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You Gotta Tell 'em, Tell 'em, and Tell 'em Again

Disclaimer: This may sound stupid simple but it really works. I recommend you try.

IDEA

To solve a fellow VRMB Community member's very important messaging question, we recently spent $700 for one hour with a copywriting consultant. Yes, this is a huge amount of money. But I had been following this particular expert for many years, have listened to every one of his podcasts, admire his expertise and business model, which warranted bringing in the specialist. After the 1-hour session, perhaps the biggest thing I took away from the call may sound stupid but it's value is really growing on me and I'm going to share it with you now...

"In your sales copy," he said, "you need to use the key word or phrase many times. So if you are trying to emphasize X in a paragraph (or page), repeatedly use X in that paragraph (or page) almost to the point it feels ridiculous. And much to your surprise, people will start to use that same X in their inquiries and purchases."

This made me think of the Dale Carnegie quote: "Tell them what you're going to say; say it; then tell them what you've said."

And it made me realize that with vacation rental guests "not reading" what's clearly stated, this same tactic could work the same way it does with a spouse or child or friend who ... ummm, needs something to be repeated a few times before they get it.

ACTION

1. Watch the full Limited Edition 2.0 course and identify pillars of your key value proposition (ex. Family-owned/Family-run, Based in, Locals of, Specialists in...etc)
2. Repeat the key words/phrases that differentiate you from competition multiple times in your property titles & descriptions almost to the point it seems like its too much.

Feel free to jump into the thread below with any questions, ideas, or feedback!
 
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Lee

Owner of Accommodations in Telluride
Inner Circle
Somebody from the way back machine said that you need to reach out something ridiculous, like 30 times? To make something happen. When I hear staff say, "Well, I emailed them and I haven't heard back..." Email again, pick up the phone, be the squeaky wheel!
 

Jed

Accelerator
Inner Circle
Accelerator
My original 9 point guest communication program is now more like a 14-15 point communication protocol. All of it is automated, so when i have the chance to interact directly with guests, it is on top of those other communications.

On the plus side, almost every single review mentions how easy / communicative / responsive we were. In reality, we have just painted the guest with what they need to be aware of, multiple times, so that they can't miss it if they try. For those few that do, we scoop them up and point them to the most recent communications and then they're back on track. Minimal ongoing effort, mostly thorough planning up front.

Squeaky wheel for sure!
 

ToonTownRob

Envoy
Inner Circle
Thanks Matt. I needed this. I'm always fearful that I'm 'over telling' them.

Truthfully, it's a pattern that I've followed ever since grade school. Back then, I was taught that an essay, or any other piece of persuasive writing, goes like this:

1) Introduction; state your thesis.
2) Explain; give your supporting arguments.
3) Conclusion; restate your thesis.

And whether I actively try to do it or not, everything I write when trying to make a point intuitively follows this pattern. It's Dale Carnegie as @Matt Landau said, just in a different form.
 

RuthM

Envoy
Inner Circle
As usual, right on target @Matt Landau. Yes: I was worried about telling guests the same thing in an email and on my website but it works! Absolutely key: repeat, repeat, repeat!

Here’s a guest communications tip :
My welcome book has an intro 1 page with key info: how contact me, emergency/health numbers, Wi-Fi and code, CHECKOUT INSTRUCTIONS, and HOW TO BOOK DIRECT. I also send the EXACT checkout instructions in a message on the afternoon prior to checkout. WORKS LIKE A CHARM. Also, my 2 book direct sentences get repeated EXACTLY in multiple communications. It works!
 

AFirmani

Counselor
Inner Circle
Lately, Johnny and I have been the guests and we find ourselves lost all too often... I wish there were more owners paying attention to the simple things we need to know and sharing those with us ... YES, a few times :)
 

CCapalbo

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Wing Fighter
Using the same keywords over and over on the same page may be considered keyword stuffing, making it hard to understand. The keyword in the title, at the beginning of your copy, can also be in the form of a synonym.

Most people tend to look at the title, first paragraph, and the closing, adding your USP in both paragraphs is a good idea.

Process::

  1. After a booking, I would send a welcome email. This email lets the customer know what to expect from me going forward.
  2. One month before arrival, I sent a second email, and access to my welcome pack.
  3. Two weeks before arrival sent a reminder regarding the welcome pack, transportation, plus arrival meals ( breakfast and dinner)
  4. One week before arrival, I follow up with any unresolved request to ensure all guest's needs are been met before arrival. I also set up a Watsapp group for communication with guests, house managers,s and transportation.
  5. One day before arrival, wish guests a safe flight, the WhatsApp group is essential to ensure the driver and the group find each other at the airport, as well as arrange daily excursions.

