As a property manager, chances are you’ve utilized a CRM system and lead management/marketing systems in the past. With mountains of past contacts, leads, emails and phone numbers amassed in your database and across the web, it’s only logical to use those that give you some type of advantage. However, one of the most difficult tasks that every property manager has to deal with is not just utilizing this information, but utilizing it correctly. Even if you are collecting emails, sending out correspondence and keeping tabs on your customers, it’s very easy to squander the potentially massive improvements that can be gained through properly managed leads, creative marketing and a powerful CRM.
By Carlos Corzo, CEO, Streamline Vacation Rental Software
Fortunately, with a few tips on how to harness as much information from your leads as possible, as well as an intimate understanding of what a lead is, you can take your lead management to a new level – and your business along with it.
Types of Leads
First, let’s start by examining the types of leads you will encounter and how each lead should be treated from a priority standpoint. For all intents and purposes, there are three major types of leads.
Leads Generated by Your Website
Leads generated by your website are the most direct leads you’ll receive and, thus, are potentially the most useful to you and your business. This is a person who found your website on a web search, went through your website and had an interest in your property; in other words, they are ready to talk and discuss the possible options for their vacation.
In most cases, leads generated from a first-party (i.e. your) website are approximately four to five times more likely to close when compared to external lead generation. That means, if you are treating these leads the same way as your other leads, then it’s time to make a change; this should be your number one priority.
Leads Generated by a Third-Party Website
Though integral to any property manager’s business model, leads generated by a third-party website are – in most cases – much less of a sure thing. An individual who has come across your property via a third-party site (such as Homeaway or VRBO) most often has requested information for other properties on that same website. And, like an online gold rush, the race is now on between you and other salesman to convert that potential lead.
In most cases, these are the worst converting leads that companies receive even though many companies put these above the inquires generated by their websites. With that in mind, make sure to look at your analytics before prioritizing these leads over the others in this list. Metrics will be your best friend in these cases.
Using Existing Reservations as Leads
Using existing reservations as leads are oftentimes going to be your highest converting leads. However, when you truly take a look at it, it’s not that surprising. If you pull out all the stops with your customers, make their stay memorable and mine your first-hand experiences with them, it’s easy to have a veritable gold mine on your hands.
With these customers, you know when they like to travel, you know how many days prior to their stay that they have booked their vacation, you know how long they stayed during previous visits and you know the prices they paid during previous stays. And, if you are personable and help them throughout their vacation experience, you may even know more personal characteristics on these existing guests (such as their hobbies or what activities they enjoy). With all this information at your fingertips, existing lead reservations are truly your golden goose – and should be treated as such.
Tips for Lead Conversion
At the end of the day, having a lead and knowing where that lead came from is great, but making that lead convert is always going to be the main goal. Of course, maximizing your conversions isn’t always as easy as replying to an email or property inquiry (though we will go over that more in-depth a bit later). First, you need to lay the groundwork with analytics and trend spotting so you can truly begin to maximize your conversions. Fortunately, the leads via your website and other avenues have all the information you need to do precisely that.
Though many webmasters do not realize it, even users who haven’t contacted you can be considered leads, and watching how they interact on your site can be instrumental in making those leads convert.
With that in mind, it’s important to utilize your analytics software and site statistics to answer some very important questions: What are people searching when they are booking properties? What webpages are they landing on? How far are they searching in the future? And after what pages or actions are users leaving your website?
All of these questions can give you valuable insight into why people are using your website and even why they aren’t booking. For instance, if you find that users are converting more on last minute searches – when prices are down – or if you find that users are leaving once they see the costs, it might be a good time to look into possibly yielding your rates.
Another question that you must ask when looking at unconverted leads is what trends there are among your already converted ones. Are you having an unusually slow month? Why not create a special to send to guests that have stayed with you during that month in the previous years? Do you have active specials that seem to convert better than others? Even just noting the average length of stay that you book and how long it takes for you to convert a lead to a booking can be integral information that you can utilize to increase booking rates.
Just remember to take action as soon as possible with whatever information you glean from these trends and user interaction. The longer you wait to make the changes you need, the more likely your leads will become another company’s bookings. Time is of the essence and it is your company’s profits that hang in the balance.
