How to Visually Repurpose Content and Stay Visible During Difficult Times

To say that that COVID-19 has had an unprecedented effect on the Vacation Rental industry is an understatement. As property managers like yourself learn to become more resourceful, you’ll find that there are also creative ways to re-use your existing content. You might be surprised to find that your existing articles/visuals are all you need to create a solid marketing strategy on a budget. Below, we’ve outlined some tips and tricks that will help your brand stay visible on a dime by repurposing content.

Step 1: Assess Your Existing Content

It’s a good time to step into the archives and reuse content to create creative engaging microcontent that will help guests remember your brand when things are on the upswing. Developing microcontent in a visual way can stem from the following:

Visuals

o Professional Photography
o Floor Plans
o Amenity Photography

Video/Audio

o Drone videos
o Walkthrough Videos
o Podcasts

Text

o Blog Posts
o Surveys
o Research Reports
User Generated Content
o Reviews & Testimonials
o Social Media Posts

Step 2: Repurpose Content on a dime

Once you assess your existing content, creating compelling microcontent for your guests becomes easier. Utilizing free visual services is a great way to break apart pieces of your existing blog posts, testimonials, etc. Below are some free tools that can assist you and your budget. Both applications also provide you with low-cost upgrades if you need more options for your visual marketing.

CANVA

Canva is a free graphics service that allows you to use your existing visuals to create microcontent for email campaigns and your social media. Your professional photography used in conjunction with text can create visual content that promotes a consistent stream of brand recognition.

Lumen 5

Static images are beneficial for your marketing but to really stand out and differentiate yourself, videos can also be beneficial. Taking your text and wrapping it up in video format is a great way to repurpose your content. Free services like Lumen 5 take your text and turn it into video. From there, you can showcase your professional photography as the backdrop and take testimonials, blog posts, or property descriptions as moveable text.

Step 3: Schedule to save time and budget

After you’ve leveraged free tools to redistribute your existing content, it’s time for some marketing automation. Marketing automation is technology that manages marketing processes and multifunctional campaigns, across multiple channels, automatically. With marketing automation, businesses can target customers with automated messages across email, web, social, and text.

Social Media

Products like Buffer, Meet Edgar, and Hoot Suite, are fantastic tools to manage all social media accounts by providing the means for a user to schedule posts to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Email Automation

Emma, Constant Contact and Mailchimp are all examples of email marketing automation tools than can assist you as you schedule emails to your database.

Conclusion

When the industry picks up, and prospective guests are ready for their much-needed vacation, businesses that did not go dark during this time will be the ones they remember. Consistent marketing can be done on a dime by assessing what you already have and utilizing free tools and services to schedule a constant stream of fantastic visual marketing.


Booking an Event Venue in the Age of COVID-19

“Our Carriage House is beautiful and right next to the outdoor ceremony space.” Our clients are asking us how our products can help them paint a better picture for their prospective brides, bat mitzvahs and other ceremonies.

Booking an event venue in the age of COVID-19 comes with its own set of unique challenges.

First of all, we’re glad to hear people are looking forward to life returning to normal. But for now, how can a prospective customer “tour” an event venue without actually going on site? A website with photos, even videos, aren’t going to convey the feeling of standing there with your feet crunching down on the gravel path as the cobblestone and ivy-covered Carriage House comes into view.

So, let’s look at our options.

TruFusion 3D Tours

This is a completely immersive experience and the next best thing to virtual reality, which would also be cool. This product brings the essence of a property to life through clean, bright photography that makes you feel like you’re there because you can look around from every angle.


The interactive feature allows you to click or touch on the white circular arrows to move forward, getting deeper into the building, room or hallway.
What’s great is that this experience can be done for outdoor areas as well. Viewers can look up at the sky or down at the ground, as they glide from space to space, taking it all in.

This is a user-driven experience where we host the “tour” on a unique URL. A photo is displayed on the screen and the user has the option of navigating around the property using a Photo Slider Navigation at the bottom. Move from room to room or floor to floor easily using a mouse or touch screen. The user can also use their fingers to “pinch and zoom” into the details of the photo.

This is highly recommended for spaces that have a lot to explore, or a lot of detail inside.

Hybrid Floor Plan Tours

Literally get a sense of the layout with this product. We provide the floor plan for each level so viewers can understand where they are on the property as they look at the photos associated with that space. This works really well for bed & breakfast clients who want to book according to the proximity to exits or amenities.


The reason we call it a hybrid is because we suggest adding a few 360-degree views for a dual experience of seeing the photos and “moving through” the property. It’s another interaction that replicates the view of standing inside the property.

