If you’re feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by relying solely on Airbnb for bookings, constantly competing for visibility and struggling to maintain consistent occupancy rates, then you are not alone! Despite your efforts to optimize listings and offer competitive prices, you may still be facing the risk of cancellations and unpredictable demand. Instead of the desired result of a steady stream of bookings, you might be experiencing periods of low occupancy and financial uncertainty.
In this episode, you will be able to:
- Learn how to embrace the rise of the digital nomad lifestyle to attract more guests and boost your short-term rental revenue.
- Discover the secrets to finding incredible deals on short-term rentals by tapping into the power of flexibility and open calendars.
- Understand the crucial role of reviews in building trust between hosts and guests, and learn how to leverage them to attract more bookings.
- Explore the personalized offerings of the Spontaneous newsletter service and find out how it can help you stand out in the competitive short-term rental industry.
- Gain insights into the role of Airbnb in the short-term rental industry and learn why diversification and contingency plans are essential for your business’s success.
My special guest this week is Zach Busekrus. Zach is the founder of Spontaneous, a newsletter that focuses on finding discounted stays on Airbnb. With a background in growth marketing and a decade of experience in the higher education industry, Zach brings a wealth of expertise to the short-term rental industry. During the pandemic, Zach and his wife decided to embrace the digital nomad lifestyle, breaking their lease and embarking on a year and a half of travel. Throughout their journey, they exclusively stayed in Airbnb rentals, discovering the value of flexibility and last-minute deals. Their positive experiences as guests, backed by numerous glowing reviews, led Zach to start Spontaneous, offering subscribers curated deals on Airbnb stays. With his unique perspective as both a traveler and a marketer, Zach provides valuable insights into the world of Airbnb and the opportunities it presents for hosts and guests alike.
If we could be flexible with where we went and how long we stayed, we could score incredible deals on Airbnb. – Zach Busekrus
Zach’s Website: https://www.sponstayneous.com/
The key moments in this episode are:
00:00:08 – Introduction
00:03:04 – Zach’s Background in Growth Marketing
00:04:35 – Transition to Digital Nomad Life
00:07:14 – The Boom of Remote Work and Short-Term Rentals
00:09:45 – Importance of Airbnb Reviews
00:14:57 – The Power of Podcasting in Building a Network
00:15:48 – Addressing the Spontaneous App and Airbnb
00:18:12 – Airbnb’s Impact on the Perception of Vacation Rentals
00:19:44 – Recognizing the Influence of Airbnb’s Brand
00:30:04 – Direct Bookings vs. OTAs
00:31:35 – Importance of Direct Bookings
00:35:49 – Seeking Help and Solutions
00:37:07 – Tech Stack for Direct Bookings
00:44:10 – Canada’s Short Term Rentals
00:44:35 – Direct Booking Success
Show notes are available at: https://directbookingsuccess.com/podcast/
Follow Jenn on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/directbookingsuccess
Join the Marketing Hub Free Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/marketinghubforholidayrentals
Sign up for the free masterclass – The 4-step framework for a profitable direct booking sales engine: https://directbookingsuccess.com/masterclass
Hello and welcome to another episode of Direct Booking Success. I'm your host Jennn Boyles, and today I have with me Zach Busekrus. Did I say it even close?
00:00:46 - Zach Busekrus
00:00:47 - Jenn Boyles
Now, Zach is the founder of Spontaneous, and if you haven't heard about this before, then listen up, because this is quite a great story he's got here. But if you've heard Zach speak before, you'll know he speaks a lot about Airbnbs, and he uses that term so much. And you might think that's a disconnect from what we do here at Direct Booking Success, but this is why I have him here, because I love what he's doing, and I wanted to dig more into just even that phrase that got so much to talk about. So welcome, Zach. Love to have you here today.
00:01:24 - Zach Busekrus
Yes, thank you so much, Jenn. As a fellow podcaster, it's always fun to be on the other end of the mic, right? And you'll know this. You don't always get to be the one answering the questions. Oftentimes you have to ask the questions, and I actually think it's better to ask the questions than it is to answer them, right? So it's a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me on.
00:01:48 - Jenn Boyles
I'll make it easy for you today. So tell us a little bit about who you are and where you are.
