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Midweek Motivation What's the ROI of your mother?

IDEA

Some marketing activities -- like listing sites and email newsletters -- are common. But other activities that generate equal (if not BETTER) results are far less obvious. I spent the last week with over 500 vacation rental virtuosos at the Streamline Summit in Scottsdale, AZ. And one of my most salient takeaways is that there is massive ROI in baked goods.

Yes, you read that correctly. In a handful of instances, owners and managers told me that in baking muffins, cookies, even crumpets (CRUMPETS!) they were wooing guests, homeowners, and other businesses in town. So much so, that I'm adding baked goods to my list (just beneath hand-written notes) of high-impact, low-cost Limited Edition marketing gestures that remind their recipient you care.

I'm reminded of the famous Gary V bit (aka. What's the ROI of your mother?) which argues that certain things have simultaneously no ROI (in a traditional sense) and MORE ROI than you could ever quantify (in the scheme of your small, personality-driven hospitality business.)


ACTION

Step 1. Listen to this from BrianO BrianO about how he delivers freshly-baked cookies around town in the weeks leading up to Xmas...

View attachment Brian 1.m4v

Step 2. Listen to how he is able to quantify the "ROI of cookies" (which by the way, his mother makes...even more Limited Edition)...

View attachment Brian 2.m4v

And consider chiming in below with thoughts on the question: What low-cost, high-impact activity (baked goods or otherwise) could be sitting beneath the surface?
 
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Laurie

Counselor
Inner Circle
Our Guest Services Manager lives on island and is a great cook. She offers to prepare a gourmet meal for our guests during their stay. She also makes island-famous key lime pies which she sells to all island guests -- not just ours -- but also delivers as a gift for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. She also makes homemade sea grape jelly with grapes from the island and mango chutney with mangoes from her own tree. For engagements and honeymoons, she will often make chocolate-dipped strawberries and deliver them with a bottle of champagne!

And one other little tidbit unique to our island.....we pick up shells on the beach, and oyster shells from the bay, decoupage them with turtles, flamingos and sea creatures, gild them and give them to our guests as a souvenir of the island. For Christmas and Thanksgiving, we made tree ornaments. A Covid craft project turned into a really fun gift idea and renters love them!
 

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BrianO

Partner
Inner Circle
IDEA

Some marketing activities -- like listing sites and email newsletters -- are common. But other activities that generate equal (if not BETTER) results are far less obvious. I spent the last week with over 500 vacation rental virtuosos at the Streamline Summit in Scottsdale, AZ. And one of my most salient takeaways is that there is massive ROI in baked goods.

Yes, you read that correctly. In a handful of instances, owners and managers told me that in baking muffins, cookies, even crumpets (CRUMPETS!) they were wooing guests, homeowners, and other businesses in town. So much so, that I'm adding baked goods to my list (just beneath hand-written notes) of high-impact, low-cost Limited Edition marketing gestures that remind their recipient you care.

I'm reminded of the famous Gary V bit (aka. What's the ROI of your mother?) which argues that certain things have simultaneously no ROI (in a traditional sense) and MORE ROI than you could ever quantify (in the scheme of your small, personality-driven hospitality business.)


ACTION

Step 1. Listen to this from BrianO BrianO about how he delivers freshly-baked cookies around town in the weeks leading up to Xmas...

View attachment 4278

Step 2. Listen to how he is able to quantify the "ROI of cookies" (which by the way, his mother makes...even more Limited Edition)...

View attachment 4277

And consider chiming in below with thoughts on the question: What low-cost, high-impact activity (baked goods or otherwise) could be sitting beneath the surface?
My Mom still provides the best ROI for our company. Just the other day I had a realtor call asking if we are brining back the 12 days of cookies this year. This is while they were giving me a referral for a new potential home.
 

Matt Landau

Ambassador
Staff member
Brian, I ended this week's newsletter with the following:

Then we sat down with "the big boys" in our interview with Vacasa's CEO Matt Roberts who -- while I did not ask him -- I am pretty sure would have elegantly sidestepped the idea of hand-delivering cookies that his mom baked to Vacasa guests.

And this is maybe where the message really hits home.

Increasingly, the best ways to promote your independent vacation rental business are doubling-down on the things that big companies choose not to do.

