(From left to right) Bob Cusack, Suzi Cusack, Mary Beth Albertini (newcomer), and Brianne (Pope) Murphy – the TruPlace booth squad at the VRMA International Conference in New Orleans, LA.
Observations from the Exhibit Hall Floor and Beyond
This is my inaugural blog post with TruPlace. I joined the company’s marketing department a week prior to VRMA International Conference 2019. Jetting off to New Orleans on week two was not a bad way to start a new job in a new industry (for me). I came to VR from cable, where I’ve attended my share of conferences over the years. I’m guessing that I may have been the brand-newest member attending the VRMA conference, among a record-setting 2,000 attendees. More than one person I met remarked that I’d be “drinking from the firehose!”, which was ideal because I was thirsty for knowledge. And VRMA 2019 did not disappoint.
I thought I’d share a perspective through a set of fresh eyes and ears that were there to absorb information and learn as much as possible. My approach was that of a journalist – to observe and ask questions that would answer the “who, what, where, why and how” about the Vacation Rental Management industry.
These shoes were made for walking all over the VRMA International Conference. The TruPlace booth squad could be easily identified by our red Converse sneakers.
Three days spent on the exhibit hall floor, attending keynotes, general and breakout sessions, and flitting about a multitude of parties was unquestionably the best initiation one could hope for.
Following are some of my decidedly industry-newbie takeaways:
The industry is changing. Fast. New players have emerged in the past year while some have scaled up or down in market share, and still, others have appeared in a new iteration under a different brand umbrella. This seems especially so among the technology partners. And there is no indication that the tides of change will soon cease. So, we all ought to buckle up and enjoy (or endure) the ride.
TruPlace’s new Hybrid Floor Plan Tour is quickly becoming a favorite among our clients. If you’re ready to join them, we have budgets and implementation plans for any property manager. We’ll work together to create a plan that works best for you and guide you through every step of the process. Here’s what to expect.
1. Conduct a Needs Analysis
The first step to implementing Hybrid Floor Plan Tours is to note what you need – and what you don’t. Most of our clients choose to have TruPlace take care of everything – the floor plans, the professional photography, the image management, the resizing and uploading, the hosting – everything. Or, we can use your floor plans or photos. There are a lot of options – all designed to make it easy on you and your budget. We’ll walk you through customized Do It Yourself (DIY), Do It With You (DWY), and Do It For You (DFY) full-service options. What we can do for you:
TruFusion Photography: TruPlace provides its clients with a massive network of professional property photographers and top-end camera equipment, all backed by our proprietary processing technology. This means you get premium photos with vivid colors, brighter details and a better experience for the viewer. Image size matters too, so we’ll make sure all of your images are properly formatted for your website, OTAs, and every other use. We can also help with bulk projects and train your photographer for ongoing needs.
Floor Plans: If you have existing floor plans drawn from other sources, we can use those to convert into TruPlace. We can also train your staff to measure for them, or we can schedule our professional photographers to measure the property while onsite for photos.
TruFusion 3D Spins: These 360o images are the only element of the Hybrid Floor Plan Tour that must be completed by our trained TruPlace staff. This addition is what makes the hybrid tour the best of 2D and 3D combined for the most ideal user experience (but if you prefer the signature floor plan tour, that’s an option too!)
2. Determine Your Desired ROI and Budget
Your project budget will be determined by the DIY, DWY, and DFY options mentioned above, as well as the elements you already have on hand and the number of properties receiving the tour. No matter the budget, a popular way to offset the costs is to share the costs with (or pass them on to) homeowners. (If this works best for your company, let us know. We have existing communication programs to support the strategy.)
Some property managers also spread the investment across multiple departments, such as using TruPlace visual tools as a contract signing bonus for recruiters, or implementing the tours in stages, such as focusing on luxury properties first before deploying them across other groups.
In short, we have options for every budget. And no matter what it is, your tours will deliver company-wide ROI in reservations and saved staff time. We’ll work together with you to calculate an ROI and build a plan and budget to meet your goals.
3. Scheduling to Meet Your Timeline with Convenience and Efficiency
Depending on the level of service you choose, property availability and completion goals, we’ll help you with the project timeline. We’ll work with you to plan the most efficient scheduling possible, including batching property visits and completing all tour elements in one appointment. Large projects or short time frames are not a problem, as we have trained teams who can travel to meet your needs.