00:01:54 - Zach Busekrus
Yeah, absolutely. So I have spent the last decade working in growth marketing. And for those who might not be familiar, that's really just like, a fun way of saying, I have helped brands kind of grow their revenue, grow their marketing prowess, help them develop, go to market strategies. And most of that experience has actually happened in the context of higher education. So spent the last decade working at an agency that helped colleges and universities recruit students. So think about digital campaigns that really focus on targeting very specific demographics of students. Colleges care a lot about diversity. They care a lot about pulling in top talent in their respective spaces. So it's actually a really fun marketing challenge because most institutions have a pretty broad customer base, right? The demographic is slim in that if it's at the undergraduate level, it's typically 16 to 18/19 year olds. But within that population, there's a lot of diversity right, in where people live and what they're interested in and what they might want to study. So the really fun place to kind of cut your teeth as a marketer. So anyways, I did that for the last decade or so. I started, actually, while I was in college at this firm. And then when COVID hit actually, my wife and I got married in Italy in late 2019. So right before the Pandemic, we were living in Washington, DC. And when the Pandemic hit, it quickly became clear that we were in this very small apartment. We were newly married. We were on zoom calls, stuck, and DC was very strict with lockdowns and whatnot, so we really couldn't do much. And we were struggling. And it's hard to even say that because we didn't have a kid. We were totally taken care of. None of our family was really ill, and we were ridiculously privileged right back.
00:03:47 - Jenn Boyles
You're like, Come on.
00:03:51 - Zach Busekrus
But regardless, we did feel that way in the moment, right? So we argue about whose idea was to this day, I very much believe it was my idea initially.
00:04:02 - Jenn Boyles
You're on the podcast, so you can take yeah, you're the one here, so you can say it's yours.
00:04:06 - Zach Busekrus
Yeah. And basically, we said, what if we just broke our lease and tried the whole digital nomad thing? And we've always liked to travel, and because we were working remotely, it seemed like the perfect opportunity, right? So, long story short, we decided, let's do this. Let's break our lease. My wife's actually an attorney, so she was able to work some legal magic to get us out of our lease and hit the road in October of 2020. And then we would be on the road for about a year and a half after that. And the entire time that we were on the road, we drove everywhere. Like, we didn't fly at all. But the entire time we were on the road, we were living in what I would now call short term rentals, which I called Airbnbs. To be fair, we booked exclusively on the airbnb platform. I'd never heard of a direct booking site. I'd never heard of any of these great tools and strategies that many hosts like Eugen speak so highly of. I was a noob, if you so yeah. So that's what we did. And along the way, we realized if we could be flexible with where we went and how long we stayed, we could score incredible deals on airbnb. So we decided to start a newsletter. And the premise of the newsletter was basically, hey, let's scrape airbnb. And anytime we find great deals on stays that have been discounted because there's random few nights, middle of the week here, maybe there's a weekend and it's Thursday and they haven't been booked yet, let's put all these in a newsletter and send them out to people that might like travel deals. Pretty quickly, we threw up a landing page, tested it out, and a couple of folks in the tech world found it, shared it on social media, and we had hundreds of subscribers before we had ever launched our first edition. So that is the story of how spontaneous got started. We were positioning it as sort of like the Scott's Cheap Flights for Airbnbs, which a lot of folks might be familiar with. Scott's. Cheap flights. There's, like, Jack's Flight Club in the UK, but basically a newsletter that brings you the best last minute deals on Airbnb. So we've grown from there, and we can get into that if you want.
00:06:17 - Jenn Boyles
But the founding story yeah, no, it's great. I think we had a boom, didn't we? Pandemic had a couple of silver linings. One was that the work from wherever you are became acceptable. I was working as a digital nomad before children, before any of this, but I would have to lie to the people I was working with of where I was, or just not say that I was skiing that afternoon or going to the beach. Like, I had to pretend I was in the same city because it wasn't understood in the same way yeah. That we had this boom that came out of it, too, of the Pandemic, where people were like, okay, like what you said, I'm stuck in this small apartment. I'm out of here.
00:07:05 - Zach Busekrus
00:07:07 - Jenn Boyles
And then people realized, hey, all these people are traveling. They have no anchors. Let's just start renting out our places. So it was like a perfect storm brewing, wasn't it, in sort of 2020, 2021?
00:07:23 - Zach Busekrus
It was. And I think when we started traveling too, because obviously when COVID first hit, everyone was scared. Everyone was inside. People were just understanding. So we didn't know what was happening. Everyone was very cautious. So the idea of travel was like, you only did that if you absolutely, like, if it was a right. But then by the time October of 2020 had rolled around, we had experienced enough. We sort of understood there were still lots of regulations and lockdowns and whatnot, but by October of 2020, we kind of had a better grasp of what was happening. Right? And so it was like this sweet spot of life, we felt comfortable anyways, and we were very cautious, but we felt comfortable traveling at that particular juncture. And at the same time, I think a lot of short term rental hosts felt they, quite frankly, needed travelers to come, and they were super open and flexible because so many of them had lost so many bookings. It was like, hey, yes, I will give you a great deal. If you want to come for these nine days, I have this nine day gap. If you want to come for all nine days from Tuesday to the following Friday, I'd love for you, and I'll give you this.
