If you’re feeling frustrated because your current marketing efforts are not generating the direct bookings and repeat guests you desire, then you are not alone! You may be spending time and resources on social media and online advertising, only to see minimal results in terms of brand recognition and customer loyalty. Instead of seeing an increase in direct bookings, you may be struggling to stand out in a crowded vacation rental market, leaving you feeling overlooked and undervalued. It’s time to pivot your branding strategy and focus on building a strong vacation rental brand that resonates with your target audience and sets you apart from the competition.
The real winners in the space are the people that are performing in the top ten, top 20% of listings. And it’s not that the listings somehow are magically better. You can look at an apples to apples comparison, it’s just that they’re designed better, they have better quality things inside. – Jeff Iloulian
In this episode, you will be able to:
- Learn the secrets to boosting direct bookings and guest loyalty with our latest podcast episode.
- Discover the power of group purchasing to streamline expenses and maximize profits in your vacation rental business.
- Uncover the significance of maintaining brand consistency for a strong and memorable vacation rental identity.
- Unlock insider tips for saving money on essential products for your vacation rental without compromising quality.
- Master the art of building a compelling and recognizable brand for your vacation rental, setting you apart from the competition.
My special guest this week is Jeff Iloulian. Jeff is the co-founder and CEO of Host GPO. He brings extensive experience in managing a diverse portfolio of 150 vacation rental properties, ranging from luxury homes to individual studios. With a background in law, Jeff’s transition into the vacation rental industry showcases his strategic vision and adaptability. His entrepreneurial journey led to the founding of Host GPO, a pioneering buying group that revolutionizes the procurement process for hosts, providing access to top-tier brands and products. Jeff’s expertise in navigating the challenges of property management and his emphasis on the significance of quality furnishings offer practical insights for hosts aiming to enhance their brand presence and elevate guest satisfaction.
Connect with Jeff:
Host GPO – 3 months free – no commitment – https://mydbs.live/hostgpo
The key moments in this episode are:
00:00:08 – Introduction to Vacation Rental Industry
00:03:00 – Host GPO and Group Purchasing Organization
00:08:01 – Impact of Quality on Vacation Rental Costs
00:12:30 – Hospitality Grade Products and Wholesale Experience
00:14:02 – Importance of Brand Standards in Vacation Rentals
00:16:27 – Buying Brand Standard Products
00:18:50 – Allocating Budget for Maximum Impact
00:22:53 – Hospitality Do’s and Don’ts
00:26:45 – Protecting Personal Items in Rentals
00:27:47 – Leveraging Property Features for Bookings
00:29:13 – Unique Items and Partnerships
00:30:46 – Membership Discounts and Savings
00:33:42 – Building a Brand Standard for Direct Bookings
00:36:03 – Host GPO Trial and Expansion
FREE GUIDE: 10 Ways to Drive Guests to your Website instead of Airbnb: https://directbookingsuccess.com/10-ways-to-drive-guests-to-your-website-instead-of-airbnb/
Show notes are available at: https://directbookingsuccess.com/podcast/
Follow Jenn on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/directbookingsuccess
Join Jenn’s free group – the Marketing Hub Free Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/marketinghubforholidayrentals
00:00:32 - Jenn Boyles
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the direct booking success podcast. I'm your host, Jenn Boyles, and today I have Jeff Iloulian with me. He is the co-founder and CEO of host GPO. Hello, Jeff. Great to have you here.
00:00:48 - Jeff Iloulian
Hello. Really excited to be here.
00:00:51 - Jenn Boyles
Great. Now, let's start with your background, because I think at your height, you were managing about 150 units. So how did this all start?
00:01:01 - Jeff Iloulian
Yeah, when my vacation rental company was its biggest, we were managing 150 properties. And those are everything from luxury homes to apartments, apartment buildings, individual studios, the whole mix of them. But how did it all start? Well, once upon a time, I was a lawyer, which is not usually how that vacation rental industry story starts, I think. And technically, I think technically, I'm still legally a lawyer.
00:01:26 - Jenn Boyles
Good to know.
