HomeAway adding Pay Per Booking Model

as I predicted long ago…..the fools that are vacation rental owners and managers will sign up in droves, even though it will cost them 3 to 4x what an annual flat paid listing would cost.

http://news.investors.com/092713-672818-homeaway-users-like-new-pay-per-booking-model.htm?ven=yahoocp&src=aurlled&ven=yahoo

I guess I need to start offering pay per booking as a model on Lodgix? Since it seems vacation rental owners and managers are so happy to throw their money away….I can see it now, “All Lodgix subscriptions are now FREE! Pay just 3% of all bookings!”

I am sure I would get a ton of new customers as a result…but I just can’t do it.  I simply think that pay for performance is a dirty model that takes advantage of what Rush Limbaugh calls the “low information voter”.

Please enlighten me where a model like this is a good deal for the subscriber?

Email Deliverability

Lodgix requires specific permission to “send emails on your behalf”.  This requires the Lodgix subscriber to configure their SPF (Sender Policy Framework) records for their domain and make a change within the important settings area of Lodgix.  Once complete, Lodgix can send emails on your behalf and emails delivered from Lodgix to your guests will appears as though they were sent from your domain.

If you do not have SPF records configured for your domain, then Lodgix historically has sent all guest emails from “noreply@lodgix.com” with the reply-to address sent to the primary contact defined within Lodgix.

Recently many email service providers made some changes which resulted in some emails from noreply@lodgix.com being marked as spam.  We’ve done some research and apparently, noreply@ addresses add points to the spam filter algorithms that many email service providers use to determine if an email is considered spam or not.  Thus each email is assigned a score which varies according to how the email is being scored.  In some instances the additional points assigned as a result of “noreply@” email address was enough for the email not to be delivered.

As a result we changed the noreply@lodgix.com address to mtalodgix@lodgix.com, and now email is being delivered as normal.

Setting up your SPF Records

I can’t encourage you enough to find a local computer guru and setup your SPF records.  This action assures that the highest level of email deliverability and it presents your brand in a consistent manner for all guest communications.

For those of your that have a gmail.com or some other email service provider address as your primary contact address and not an address like “info@yourdomain.com”, you will have to work with your developer / computer guru to:

  1. define a new email address for your domain.
  2. setup the spf records for that domain to allow Lodgix to send emails on your behalf.
  3. Enable send emails on your behalf with settings > important settings
  4. Configure Gmail or your alternative inbox to fetch mail from your new email account, so you aren’t having to manually check two separate inboxes, etc.

All pretty simple stuff for someone who knows what they are doing.

More instructions can be found here:

http://docs.lodgix.com/s/vacation-rental/m/5502/l/84226-using-an-external-email-domain

 

New PDF Renderer is Being Tested

We recently upgraded and consolidated our HTML editors across Lodgix to the latest version of ckEditor. This is great and allows much more flexibility when creating pretty emails that you want sent to your guests. ckEditor was also implemented within the PDF templates area of the application, replacing fckEditor which was old and outdated.

So now we have this beautiful new editor, with many new features but we are still using an old PDF rendering engine that doesn’t support most of the more advanced HTML now possible with ckEditor. What to do? The most logical solution is to replace the PDF rendering engine with something better!

The problem with this is that the PDF rendering engines are tricky. It’s just not real easy for a pdf renderer to support all the various types of formatting and styling allowed by HTML and CSS1, CSS2 and CSS3. Our old renderer works well on the existing templates we designed because we designed them specifically to work well on the old renderer.

The new renderer might cause some small (or large) styling issues on existing templates. We are going to do our best to limit styling issues, but we do need to improve the renderer to allow subscribers to create much nicer looking PDFs that more closeley match what you create in ckEditor. That’s really the issue, is trying to match as closely as possible what you see in ckEditor in the PDF that is create using the rendering engine. With our current rendering engine only simple documents will render correctly.