00:08:32 - Jenn Boyles
And so any revenue was good revenue.
00:08:36 - Zach Busekrus
During those as we started traveling, my reviews on Airbnb and this is another reason why we exclusively traveled on the Airbnb platform now, we started getting all these great reviews. And so when I was reaching out to people and I had found their stay and I was interested in coming, they could also go and look at me as like, a guest, right, and be like, oh my gosh, this guy has 50 reviews and he's got great ratings. We can give him a discount. We can trust him because a lot of the time, short term rental houses don't want to give discounts. Rightly. So if you drop your rate too low, you're going to attract a guest avatar that you actually might not want to stay in your place. Right. And price is a big indicator of the kind of traveler, the kind of guests that end up coming to your place. And not everybody wants to cut it 50%, even if they are still profitable at that rate, because again, they want to make sure that their home is going to be cared for. And so the reviews that the airbnb offered on the platform was, I think, helpful in giving hosts the comfort that we weren't going to trash their place.
00:09:43 - Jenn Boyles
Yeah, that's great. You're right. By October 2020, I think we were all looking at our four walls and going, okay, we've had a bit of freedom here, but what's coming around actually, I was living in the UK at the time, and I'd basically spent just the whole time in our house, not gone anywhere. And I usually would come to Canada in the summer, so that was postponed, and we decided that my parents were going to come to the UK.
00:10:11 - Zach Busekrus
00:10:11 - Jenn Boyles
And so they traveled at the same time as you. October I think it was October 2020. It might have been the beginning of November, but they said, we're going to come now because what's the difference between us being in Canada in lockdown and being with you guys and we could spend Christmas together in the UK? Yeah, they took all the precautions, and I'm like, okay. And we all were very nervous about them coming over, but they made it and nobody got sick. It was great they came over, but then they got stuck with us. So we thought we had come for like, four or five months. They got stuck with us and ended up being there for nine months.
00:10:47 - Zach Busekrus
00:10:48 - Jenn Boyles
Because then the flight industry went crazy and they couldn't get back. It was crazy. It was a crazy time, but we were together. And the silver lining there was that so many families in Christmas 2020 couldn't be together, and we were very lucky and we knew it, that we could be together. So that was great. But it was such a weird time. So I love that you thought, okay, well, let's pass on this goodness to everyone else. Let's start a newsletter and start telling people about it. So then what happened with the business?
00:11:32 - Zach Busekrus
So, again, it was a very side hustle. We both had pretty intense jobs and working crazy hours, and this was very much from 09:00 p.m. Till midnight 01:00, a.m. Sort of endeavor each week. And we started pretty simply with just one newsletter a week and it was just curated around the States and it wasn't very specific. And then from there we decided to grow it. We said, hey, not everyone wants 50 deals from all over the place. Jenn probably is interested in deals in particular locations. She's probably not interested in deals in other locations. So how do we? So we were able know, spin up some additional newsletter offerings eventually. Today, if you subscribe to Spontaneous, you can say like, hey, I only want deals from this particular zip code, or 2 hours from this particular zip code, you can get very granular or you can be like, hey, send me everything in the northeast, right, or everything in the UK. So you can kind of go really wide or really deep. At the time, that wasn't the case at all. It was very jerky, a little bit more professionalized today and yet at the same time we're totally bootstrapped. Like, I'm very close to being 100% full time on Spontaneous. I do still do a little marketing consulting work on the side because the business isn't quite able to pay me what I need it to do at this particular juncture, but still very bootstrapped. But we've been able to create what I think is a fun offering for folks who like to travel, who like the short term rental that they prefer to stay in a short term rental than a hotel and quite frankly, they have a lot of flexibility. So, like, our core audience are folks who are working remote jobs, right? They have disposable income, right? They like to travel, they like to stay in pretty places, they like to show off spaces to their friends on Instagram. That is kind of the core segment of individuals that we target with our offerings because every deal that populates on Spontaneous is only available in the next 30 days, right? So you can't come to Spontaneous and plan a trip nine months from now. That's not really how it works, right? That's not what we're trying to do here. It grew slowly but surely would invest a little bit more time here, a little bit more time there, and then eventually got to a point where and actually, I should say it was really the podcast. So I built like a small niche media company in the higher ed space and realized there were so many great podcasts as I started to dive into the short term rental world and started to even, quite frankly, become familiar with that word, right? And my take was that there were lots of great hosting tips and how to and really great people that were a lot smarter than me, that were talking about investing and all this stuff. I thought what was missing from the podcast landscape was more like the humans of New York, the humans of short term rentals, sort of like a story driven show. Something like, I built this kind of Guy Raz style show, right, from NPR. And I thought, you know what, I think I could do something like that. And so that was the premise of behind the Stays, which is my podcast. And it was really, once we started the podcast, where we started to really expand, because that was really the platform where I first met hosts, right up until this junk building stuff for just like, the travelers like me, right, and sponsor cool. And hosts like you, Jenn, you all also are travelers. Right, and that's great, but I had no network of people that were actually building companies and portfolios and incredible brands in this space, and the podcast opened the door to meet those people.
