should have the ability to opt-in if they wish to receive further emails from your company.

 

Google Analytics Settings: Since personal data is one of the largest components of GDPR, you can choose the amount of time Google Analytics retains data prior to deleting the information. This will not affect standard analytics on your site. Google Analytics presents customers with the following time-frame options for retaining data: 14 months, 26 months, 38 months or 50 months. ICND Digital Marketing customers have already had this completed on their behalf. If you’re using your own Google Analytics platform, you were likely already prompted to decide on this time frame.

 

Please note that these suggestions are precautionary measures. While GDPR does not currently pertain to our customers only doing business in the United States, we feel these measures will keep your website current with industry standards.

Contact our team today to learn more about GDPR and get started on updating your website!

 

Afternoon Delight With April & David | AKA The Nameless Podcast

 

We are so excited to launch our very own podcast where we will be talking about everything from Marketing Strategy to Vacation Rental News and everything in between! Alright, we will have a little fun with it too and there might be the occasional joke or two. We pride ourselves on staying ahead of the curve in the Vacation Rental Industry not only when it comes to Website Design and Marketing but also how the industry functions, right down to the consumers. What better way to share than just plain talking about it.

Episode Numero Uno, Getting To Know April

On our first episode we have April Burns, one of ICND’s Account Executives and David Thompson, our Social Media Director talking about where the industry is going as a whole, what the biggest buzz topic is right now, and what April’s favorite drink is. We hope you enjoy our podcast and have a couple laughs while we bring light to some major vacation rental topics that effect us every day.

Things To Come…

This podcast is also going to show you who we are as a team and as people. We want everyone in our industry to know that we aren’t a bunch of web developers that don’t like sunlight… ok some of us are; but we are also people just like you and we face many of the same struggles that Vacation Rental Professionals face every day. And we want to come up with solutions that makes all of our jobs a little easier and a little more fun.

How Can You Get Involved?

  • Start following us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. We will be publishing episodes every month and would love your feedback and encouragement.
  • If you have suggestions for the show, don’t be afraid to send them in! With such a mix of people, we have a lot professional diversity which gives us a unique perspective. You never know, we might just solve a problem for you.
  • If you think it’s funny and informational, share it. We want to make our industry better and I think we can all agree from the latest #BookDirect campaign that we can make an impact if we do it together.

We hope you enjoy our podcast and our “crazy” team. We certainly enjoy what we do, and the industry we get to serve. Laugh a little and join us for a informational roller coaster.

Only Dead Fish Go with the Flow

Are You Swimming Into or Against the Current?

I left a marketing position for resorts in 2009 to join ICND where our focus was on vacation rentals. I quickly learned that the vacation rental industry was similar to the hotel industry, but growing quickly and up against some of the same hurdles as the hotel industry as well as many different challenges.  Similarly, the hotels had already gotten comfortable with putting their inventory on the OTA’s only to learn that the OTAs then wanted rate parody, didn’t give the guests information, and were squeezing profit margins with their high commission fees.  The hotels had to learn how to get guests to come back and book direct through direct marketing channels such as email and direct mail.  They already understood the power of an email address and how important it was to get a guest to come back and #bookdirect.  

Differently, the vacation rental industry faces a large amount of legislation from having most of their inventory amongst full-time homeowners who are complaining about vacationing guests being too noisy and disruptive in their neighborhoods and complexes.  For hotels, they already were zoned for rentals.  However, with the introduction of Airbnb into many of their neighborhoods and causing more competition, they are busy fighting against vacation rentals in metropolitan areas such as New York City.

By 2009, hotels had already gone through the era of major brand franchising and acquisition of mom and pop run hotels. Even the “mom and pop” brands had grown so big, managing multiple resort properties they had already performed much like a corporation.  Meanwhile most of the vacation rental industry had historically been owned and operated by “mom and pops” successfully.  ResortQuest was acquired in October 2010 and entered one of the major travel brands world-wide.