00:01:27 - Jeff Iloulian
Good to know. Good to know. Yeah. Currently active and participating member of the bar association. But I was practicing law. I'd been doing it for a couple of years, and I remember reading in 2014 an article that came out in dealbook about vacation rentals and about the vacation rental industry and specifically about lease arbitrage. And I thought it was so fascinating, and it just kind of stuck around in the back of my mind. An opportunity presented itself in 2014. I started with that first property just immediately, loved everything about it, from setting up the home to the hospitality aspect, to messaging guests with recommendations on where I thought they should go, and really loved the whole industry part of it and the hospitality part of it, and grew that business from one to 1010 to 40, 40 to 150, and ran that vacation rental company over course of about, I don't know, seven or eight years, and then started host GPO about three, four years ago. And I was still kind of working there, but also starting this and really started from a need that I had, which was I was having a tough time buying furniture, linens, amenities, mattresses, supplies, rugs, art, you name it. Anybody that's listening knows the pains that go into that. And host GPO came from that.
00:02:51 - Jenn Boyles
So what exactly is it? What's your sort of elevator pitch for host GPO?
00:02:56 - Jeff Iloulian
Yeah, so host GPO, we're a buying group for vacation rental hosts. So if you're an owner operator with a couple of units, or if you are a large property management company with a couple hundred units or a couple thousand units, you join host GPO as a member. And when you join and become a part of our group, you can buy from any of the brands that we partner with. And that's a lot of name brands like West Elm or article or Creighton, Barrel or Helix, Brooklyn Inn, Public Goods, Rugs USA, or a lot of kinds of wholesale companies that you wouldn't normally have access to. So that's things like standard textile, Gibson, or diversified hospitality, or a couple of these other brands where they don't really have direct to consumer parts of their business, or you can't get access to the products and pricing that host GPO has. So essentially, we're a membership based group. This is a long elevator, by the way. This is like a 60-70 floor elevator. You got to tell me how many floors we're going so I can cater floors?
00:03:52 - Jenn Boyles
Yeah, for sure.
00:03:53 - Jeff Iloulian
At least 50 floors. I got another five floors. So it's a membership based group that you join. And once you're a part of it, you really can buy all of this stuff at the contractually guaranteed best discount pricing.
00:04:04 - Jenn Boyles
So because from my layman's point of view, or my understanding is the more people you have together, the greater the buying power and that the companies will then give you the discount, a further discount because they know they're going to sell more units.
00:04:21 - Jeff Iloulian
That's right. So host GPO collectively has over 300,000 properties signed up. That's in the US and Canada, which are our only two markets that we're in right now. And between all of those folks, we have the guaranteed best pricing with each of the brands that we buy from. So even if you decide to go direct or you have 5000 homes or whatever, there's no way you're going to be able to get better pricing than what host GPO gets.
00:04:41 - Jenn Boyles
00:04:42 - Jeff Iloulian
And the GPO stands for group purchasing organization, and that's actually a type of business model. GPOs, they exist in other industries. So healthcare, pharmaceuticals, restaurants, you name it, you name a big industry, there is a GPO behind that industry which is aggregating all of the buying power into this collective group and then going and finding the best products and negotiating the pricing for those products. So if you were a doctor and you're opening a new doctor's practice, or you're a dentist, or opening a hospital, you're not going to try to figure out which scissors on Amazon are the right ones for you to buy to do your surgery, right? Whatever people are going to Amazon to buy scissors, it's very different from the use that you're going to have. And you're also not going to call and reach out to 30 different scissor makers to figure out what the best discount you can get is. So that's what GPOs do, is they find the best products that make sense for that specific use, and then they go and negotiate that pricing and terms and shipping and all that stuff for the whole group.
00:05:48 - Jenn Boyles
Yeah, it's a no brainer once you think about it, isn't it? The more people you can get together, then you can get a lower price. Now, you started this off as being a host yourself, managing up to 150 units properties. I want to hear the stories that led you to getting to this idea of house GPO, because the horror stories, because we've all been there where you've got to find something. We've all done Ikea runs and whatever, and had to put furniture together. But tell us about yours, because yours is on a whole other scale.