And even better, the things that not even your average host competitor could copy because they are your own family recipe.

I believe THIS is the "new" marketing for vacation rentals.

These are the differentiators that you'll get credit for.

Thank you and your mother for leading us all in this wonderful direction home.
 

Steven

Attaché
Although it's not fresh baked cookies, since our first guests we've always placed 1 dozen long stem roses in the entryway for every guest arrival. In 7 years we haven't missed a single check-in. The guests really respond to this and make mention of it in the reviews. It's a small expense compared to the positive word of mouth it generates.
 

jlynnmoscrip

Attaché
Love this idea! I don't yet own an STR (working on that) but I manage and I've yet to experience a guest who does not enjoy a free/unexpected gift. My mother is an amazing cook/baker who in her younger years spent days baking and then beautifully packaging her goods and distributing to neighbors and friends. I may just try to enlist her to do the same for our home owners and team. Letting the owners/employees know they are appreciated is just as important as surprising the guests.
 

JoanneL

Attaché
Inner Circle
Our Guest Services Manager lives on island and is a great cook. She offers to prepare a gourmet meal for our guests during their stay. She also makes island-famous key lime pies which she sells to all island guests -- not just ours -- but also delivers as a gift for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. She also makes homemade sea grape jelly with grapes from the island and mango chutney with mangoes from her own tree. For engagements and honeymoons, she will often make chocolate-dipped strawberries and deliver them with a bottle of champagne!

And one other little tidbit unique to our island.....we pick up shells on the beach, and oyster shells from the bay, decoupage them with turtles, flamingos and sea creatures, gild them and give them to our guests as a souvenir of the island. For Christmas and Thanksgiving, we made tree ornaments. A Covid craft project turned into a really fun gift idea and renters love them!

Thanks for this..love this idea!
 

Sallie

Envoy
Inner Circle
Yellow Jersey
Author
On guests' first wake-up morning, we'd knock on their door after 9 a.m. and present fresh croissants from the bakery in our Mexican village.

This did not start as a deliberate strategy. One morning we stopped by the bakery after our morning walk to buy our own croissants. Since repeat guests we adored had arrived the afternoon before, we decided to buy two more for them. They loved this gesture so much, we just kept it going with other guests.

During our croissant deliveries, we'd also introduce our handsome golden retriever (because he loved to meet people, and to mitigate any griping about his occasional barking). He was almost always a huge hit too, and some guests even pleaded to walk him.

Yet both were only possible when we were in residence. For long-distance owners, especially owners in a different country, personal delivery of fresh items can be impossible or unsustainable.

While delivering baked goods is indeed a lovely touch, if there's a high degree of difficulty involved, let's make sure it can profitably accomplish at least one of these three ways to grow your business:
1. Increase the number of first bookings​
2. Increase the upsells per booking (concierge services, activity packages, etc.)​
3. Increase the frequency of repeat bookings​
 

Barry

Counselor
Inner Circle
I'm sampling a couple of new things that seem to be going well. But first, let's remember that ROI has two components - the "Return" and the "Investment" (in both time and money). I'm all about making the time investment as minimal as possible, especially given the demands of being a full time dad and having a regular job in addition to the property. I have essentially four hours per week to spend on the Carmel Retreats cottage. That's four hours total for reservations, communications, bill keeping, guest prep, home upkeep, marketing, instagram, etc., so every second counts.

Here's what I've come up with....

~ PRIVATE FILM FESTIVAL ~

The day after the guests arrive, I send them a text telling them that I've put together a private Carmel film festival just for them and our special guests. I've curated 10 classic Hollywood films set in and around the Carmel area, featuring old time notables like Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, James Dean, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart, and more. All they have to do is reach for their TV remote, press the mic button and speak the name of the movie they want to watch from the list I gave them. I tell them they can watch whenever they want and as many times as they want. For Free. I find that seeing scenes from around Carmel featured in a Hollywood Classic really makes the visit to Carmel almost indelible.

Total time investment = less than one hour upfront non-recurring to Google the titles and purchase the films from our cable provider; plus 1 minute per guest to text them the Film Festival announcement. Money investment = less than $100 total for all ten films. Return on Investment = Honestly, I have absolutely no idea, other than to say my guests are RAVING about this film festival, and my time and money investments are essentially zero.