Air Bed & Breakfast

In August 2008, a company called Air Bed and Breakfast entered the marketplace, bringing new ideas and business model.  The idea of shared accommodations entered into the playing field.  While the vacation rental industry was known for renting the whole house, cabin, or condo, the idea of being about to rent a room or apartment short-term was now a possibility and added, not only awareness to vacation rentals, but also additional legislative battles we are facing today as an industry.  By the time Expedia announced they would purchase HomeAway in late 2015, HomeAway was already living in the shadow of Airbnb as one of the most highly valued privately held companies.

Today, Airbnb, Expedia, and Priceline (through Booking.com) continue to drive continued awareness (and traffic) to the vacation rental industry.  Still, most vacation rental companies continue to be owned and operated by sole proprietors in locations that are historically well-known for vacation rentals such as the Outer Banks, Gatlinburg, and Breckenridge.  As inventory in these areas doesn’t grow as much as the demand for vacation rentals allows vacation rental companies to increase rates, book more shoulder season stays, and increase their customer base.  

The original vacation rental companies that were founded 20, 30, and even 60 years ago were built on blood, sweat, and tears and often handed down leadership across generations. When we look back at the last two decades of the vacation rental industry, we realize we are in a time of big change with disruptions on many different levels of the business.

This disruption has led vacation rental company owners and managers to face many challenges like having to have a bigger presence in legislation and advocacy on a local, state, and federal level.  It’s made vacation rental companies have to compete not only on a local level, but against large brand sites across the search engines and other marketing mediums.  It’s caused changes in business models and using technology to streamline the company to perform as cost-effective and creative as possible.  It’s brought about mergers and acquisitions at a pace the industry has never seen before.  It’s caused increases in operational costs, marketing costs, and a decrease (many times) in commissions to manage properties.  Vacation rental managers feel like they are often squeezed by both ends.  But together, VRMs are doing amazing things against the rising tide.

The changes have also brought many positives, like a tremendous amount of awareness to the overall idea of vacationing in a house, cabin, condo, room that somebody else owns, as well as destinations that weren’t typical for vacation rentals.  It’s opened up the amount of inventory available to manage.  It’s help to show us that there is a huge amount of potential in delivering our message to millennials and they can, in fact, be very loyal to a brand.  Technology has allowed us to be more creative and cost effective with every facet of running a vacation rental company: management, operations, housekeeping, and marketing/communications.

But, in time with such attention to our industry, we are asking ourselves, how will we continue to compete?  How will you continue to strive?  With marketing, there seems to be two roads… distribution, or more direct bookings.  And even if you rely heavily on distribution, in the back of your mind, you know… you need more direct bookings.  It’s like the holy grail of vacation rentals, but also smart to maximize your exposure with bookings through distribution channels.

Here are the steps…

Step 1 is having a website that is easy to use, allows for you to market your properties, integrates with your software, and allows for you to communicate directly to guests.  A good website is built to be mobile friendly.  More than 50% of traffic, on average, comes from a mobile device and conversion rates are going up every year.  That means, a majority guests are still booking from a desktop, but more and more from mobile.

There are different tools out there like HotJar and Google Analytics that will tell you if your site converts well.  You should always be looking to improve your conversion rate.  Additional items that help you increase your conversion rate are quick user experience, offering search criteria that make it easy to find the right property, and offering all of the possibilities of linens, pet fees, add-ons, and travel insurance without having to call. In case you missed our last email, we gave you a checklist of items that help you convert more visitors into online bookings – Top 10 Marketing Power Moves.

Step 2 would be to make sure people can find your website in the search both organically (SEO) and through paying to cut through the clutter and be at the top through Pay-Per-Click (PPC).  It’s time to invest in your website and digital marketing.  What is your value proposition for search audiences that is going to make them book with you?  Do you have the largest inventory of vacation rentals in the area?  Do you offer a different guest experience?  Do you offer something for free?  You can always brag about the no traveler fees when you book on your site to help educate guests to come back and book with you direct.