00:15:34 - Jenn Boyles
Yeah, I can see that being really true. Now, if you're listening to this and you're thinking, okay, it sounds really cool, but this is spontaneous, built. I know. It's just getting that extra in knowing it's built upon Airbnb. So what the heck is he doing here on this podcast? So maybe we can sort of tackle that and talk about not going into all the tech. We don't want everyone to fall asleep, but maybe tell us a little bit how that works.
00:16:10 - Zach Busekrus
Yeah, well, let me just start by saying that I had no idea getting into this world that Airbnb was such a naughty word. Right. You talk to people who've built incredible vacation rental management companies or have been in the short term rental industry long before Airbnb was even in existence. Right. And so maybe it was me being naive. I like to think it was just me being like most people, right. Which is like, Airbnb was my first introduction to a short term rental. Right. My family, I guess, had gone to a couple of vacation rentals at the beach. When I hear vacation rental, right, what I immediately think of is like, okay, we're going to a place where you have to bring your own sheets, you have to bring your own towels. They're not going to have any shampoo. Everything's going to be kind of gross. It's going to be old, but it'll be close to the beach, or it might even be on the beach. Right. When I hear vacation rental, that's what comes to mind, and I know that I'm not alone in that, right?
00:17:22 - Jenn Boyles
No, you're not, because it's the same me, and especially when you look in the UK, where I've been living for so many years now, it was the same thing. It was a different term, but it was a holiday let or a holiday cottage, and it was kind of like, you're going to bring your own sheets, you're going to bring this, you're going to bring that. They're just providing you this shell of a building. And things have changed so much since then, but yeah, I can see why that would be your yeah.
00:17:53 - Zach Busekrus
And again, like, I think what's really important, and I do think most people who are listening to the conversation know this, right, is that I think Airbnb deserves an incredible amount of credit for creating, really just raising the standards of the booked through. I remember my first introduction to Airbnb and being able to see these incredible homes and being like, wow, I could stay there and I'm paying less or close to equal what I'd be paying to stay at a four star hotel. That's amazing. Yes. And that for me was really like I associated Airbnb with quality vacation rent. When I first started digging into this, I was like, okay, well, yes, you can go to some other OTAs, even like Verbo, from my perspective, the quality of stay is dramatically different. If you want beautiful, gorgeous looking places, the way that Airbnb's, UX and UI works, it just makes your listings look beautiful. Right now there are hosts who've done incredible work behind those listings, right, airbnb credit. Right. But they did create a platform that was optimized for beauty and I think that other OTAs have not been successful in being able to replicate that. And so this is a long way of saying spontaneous works. But I think that context is important because if you've been in the industry for a long time, you might forget the fact that to most travelers, to most of your guests right, you are like that might not be true. It isn't actually. It is actually false. Jenn, your place is not actually an Airbnb. Airbnb is a company, right? It is an Ota that helps. It serves as the marketplace to introduce people like me to people like you. It's a great introductory tool is really what it is. I can also pay through it. It keeps me safe as a guest. It keeps you safe in theory at least, as a host, right? That is what airbnb is. But talking to my grandma, right, last week, she's getting together. My grandma is 85 years old, she's getting together with four of her girlfriends from high school. She was telling me all about the fact that she had just booked this Airbnb in Florida that they were all going to stay at. Come to find out, she actually booked the home on Vrbo. But my grandma called it and just that we are you can hate it, but that is where we are. And I think if you ignore that, you're just ignorant, quite might. You don't have to love it, but that is the reality. And if you care about building a brand, if you care about building your business, if you care about attracting the next generation of guests, you'll realize that Airbnb is not the enemy, even though that's often how they're positioned in the context of these direct booking conversations. Now, all that said, how spontaneous works is we use Airbnb because Airbnb has, in my opinion, the best inventory of listings. They have the easiest APIs to work with. We scrape airbnb. And then if you're a host partner, if you partner with spontaneous, what we'll do is anytime your listing is free, we plug into your airbnb calendar, but anytime your listing is free, we'll send an email offer to subscribers who are following stays in that region and then we'll have a link to your direct booking site. So it's kind of cool if we end up introducing travelers who otherwise wouldn't know that direct booking sites even existed. Like me, I traveled for a year and a half. Never once did I even think to try to find a host direct booking site. I do believe that's changing now and people are getting a little bit smarter. Guests are getting a little bit smarter. But that was even a year and a half ago. That was not something that never crossed my mind. It never crossed my mind, right?