Responding to Leads
Once you have the groundwork in place and your inquiries begin flooding in, your work is still not done. In fact, regardless if your lead is from your site, a third-party site or even a previous customer, one of the most important factors in improving your conversion rate is response time as well as how you respond. This brings up the famous debate of auto-responder versus no auto-responder. Do you want to be fast or do you want to be personable? Both have their pros and cons, however, I believe in taking a hybrid approach.
In other words, when your team is working and online, don’t use auto responders – this is the perfect time to ingratiate yourselves with incoming customers, and let’s face it, the in-person strategy is going to convert at a higher rate. However, there are going to be plenty of times when your team is swamped or simply not online or in the office (after hours, for example); it is these times you will need an auto-responder, as you never want a lead to wait too long.
The second part of this is doing what you can to make the auto-responder as personable as possible. For instance, program it with the standard response (“One of our agents will be with you shortly,” etc.), but then follow this with another auto-response that has some personality and an automated custom quote. Though you won’t be able to infuse all of the personality of a dedicated response team (and you are certainly losing that human interaction), this, at the very least, makes first contact and moves them further along the conversion chain. From there, you can answer any questions they may have while feeling confident they’ve been helped to the point where there is less of a chance for them to abandon ship.
Customer Service for Higher Conversion Rates
One of the best ways to improve your lead conversion rates is to simply offer the best customer service possible. Keep the people who are already staying with you happy and there’s always a good chance that they’ll use your services again. Fortunately, there are some simple tips to make this goal a reality and all of them involve active contact throughout your guest’s stay:
Tips for Turning Current Guests into Happy Guests (And Future Converters)
- Always email guests a few days prior to arrival with four to five small things that they should remember to bring on their trip. Don’t use this as a sales email. You can include “review us” messages and links to items you want to sell in the footer of your email.
- Automate a text message to let them know when the room is clean. For example, “Mr. Smith, your room is ready for check-in.”
- Offer a courtesy call on the first day of their stay so you can give them all the care they desire.
- Set up courtesy calls or emails during their stay so you can catch any potential problems before they’ve gone home and have let a festering issue ruin their trip.
- On the afternoon of their last day with you (or the next morning) send one more text or email and ask them if there were any problems…can you imagine going on a vacation while knowing that you have someone there ready to help?
Unfortunately, not all of these calls can be automated – and they shouldn’t be – meaning providing this level of service will require a lot of overhead. To offset that, you may want to hire a specialized company like True Touch Solutions (www.truetouchsolutions.com) to take over these tasks. This boutique vacation rental services company can help you with focused retention, sales and even reputation management which can help you attract even more leads. Reviews are key to final booking decisions these days. Don’t let someone impact your reputation, be proactive with post visit follow-ups.
Of course, however you fill these needs, simply remember that when you go above and beyond the norm you make yourself stand out over your competition. Don’t let customer service hold you back. Improve what you offer and watch as your conversion rates begin to skyrocket.
How to Generate More Leads
At the end of the day, not all property management companies are made equal, and not everyone has a full stable of emails, phone numbers and past customers to reach out to (and even if you do, you always want more). But worry not. There are plenty of ways to improve your flow of leads, and they all start with three things: constant contact, a creative marketing strategy and true blue customer service. Here are just a few tips that you can use to turn your property and website into a lead building machine:
- We all have our newsletters (and if you don’t, you definitely should), but make sure you make the commitment to send the newsletter regularly. Nobody likes a company that randomly comes out of nowhere when it is busy season. This is a relationship.
- Create text campaigns to reach out to past consumers; remember, these will often provide you your highest conversion rates. Who doesn’t read their texts?
- Fun competitions or games over social media can be a fantastic way to drum up engagement on your site and maybe even snag a few reservations along the way.
- Did you know Instagram is one of the best converting social media platforms available? It’s cheap too.
- Implement an SEO campaign to improve your site rankings and increase brand visibility.
Combine all of this with flawless customer service, a quality relationship with your owners and your guests and an intimate knowledge of where your leads come from and how they convert. You may find yourself on the fast track to the top of this competitive industry.