Step 3 is to use social and email marketing to drive traffic to your website and to remarket to the visitors who have been on your website and haven’t converted.  Email addresses are essential to be collected from guests that have stayed with you before, no matter how they found you.  Emails should include: an offer, a reason to come (upcoming events or things to do), and call to action.

In conclusion!

Distribution is not out, but when you can market your properties on your own, these disruptions make a ripple rather than a wave.  Distribution can still be used for tougher to rent properties, or shoulder seasons.  Programs, like ICND’s Distribution partnership with MyBookingPal allows you to block out certain periods (like your peak periods) and only select those homes that need the boost to go out into the land of distribution.  That helps maximize your income from your top performing dates and properties.

To be honest, I’m excited about what I see in the industry trends: the amazing amount of growth, the influx of technology, and the amount of investment.  But we can’t just sit around waiting around to see what happens next, but make sure we are on top of our game. Don’t be a dead fish. We don’t have to go with the flow.  Even if the current feels strong, ICND is here to help.  Connect with us about your pain points and let us help you overcome your hurdles.  Our experience with building websites and marketing for a diverse portfolio of vacation rental companies across the world allows us to provide the expertise to help you succeed.

ICND Forms Distribution Partnership with Popular BookingPal

Yes, you read that correctly!! We are happy to announce that BookingPal, the world’s largest and most advanced vacation rental distribution platform, has signed an agreement with ICND to be our preferred partner for the distribution of rental listings!!

This is wonderful news for clients of InterCoastal Net Designs because it provides them total access to BookingPal’s extensive network of the biggest online travel websites that include Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, HomeAway, Priceline, VRBO, and other major sites.

ICND Forms Distribution Partnership with BookingPal

Seamless and Efficient Software

Clients of ICND will be able to create listings and connect property data seamlessly, eliminating all manual work. Setup is fast and BookingPal’s reservation and payment processing team is always available to ensure accuracy and support for all listings.

BookingPal provides property managers with the best tools available while furthering the vacation rental industry’s progress in technology. This will result in more direct online bookings, increased conversions and strengthened brand awareness giving property managers the ability to grow their business by capturing the additional market share they may not currently have.

What makes BookingPal worth getting excited about?

  • It’s the largest network of Vacation Rental and OTA Channels
  • Access to Revenue Optimization and Yield Management tools
  • Access to BookingPal’s content optimization specialists
  • Real-time listing quality feedback
  • Fully Automated Distribution Platform
  • Payment Management Services
  • Guest Inquiry Support

“We’re thrilled to have ICND as a preferred marketing partner for property managers,” said Alex Aydin, CEO and Founder of BookingPal. “This relationship will allow ICND to extend its value for their property managers. With BookingPal’s large distribution network and added layers of marketing and revenue management services, ICND clients will have the ability to boost their marketing efforts, get their properties in front of more vacation rental seekers seamlessly, and significantly increase their revenue.”

ICND Forms Distribution Partnership with BookingPal

Benefits of BookingPal

The BookingPal platform offers both managers of vacation rentals and property owners superior revenue benefits by utilizing proprietary products to optimize distribution capabilities including:

The myBookingPal channel manager software toolset provides electronic connectivity between a supplier of rep level and key level properties and 3rd party distribution channels.

myOptimize scores content to calculate listing quality and provide key feedback to achieve optimal channel placement and conversion.

Additional managed distribution services offered through BookingPal include consolidated contracting, consolidated accounting and reporting, additional content syndication services, revenue and yield management tools, consulting, analytics, transaction processing and payment services.

At ICND our commitment to innovation and research has allowed us to assure our clients stay on the cutting edge of their industry. As the preferred distribution partner for InterCoastal Net Designs, BookingPal will connect our clients to the largest vacation rental and online travel agency network worldwide while taking advantage of unique content optimization and their revenue maximization services.