~ BRANDED, FRESH-BAKED CROCK POT COOKIES AND CREAM ~

Again, what can I do to minimize my time and money investments on the "I" side of the equation but still deliver a big, fat - and I actually mean fattening - "R"? True bakers and purist will cringe, but I researched the best pre-made cookie dough available in stores. There was wide agreement - even from high profile chefs - about what was best. I then bought some small ceramic crock pots that are on-brand with the cottage. For each guest, I scoop the raw cookie dough into the crock pots, stick it in a gift bag with a pint of local ice cream, add some fresh mint sprigs from the garden as a garnish, enclose a branded Carmel Retreats note (see attachment) with super simple baking instructions (bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes in the toaster oven), top with a scoop of ice cream and let melt into a deliciously gooey mess, and eat while warm. This way, the guests do all the work, yet I've delivered hot, fresh-baked cookies, plugged the local ice cream maker, and personalized the treat with fresh mint from the garden.

Total time investment = 30 mins of online research, 30 mins drafting the note template with recipe (all non-recurring), plus about 10 minutes of prep and drop off time per guest. I don't count grocery shopping time since I just tie this in with my regular grocery shopping. Money investment = $2 for the cookie dough, $5 for the ice cream, $0 for the fresh mint, $1 sales tax. Total recurring time and money investment = 10 mins and $8 per guest. Return on investment = again I have absolutely no clue, but my guests LOVE this and are sending me pics of their gooey masterpieces and posting them on Instagram. A huge intangible return on this, too, is that after being handed such a treat and getting a personal hello from me, it's highly unlikely they would ever post a negative review or get upset if something unexpected happens (like my dishwasher handle breaking last week).

Net, net, I have extremely low "I' in terms of money/time. I'm clueless about the "R". My guests are raving about the cookies and film festival, and my cottage is fully booked for June, July, September, and October of 2022.
 

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Megan C

Attaché
Inner Circle
I used to bake fresh banana, zucchini, or pumpkin mini loaves for our guests, however, our insurance agent advised against this without a commercial kitchen and food handlers license. Guests raved about the welcome loaves we paired with our locally roasted coffee. 3-years later we finally launched a restaurant, but have not brought the baked goods back yet. However, VIPs/top-tier homes get cheeseboards with their wine. Providing food as a welcome is the best, guests really appreciate the sustenance after a long day of travel.
 

Karla

Karla, Owner of Tropical Blessings
Inner Circle
First of all I’d need to look up the definition of a TI-82 graphing calculator to even figure out what one is let alone my doubtful ability to use one and it’s usefulness leaves me feeling skeptical about its merits and accuracy. I can’t see the purpose of attempting to use a sophisticated calculator in an effort to calculate the ROI from my mother since it’s not scalable, it soars right off the charts beyond measure. Even the most sophisticated calculator would do me no good.

When I reminisce about my mother the first words that come to mind are: loving, kind, comforting, encouraging, compassionate, accepting, protective, generous, gracious, warm and wise.

Mom grew up on a farm, learned to cook from scratch and the meals she prepared were unfailingly delicious. Mom gained a reputation and I remember those bake sales. What did people buy first? Mom’s cinnamon twists of course. If you ever tasted one you’d want one too.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that to learn that the biggest ROI reported was baked goods. Why should baked goods bring such a major return?

Baked goods evoke a long established Pavlovian response through auto cued memories that spark familiar cozy feelings from childhood and home. Who can resist the aroma of freshly baked bread? Oatmeal raisin or chocolate cookies, the best of always made by your mother are always remembered and evoke savory memories that in and of themselves are delicious.

It should be noted that cooking is an art and baking is a science. Baking requires specific amounts of specific ingredients that must be combined correctly and cooked for a predetermined amount of time at the correct temperature and then the chemistry works and result in perfect results, not only wished for but true to reasonable and reliable expectations.

I learned about the difference between cooking and baking when I was 10 and decided the bake my first cake when I happened to be home alone.The recipe called for shortening, Huh?? What was that THAT? I had no idea but found a box of Bisquick that had shortening IN it, problem solved, or so I thought. We had my cake (and the bright green frosting was gorgeous) for dessert after dinner that night and everyone exclaimed that the cake was delicious even though it was as hard as a rock. I now realize my poor little brother was probably getting his legs kicked under the table at the time.