00:21:45 - Jenn Boyles
No, and it wouldn't. I had a talk with someone the other day and they were talking about this condo that went up to Whistler, which is just north of Vancouver, you might have heard of it. And he was saying, you've heard of it.
00:21:58 - Zach Busekrus
My dad and mom actually went there on their honeymoon, of all things, and they're from Hawaii, but they went to Whistler for the honeymoon. So anyways, yes, it has changed.
00:22:07 - Jenn Boyles
Lots since then because I used to go as a kid and it was a gravel parking lot with a couple of frames and a ski lift. And I remember the first grocery store was like a trailer. It was just yeah, anyways, it's completely different now, but these friends of mine were going to have a stay in Whistler and they said, okay, so this is before he kind of realized what I did. And he said to me, yeah, we booked this condo, it was for three families. We went to Whistler and then they sent me some information and it was so professional. And so I looked up their website and you know what, I could have booked on their website for the same place and saved money.
00:22:49 - Zach Busekrus
00:22:51 - Jenn Boyles
And I was like, yeah, I know you can because this is what I do. But yeah. So there's a lot of education needed out, I think, you know, describing how you use the term airbnb. You are right. I have been one of those people that have been, oh, I'm not using that term. That is beneath us. But then we're so crazy in the sector anyways with all the different terminology, it's a mess. So yes, airbnb is the term that so many people use and even hosts that go onto airbnb platform, it's a starting point, is where, you know, it was on that platform. So I think using that term, we're not going to get rid of it. And by me not saying airbnb and using short term rental or vacation rental or holiday land or whatever, instead is not going to change that.
00:23:51 - Zach Busekrus
Just thinking about it, right? If you're starting a business and you have access to customers, and the price to get access to literally millions of potential customers is anywhere between 3% to 15%, depending on lots of factors, it is a little cut of the pie. There's no subscription base. You're not paying to have your place up there. They're taking a cut of revenue only if your place gets booked. That is magical nowhere else. If you build an e-commerce product, you can't drop it. Even dropping it on Amazon is a lot harder right, than it is to launch something on Airbnb. Believe it or never. No business person would ever tell you, hey, Jenn, you just built this really cool product, right? Build a website, make it really clear how folks can buy the product on your website. Don't even think about trying to put it on Amazon. The largest online retailer in the would be that would be so what I always get upset about is like, look, yes, if you really want to build a brand and you really want to do all this work and you really want to build like a direct booking site, great. If you want to turn this into a full time business, that's absolutely what you should be. That's absolutely what you should do. But don't knock the OTAs. Don't knock the marketing that they give you. Don't knock the technology and the verification that they give you. Because anywhere else in the world, in any other sector, to get access to that level of tool would cost you an insane amount more than what Airbnb takes. Right? And so let's just shoot straight here. It's an incredible platform that deserves a lot of respect that has revolutionized the entire industry. It is not the end all, be all. If you want to build a business, absolutely do so. But let's just stop hating it so much. It's easy to hate on, I guess, the biggest fish in the pond, but I just don't always understand the reason behind it.
00:26:05 - Jenn Boyles
No, and I think I agree with you completely, 100%. And that's why I really had you on today, is to talk about these things because I totally agree. I had a client who was launching a new place in England, and they're like, we don't want to use any OTAs. We want to be 100% direct from the get go, one cottage. And I'm like, Are you sure this is going to be the harder route to take, but we can do it. And we did it. They were 100% book direct, but it was one place. If they had come to me and said, okay, I've got five places, I would have been like, you are absolutely stupid not to use the tools that are there. The problem that I see with using Airbnb is when you have people who use only yeah, yeah. Because things can happen. Airbnb is a huge company. You could have one property and yes, you might be saying, okay, this is my business, but I'm running it fully through somebody else's company. What if there's a problem with a guest? What if there's a tech hitch and your listing gets shut down or there's a complaint and your listing gets shut down? They run that, they can turn that tap off. And that's the issue that I see, that if you want to create a business, then you have to diversify. And that could be other OTAs listing sites, your own website. But that's the crux of it from where I'm sitting, is if you just go 100% in with just airbnb, which.
