(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.
When TruPlace set out 16 years ago to create a floor plan tool, our focus was on guest use and marketing. It didn’t take long for our vacation rental manager clients to share with us additional ways they were using our signature product in their internal operations. These added benefits have since become a valued part of our product development in today’s vacation rental climate of ever-shrinking margins where every operational minute count. We made sure our new Hybrid Floor Plan Tour took this to heart. The resulting combination of our signature 2D floor plans and professional photos with strategically placed 3D spins delivers instant returns not just in better booking conversions but in time and cost savings for back-of-the-house teams.
And as any experienced vacation rental manager will tell you, better operations lead to happier guests, which in turn generate more five-star reviews and repeat bookings over the long term. Homeowners, too, value efficient and effective operations when deciding to contract or renew with a property manager. Here are four surprising ways our new tour will help streamline your operations for immediate and long-term benefits.
Shorter Call Times for Reservations
Vacation rental managers who have been using our Hybrid Floor Plan Tours or even our signature floor plans may not be as surprised by this one. Reservationists spend an average of eight minutes per pre-booking call answering questions about a property and its surroundings. Hybrid Floor Plan Tours help significantly cut down or eliminate this time by giving guests answers to their common layout questions, things like “Which bedrooms are on which floors?” and other information they need to have the confidence to book. This saves your reservationists’ valuable call time to focus on conversions and other guest service needs.
Quicker Response and Reduced Property Visits for Maintenance and Repairs
We have heard from countless property managers how their maintenance teams use floor plan tours to help triage issues without a separate trip to a property. Technicians and other staff use floor plans and images to pinpoint where problems are occurring or to identify parts or equipment they’ll need to bring to the property. The addition of 3D spins in our new Hybrid Floor Plan Tours lets staff investigate in even greater detail in the areas repair needs are reported most, like living rooms and kitchens.
Faster Orientation and Quick Reference Guides for Housekeeping and Inspecting
Similarly, we’ve heard from many clients about how their housekeeping teams use floor plan tours as training tools and property standards references for cleanliness, inventory, and staging. This is made even more detailed and thorough with 360o images in the most critical property spaces. Orientation is quick and easy for new cleaners and new properties, as is identifying specific replacement items when guests call for extras or backups.
Easier Insurance Claim Submissions
We hope no homeowner or property manager has to submit an insurance claim, but when they do, our Hybrid Floor Plan Tours make the process faster and less painful. Floor plans with image tags serve as a ready-made catalog for insurance adjusters of a property’s pre-claim state. Coincidentally, our strategically located 360o spins provide even more detailed coverage of areas likely to have more expensive claims, such as decks with pools or hot tubs.
What are other surprising ways your teams have used Hybrid Floor Plan Tours? Let us know in the comments below!
Here at TruPlace, what matters to us most is what truly moves our clients’ businesses forward by giving their end customers exactly what they’re looking for. This means user-friendly, affordable, and effective visuals – rather than simply the latest shiny marketing penny. That’s why we’ve created the Hybrid Floor Plan Tour, our signature layout tool with the beautiful photos and easy navigation clients love plus newly added TruFusion 3D spins in the rooms they care about most.
About the Hybrid Floor Plan Tour
Our new Hybrid Floor Plan Tour combines the convenience of 2D and the immersion of 3D:
Beautiful Property Photos: Your TruPlace photographers capture your properties’ interiors, exteriors, and amenities in sharp detail and vivid colors with our TruFusion technology.
Precisely Measured Floor Plan: While there, the photographers also measure the property for a detailed floor plan that includes windows, doors, stairs, and other key features. We then tag the floor plan for easy smart-touch navigation across all devices.
Immersive 3D Spins: Now, your TruPlace photographers also take TruFusion 360o images in the areas guests or buyers most often want to see in more detail or have more questions about, such as kitchens, living rooms, or decks and views.
The Hybrid Floor Plan Tour is quickly becoming a favorite among our early adopter clients, and for good reason: users can easily jump into a property in 3D in important spaces without all the steps (and cost) of a virtual tour. Plus, our professional imaging captures all 360 degrees in unbeatable clarity from the spacious waterfront backyard to the sparkle of a granite countertop.
For professional vacation rental property managers, robust and effective online property listings are no longer optional. Guests often need to understand property layouts to be sure it will meet their dynamic needs and have the confidence to book. The Hybrid Floor Plan Tour lets guests imagine themselves on vacation with strategically placed 360o views and TruFusion 2D images in every room, all a single click away on a smart-touch floor plan. The tour acts almost like a virtual assistant, helping to answer common pre-booking questions like “What is the view like from this room?” or “Can all of us sit together for dinner between the table and breakfast bar?” This saves reservationists’ valuable call time so they can focus on converting bookings.
For Real Estate Agents
The Hybrid Floor Plan Tour is perfect for large brokerages that need professional visuals at scale, for individual agents looking for the brand power of a national firm, and growing teams in between. Two-thirds of home buyers cite floor plans as important factors in deciding which homes to consider, and property sellers want to know you have what it takes to get those eyes – and offers – on their homes. We created the Hybrid Floor Plan Tour to serve agents, sellers, and buyers collectively. Agents and brokerages can win more listings with an effective, professional visual tool that impresses sellers. Those listings, in turn, can drive higher-quality leads by answering many of buyers’ make-or-break questions in minutes, deepening interest when a home looks like a good fit and saving the time of a showing when it’s not.
Before the actual event, a few of us had the opportunity to volunteer at DC Central Kitchen helping to prepare meals. Annually, DC Central Kitchen prepares over 3 million meals for those in need around the capital and offers vocational training and other resources to help combat the problems facing the area.
Nick Estrada, Director of Membership at CHPA, volunteering
The evening networking event brought in industry leaders from across the region and the highlight of the night was guest speaker Christina Winn, the Director of Business Investment for Arlington Economic Development. Since 2014 Christina has led Arlington’s efforts in business retention, national recruitment, and entrepreneurial support. She was instrumental in the recruitment of Amazon HQ2 to the National Landing area and presented on the impact of Amazon on the region and specifically with regard to housing and business tourism.
Christina Winn, Director, Business Investment Arlington Economic Development, delivering speech
Tania Odabashian stated, “It was a great event. The networking was great as always, but the speaker was amazing. For TruPlace on behalf of CHPA to land Christina Winn, Chief Architect of what Washington Business Journal is calling the “Deal of a Lifetime” was a major score.”
CHPA Members Networking
We’d like to thank everyone who volunteered their time and everyone who attended this event. It was our first go at organizing and sponsoring a CHPA event and it will not be our last. Thank you.
“This event was a resounding success. It showcases the value and importance of connecting with your industry colleagues and expanding your and your company’s networks. CHPA is so grateful for the support provided from Corporate Apartment Specialists, Streamline and TruPlace in coordinating and managing this opportunity for DC metro members and professionals,” remarked CHPA Director of Membership, Nick Estrada.
A huge thanks to Move For Hunger for organizing the event for us, we love working with you!