One day after guests arrive I would send a personal message to welcome them, find out if there are any concerns regarding the accommodation.

After departure follows up a text message, asking how was there trip was, do they have any suggestions on areas we can improve, and request a review. Finally, I would add them to my mailing list.

I am finally getting a grip of my email marketing, as a way of keeping them inform of upgrades changes, remind them of the great time they had. However, I still have a long way to go with the email marketing aspect.
 
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MichelleR

Counselor
Inner Circle
Based on the people don't "read" concept..... I send a detailed longer email a week before the arrival (for those readers :). On the morning of arrival I send a condensed email of entry info, wifi and parking the 3 things people tend to really need. Sending those 2 emails in those time frames has basically eliminated the last minute calls.
 

ToonTownRob

Envoy
Inner Circle
Aside from the self-serving need to have our recipients well-understand our communications, repeating our message, or providing it in different forms (I send specific emails on the most important info, despite it being in my TouchStay guide, and paper manual at the property.) actually is a form of gift or service to our guests. One of the things that repeating a message provides is assurance.

When the recipient sees a message repeated it gives them an opportunity to go over what they are presently reading with what they already understood and remembered. As they do, provided they previously got the bulk of the message, they can become more confident and relaxed with each review. It allows them to tell themselves "It's okay... I've got this!" something exceedingly important when one's goal is to relax and enjoy a vacation.

When I first drove throughout the United States to Florida (40 hours of road time) I was struck by how many jurisdictions had a "habit" of placing what I considered to be excessive highway signage over the roadway indicating what lane I needed to be in to make an exit, or navigate the interstate as it became a local freeway through a large city.

With each passing sign confirming I was already where I knew I needed to be, I wondered at what point too much money was being spent on unneeded signage. But then two things happened; I realized how comforting it was to never have to wonder "Am I in the right lane? Did I miss my turn?" and I began to relax and appreciate the assurance and the trip; and I missed my exit going through Atlanta (Twice, on separate trips, in the exact same spot!) leaving me white-knuckled for the rest of the drive through the area, panicked that I might do it again. And I'm great with maps and directions and an astute driver! Clearly something was missing there.

The roadway engineer who wrote the signage specifications that said something like; in areas of this type of traffic volume, number of lanes, or this many entrances/exits, signage shall appear not more than three minutes apart definitely understood "tell em, tell me again, tell 'me what you told them... repeat". I wonder how many injuries and lost lives have been spared by them, and those who follow those standards?

Assurance. It's a great gift we can easily provide our guests when they likely could use it the most!
 
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AlexC

Envoy
I think a big part of the challenge is that not every guest reads what the reservation holder reads. Feels like innovation on how to solve that may go a long way.
 

StacyW

Counselor
Inner Circle
Accelerator
Based on some of the texts we get from guests, you clearly can't have it too many places. We are actually working on doing this and have even pulled out key info and put it bullet points at the top. As a fellow non reader (hate details) if something is too long I won't read it. Even if I know the information is in there. I will go and ask someone.

This is a bone of contention with manager's as well as they feel they tell their staff repeatedly how to do things and are constantly being asked the same question over and over again from their staff. We do have a lot of younger staff and my CFO and I believe that cell phones are to blame. We grew up in the era where you had to remember things, no google, no phone.

This new generation have never had to retain a thought, because you can go look it up again, and they get sent a million more thoughts and ideas at them then we ever had so there isn't room to keep it all. We have found we have to teach our staff how to remember things and keep a note book to remind them.
 

AlexC

Envoy
So what are the top 3 most common questions they have thats covered in the instructions?

What are the most frequent rule violations that are due to not reading instructions?
 

Alessandra

Counselor
Inner Circle
I have an automated email set up for my vacation rental. I send about 7 emails from before they arrive until after they leave. The one email I do send has all the information they need about the rental, including keypad codes, gate codes, directions, contact info, etc. A few days after this email I send them another email to let me know if they received that main email with all the information. I just tell them to reply YES and they always do. That way I know they received the most important email they need for their stay.

If for some reason I do not get the YES, I either text them or call them.
 