As with our TruFusion 3D, this tour shows the user what it’s like to “stand” in a room and see the views out the window from any angle – so if your property has breathtaking views from featured dining areas or guest rooms, these products can really sell that feature online.

Virtual Staging? Great idea.

For venues where the layout of a banquet hall or reception area is vital to the flow of guest traffic, these floor plan tour add on edits can help walk a potential client through the spaces visually and using room dimensions. Large, empty spaces, whether in a residential home, or an event space, make it hard for viewers to imagine what that area could look like with furnishings.

By virtually staging a room with cocktail tables, chairs, a buffet table, and other items, potential customers can see for themselves if there will be enough room for all their guests and where the pieces could be placed within the room.

While you’re never going to fully replace seeing an event venue in person, there are some high-quality property visualization tools that can assist with the buyer journey during this unprecedented time.


The Differences Between 3D Tours Explained

What are 3D Tours and what are the differences between them?

We get these types of questions often at TruPlace. The biggest difference among these products will be the way the user navigates or interacts with the picture on the screen. The next thing users will notice is the coloring within the photos – not all camera equipment is created equal. And if you look closely, you’ll notice that you can’t always see out the windows.

Different Camera, Different Results

Let’s start with our TruFusion 3D Tours. These virtual tours are created using DSLR technology, which is a single lens reflex that allows the most amount of light into the camera. This digital camera allows the mirror inside to “flip” out of the way, allowing the most flexibility in manual settings. The quality is always going to be better when a camera can “capture” the most amount of “data” from a scene as possible. The term reflex comes from the mirroring of the image up into the viewfinder.
Point-and-shoot cameras as they have been referred to, are at a disadvantage because the person taking the picture has no idea what they are actually capturing at the time the photo is taken. There is also a lag between when the button is pushed to take the photo and when the data enters the camera. Also, the physical size of the sensor in these cameras is smaller than it is in the DSLR, which negatively impacts the quality of the image – as seen in the graininess or blur on corners.
Recently, products have hit the market to leverage DIY 3D tours utilizing the point-and-shoot cameras, or DSLR cameras set on “auto” mode. Neither of which can replace the quality of a professional using manual mode. The foundation of a crisp, clear tour starts with the camera, which is why this is a critical question to ask when choosing which tour is right for you.

The Third Dimension

Jumping into the third dimension means that the camera is recording measurements and video. This ability is what allows the user to “pinch and zoom” into the photo. There is also a 360-degree capability that “spins” the camera around the room without the user having to press anything, they can just sit back and watch. Bringing these two capabilities together using a high-quality camera is what we call TruFusion 3D Tours. Merging the 360-degree view with the additional dimensions is what provides the feeling of “it’s like you’re there,” because you can move forward, backward, sideways, and look up and down – as well as zoom in on the details, seeing everything as clearly as if you were there.

Navigating inside a TruFusion 3D is unlike other tours because there is always one photo displayed on the screen. From there, the user has two options: either scroll through the photo slider at the bottom of the screen to move to another room, or click on the white circular arrows inside the photo on the scree – this emulates the experience “walking through a room.” The difference between “walking through a room” and being “teleported” through a room amounts to seeing or not seeing what you pass along the way. You just can’t open the front door and walk out.
The term “fusion” is not unique to TruPlace, but we call it TruFusion because we have a proprietary system for creating and processing the photographs/videos into one beautiful end result that looks great regardless of whether we shoot on a cloudy or sunny day. It’s the same process we apply to our still photos as well and it allows us to provide views out the windows while you’re “standing” inside the property.

Floor Plans + 3D

While our TruFusion 3D Tours are our most immersive property experience, we also offer a Floor Plan Tour that focuses more on the layout of the property. Again, there is always one photo on the screen, but in this product there is an interactive floor plan in the upper right corner that shows you which level you are looking at in the photos. There are red dots on the floor plan indicating a photo is available for that area, and by clicking on that red dot, you can see that area of that level.

For clients who love both our floor plan tours and TruFusion 3D, we created a “hybrid” version of both products. Within the floor plan tour product, you can add “3D spins” that provide the 360-degree views around the room. You can still “pinch and zoom” to see more details about the backsplash, oven, or light switches. Again, you just can’t open the front door and walk out. The word “interactive” also gets used on both the floor plan tour and the 3D tour. Technically they are both interactive, meaning the user can control how things are displayed and what to look at next.

Which One Should I Use?

Choosing the right tour will have a lot to do with the type of property you’re selling or renting and how the end user is going to interact with the product. If they are using a desktop computer and are not computer savvy, the floor plan tour might be enough. If they are using their iPhone and are a digital native looking at a single family, four-bedroom home, the TruFusion 3D will be easy to use and come across clear as day.

Contact our Client Services department for additional support on these products.


