How to Use Social Media to Book Guests and Avoid the VRBO Service Fee #VRBOservicefee

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Social Marketing for Property Owners

How to Use Social Media to Book Guests -Avoid VRBO Service Fee #VRBO

vrbo service fee

I spent less than $25 and got 10 leads from guests wanting to rent my cabin in two days. 

I have 25 years of experience in the Hospitality industry and an expert in social media. I want to show you how to use digital marketing to fill up your property. It isn’t that hard if you know how to do it. I realized I had been relying too heavily on VRBO when I saw the new VRBO service fee. I decided to start a Facebook ads campaign to diversify my own lead generation. On my first test over the last couple of days, I have received 10 leads. The total spent on advertising was about $22.81. (actually, the final for this test produced 27 leads for a cost of $53.84 … I’ll write a post on the details)

This is the first part of a series introducing social media and content marketing for property managers and vacation home owners. In this series, I will cover email marketing, Facebook ads, Twitter ads, Google adsense, content marketing, and the best ways to be social to make reservations. Make sure you sign up below to get emails when new posts are written.



The VRBO Service Fee Changes The Economics of Our Transaction.

I am not calling on anyone to up and quit VRBO. They have been a great site, and they still could be.  We will continue to use VRBO, but we will also adopt some other strategies because the VRBO service fee just got expensive.

So, what happened? Now there is an additional fee the travelers pay. Here’s a screenshot of one of my quotes:

VRBO service fee

Vacationers have a budget they are willing to spend on a vacation. The VRBO service fee takes money from that budget costing me either income (if the fee is charged to the renter), or expenses (if the fee is paid by me). Either way, it doesn’t matter who pays the fee, it goes right to my bottom line.

The real value I get with VRBO is the leads. They are a huge traffic source and have a great website for that. But now those leads just became expensive.

Because of the VRBO Service Fee, my cost per reservation went up 300%

Can we find customers less expensively than our subscriptions and VRBO service fee?

Let’s take a close look at the cost of VRBO. With the Gold level subscription plus the US bundle and the Global Bundle, the subscription cost totals $1747. A full season for me would have about 23 reservations. This comes to $75.95 per reservation. I will round this to $75 to keep math and this discussion easier.

Up to this point, I have been very happy with VRBO. The traffic has kept me about full. There is a real value for VRBO to point customers to my cabin and the cost of around $75 is something I am happy to pay for.

But this new VRBO service fee changes that significantly. Now VRBO is pulling both my prorated $75 per customer in expenses I pay to subscribe, and simultaneously takes from my top line by charging my example customers a fee of $154. The total cost in lost revenue and expenses for this reservation is now $229; an increase of about 300%.

So, I get back to the question: “Can we spend less than $229 in advertising to book a customer?”

My First Attempt at Facebook Ads To Rent My Property

I’m pretty savvy when it comes to promoted social and content marketing. I am a professional blogger and I have 2,000,o00 followers on social media too, so this was not something that was overly daunting to try. My goal in this series it to teach, explain, and demonstrate how to use different networks to book vacationers for your property. Today, I am teasing you with the very first results of my first test using Facebook Ads. I will get into details on how, why, and where to buy advertising in coming posts.

Facebook ads allows you to serve ads based on demographics. But because of the huge social network on Facebook, you can also make custom, look alike, and remarketing audiences. I’ll explain that in a post coming up soon. But today, I want to show you my first attempt to prove this concept for you.

I made two ads on Facebook. The first one used a custom audience that was built using my Facebook pages following, my email subscribers, and a lookalike audience. I served the ad only to people in Minnesota and Wisconsin (Don’t worry, I will show you how to make custom audiences soon). The second ad I ran was identical, but I didn’t set any audience. I only used Facebook’s interests and chose my state’s tourism bureau for the interest. I served the ads simultaneously with these results:

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 10.47.53 AM

Ten people filled out a form on Facebook for me to contact them about reservations for a cost of $22.81. Obviously, a lead is just a lead until it converts, but I am pretty confident that people who are willing to fill out a form from an advertisement are also fairly serious about taking a vacation.

By the end of the first test, I had 27 leads at an average cost of $1.99.  If I book 1 out of 114 leads at this rate, I can book customers for less than the cost of VRBO. Let that sink in. That is less than a 1% conversion rate on LEADS.

… pause…

Ok, now that sank in. You understand how expensive VRBO is with the new VRBO service fee compared to Facebook. Don’t you want to learn how to generate leads like this on your property? I will show you exactly what I did to run these ads in an upcoming post. So make sure you sign up for the emails above and follow this series. After all, Facebook traffic is much larger than VRBO’s and by purchasing ads, you can reach the people you need on a much larger scale.

Here’s What You Can Start Doing Today.

Ok, you want to get started today. That is great! Here are the immediate and free things you can do right now after you read this article. I will show you how all of these things correlate and work together to drive renters to your properties in this series.

  1. Organize an email lists of your customers
  2. Sign up for Mail Chimp
  3. Get on as many vacation networks as possible
  4. Run Craigslist posts
  5. Get social accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and others.
  6. MOST IMPORTANT – STAY TUNED! I’LL BE ADDING POSTS SHORTLY!!!

If you want a custom ad campaign set up for your property or business, contact me for details and pricing. We are sure you will save money and the pay back for the training will be the savings in VRBO fees you will realize in just a few bookings.

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