00:06:27 - Jeff Iloulian
Yeah, I mean, I've had a couple of crazy ones. Ikea always sends chills down my spine because I definitely had the big Ikea days. The biggest one we ever did was we did a 48 shopping cart Ikea checkout, which 16 of my team members took just the checkout alone took 3 hours. We ended up loading everything into a u haul, and then we had to build it. And when you started to think about, well, how much money did I really save? How much did that cost me in terms of time, in terms of my time, in terms of my team's time, the headaches that are associated with it. One of my employees got into an accident in his u Haul on the way back, so that ended up being a headache. And so when you start to think about it, the quality of products weren't great, and so we ended up having to replace everything pretty quickly. And then two, you start thinking about the amount of time that went into it, and then you realize that, well, if I would have ordered from a brand like West Elm or pottery barn or something else, that would have come, been delivered and assembled for a flat fee, no matter how much you order, like, those types of things really start playing a big role in determining how much you should spend up front to save yourself and what you're spending money on.
00:07:47 - Jenn Boyles
We all want the nicest things for our properties, for our guests, but it comes down to money, doesn't it? Yeah, it really does.
00:07:57 - Jeff Iloulian
But there's all these people jumping, I think, and I did, too. I mean, you jump at the well, this is the lowest one. This is $2 less than the other one. This is $4 less than the other one. And you jump at that right away and you don't realize all the hidden costs that you're not seeing. Replacing furniture is so expensive in your vacation rental. It's a crazy thing to do because when you think about it, the pull out couch that you buy, that maybe is intended for having some guests throughout the year. Your family comes to stay and they want to sleep on a pull out couch, maybe you open that thing once or twice a year. You can't put that same pull out couch that's meant for one or two times a year use. You can't buy like the lowest quality one and expect that you're about to have 100 guests through the year opening and closing that thing. Your cleaners are going to open and close it every day. It's just not made for that. And so the costs associated with refunding the guests when the pull out couch doesn't open, blocking off a day to have the couch removed and the other couch delivered, if you can order it and coordinate it that way, to have the removal and delivery on the same day, which is a whole nother amount of time, then you ended up buying a second couch anyways that you should have bought the first time. So when you start thinking about the hidden costs associated with that, or we really get into the metrics of the ROI on design, on interior design, on having a scroll stopping unit where people are going to actually look and want to book that and click on it and see that the unit is, or looking, thinking long term about the hidden cost of, well, if they show up and it looks like it's wood, but then they touch it and it's just like a laminate coffee table that's peeling up on the corner and it's not really wood, like it's going to hit your accuracy score and your reviews, the quality, the overall stay, those types of costs are the ones that add up over time. And I think people, including myself out of the gate, really didn't understand a lot of this. And the bigger companies in the space have known for a long time, hotels have known this for a long time. This is why these types of products, contract grade furniture exist, is for this, right? Hospitality grade linens exist for this. And so I think it was just a big realization moment for me from going through the pain point of that Ikea run and a lot of other horror stories to kind of starhost GPO.
00:10:12 - Jenn Boyles
Yeah, and I like that you said, now, we've all been on Amazon and we've been looking for something and we're like, well, it's not for us, it's for our guests. So let's look at now we've got to watch our pennies and we're going for that cheapest now, even though we'd like to spend more. Tell us what has happened when you've done this.
