The book direct community flew in from all corners of the world for the industry-changing Book Direct Show in Miami – hosted by Damian Sheridan and Deborah Labi.
Running since 2020, The Book Direct Show brings together the industry’s leading professionals to share their own book-direct strategies – be it in the realms of marketing, property management, tech, guest experience, dynamic pricing, and more.
This year, the show hosted the CEO of Luke Capital Group RYAN LUKE to speak on stage about his hands-on experience of running successful STR businesses, and what other entrepreneurs can learn from him.
Ryan’s segment of the show bravely focused on the mistakes numerous STR hosts make, when trying to cut the cord from OTAs such as Airbnb and Booking.com. Our CEO shared actionable tips on what it takes to build a direct bookings business, and finally stop forking out an eye-watering amount of money for commission fees.
Get the full scope by reading on.
Mistake #1: Thinking Airbnb is Your Friend
Setting the tone for his part of the presentation, Ryan started by bluntly stating that Airbnb is not the friend of STR operators (no matter what they tell you on their website).
While leveraging Airbnb – in moderate amounts – might work for some STR businesses, Ryan described an overreliance on them as “a drug” – to which hosts become completely addicted, despite its obvious toxicity.
Our CEO explained how Airbnb (and other OTAs) are guest-centric, first and foremost. Meaning that they’re designed to sustain and satisfy guests as a priority, while property hosts are simply seen as “tools” to fund their brands further.
The likes of Airbnb understand well that for as long as they dominate a larger share of the STR market, more and more hosts will eventually “cave in” and list their properties on their platform.
This gives the OTA giants a rather sinister type of control, where they can continue to increase their commission fees and unsightly demands (such as not giving hosts any control of the guest experience) – without letting STR hosts do anything about it.
In many ways, hosts need to “shift their mindset” according to Ryan and run their STR businesses with the goal of becoming entirely non-reliant on OTAs one day. Thinking Airbnb is on their side is perhaps one of the biggest and most costly mistakes.
Mistake #2: No “Trust Signals” on Direct Bookings Website
Our umbrella brand’s short-term rental company, “Luke Stays” has recently launched a brand-new website, after months of hard work, content creation, testing, and back-end tech. The team’s efforts certainly haven’t gone in vain, as the new website is already converting around 20% more direct bookings (and it has barely been live for a week!).
Ryan explained that this is largely because of the “trust signals” that have been strategically placed across the entire website. During his presentation, Ryan stated that too many STR hosts make the mistake of assuming that a “good looking website equals a high converting one” – when in fact, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Inspired by the industry’s biggest ambassador of trust, Chris Maughan (CEO of I-PRAC), Ryan listed the trust signals that must be on direct booking websites, as this gives STR businesses an immediate advantage over OTAs.
These signals, as explained by Ryan, include:
> Mentioning important accreditations, such as I-PRAC Approval across the website (which guarantees 100% trust and protection for guests – something Airbnb cannot do).
> Having a designated “Trust Page” on the website; is something that is perhaps more important than the “About Page” of a website, where all companies do is talk about themselves.
> Including reviews and testimonials – because social proof really cements that trust between property hosts and landlords
> Well-written copy and photographs of “real people” (such as team members, happy guests, etc). Personalising a direct bookings website in this way is excellent for building trust.
A failure to present adequate trust signals on a website is the difference between a guest leaving a website mid-transaction, and following through to complete that booking, entirely. Bear in mind, these trust signals cannot be displayed on an OTA platform – so this gives STR hosts the greatest edge.
Mistake #3: Not Building an Organic SEO Machine Sooner
Admitting to rarely investing in SEO during the early stages of business, Ryan explained that working on SEO (with SEO professionals) is the ultimate game changer for generating more direct bookings.
According to Ryan, far too many STR hosts use a “scattergun approach” when sharing content – and have no way of tracking what works against what doesn’t. However, with the correct SEO strategies in place, STR hosts can discover which keywords to write content against – and if they do this consistently and well (engaging articles, rather than spammy posts), then they’ll be more popular across search engines, and naturally expose their brand to more guests.
While the art of sharing “cute” Instagram updates may seem attractive – Ryan explained that SEO is one of the top marketing strategies for our industry. Not only does it help STR brands rank higher, but creating content against what guests are currently searching for, places brands in a very positive and trustworthy light – all invaluable things when it comes to generating more direct bookings.
There are a number of highly-regarded SEO specialists in the short-term rental industry, with the founder of The Book Direct Show, Damian Sheridan, being among the top of them.
Mistake #4: Letting Guests Walk Out without Leaving an Email Address
Consistent email marketing is one of the most impactful, cheapest, and easiest ways of converting more direct bookings – and building an actual rapport with guests.
Ryan explained that letting guests leave your STR property without giving you their email address is a surefire way of leaving a lot of money on the table. Our CEO went on to explain that rather than pursuing the email address of the one guest who booked the stay, property hosts should aim to collect the email addresses of every guest. That means, that if a guest has booked a stay for themselves and three other adults – the hosts should acquire all four of their email addresses.
Emails to guests should be written with their pains, questions, and interests in mind. Ryan explained that by building a healthy email database and then sending well-crafted emails to segmented lists, open rates can boost to up to 62% – and this is an excellent opportunity to share special offers, exclusive perks, and reasons why booking directly with hosts is far more beneficial for guests than by going through the non-personalized approach via Airbnb.
Of course, nothing beats the experience of catching RYAN LUKE at one of his live presentations. So, stay tuned as we continue to update you on more of his speaking gigs, as well as other opportunities to learn from his experience (and respective mistakes).
More information about The Book Direct Show can be found at www.bookdirect.show – we’d like to thank the team once again, for featuring RYAN LUKE as one of their main speakers in Miami.