Unlike baking cooking requires no recipe though recipes are helpful for certain complex dishes served primarily for dinners. I’m glad I started writing some of those down in a pretty canvas covered book that, my gosh, now dates almost 50 years ago. I’ve continued to jot down and collect those from somebody tells me one that I know I won’t find in a cookbook. When I was a freshman in college somebody told me about a recipe for cheesecake from his Russian grandmother. I knew I’d never recall the proportions of contents so that recipe is scribbled into that book and decadently rich, that cheesecake is surely the best one on the planet. However, recipes from my mother add up to the largest proportion of that book’s ingredients. I have 10 cookbooks in the kitchen at Tropical Blessings. There’s a bookend on either end of that collection, each being a half of a pineapple, the pineapple symbolizing Hospitality as all know.

A guest’s desire to cook or not cook while on vacation is totally up to them, but upon arrival after a long day of travel they will very likely not feel like doing thatvat all. However, a plate of homemade cookies is a gesture of welcome and after a long flight and a ferry ride from St. Thomas to St. John in addition most guests will not only feel tired but also famished.

Cookies from Sam & Jack’s always tasted homemade. Sadly that business went down with Covid and Baked in the Sun no longer exists either but I network very well and track down resources very well. Those cookies better taste homemade. I live off island so baking cookies myself is not an option.

A guest arrives, spots those cookies and they get devoured in a hurry. With the two best island cookie places now gone I’ve had to go on a dedicated cookie search. I always succeed with such missions, whatever I need I will find it. My welcome baskets in fact include more than cookies but due to Covid a that small project remains ongoing. In the meantime Baked Goods Agent 007 has succeeded and is ready for another assignment. When I look for the best of the best I go into action and find it.

I always be grateful to my mother for ever so much including her expertise with homemade baked goods.

Of course the term “mothership” is semantically related to the word “mother.” A mothership is not always a UFO though once in a great while a guest reminds me of one of those. More often the mothership is a vessel that provides calm during a storm. Despite drama, chaos and conflict the mothership is steady and strong. All parties can go to her for peace and wisdom. She is a safe place and provides needed facilities and supplies.

Tropical Blessings is a mothership and I learned a lot from my mother about captaining it well. I choose to act from love not fear. I feel compassion for those onboard and detach from conflict that isn’t mine. I command the smaller vessels including baked goods. I choose to make a difference in lives.

I am my mother’s daughter and part of the mothership. However, I am myself have left the mothership with the courage to chart my own path. Sometimes I use recipes which include the ones that Mom created herself and can’t be copied. Sometimes I don’t use a recipe at all, Mom did that too. Recipe or not I chart my own path. What do baked goods have to do with any of this? Something so simple that is related to what my mother taught me along with lessons about sharing baked goods: Because nice matters.
 
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CarlaC

Vacation Rental Content Marketer
Inner Circle
Such an interesting assessment, Matt. We frequently only think of ROI and marketing in the digital sphere; as you mentioned email campaigns and listing sites, but it can be hard to invoke a sense of personality no matter how much user generated content you include!
Baked goods allows guests to know we're not robots. Whether it's a handwritten vacation rental welcome letter or goodie bag full of local sweets and your mom's beloved treats, guests always appreciate the added gesture. My only question: how are you tracking this? Could you run A/B tests of cookie customers and non-cookie customers? I'd be curious to know!
 

ROster

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Yellow Jersey
Wing Fighter
I'm sampling a couple of new things that seem to be going well. But first, let's remember that ROI has two components - the "Return" and the "Investment" (in both time and money). I'm all about making the time investment as minimal as possible, especially given the demands of being a full time dad and having a regular job in addition to the property. I have essentially four hours per week to spend on the Carmel Retreats cottage. That's four hours total for reservations, communications, bill keeping, guest prep, home upkeep, marketing, instagram, etc., so every second counts.

Here's what I've come up with....

