Navigating Customer-Centric Strategies in Short-Term Rentals
Oksana Ivanova, Marketing Director of iGMS
Embark on a journey through the realms of digital innovation and strategic alliances as Harshit Gupta, Director of Business Alliances at Wytlabs, hosts Oksana Ivanova, Marketing Director of iGMS, on the latest episode of WYTPOD. In this engaging conversation, they unravel the intricacies of short-term rental management, spotlighting iGMS’s role in automating daily operations. Oksana shares profound insights into automation, customer satisfaction, and the seamless integration of marketing with customer support. The dialogue explores product launches, distilling technical functionalities, and staying ahead in the dynamic vacation rental industry. Uncover iGMS’s diverse marketing mix, with a strong emphasis on organic search, content strategies, and upcoming forays into social media and public relations. As the episode concludes, Oksana outlines key strategies propelling iGMS’s growth, offering a comprehensive glimpse into the evolving landscape of digital marketing and vacation rental management.
iGMS is a vacation rental software that helps hosts effectively handle day-to-day short-term rental management tasks.
Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of WYTPOD. My name is Harshit and I’m the Director of Business Alliances at WYTLABS. We’re a digital agency specializing in SaaS and e-commerce SEO. And I’ve got Oksana Ivanova with me today. She’s the Marketing Director of iGMS, which is a vacation rental software that helps hosts effectively handle day-to-day short-term rental management tasks.
A big welcome to you, Oksana, and I’m so happy to have you with me today.
Hi, everyone. Hi, Harshit. Thank you very much for having me here. That’s a big pleasure.
All right. Now, Oksana can you please provide a brief overview of iGMS and its key features for our listeners who might be new to the vacation rental management software?
Yeah, I probably need to highlight the fact that vacation rental management software sounds for some people who never encounter That’s something very strange. Why would you even need something like this? but when you talk to those people who have to manage their rentals daily You understand that there is a lot of work that needs to be automated.
So, iGMS covers and takes away all the pain from having all those operations daily from you. Do you need to text someone? Do you need to talk to someone? Do you need to think of some cleaners or anything like that? Do you need to do all of those things? You do need to do it if you run a rental.
Cleaning operations any sort of automation for your invoices for your reports for anything related to your finances. Everything is aggregated and put together in iGMS for you to see how your business is running and how you’re doing in terms of your profits. Obviously. We do integrate with key short-term rental management platforms, obviously with booking platforms Airbnb variable booking.com.
So, all of those are all together in iGMS. If you have them.
Your career within the organization has been awesome. You’ve been associated with the company for almost more than five years now. Can you write one specific marketing strategy or campaign that you believe had the most significant impact on iGMS success and what are the lessons that you learned from it?
Yeah. To be honest, that’s because I’m coming from the product perspective more than from marketing. After all, I landed in marketing just a couple of years ago, to be honest, like specifically in being in the role of director of marketing. I usually tend to think that the product is the moving part of everything, even if you’re talking about some marketing campaigns or marketing strategies.
Or anything like this. It’s all about a product for me because we’re working with the software as a service. We’re working on providing some value. That’s encoded in this product. So, I always take into account five pieces of marketing. Price promotion, place, product, and people.
For me, that’s the main thing that I usually take into account because I need to understand what we are going to sell. What kind of price we will have, how I can promote that, where I’m going to promote that, and who I can promote that? So basically, for me, that’s all around the product.
You can’t do that without this. The main thing that we had initially in Kickstarted about Our product is that we put together our customer personas, to be honest, to make sure that we have the right profile of these people. We started crafting content basically for those people around this topic of short-term rental management and how to work around all those problems and things that you encounter daily.
So that was the first strategy that we approached.
Okay. That’s a brilliant strategy, addressing your target audience’s pain points. That’s a way to go, to be honest. And, mostly even if I talk about the search engine optimization point of view, people often search those problems, those are long-term search queries or question-based queries.
And yeah, that helps you get really good traction altogether. Kudos. Okay. Now, automation also plays a very critical role in your achievement. How did you identify the areas of automation and what tools or processes, were most effective in achieving a higher automation rate in your daily operations?