00:27:42 - Zach Busekrus
Again, I think it makes a lot of sense, if you put that same sort of smart business person hat on, and you were to tell somebody, hey, we are fully vested in this one particular area, and we don't control whether or not that light ever gets switched off or not. We have zero control over where the light gets switched on or off. We don't have access to the control panel. That smart business person would say, okay, well, as the contingency plan, when that light inevitably does at some point, even if there's no nefarious act, it does get shut off. How are you going to make sure that you have a place where people can come and stay? And so I'm 100% with you. I do want to ask with the one cottage that you helped stand up for folks, that it was 100% direct booking. Did they have a large social following or where were they acquiring customers from or did they have a large brand from another region? What was their percentage of nightly bookings? Because you can't just launch a place without a lot of I'm an SEO nut and nerd. And so I understand how Google ranks content, right? And so I'm just curious, what was their nightly rate?
00:29:00 - Jenn Boyles
You only share what you can't, well, I couldn't tell you exactly what the nightly rate was because I don't remember. But they're starting. So we were working together prior to them opening. So I was creating their website and helping with their marketing, but it was starting before they were ready to take bookings. So they created an audience, they created the desire and then when they launched, they had people booking it. So it was mainly through social media. Yeah, and it was through people they knew. It was one property. When I launched my boat, I had a boat in Liverpool in England, and when I launched that, I was 70% direct because of the same thing. I started that audience. Now I was a bit lazy, but I had it on airbnb, it's on, you know, but I fill up that calendar mostly with then, you know, if someone books on airbnb that is know if that's where they want to.
00:30:04 - Zach Busekrus
00:30:04 - Jenn Boyles
If they want to book on booking.com, that's fine. I'll give them the same service. It's not as easy for me because my platform that I use is off of Airbnb and booking.com because I'm using my own stuff on my own website. But it can be done if you're willing to put in the just I unless it's a side hustle. If it's a side hustle and you just want a few nights booked now, then fine, stick all your eggs in one basket. I had a cousin who, when I first sort of started this, I wrote to her and I said, look, I know you're doing B and B in your house. They were in Canada, I was in the UK. And I'm like, do you want any help? Do you want to do a website? Whatever. And she wrote me back and she says, I love what you're doing, but this is not a business. This is wanting to get a few nights here and there of people in Airbnb helps me do that. I am.
00:31:12 - Zach Busekrus
Fine. It is fine. And that's what some folks would call the hobby host, right? And I think that where I'm with you is you should have a way for people to book directly with you as a contingency plan, should Airbnb or whatever other Ota you might be on shut down. You really should. I think it's only worth doing a lot like building an audience, right, building a social media following. However you want to do that, you have to do that as far as I'm concerned, if you want to build up a solid direct booking strategy. I don't know. Unless you rank incredibly well, you have a beautiful website that ranks for vacation rentals in popular travel destinations. Unless you rank for that kind of term in a top position on a Google SERP. You have to grow through society. I really don't know how else you do it, right? Or unless you only rent family and friends. Now, what I like to say to my friends like Eugen, who are doing incredible work in this space is like, you have to make sure that, let's say it's a 15% cut that Airbnb ends up taking from every booking, right? You have to do the math and make sure that the time that you're going to spend on that is less than 15%, right? And I think the hard reality for a lot of people now, the professionals, I think can do this and the people that have bigger visions and the people that want to grow portfolios and they want to build a cool, consumer facing brand around their properties. You have to do the math and just make sure that whatever that delta is, let's say it's 15% you have to make sure that the time that you're going to go and spend building everything that you need to build to have a properly functioning direct booking system and strategy is less than that. 15%. And I don't see many people able to do that unless, again, they're really trying to grow a hospitality brand. And if you're trying to grow a hospitality brand and you're trying to do this well, absolutely, that should be your motive. And I have many friends in this space who have 60, 70, even 80% direct bookings because they've done the work of building large social followings, because they're interested in building hospitality brands. I think for other folks, it's just a lot of work. Now, you can do it too, if you just love it right? If you just love it and you love creating content and you love websites, this is like your life too, also do it right. But I think what my fear is, is sometimes, and I've had people write me long emails in response to some things I've talked about on my podcast. And they feel so defeated. They're like, I'm trying to do all these direct booking things, but it's so hard. And my guesty site went down, and then somebody had done this thing, and then people are saying that my site looks sketchy, and that's why they don't want to book. They want to book through Airbnb because my website isn't designed beautifully. I don't know how to design a pretty website. I don't have the money. So you've probably heard all these things ten times more than I have.
00:34:27 - Jenn Boyles
But that's why I totally agree with you. Don't spend more time or money than you would with the OTAs. However, that's why I exist. That's why I do what I do, is because I've done it, I've got the formula, and now I help others who are in that because I see so many people chasing their tail, they're going, I'm posting five times a week, I'm doing lives, I'm doing this, I'm doing that, and nothing's coming through. And I'm like, okay, calm. Let's look at it with a clear head. Let's look at your overall strategy, because I've spoken about this many times, that you don't have to be everywhere all the time. You can have a strategy, we'll figure out what works for you, and then you can lean into it. And that's why myself and other sort of mentors and coaches are in the industry helping. Now, if you've just started on Airbnb and you're new to the world, how do you get into this whole once your eyes are open to this whole sector of hospitality, if you go on LinkedIn or any of the conferences and stuff, we just had Direct Booking Success online. Somehow something has to come to you to open your eyes and go, wow, there's help out there.