00:10:31 - Jeff Iloulian
Yeah, I mean, look, penny smart, pound foolish, but I've had that happen before where. And this is a big thing right now, too. I don't love that it's coming back, but I read an article about this recently and it happened to me like six, seven years ago where I ordered just the cheapest nightstands to go next to this bed because the ones that I had got damaged and I needed to replace them between guests. And I ordered the one that was like the cheapest option and ended up showing up. And it was dollhouse sized nightstands that were photographed to make it look like they were really large because they're just floating in the white Internet background. And obviously it was intentional and they hid the dimensions in the bottom and it was a no refund paper shipping type of experience. And so ultimately, I think what's cool about host CPO is that you don't even have to pay more. You can actually pay less and get better quality products, but you actually know what you're buying too. And so we encourage people like, yes, maybe you can find a mattress for $80, maybe, I don't know. Who knows? Maybe you can. But is that really what you want? I mean, you could spend a couple of dollars on a really good quality mattress or more. That's really what I think folks should be striving towards, buying that contract grade furniture, buying linens that are rated to go through hundreds of washes rather than dozens of washes without a frame. That type of stuff, the ability to access those types of products at less expensive costs than you were going to buy elsewhere and have better quality products is just such a great combination for people.
00:12:12 - Jenn Boyles
It really is. And that mattress, talking about mattresses and linens, the people coming to your place are coming there to sleep. And so that is not an area to skimp on at all.
00:12:25 - Jeff Iloulian
And what people don't understand, this really blew my mind. It's not just that you can get a mattress from Helix at a discount or you can get a mattress from one of the match parties at a discount. It's not just that retail discount that you can get. It's the fact that you can buy hospitality mattresses from these companies and people are like, what are those? Helix has a hospitality mattress? They do. It's only available through host GPO, or if you're about to buy 20,000 of them for your hotel, you can also buy. But what they are is essentially the same mattress. But instead of a box that comes with all the packaging and labels and the inserts and the cardboard with whatever, it's just a regular box that comes. It's a helix mattress. It's brand new, it's got the tag on it. But you're buying something that's meant to be used, not meant to, for that experience of opening it, which you're paying for as a consumer. I mean, you want that. You want to order the thing and open it and feel, but like you're setting up a vacation with home. When you buy your hundredth mattress, you don't really care how it gets there, as long as it's new and feels good.
00:13:35 - Jenn Boyles
Yeah, it's more of a wholesale experience rather than a retail experience, which.
00:13:40 - Jeff Iloulian
00:13:41 - Jenn Boyles
It doesn't matter.
00:13:43 - Jeff Iloulian
Exactly. And what matters is that it comes with a warranty. These mattresses are made in the US, which is great, because there's all these other kinds of really inexpensive mattresses that have a lot of issues and manufacturing issues, and they sit in boxes for months and months and months, and even those are more expensive than what you can get through a cheap one. So again, like finding the rails to those types of products and making them available to everybody. It's not like you have to buy 100 mattresses through host GPO just because we buy hundreds of thousands. You can buy one, but you're buying it as a part of a bigger group.
00:14:19 - Jenn Boyles
And what you buy affects your brand. And when we're talking about direct bookings, we're all about building that brand. So you don't want that table that looks like wood, like you said with the corner peeling up, it just cheapens it, doesn't it? It really does cheapen it.
00:14:39 - Jeff Iloulian
And it's all about your brand 100%. And there's a million examples of knowing the corner peeling up is just one. I mean, the other one is. I stayed at a vacation rental not too long ago in Orlando, or outside of Orlando in Kissimmee, and it was interesting to walk in and the pillowcases, one was bright white, one was like off white, and then in the other room it was like cream sheets, but then a white top. And I get it? This place had been a case rental for a long time. It has gone through multiple turns and iterations and at some point things get stained and damaged and your cleaners or whoever runs to the cloth or you run to the closest store panic by paying way too much. One thing that you need to replace and then all of a sudden you end up with these mismatched things that don't really look consistent. And when you talk about direct bookings and branding and brand standards and quality, that's what you're trying to do with a direct booking, is bring people back. And you need to have certain standards to do that. One way to do that is to have consistency, and that is buying linens from. We partner with standard textile. They're the largest hospitality linen company in the US. It's who sells to Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton Ritz, et cetera. And if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for the vacation rentals. But what's amazing about it is it's a company that's been around for almost 100 years. They're not changing the color white on their sheets. They're not changing these lines of towels that have been around for eight years because they're brand standards. And that's what you want to start buying, is how can you buy brand standard type products and buy again? You can buy two towels, but like we recommended, you just buy the box. The box is 24, and comes in one box. A lot of them come pre laundered. You don't have to do that first. They're so interested in how optimized this stuff is for hospitality that just people just didn't have visibility. I didn't have visibility. I spent years overpaying and buying really terrible quality stuff before I learned this.