Yeah, that’s a very good question, and I don’t know a person who doesn’t know about ChatGPT these days. That’s probably the first thing that comes to mind. And the funny thing is that when I was in my early 20s when I was very young, we didn’t have all those things. So sometimes I do tend to just to have and make sure that I have control over everything that I’m doing I tend to have some routines that are not automated just because I want to feel the sense of control of those things yet I understand that in the modern world, You can’t go by without anything that would optimize at least part of your task that you do And so ChatGPT is a big thing, especially we work a lot with content and that’s become one of the parts that We use in daily for searching keywords for writing outlines for our blog posts for basically everything Sometimes I even ask chat get what kind of schedule I should have for social media accounts sometimes if I think that Probably this week we need to take a spin or something like this.
So, there is a lot of automation in terms of specifically for daily routines and for something that you’ve been doing for quite a while and got accustomed to, and you need a fresh spin on that.
Now, giving you focus on customer satisfaction, can you share some instances where the customer feedback directly influenced your marketing decision or campaign?
To be honest I wouldn’t say that our customers, influence anything around marketing Because our customers influence a lot our product and our product is connected to our marketing messaging and position and everything that we are doing around that. So, we do have quarterly reviews of our customer feedback and the satisfaction of our customers.
We do have and run those activities constantly, to be honest. I also monitor all the reviews that we have on the platforms, Capterra, Trustpilot, Google reviews, and everything that I can get information from. And for everything that I see here, I usually refer to our product team and we collaborate on how we can satisfy our customers more.
So, I wouldn’t say that it’s a specific marketing effort, but that’s a very much product-related effort that affects marketing, that we can better position our software, that we can better understand our customers and deliver a better product for them. Makes sense.
There is an indirect correlation but it does exist. Okay. I would love to know what you do for your customer retention bit. What processes do you have in place or programs you have in place to have good customer retention and a longer lifetime in months and value?
Yeah, obviously everyone likes it when customers stick with you for quite a while.
We do have an incentive program. That’s our referral program. So, if you stay with iGMS and recommend iGMS, for example to Your friends and colleagues, for example, if they are also in the short-term rental management sphere, you can share your referral link and get a bonus for every integrated person and everyone who registered with iGMS.
And you basically can sometimes pay half of your bill for iGMS for that. So basically. We try to make sure that people get some valuable things to tangible things for recommending items in this case. And to be honest, we work a lot with our customer support team to make sure that every question that we have is addressed Inside our product or about our product.
They are always finalized Fulfilled with all the expectations and all the suggestions that our customers have. This is why I mentioned that at the very beginning but our customer service team It’s integrated inside marketing so we can easily operate and understand what kind of dissatisfactions we have at the moment and what’s going on with our product and what kind of directions we should take.
So, whenever we have some sort of a complaint or we have a mass complaint about some problems within the software, so obviously we address that immediately and we can have this immediate direct response to any. Customer feedback that we get.
That’s awesome. And would love to know any specific tools that you use within the platform to see the journey of the users and see maybe from that data set get hold of things like what could be the constraint or the Oh, pain points of the customers just by looking at anything that you do to monitor the user journey.
Yeah, we do have quite a few things and quite a few touchpoints, to be honest. So, it’s really difficult to pinpoint only one tool or anything specific that we take into account. We have several, to be honest. I always watch closely our Google Analytics and see how it goes in terms of our acquisition of customers and retention of our customers.
Obviously, I do pay a lot of attention. We have a Special tool dedicated to seeing our customer journey. That’s the full story that we use to see how they start, and where they proceed. How we can see where the pitfalls are, we can see the steps. We can see where the problem is with onboarding if there is any problem with their boarding, how many bags we have, and all of those things.
So, I do have quite a few of those tools, like aggregated together to make sure that I have a full picture of what’s going on with our customers and how we can react properly to that.
That’s awesome. And now, because you come from the product side, I would love to know if launching a new feature or product is a complex process.
What challenges have you faced in executing, your successful go-to-market plans and how did you overcome them?
Yeah, to be honest, the thing right now that the biggest challenge that they have is to make sure that The board of directors that they have to talk to they are on board with me basically, I need to make sure that everyone supports what I would like to deliver or I’m trying to deliver and trying to prioritize some of the key problems or some of the key features that we need to have because this is what will make us competitive and this is what will make us stand out among the other competitors.
So probably it’s not that difficult to execute a go-to-market plan. It’s the first one to get approval for that, basically to get buy-in from everyone involved because obviously, everyone has their perspective on how it should be implemented and how it should be done. Everyone has their idea of what they want to see and how they want it to be implemented.
So, you just need to make sure that there is one solution that everyone agrees on. So, we can see the results, we can set the metrics and we can understand whether it’s successful or not.