Agents Using Virtual Open Houses to Market Listings Amid COVID-19 Restrictions

 

 

 
Adapting to Change
These are challenging times for all of us. Federal mandates are in place limiting person-to-person interactions, which we at TruPlace understand must feel excruciating to most agents. The health reasons are clear and the business implications are nerve-wracking. But there are practical things that can be done to serve our clients, just like there are practical ways to serve yours.

 

 
Health First

For starters, TruPlace is complying with CDC and WHO guidelines to monitor the recent travel and health of our photographers and the agents they might interact with. We are also making sure any relevant expenses, such as medical gloves or hand sanitizer, are covered. Our entire office headquarters in Germantown, MD will be teleworking for at least the next two weeks so there is no interruption in customer service.  

Listing agents are facing a unique set of circumstances: they must sell their client’s home without inviting heavy foot traffic. Our clients are finding that 3D products are a safe way to market a home amid Coronavirus concerns. Specifically, TruPlace’s immersive visuals for buyers are a great way to experience the property without having to physically be there.

Work Smarter

The 3D Virtual Tour is the new Open House. It’s viewable from a web link sent by the agent to potential buyers. A floor plan image shows the viewer where they “are” inside the house. The 3D “spin” technology lets viewers turn in any direction and view that area closer up or further back by simply pinching the screen like they would with almost any online image.

TruPlace’s “Virtual Open Houses” enable potential buyers to explore every nook and cranny of a property from the safety of their own laptops or iPads. Our signature smart-touch layout tool with beautiful photos viewers love now has added 3D spins in the rooms where 360o matters most, like kitchens and backyards.

This solution can save on the cost of a full virtual tour while still giving guests the quick, quality inside look they want. These “user-controlled experiences” allow the buyer to move in and out of rooms, hallways, and stairs in addition to being able to spin around the room to see all the details.

For buyers looking to be guided through a property visually, TruPlace has Walkthrough Videos that escort viewers to each room. These video products are available at varying lengths from 1-minute to 4-minutes long, regardless of property size.

The 3D tours, Walkthrough Videos and Slideshow Videos designed by TruPlace provide the most comprehensive and realistic experience of a home’s layout, giving viewers a totally clear and immersive experience.

Stay Safe

The well being of our clients, employees, and neighbors are taking a front-row seat, driving our decision making, which seems to get tougher by the hour. We encourage everyone to stay safe and healthy.  

 


Tales from the other side: A VR Industry Professional’s Take on Book Direct Day

Bri Pope, TruPlace

 

I’m going to preface this post by saying something that might surprise my friends in the Vacation Rental industry.

I don’t vacation.

Shocking, I know.  Here’s the thing – I was raised by “weekend warriors”. My family’s idea of a vacation was a spur of the moment weekend getaway, planned on little more than a wing and a prayer. When I arrived at TruPlace, I quickly learned that most people (most normal people) actually do plan their vacations. Even after absorbing knowledge and insight imparted to me by some of the best mentors in the Vacation Rental Industry, I still never considered myself part of the equation. Rather, I considered myself simply an observer of the guest experience.

When it came time to plan my honeymoon in Asheville, NC (my first vacation in 10 years!) my time had finally come. Today, in honor of #BookDirect Day, the grassroots movement initiated by Amy Hinote at VRM Intel to educate guests about the advantages of bypassing third-party when booking their vacations, I address you not as a vendor in the vacation rental industry, but alas as a guest. Here’s what I found.

Strong Branding

Before I started planning my vacation, I knew I wanted to #BookDirect, but I found myself unconsciously perusing Airbnbs in Asheville. Why? Because of the ease of interaction with the brand. I maintain that the only way to retrain guests to book direct through you is to build a strong brand and be downright obsessive about it. During the booking process, I was inundated with amazing social media targeting, direct marketing, PPC campaigns, and fantastic websites that enabled me to effectively identify what we needed for our vacation.

Invest in Visuals

Your visual marketing is the tie that binds a guest’s trust and expectations. If there’s a disconnect between the two, you will struggle to promote any type of direct booking. Property pages with compelling photography, floor plans tours, and virtual tours arm your guests with information that gives them the confidence to book direct.

Be the Mayor of Your Town

I had never been to Asheville and the layout of the town was unfamiliar to me. We wanted to be within walking proximity to attractions, but also close to the highway so we could get to the various activities we planned.  A rental manager was able to help me quickly identify which properties best matched our needs. Being able to discuss this with someone helped me feel confident in where we were staying, strengthened my trust in the brand, and reassured me that it was the right decision to book through their website.