~ PRIVATE FILM FESTIVAL ~

The day after the guests arrive, I send them a text telling them that I've put together a private Carmel film festival just for them and our special guests. I've curated 10 classic Hollywood films set in and around the Carmel area, featuring old time notables like Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, James Dean, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart, and more. All they have to do is reach for their TV remote, press the mic button and speak the name of the movie they want to watch from the list I gave them. I tell them they can watch whenever they want and as many times as they want. For Free. I find that seeing scenes from around Carmel featured in a Hollywood Classic really makes the visit to Carmel almost indelible.

Total time investment = less than one hour upfront non-recurring to Google the titles and purchase the films from our cable provider; plus 1 minute per guest to text them the Film Festival announcement. Money investment = less than $100 total for all ten films. Return on Investment = Honestly, I have absolutely no idea, other than to say my guests are RAVING about this film festival, and my time and money investments are essentially zero.

~ BRANDED, FRESH-BAKED CROCK POT COOKIES AND CREAM ~

Again, what can I do to minimize my time and money investments on the "I" side of the equation but still deliver a big, fat - and I actually mean fattening - "R"? True bakers and purist will cringe, but I researched the best pre-made cookie dough available in stores. There was wide agreement - even from high profile chefs - about what was best. I then bought some small ceramic crock pots that are on-brand with the cottage. For each guest, I scoop the raw cookie dough into the crock pots, stick it in a gift bag with a pint of local ice cream, add some fresh mint sprigs from the garden as a garnish, enclose a branded Carmel Retreats note (see attachment) with super simple baking instructions (bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes in the toaster oven), top with a scoop of ice cream and let melt into a deliciously gooey mess, and eat while warm. This way, the guests do all the work, yet I've delivered hot, fresh-baked cookies, plugged the local ice cream maker, and personalized the treat with fresh mint from the garden.

Total time investment = 30 mins of online research, 30 mins drafting the note template with recipe (all non-recurring), plus about 10 minutes of prep and drop off time per guest. I don't count grocery shopping time since I just tie this in with my regular grocery shopping. Money investment = $2 for the cookie dough, $5 for the ice cream, $0 for the fresh mint, $1 sales tax. Total recurring time and money investment = 10 mins and $8 per guest. Return on investment = again I have absolutely no clue, but my guests LOVE this and are sending me pics of their gooey masterpieces and posting them on Instagram. A huge intangible return on this, too, is that after being handed such a treat and getting a personal hello from me, it's highly unlikely they would ever post a negative review or get upset if something unexpected happens (like my dishwasher handle breaking last week).

Net, net, I have extremely low "I' in terms of money/time. I'm clueless about the "R". My guests are raving about the cookies and film festival, and my cottage is fully booked for June, July, September, and October of 2022.
Barry Barry, I love the film festival idea. My version would be the best golf movies of all time. Can you tell me how you set it up for the guests to speak the name of the movie?
 

ROster

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Yellow Jersey
Wing Fighter
I used to bake fresh banana, zucchini, or pumpkin mini loaves for our guests, however, our insurance agent advised against this without a commercial kitchen and food handlers license. Guests raved about the welcome loaves we paired with our locally roasted coffee. 3-years later we finally launched a restaurant, but have not brought the baked goods back yet. However, VIPs/top-tier homes get cheeseboards with their wine. Providing food as a welcome is the best, guests really appreciate the sustenance after a long day of travel.
Before getting rid of soemhting that guests raved about, I'd probably tell the insurance agent, "That's why I have insurance" :cool:
 

Barry

Counselor
Inner Circle
Barry Barry, I love the film festival idea. My version would be the best golf movies of all time. Can you tell me how you set it up for the guests to speak the name of the movie?
Hi there Rick, I love the golf movie idea!! My cable TV provider is Xfinity (formerly Comcast) and for the past I'd say 3-4 years there's been a button on their remote control with a little microphone icon on it that allows you to speak simple voice commands such as the name of a movie or "Go to Netflix" or "Find movies for kids". So there was nothing for me to set up other than purchasing the movies through my cable provider. Here's a link for some info about it in case your cable provider offers something similar - https://www.xfinity.com/support/articles/xr11-remote-faqs. Many of my guests are aware of the feature, and whenever I tell them they can just say "Go to Netflix", they love it.

This may not be much help, but at least you know what I know now :)
 

CareySue

Attaché
Inner Circle
We own the local donut shop and put donuts in our arriving guests units... they LOVE it! Mentioned in almost all the reviews #donutlove
 
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