Makes sense. Now in distilling, a technical functionality into a core product benefit, what are the key elements you prioritize?
Especially to ensure that the message resonates across your various marketing channels. And I would love to know what even other different channels that you leverage for you. On, lead generation and getting more visibility based.
Yeah, that’s a good question.
To be honest in terms of lead generation, specifically for new features, when we have some new features or new functionality that you want, we want to highlight, obviously we will use email as a channel for existing customers in potential product leads. And of course, we will use Place ads, paid ads for everyone who might be interested in this specific topic to see that we have something new that makes their life easier.
In this case, when you talk about technical functionalities, I don’t think that there is a big problem because coming from the product perspective, I always see a product as something that’s. That’s not just a set of functions that does this, and this it’s a solution to a complex problem that you can apply to some part of your life and solve some of the problems.
So basically, you don’t need to distill those technical functionalities. You just need to understand the gear and the core pain point. That’s the first one. Identify the smaller pain points that you can actually address in your message and just deliver the message to the people who need this.
That’s awesome. And you mentioned it, right? you take the customer feedback, understand that, go to your product team, and try to come up with a solution. So anyway, you know what the problem is and that is what you deliver with your marketing message. All of those things.
It’s a good loop, to be honest. And yeah. Yeah. Okay. Now the vacation rental industry is very dynamic, right? How do you navigate and stay ahead of the marketing trend? And can you share some of the instances where you know, that staying ahead of trends positively impacted your growth strategy?
To be honest I can’t say that we’re staying ahead of trends. That’s probably not a very good thing to say, but you, unless you are a psychic or someone like this, you can probably be ahead of what’s going on in the industry. But we do try to closely follow everyone who is in the industry at the moment, on the cutting edge of the industry, and try to understand what they’re saying, and where they are.
Moving and trying to see, what’s going on in the industry altogether. So basically, I’m just following everyone who is involved in the industry. Like the key phases, for example, just recently we attended a skipped event online, obviously not offline, unfortunately, but we saw what’s going on when in hospitality, what kind of trends are emerging, and what kind of friends are going away.
So, it’s very important to stay not ahead in the industry, but probably. Together, when the industry to make sure that you deliver the right solution, you are not too much ahead of the trends at the moment, you’re not delivering something that’s not going to be used in the next three to five years, but you are going hand in hand with everything that’s needed at this very moment. And there are a couple of emerging trends that we never expected to see in 2024. But this is what we’re going to look into after we watched and observed what was suggested.
Okay. And, because you mentioned that user feedback is always crucial for you as a company as well, helps you make tons of decisions related to your marketing, related to your product all of those things.
So, I would love to know what exactly that process looks like. Also like how exactly do you collect the user feedback and just to ensure that your product market fit is right? And there’s an ongoing process for it as well. So yeah, would love to know, like what that funnel exactly looks like.
To be honest we probably collect feedback from everyone. To be honest, I don’t know a place where we don’t collect our feedback. Our customer service team interacts with our customers daily. And if there is any they usually interact with our chat. And if there is anyone who is just saying, Oh!
I have a suggestion for you. It’s immediately documented and it’s immediately passed to the product team. So, I don’t know if you can lose this thing, to be honest, we do have a review platform. So Trustpilot, Capterra, everything like Google reviews. So everywhere you can just leave your suggestions.
That’s also monitored. We capture this information and we put it together. We have quarterly reviews of everything that our customers sometimes maybe mention while talking to us and we do have reviews of our software performance inside our product, actually, They, pop up occasionally for our customers’ existing and just new ones to see how they’re doing and to rate them.
The experience that they have at the moment with iGMS So it’s a constant iterative process, as I mentioned. You can’t stop doing that. That’s an ongoing process that you can’t just discard. Unfortunately, for some people, maybe your customers, they change together with you. So, you just have to understand that sometimes, for example, people ask for something very popular a year ago.
And in the new year, it’s not relevant anymore. And you just need to understand those trends. You just need to see how they’re going and what they want. You don’t just blindly follow what they’re saying. You test and iterate and see how it fits within your strategy specifically. But it’s a constant process of hearing how people interact with your software to see how they experience it and what they expect from it, of course.
Makes sense. All right, Let’s talk SEO a little bit because that’s one of the good lead generation channels for you working in your favor. What strategy has been, really fruitful and has helped the company increase its visibility to a greater extent? Also, would love to know what SEO KPIs you keep actively monitoring.