00:16:41 - Jenn Boyles
And let's talk about the amount of stuff you actually need. So say your place sleeps four people. It's not about having four bowls.
00:16:50 - Jeff Iloulian
Yeah, no, I mean, I think that that's another huge part of your point, about standardization and brand and quality. We see this all the time. Place sleeps eight, there's dining table seats six, there's six forks or eight forks. You can't expect people when they're coming to stay. First of all, everybody knows that. You're going to go through cups, you're going to go through bowls, you're going to go through plates, you're going to go through forks. That just happens over time. So keeping an inventory in a closet and a locked closet where your cleaners or whoever can pull from to replace items, is absolutely essential. One of the best cost saving measures you can do is keeping a backstock, keeping an inventory, but having enough out so that people aren't like, eating and then running to the sink to wash their thing and then waiting for it to dry so that they can eat again is like you want to create a great experience for people and that's not it.
00:17:45 - Jenn Boyles
I guess if you were going for a college roommate type experience, maybe you would want that. Just one bowl, the one fork wash when you're finished.
00:17:56 - Jeff Iloulian
Sure. Yeah, I get it. And you know what? Everybody's properties are different. So if you are running a hostel, absolutely recommend that. Maybe that's the right fit for you. Maybe don't offer forks at all. Maybe just give a lot of napkins and have folks with you with their hands.
00:18:16 - Jenn Boyles
But look, it's who your ideal guest is, isn't it? Who's coming and what are they expecting? And if you're wanting to put that quality on there, your brand, so that people will come back, that more people will book direct. We buy with our eyes. We want those gorgeous photos, those gorgeous glossy photos and all the beautiful interiors. So can you tell us what are the kind of things that maybe hosts and property managers out there don't think enough about? We've talked about a number of things. And are there any products that you really need to have in your arsenal?
00:18:55 - Jeff Iloulian
Yeah, I mean, I think there's a couple of things. I really think when you're thinking about products, it's not just having hand soaps and soaps and shampoos and things like that that are good. Again, good does not necessarily mean expensive. We have unbelievably quality products at a very, very low cost. But it's about having consistency. Right? Like not having a dial at the sink, and then you have three different shampoos in each bathroom and the giant gallons and things like that. Right? There's different ways to do this where you can do refills, you can do ten ounce bottles, you can do whatever you're doing, but having that consistency flow through the property is great. I think that there's a lot of movement right now. My big kind of tip for folks in setting up units for this next year is to start thinking about sustainability. I think a lot of your european listeners are, like, nodding along, and a lot of the american listeners are. We haven't gotten that yet. It's coming. I've been hearing it on the conference circuit. I've been hearing people talking about it. The regulations are coming. The ability to filter by level of sustainability in a vacation rental home is not that far away. So starting to think about that stuff now and buying biodegradable bottles and sustainable chemical free shampoos and that type of stuff is something to start thinking about now. So I think folks don't think about that enough. And then the last thing I would say is, when setting up a home, I think one thing people really don't take into account enough is how to allocate your budget appropriately or not appropriately effectively. And so there are certain things that you can really focus on to get the most bang for your buck. And like a couple of random examples of that. And I recommend everybody, if you sign up for the free trial of host GPO, which I didn't mean for this to be a Giant host GPO ad, but if you do, our whole team is, we're all hosts. It's people that signed up to join host GPO to run their vacation rentals, and they still operate. And so we're all very knowledgeable about this type of stuff, but things like spending extra on whatever's going to be your hero shot. So when you're setting up your home, think about, hey, this is the best room. This is the best feature of the house. Sometimes it's the dining room, sometimes it's the den. Sometimes it's the bedroom, which has a porch that's going to look out. So figure out what that room is going to be and start thinking about it in terms of, okay, so my photography is going to focus on this. I need that first picture when people are scrolling for them to click on that. How can I make sure that I'm allocating a budget to this? Does that mean that for this one, I'm going to get a really cool piece of art from. We partner with society six, which is a fantastic company for art because they have hundreds of thousands of options, literally 600,000 options that are individual artists that upload their work. So you can have this local feel or this unique art on the wall that's, if you're now, Austin, Texas, having, you know, you don't necessarily need. So. So again, can you focus on spending for maybe the art for that room or the furniture for that room in a way that's going to really stand out? That's like one example or just because you're buying mattresses doesn't mean you need to put the same mattress. And people make that mistake all the time. That means you put the same mattress in every room. If you have a room with a bunch of twins and you have a kind of main bedroom that is the king bedroom. You can put a nicer mattress in that room and then put other mattresses in the other room. So there's ways to start thinking about how you're going to allocate your budget smartly, effectively. That I think when people are setting up their homes, they're not necessarily thinking about out of the gate.