00:35:41 - Zach Busekrus
Yeah. Again, you and others are, like, the solution to this, right? And I think that's super important. And folks need that help. There is so much help that I think that this industry needs. My hope is people take the time to think very critically about yeah. What is your goal? What are you actually trying to do? And if you are just trying to be like you think, you said it was your cousin who has someone renting out their basement a couple of times a week or a couple of times a month, whatever it is, that's also okay. You're not a terrible person. You're not like a crappy host, if that's your mode, for all different reasons. Now, again, I think there is an incredible opportunity to build very strong boutique hospitality brands in this space. And I think we're just entering this very exciting chapter where people like you, people who are trying to do this the right way, who understand hospitality, who understand real estate, who understand sort of the need to build strong systems and brands, you all are going to change this industry and that's very exciting. It is. I still think there's work to be done to figure out. Yeah. What is the right tech stack for the starter host? If you want to go from one to ten properties, you ask people who are in that one to ten property category. People are using all sorts of PMS, people are using all sorts of websites built. There's not like an industry leader, I would say, in each of these categories. And I think that there needs to be, there should be. I've tried out all these tools and to be totally honest, I think direct booking strategies will only go as far as they can until the user experience on these tools, whether it's your website and actually, a lot of hosts I see have actually beautiful websites like website builders, like Squarespace and HubSpot and WordPress. They've got enough templates out there where you can make a dynamic, beautiful looking site. It's really, when it comes to the booking engine that you're using, where I think things can get really clunky. And in my opinion, until that experience, that checkout experience, is as seamless as it is on airbnb, it's going to be really hard to hit 70, 80% direct booking unless you have hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram.
00:38:17 - Jenn Boyles
There's just so many things and so many factors, isn't there? We are not going to solve it today, unfortunately. I think we could, though, if you and I kept talking, I think we probably could solve all of these issues for everyone. But no, I've absolutely loved speaking with you today and this is exactly what I wanted to do, was to get into this conversation. Now, spontaneous. Okay, so a newsletter, website getting those sort of last minute deals, it can go to your Airbnb link, it can go to your direct booking site. Now, you also have something, there's two other things on your website that I wanted to ask you about. One is a verified stay and the other one is a stay. Watch.
00:39:07 - Zach Busekrus
Yeah. So real quickly, sure, verified Stays are our host partners. So these are people that have signed up to be spontaneous host partners. It's like $99 a year. And what that guarantees is anytime your listing is free. When we're doing our scrapes available, anytime it's available, it'll automatically be included in our newsletters and on our website for people that are looking for stays in those particular regions. So it integrates, it's automatic. You don't have to worry about it. Staywatch is actually our latest product that we just launched. And think about it as like Google flight alerts, but for short term rentals. Or we use but for Airbnbs in the positioning because it's towards a traveler. Right, fine. You can't yeah, the idea is yeah, if you say short term rentals, anyone outside the industry is like, what? Let's say you knew that you wanted to go back and visit some friends in London over Christmas, right. You could create a Statewatch and say, hey, I want to go to London. From these dates to these dates, roughly, I want to spend no more than $500 a night or whatever it is, and I want two beds, two baths at a minimum. You basically tell us what your criteria is. You click Go, and then every day if you want it, or every week if you want it, or every month, depending on the frequency that you want, we'll bring you automatically curated listings that match all of your criteria that have been discounted for the dates that you want to travel to. So that'll happen automatically. Now, what we do for hosts on the back end is if we have a host partner who's got availability and who meets Jenn's criteria, we'll automatically make that introduction. Right. So it'll be, you know, Zach wants to stay at Jenn's place because Jenn's place matches his criteria. I'll get an email promoting Jenn's place after I create my staywatch saying, we found the perfect place for you. Check it out. Right? So that's how those systems kind of integrate. And then the last thing is Ping, which is a super simple SaaS tool. It lives on your website or your direct booking site. And what Ping does, which is really cool, is it's almost like a smart waitlist, right? So a lot of folks have, like, waitlists of hey newsletter or get on our waitlist if your dates aren't currently available. Cool about Ping is I can go to Jenn's direct booking site. I can look at her website if her place isn't available in the last week of October, which is where I wanted to travel to, I can create a Ping right on her website, and I can say, hey, notify me if this becomes available. Now, if Jenn gets a cancellation, the minute that cancellation comes through, I'm going to receive an email inviting me to come book that stay during those dates. Right. So it's a super simple tool. People love it. These smart hosts that have started buying Ping, what they're doing, which was not how we built it, when they're opening up their calendar seasonally, they're saying, hey, everybody, like on Instagram, go and create your pings and tell us when you want to come. And then they're looking on the back end and they're saying, oh my gosh, we have eight people that want to stay this weekend in October. Let's jack the rates, like, way up. Well, that has told us, hey, we want to come on these specific dates. Right? So they're using it as a revenue management tool, which is, again, not what we had intended, but very cool and very smart. So anyways, yeah, that's what we do for hosts. And yeah, if there's anyone listening that wants to learn more, I'd obviously love to chat with you about it, but yeah, that's spontaneous today.