So be prepared, there may be some editing of existing PDF templates required to have them render correctly using the new editor. Hopefully the changes will be small, but please bear with us as we work to make the system better for everybody!

Blogging from Beech Mountain, NC

I sort of stumbled into taking a short working sabbatical. My wife is attending photography school for the week and my in-laws volunteered to come down from Minnesota to spend some time with the kids. So for the time really since I got engaged and married eight years ago, I’ve got five days all to myself!

Hmmm..what to do, where to go? Ultimately, I am cheap and when traveling alone I don’t really care much about where I stay. I just know that I need high speed Internet as I must work and I need my phone to work. To that end, I ended up in Beech Mountain, NC. I’ll be writing more about this place tomorrow but needless to say I’ve never been and it’s very cool if you like the outdoors.

This quick blog post is just a little blurb about entrepreneurship. Some would argue that you must create a business to get “huge”, if you aren’t thinking of growing large, you will fail. I’ve read those books. I understand their point and they might be more right than wrong, but sometimes I think growing large is less about the thought of growing large and more about growing large as the by-product of working hard, being innovative and staying organized.

Lodgix started small and we are still small. But yet we’ve somehow managed to grow to 8000+ properties under management and are on track to facilitate over $100 million (that’s right million) in total bookings this year. That’s cool. I mean it’s a heck of a lot of work, and there are many trials and tribulations, but overall it’s rewarding to be able to build a product that more and more and more people want to use to manage their business. It’s satisfying to help people by providing a product that is unique and innovative in it’s approach to vacation rental (and customer) management.

I discovered a couple of other entrepreneurs who have some very good advice to other entrepreneurs or entrepreneur-wannabes, one of them comes right out and says “don’t do it” and the other uses micro-entrepreneur examples to illustrate some key points. Take a look:

CEO of Evernote, Phil Lubin, “Don’t Do It”.

Six-Figure Businesses Built for Less than a $100

Anyways, thought I’d share those articles. It’s Sunday and blogging is not a lot of fun, a nap sounds much better. Until tomorrow.

HomeAway 2Q 2012 Earnings Call

I am going to monitor the HomeAway earnings calls because I find them very interesting when attempting to watch them squeeze more money out of their advertisers now that they are a publicly traded company.

This nugget stood out to me:

“Online booking will be a capability that’s optional for owners, who will now have the ability to add a Book it! button on their listing, and will have 24 hours to accept reservations, so they have adequate time to vet travelers, if necessary, which is very important in the vacation rental category. Our subscription customers will not be charged for additional fees beyond their standard merchant fees that they already pay as part of using our payments platform.

This represents a really big step forward for the company because adoption of this over the next few years will create more accurate calendars on our sites and encourage quick owner response. And overall, we think create a much better and more efficient experience for our travelers. Equally as important, online booking will set the stage for the introduction of a transaction-based pricing model in 2013 that we can use to target new customer segments that are additive to our business.

Note the part in bold. HomeAway is no dummy, but they sure think that their customer’s are dumb. Transaction based pricing is the holy grail for HomeAway. They make on average $380.00 per listing on HomeAway. They know if they can instead charge 1% to 5% of every transaction, they will double or triple the amount of money they make per listing.

I don’t think they’ll mandate a transaction-based model to start. Instead they’ll offer it as an option for new listings and on renewals. They’ll continue to raise the per listing price to get that north of $450.00, so that when a listing owner has to renew, the thought of paying $450.00 upfront or nothing at all and instead pay just 3% of every transaction, well that on the surface seems like an easier route. But in volume, that 3% can quickly grow to a very substantial number.

Personally, I think HomeAway underestimates how quickly many of their customers will leave for a competitor like FlipKey if prices get too high. The reality is that no vacation rental owner needs HomeAway. With a simple mixture of a competitive website, a few good traffic driving links from the local Chamber and Visitors Bureau websites as well as a well managed long tail Google Pay Per Click campaign you can obtain all the business you need without having to pay HomeAway a dime.