00:22:29 - Jenn Boyles
Let's flip it and let's talk about what not to do when you're setting up your house or when you've maybe already set it up. Just things that are just sort of the standard. What are the things not to do when you've got guests coming in to use your property?
00:22:46 - Jeff Iloulian
Yeah, I mean, look, I think from a hospitality standpoint, I think this is just getting. It's so out there right now. But you cannot have chores and tasks and things like that. You can't ask people to feed your goldfish. You can't forget people are looking at this as an alternative to staying in a hotel. And so that's just what the industry has become. Most folks, again, have a very big caveat. This is all a function of price. Everything is a function of price. So if you're going to let them stay there for $40 a night, but they happen to feed your goldfish, that's fine. But you can't try to get top dollar and also ask them to clean up your dryer vents. So I think that things not to do, I shouldn't let maintenance tasks pile up in the home. That happens a lot. Deferred maintenance. I think a lot of folks are used to it, especially people that are just getting into the space. They're used to their own homes where small maintenance things that you don't think about are just getting done regularly, but then you don't realize how much more use your vacation rental home is getting. And so things like replacing HVAC vents with filters, and we have a great partnership with Ace Hardware where you can literally just go into an Ace hardware store and get a discount, which is cool in the US especially, because I think a lot of the time you realize that's one of those things that's really hard to buy online because it's like you'll sometimes have the thing, but you have to know the size and sometimes say what the size is and you need it right away.
00:24:22 - Jenn Boyles
You can't wait for it to be. You need it right then.
00:24:24 - Jeff Iloulian
And the best thing to do is to just take the one that you have and go to the store and say, I need this thing and then they'll give you that one. So again, I think deferred maintenance is something you should not do. I think I see way too often, and then I think there's a lot of nickel and diming going on. Don't charge somebody if they break glass. It's just part of what's happening. If they break your glass window, you can charge them. But I think that the level of the industry is starting to elevate, which is awesome. I'm a huge advocate for the fact that the bottom 20% of this industry, year over year, gets churned out. If your rental is in the bottom 20%, it doesn't matter if it's a good year or a bad year. If it's a bad year, it's going to be the bottom 35%. If the economy goes down, if it's a really good year, maybe it's the bottom 15%. But those bottom performing units, they get churned out year over here. And so you want to make sure that you're not in that bottom. But the real winners in the space are the people that are performing in the top ten, top 20% of listings. And it's not that the listings somehow are magically better. You can look at an apples to apples comparison, it's just that they're designed better, they have better quality things inside. And so I think the thing not to do is definitely don't be in that bottom 20% because that's not sustainable. But also try to be towards the top of listings because the return on those investments is so much higher. And this is what's happening in the industry, getting all these people that are attracted to this industry because they're seeing what's possible. What they don't understand is that that is occurring in the top 20%, and you have to build something that is going to be in that echelon to be able to get returns like that.