4. Creation and Delivery of Hybrid Floor Plan Tours
Once photos and floor plans are completed, TruPlace will create and deliver the tours to you the next business day. You and your staff will have immediate access to a client portal to the view photos, tour links, analytics and more.
TruPlace has an API with many major property management software platforms. If your PMS is one of our partners, all photos will automatically flow to your software. If not, we are happy to discuss this possibility with your PMS.
5. Maximizing Your Tours
TruPlace and your dedicated client advocate will work together with your website company to integrate your Hybrid Floor Plan Tours with your website to maximize their exposure and benefits. We have partnerships with most VR website companies with existing bests practices already in place.
We will also provide training and resources for you to leverage the full benefit of the tours across social media, guest planning emails, and owner acquisition and retention, not to mention other industry partner uses such as Key Data Dashboard and inspection software. Through this process and beyond, your client advocate will periodically review analytics, upgrades and feedback.
Our guests appreciate the rich experience the TruPlace interactive floor plans and photos provide. Even more exciting, our reservation agents love that they are spending less time on calls describing the layout of the property, which frees them up to take more calls and book more reservations.
– Russell Whitt, Pinnacle Lodging
Property managers book more nights faster and at higher rates
We couldn’t be more proud to hear about experiences like Pinnacle Lodging’s. For them and more than 300 other property managers, delivering ROI multiple times over is what drives the TruPlace team every day for all of our visual marketing tools. In fact, a 2014 study we conducted with VRM Intel found that property managers with our flagship visuals filled 18% more nights, booked 22 days faster, and earned 55% higher rates.
In the years since, competition in the vacation rental industry has only grown fiercer, compressing margins to razor-thin levels. The ability to fill more nights faster and generate higher rates is no longer optional; Today, it can make or break your business.
This ever-critical need has kept TruPlace sharply focused on creating what works, which means delivering what your guests want and need. “It seems the industry is changing so much and yet some very basic principles remain the same,” said Suzi Cusack, TruPlace’s founder and president. “The guest/consumer behavior still drives the decisions we should be making today.”
Guests want speed, ease, and accuracy
Our new Hybrid Floor Plan Tour is a direct result of guest behavior changes in recent years along with the rise of virtual tours. Virtual tours are undoubtedly eye-catching, so we’ve made sure ours are of top image quality, ease of use, and value to our clients. Still, we have found ourselves asking Is it absolutely necessary for guests to have to walk through a house, click by click, to find the answers to their critical questions? Do they need a 360o look at a hallway or laundry room? Time (and the end-user) will tell whether virtual tours become essential in vacation rental marketing.
For now, what we have found is that guests want a quick, easy, appealing, and accurate way to explore a property. This makes sense when guests are looking at an average of 19 properties before making a choice, as Phocuswright found. With that in mind, our new Hybrid Floor Plan tour combines the convenience and ease of 2D with the engaging immersion of 3D. Our signature smart-touch layout tool with beautiful photos guests love now has added TruFusion 3D spins in the rooms where 360o matters most, like kitchens and backyards. This saves property managers the cost of a full virtual tour while still giving guests the quick, quality inside look they want.
As VRMs know, guests often need to understand a property’s layout before they have the confidence to book it. Many call in to ask these very questions of reservation agents. But by providing this information in an online listing with the right balance of convenience and detail, floor plan tours can save your agents an average of 8 minutes per pre-booking call.
Homeowners want to know you’re invested in their success
Property managers can also see a return in their inventory growth and retention when they invest strategically in powerful listing visuals. Homeowners want to know you’re committed to their property’s success and providing their listing with a Hybrid Floor Plan Tour demonstrates exactly that. Often of equal or greater importance, homeowners want to know their property is well taken care of. As we outline in the operations article, field staff including maintenance technicians and housekeepers use these visuals as training manuals, staging guides, item catalogs, and other tools that make it easier, faster, and more cost-effective to handle everything vacation rental guests throw a property’s way.
Hybrid Floor Plan Tours start at just $328, not including volume discounts for property managers. Contact us today for a custom quote.