00:42:29 - Jenn Boyles
Yeah, well, definitely the links going in the show notes. And I just love what you're doing because these products are so innovative. They really are. And it's not just I know you're using the term airbnb and that's totally fine, but everything that you have created can be part of somebody's direct booking strategy.
00:42:50 - Zach Busekrus
Yeah, 100%. And actually, I'm glad you brought this up because what's also really cool, Jenn, is I'm getting emails from people that are like, oh, my gosh, I never knew I could book Direct because of like, I'm finding these host websites and I have friends. Our followers now are like, hey, do you have the direct booking link for this stay? And I'm like, actually, they're not a host partner, but let me see if I can go find it for you. The word is getting out there, right, and it's cool to be one very small way in which we're helping contribute to the movement that people like you are building.
00:43:26 - Jenn Boyles
It's so brilliant. I absolutely love it and thank you for that. And can I just be spontaneous worldwide, is it not?
00:43:37 - Zach Busekrus
We currently curate in the US and Europe. However, I don't know when this podcast is planning to go live, but as of mid September, we are in South America. So we'll be in Colombia, Argentina, and oh, gosh, my team's going to kill me. Well, we'll be in a few countries in South America and we'll be in a few Asia as well.
00:43:59 - Jenn Boyles
Okay. And Canada. I didn't hear you mention Canada.
00:44:02 - Zach Busekrus
Yeah. We have all of North America. Canada.
00:44:05 - Jenn Boyles
You can't just forget Canada there. I know you're our big brother, but come on.
00:44:10 - Zach Busekrus
I was just going to say, you guys have some of the best short term rentals. Like, they're like they're stunning. So, yes, of course we have Canada.
00:44:17 - Jenn Boyles
Brilliant. Brilliant. Now, okay, you told me you have a response. Ready for this question. I am on pins and needles because I can't wait to hear what you're going to say. Although I'm slightly less nervous now that we've had our talk. What does Direct Booking Success mean to you?
00:44:35 - Zach Busekrus
What? I think it means to me that success is obviously relative, right? You've probably heard that as a response before. How I want to sort of pivot this is I think that there's an incredible amount of room to build great brands that are hospitality focused, that use short term rentals as an asset in this space. And I think that the biggest question that will determine your success when it comes to direct bookings is do we want to build a consumer facing brand? Right? Because I think that that's what you have to do in order to build a successful direct booking strategy. I think that there's loads of room for more people to come and build these incredible brands that wrap together these wonderful portfolios of short term rentals in the space. And I'm really excited to meet these people as more and more of them continue. If you're listening to this, you could already be a part of this, maybe you are already a part of this, maybe you aspire to be, but I think the biggest question that you should be asking yourselves is, do we want to build a consumer facing brand? Because I think that's what you have to do if you want to have success with direct bookings. If you don't want to do that, from my perspective, you're probably better off spending that time elsewhere and sticking to OTAs. So that's my warmish take, I guess.
00:45:55 - Jenn Boyles
In response to your question, I built this podcast on the back of that question because the word success is relative. And that's why I find it so interesting to hear everyone's take on that question, because success could mean building a huge brand with 100 properties, it could mean being able to do the school run and pick up your kid after school. It can be anything. And that's what this is, such a diverse sector of hospitality. And I just love hearing everyone's answer and your answer was brilliant. So thank you so much. So I will put the link of sponstayneous, which is a brilliant name. Is it?
00:46:40 - Zach Busekrus
Yeah, or you can just Google last minute airbnb deals and we rank number one for that, so yeah, whatever is easier.
00:46:47 - Jenn Boyles
Yeah, no, I think it's great. So I'll put those links in the show notes. And thank you, Zach, so much for coming on today, it has been a brilliant conversation. Thank you.
00:46:56 - Zach Busekrus
Thank you so much, Jenn, it's been a pleasure.