00:26:23 - Jenn Boyles
And it's all about your guest experience. It's what they're going through. That's the bottom line. And 100% the right things in your place. And please don't leave heirlooms, priceless art, things that mean something to you, something that you cannot replace, don't leave them in your property. I despair at the thought of having something that means something to you. Broken. Take it home, replace it. I know people that use their own places, they have art that they switch out. So they put art on the wall for guests, and when they come to stay, they put their art back on. Easy, easy.
00:27:04 - Jeff Iloulian
And we used to do that in some of the luxury homes that we would manage. One of the things we would do is we would never allow bookings the same day just because of the amount of prep work that went into this house. But one of the things we would do is when a booking came in, we would go to the home, we would move all of the art into the storage closet. We would put up the other art. That's something that either property managers can do on a very high level, but anybody can do. The other thing to think about is we do this series called fix my listing, which is super fun. We have folks that send us their listings, and then we do essentially this webinar where we talk about what we would do to fix it. And it's absolutely scathing and terrible. I feel so bad for everybody every time we do it, but it's super instructive and I think people like it. One of the ones that we did recently was this really gorgeous home out in the woods. And they were so thrilled about the fact that they had these Moroccan rugs that they had in the home, and they talked about in the listing description, these Moroccan rugs are from our travels in Morocco, blah, blah, blah. And we talked about, what's the benefit of that? Who is booking that to have that experience versus how many people are saying, ooh, this sounds like it's going to be. Sounds like I'm going to be in trouble with this or, I can't bring my kids here. The truth is, when we dove into it, it turned out that those Moroccan rugs were exciting for the homeowner, but they were really inexpensive and they actually didn't care if they got damaged. They were just excited about them. And so we talked about how you can make the listing be more open and have less of that feel, but also the fact that people could get worried and not want to book a home that they have fear of. Fear of. So anyways, tangents.
00:28:49 - Jenn Boyles
No, I can totally get that. Because as you were talking, I was going, red flags, red flags, red flags. Then to find out that they're putting something in there that, yeah, they're cheap or they don't care about them. Well, then don't make such a big deal about them. They're cool. Yeah. Let's continue on. So what are the top items? What are people buying besides mattresses and bedding? What are the top items? Or maybe, let's flip it. What are the most unique things that people can buy through you guys?
00:29:20 - Jeff Iloulian
Yeah, such a great question. I think for host GPO members, some of the most unique stuff. We have partnerships with companies like Solo Stove, which are great fire pits for outdoor use. One of the reasons why we partner with them specifically is that in a lot of states, these smokeless fire pits are the only ones that you're allowed to use. And so especially for vacation rental users, if you're going to get insurance, right, if you have a standard fire pit, like the insurance company might not cover you, or it might not be allowed to be in a vacation rental. So we partner with them so you can get great discounts on these soloscope fire pits. We partner with some other kind of, I guess, unconventional things that you might not think about, like supplies. I mean, Host GPO has the best pricing on toilet paper. There's just that, like, a lot of our members buy toilet paper. Instead of buying it on Amazon or Costco, they buy it through Osto because they're getting better pricing. And then I would say kind of the more unique stuff is it's not just products. We also partner with a lot of service companies. So if you sign up for Host GPO and let's say you're trying to learn about the industry in the space, we might guide you towards companies like, I think you had Arthur from StayFi on, like. So we have like, a discount with StayFi or mount or any of these companies, a handful of these companies that might be useful. Again, you're getting that discount because you're a part of the Host GPO group.
00:30:40 - Jenn Boyles
That's awesome. That's it. And when we keep talking about discounts, what kind of discounts are we talking about?
00:30:46 - Jeff Iloulian
Yeah. So I would love to come on the podcast and be like, you're going to get this percent off, but we can't do it contractually. You have to join the Host GPO and log in for your free trial and get approved so that you can actually see the discounts. But I can say things like this. The discounts range between usually 25 and 70%. The average member saved last year, the average member saved 39% on their orders, and the average member saved almost $13,000 on their orders.