They’ll Remember You After the Vacation

Asheville is amazing. We had a blast, but more importantly, our experience from beginning to end with the property management company we chose was top notch. Throughout our experience, we felt as if someone was in our corner if we needed anything. That personal touch and attention to detail are what we will remember about the brand (read: property manager) we chose, which will make it much more likely that we’ll choose them again the next time we come to town. In a word, we were delighted.

At the end of the day, we’re all just striving for positive interactions. On Book Direct Day, take stock of where you fit into that equation. Let the need for information and ease of use drive your initiatives. If you can create that experience, they’ll remember your brand, your website, your people and your properties.

 

Bri Pope is the Director of Client Engagement with TruPlace. Specializing in Vacation Rental sales and advocacy, she ensures the client’s visual solutions are aligned with their diverse, unique brands. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music way too loudly, hiking, and the occasional Netflix binge. Contact her at briannepope@truplace.com

A Guest’s Perfect Travel Companion: Floor Plan Tours with Professional Photos

TruPlace Floor Plan with Professional Image
Visit our gallery to see examples.

Planning a vacation is stressful and often falls squarely on the shoulders of one person arranging everything for a group. Massive OTAs and countless direct booking sites provide a paralyzing number of choices for where to stay. And even when those choices are narrowed down by filters, the nature of each vacation rental’s uniqueness makes it tough to know if a property will truly meet each guest’s needs and expectations. Once a property is booked, there’s then the pre-arrival planning and coordination, followed by overseeing vacation to-dos and timelines during the stay. The cycle of overwhelm starts all over again after checkout.

There must be a better way, right? Vacations should be relaxing, fun, and simple! What if every traveler in charge of booking, planning, and running their group’s trip had a digital travel companion that could help remove stress from the process? With TruPlace’s Signature Floor Plan Tours with professional photos, they do!

Pre-booking: Search > Find > Book

The average guest is rich in choices and poor in time when it comes to finding the right place to stay on vacation. They spend less than a minute on a single booking site but ultimately view at least nineteen properties before choosing one. A good travel companion like a Floor Plan Tour with professional photos makes this process much easier. It helps guests:

  • Narrow down properties to consider faster
  • Remain on your site longer to visualize themselves in a home through its photos and layout
  • Trust a property manager as one who is willing to invest in quality photography and helpful tools and, therefore, more likely to be one invested in the entire guest experience
  • Gain reassurance that a property will work for all the guests in their group

In fact, these technological virtual assistants are great companions to reservation agents, too, saving them an average of eight minutes per pre-booking call.

Pre-Arrival: Plan

Travel planning doesn’t end with the booking confirmation email. Once an accommodation has been booked, the primary travel planner for a group must spend several additional hours arranging transportation, planning meals and grocery shopping, booking excursions, coordinating fellow travelers and their schedules, planning in-home activities and outlining packing lists. One activity booking company once tallied this at 30 hours of work!

Floor plan tours with professional photos help the planner reclaim some time by clearly showing what is and isn’t in a property, along with key areas of interest. For example, a detailed floor plan with pictures of bedrooms helps with room selection and sleeping arrangements — prior to arrival (thus, avoiding the problem of whoever arrives first picks the best bedroom!). The location of stairs can help parents of a toddler identify how many baby gates they might need. Professionally taken photos show all the kitchen amenities available for the family chef to use for meals, and exterior layouts with photos of parking note how many vehicles guests can bring.

In Stay: Love

Nearly two-thirds of customers say their standards for good experiences are higher than ever, and half say companies aren’t meeting their expectations. This is a quick way to a subpar review. Instead, a good travel companion like a floor plan tour and quality photos show prospective guests if a property will meet their high standards before they book, so they arrive to a vacation rental with the right expectations. (This gives property managers the opportunity to surprise, delight, and exceed those expectations!)

Post-Stay: Share > Rebook

Easier travel planning and properly set expectations make for happy guests, and happy guests are more likely to book again — if not the exact same property, from the property manager who delivered a positive experience. Once a guest has experienced the benefit of a floor plan tour in their planning, they’ll appreciate (and expect) this feature when searching for the property that meets their needs on their next visit. This can have a significant business impact: retaining an existing guest costs one-fifth as much as it does to attract a new one. But winning new guests can be made easier as well. Happy guests are also more likely to write positive reviews and refer their friends — nine in 10 of whom trust their reviews over ads.

That doesn’t mean a good travel companion’s job is over. Texas Tech University found 83% of consumers are willing to refer others after a positive experience, but only 29% actually do. TruPlace’s floor plan tours lend a hand and make it easy to share a favorite property from a social and direct share button embedded into the tour view.

92% of travelers say that they trust reviews of their friends over commercial advertising. (vroomres)

To learn more about our Signature Floor Plan Tours, professional photography services, or other visual marketing tools, visit us at www.truplace.com.