Gregerholt

Attaché
Asheville Hosts
I have an automated email set up for my vacation rental. I send about 7 emails from before they arrive until after they leave. The one email I do send has all the information they need about the rental, including keypad codes, gate codes, directions, contact info, etc. A few days after this email I send them another email to let me know if they received that main email with all the information. I just tell them to reply YES and they always do. That way I know they received the most important email they need for their stay.

If for some reason I do not get the YES, I either text them or call them.
I have all the info listed in Airbnb guest resources that can be accessed 3 days prior to check in. With that info I ask them to confirm they read the Info and offer answers to questions. I tell them I will send the key code when they confirm it’s read and had the opportunity to ask questions. I think that’s an incentive to read the instructions. Everyone once in a while I can tell they didn’t read the instructions but 90% of the time they check in properly so we assume the info has been read. When I send the key code I first give clear instructions on the driveway as folks have erroneously gone down my neighbor’s driveway and that bothers her. So far so good
 

Craig

Envoy
Inner Circle
Accelerator
This is our process for guest comms - we send the access instructions 4 times and believe it or not we still get calls from guests asking how to check in...

We use the Hostfully guidebook system for our properties as part of the access instruction emails.

Screen Shot 2021-09-22 at 12.14.03 am.png
 

Laurie

Counselor
Inner Circle
We run into this problem constantly....but with us, it is two-fold. Our location on a remote barrier island means you CANNOT DRIVE TO THE PROPERTY. At least once a week, and just twice this morning, we receive a cancellation because the guest JUST realized we are on a barrier island accessible only by boats and "that just doesn't work for us"!. We have this information in the very first paragraph of our VRBO listing, in the response letter we send them with their quote, and in the confirmation when they book. Plus it is in their contract that we send before they book AND in the house rules that they must agree to before they can even book! But it never fails that at some point, usually a day or two after they book, they finally read their paperwork and discover we are on an island. I am just not sure how many times we can tell them they cannot drive here for it to sink in.

And then there are arrival logistics....they have to book the water taxi, book their dock pickup AND check in with our Guest Services Manager to receive the key code. This is communicated at least 3-4 times in our correspondence, including two weeks prior to arrival which is about the last date they can book their transportation to the island -- and we also have a Renter FAQ page with bulleted points....yet we still get calls all the time ("I am on the front porch, how do I get the key code). Or "I called the water taxi this morning and they can't take me until 6 pm."

It seems to me that we communicate to the point of ridiculousness but obviously we don't because at least 25% of our guests show up having not followed instructions, not checked-in in advance, with no water taxi reservations and not having called the concierge.

I guess the point is, what we thought was enough obviously is not enough!
 

ToonTownRob

Envoy
Inner Circle
It seems to me that I would be transitioning to "Little Gasparilla Island Vacation Rentals - Your no-drive barrier island getaway!" (or something similar) as my new name and tag line as fast as possible! ;)

Your comments reminded me of something. What follows is not directed specifically at you or anyone else, it is just a helpful reminder of something important while we are on this topic.

As far as guests not getting our instructions properly, the point of this thread is great... and true. But it is only part of winning the communication battle.

How many times have you been in conversation with someone and you don't understand something that was said so you ask for clarification and they (or you do this yourself) simply repeat what was said the first time, and if you ask for clarification again, again they repeat, but perhaps louder – as if that will make a difference.

Yes, repeating a message is important, but repeating something that is not working is pointless.

If your guests aren't getting something, even with it being repeated many times, then you need to focus on what and how and you're telling them your message, not just how often. Common mistakes repeated amongst different guests is a clear indicator that it's time to see if the message itself could use improvement.

It's a funny thing, and a touchy subject for some, but persuasive and effective writing is a refined skill, with many levels of expertise. There are even those who specialize only in writing instructions. We almost all write, but we're not almost all good at it. It is one of the most difficult things in which to recognize our own flaws. Like just about everything else in your business, it is certainly reasonable to hire help with writing if it will make a difference in accomplishing what you want and need.

As much as we should ensure that we repeat our message enough, we also need to ensure we don't first need a change in message as well.
 

Robin

Counselor
Inner Circle
People don't read long emails - they scan them. Make it scannable.

Keep it short - break it into smaller bites if needed

Make the subject of the communication short and interesting - think Click-bait then dial it back a tad.

Repeat the important stuff - provide directions to the detailed info for those that are ready to read.

Still here? I rest my case. :)
 
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