00:31:20 - Jenn Boyles
Wow. And we all want to save money, especially in this business, because this is not to get rich quick. We do see those gurus out there saying all your wealth and everything. Well, it takes a lot to get there. And like you're saying it's those top 20% of properties that are performing like that. It's not for everyone. So I'm glad to have you on today to talk about this and to talk about the interior, the experience that people have with your mattresses, your bowls, your toilet paper, all of that, because they're essential to that guest experience, which allows people to have a really good time and then come back and tell all their friends and everything. And yeah, it's essential for direct bookings to have the best there is.
00:32:12 - Jeff Iloulian
Yeah, I totally agree with you. My only caveat on that whole thing would just be the best there is is not always. That's not even it. It's having the best thing for a vacation, for what you're doing. And so a great example of that is the best there is. Like, sure, we partner with William Sonoma and yeah, you can buy all clad at a discount, but you don't need to put all clad pots and pans inside of your home to get that great review. But you shouldn't know your very basic, cheapest things you can buy that are going to scratch and need to be replaced and look terrible. There is a very sweet spot in the middle and we make a lot of those recommendations. We have a free checklist of everything you need to put into your home. When you sign up, you have a free console rotation call or membership advisor call. We'll go through it with you and help point you in the right direction, if we can, based on what you're doing and the right thing for you. If you're a luxury home or a mid level home or a basic home might be different, but the trick is putting the right thing in and knowing what that is.
00:33:13 - Jenn Boyles
Yeah, no, I definitely stand corrected. As it came out of my mouth, I thought, I think I might have to cut this. But, yes, no, it is the right thing for your business, for your place, your location, your property, your ideal guests. What that right thing is.
00:33:28 - Jeff Iloulian
00:33:28 - Jenn Boyles
So we've talked a bit about direct bookings. We've talked about brands, we've talked about the products that you're putting in your home. We've talked about what not to leave in your home. We've talked about design ideas and tips. I love when you spoke about where that hero shot is and making sure that that is as best as it can be so that you're really. Because people buy with their eyes. So can I ask you, what does direct booking success mean to you?
00:34:00 - Jeff Iloulian
Yeah, when I think of direct booking success, and, look, I candidly didn't do enough of this and it wasn't as big of a deal in the early 2010s, around 2015 2016. It wasn't as important back then, but it's become increasingly more important over time to start thinking about building a brand and having brand standards, because it's not just, hey, I have five homes or three homes or ten homes. Do I need a logo? Are people really going to be coming to my site? I think that that's kind of stage two. When I think of direct bookings, I think of you need to start by building a brand standard that is going to have somebody come back and book again. And the way that that starts is, let's say that you're not there yet, right? You're just starting to think about direct bookings and you have five homes on Airbnb and you're about to launch your next home. Right. The reason you should start thinking about this now is when somebody goes to book that new home and it says new or it has two reviews, the first thing they're going to do is click on your name, look at the rest of your properties, and see what your reviews are on those properties. Now, that is the definition of a brand standard. Like, what are you doing across all of your homes? And so when you start thinking about that consistency now and start valuing how important that is and buying intentionally with that in mind, then when you're able to start doing direct bookings and that becomes a bigger portion of your business and you can avoid paying all the fees and all the benefits that I'm sure get talked about a lot of the time. The people that book, it's not just going to be that one home that they're coming back to, and it could be, but it's going to be staying with you in this area or staying with you because they know how your business operates. And so I think consistency and quality are things that host GPO really values that make a ton of sense for direct bookings.
00:35:56 - Jenn Boyles
Yeah, I completely agree. So I'm going to put your links in the show notes where people can connect with you. Host GPO has a three month trial. No, now, I think it's really a no brainer. So Canada and the states right now and you are hoping to get over to the other side of the. Yeah, but I'm sure that takes a while to set up with the networking and everything that it does.
00:36:23 - Jeff Iloulian
Yeah, absolutely. We hope to be there soon.
00:36:26 - Jenn Boyles
Good. I'm really glad because that's where my property is. So I really want you to get over there so you can save me some money, too. Thank you, Jeff, so much for coming on today. It's been great.
00:36:36 - Jeff Iloulian
My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.