Our key and primary channel is organic search. So obviously we focus a lot on putting together strategies around link-building keyword search and all of that stuff to, to make sure that we have the right content strategy, that we generate the right content, that we write good blog posts and of course have a lot of materials that like a checklist or something like this that can help, especially hosts who are just.
Start their journey in short-term rental, cause that’s not so easy to get started, especially right now. So, we do put together lots of things that are related to content strategies and initiatives. But to be honest, just recently we thought that we probably didn’t utilize our social media channels.
So, this is a big initiative for 2024 in HMS, to be honest. We want to kickstart our social media channels. To make sure that we deliver those distilled tips and tricks for a host to make sure that it’s we have some video content, not just visual content, but interesting video content.
That’s entertaining and that’s helpful at the same time. So, we’ll see whether this strategy will lead us anywhere.
Awesome. And what KPIs do you monitor to ensure that your content marketing is good?
yeah. In our content marketing, we make sure that we have a good CTR because you can write an amazing article, but you don’t have people who click on that and read it. Probably that’s not a good idea. So, we want to make sure that when we have a good ranking article, we want to see if there is a good CTR and if we have good signups actually from this article as well. And sometimes they change sometimes you can see that for example a keyword that you decided that was like It would be great to have this keyword.
We will probably generate lots of leads from that and unfortunately it doesn’t and for some reason, you don’t know what to do with that because everything was perfect everything was as you expected, but it didn’t work out and the one keyword that you didn’t think that would be just as popular suddenly generates you as many signups as you’ve never expected.
So, this is, there is a bit of this surprise in SEO and in, content optimization, but it’s very interesting, to be honest.
I think even the tools out there in the market don’t do that a hundred percent justice by just helping you with the intent of keywords. I know they still do 60 to 70 percent of the job, but yeah, it has to be you have too So you can decide with your intuition will this work, will this not work?
All right. Now, looking ahead, what are the key marketing strategies or initiatives that are crucial for your growth, especially in the coming few years I understand social is one. Any particular initiatives that you’re planning to take forward?
Yes. The social one is probably the first one that we’re going to grow from almost scratch because we used to have Some activity on our social media accounts and they’re still active. But we used to just Show the content that we were writing and just show that we have this content Basically, I wanted to reapproach the strategy a little bit and make sure that we have some actionable tips that are distilled Specifically to the audience that we are addressing so it’s not just here is the content But here is how you can use it and how you can make sure that your businesses Doing well, this is how you can optimize your listing.
This is how you can make sure that you are profitable. This is how you can do things to make sure that you are competitive, in the market So it’s not just serious information. Just have it. Here is information that you can use for your daily Operations, so that’s the one another one is we would like to start with some PR initiatives with public relations and all of that because we see that our competitors, do have Like they do have quite a few things that we don’t.
So, we look into this aspect of our further marketing development and yeah, strengthening our content initiatives and SEO. That’s probably another pillar that we want to stay on in 2024.
That’s awesome. All right. And so now we’re coming to an end and I would love to have a quick rapid fire with you.
Are you ready for that? Okay. What is not a big deal to most people but is torture to you?
To me, sometimes it’s really difficult to improvise on the spot.
I try to train myself to do that, but it’s, sometimes I can see that people can easily navigate and circumstance and they can easily do something without a problem and I have a feeling that I might fail, but I try to teach myself to address those things and to be as professional as possible.
Okay. What’s your last Google search?
My last Google search was optimizing content for marketing.
Wow. Okay. Are you more cautious or bold?
50 50. Sometimes I feel like when something is working and it’s okay, I feel like I shouldn’t be doing anything bold about that and I shouldn’t be doing like going any further with it.
But when I understand that, for example, there is only me who is involved in this process and only me who will take responsibility for that, I can be very bold, to be honest. Okay.
What’s your hidden talent?
My hidden talent is, I am, it’s probably not very hidden because I’m quite an artistic person. Even though I’m very organized and very much about data and seeing metrics and all of that stuff, I do love this continuity of artists and art.
Oh, nice. Okay. What now appears to make you laugh?
I don’t know. Puppies.
Okay. All right. I’m a dog person as well. I’ve got a shepherd dog at home.
Yeah. Okay. All right. Thank you. Thank you so much, Oksana, for all the interesting things that you shared about the company, your experiences, and your strategies and everything. I appreciate your time here with me. Thank you so much.
Yeah. Thank you very much, Harshit. Thank you.
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