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Guest marketing with Stay-Fi (Ep 615)

Ep 615

Enhancing Direct Bookings with Stayfi: A Conversation with Arthur Colker

In this episode, Jasper Ribbers interviews Arthur Colker, the founder of Stayfi, a guest Wi-Fi marketing tool. They discuss how short-term rental operators can collect guest email addresses and market to them to encourage direct bookings. They cover topics such as the importance of guest data collection, the tools available in Stayfi for email and text marketing, and the benefits of reducing dependence on OTAs. They also provide tips on what kind of emails to send to guests and discuss an upcoming training event on direct bookings.


Stayfi is a guest Wi-Fi marketing tool that helps short-term rental operators collect valuable marketing data from every guest staying with them.
By collecting guest email addresses, operators can introduce their brand to every person staying in their property and market to them for future direct bookings.
Email marketing can be used to inform guests about availability, local events and activities, new properties, and last-minute cancellations.
Operators can leverage direct bookings to fill calendar gaps and offer reduced rates to past guests while maintaining higher prices on OTAs.
The upcoming training event, ‘Shaping the Future of Direct Bookings,' will cover website optimization, email marketing, SEO, and data collection strategies.

Grow your short-term rental business OVERNIGHT SUCCESS

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Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts.


00:00 Introduction and Overview of Stayfi
03:09 Guest Data Collection and Brand Introduction
04:26 Using Email and Text Marketing for Return Bookings
06:49 Reducing Dependence on OTAs and Increasing Occupancy
11:46 Content Creation and Engaging Guests

Read The Script Here

Jasper Ribbers (00:00.782)
What's up everybody, welcome back to Get Paid for Your Pad. My guest today is Mr. Arthur Corker. He is the founder of Stafi, which is a guest Wi -Fi marketing tool. And we are going to talk about how can we collect guest email addresses and then market to them so that they will return to us and preferably book through our direct booking website. So Arthur, welcome to the show.

Arthur Colker (00:27.151)
Awesome. Thanks for having me again Jasper. Excited to be here.

Jasper Ribbers (00:31.15)
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I hear you are in Hawaii, which I'm very jealous. How is it out there?

Arthur Colker (00:39.119)
It's great, but sadly this is my last day and flying back to New York tonight. So has to come to an end, but you're not doing too bad there in San Diego either. So.

Jasper Ribbers (00:47.566)
That's true, that's true. But I have fond memories of my visits to Hawaii in the past. Which island are you on?

Arthur Colker (00:57.071)
I'm on the big island. Hawaii.

Jasper Ribbers (00:58.542)
Oh, nice. The volcano and the rainforest, like love that. Awesome. Sweet man. Yeah, that's awesome. Why don't you give us, before we dive in, why don't you give us a quick overview of what Stafi is. We just onboarded with you guys. We just added Stafi to our tech stack for FreeWild. So we're really excited to start using the tool. And because we're just onboarded, I thought it would be a good idea to…

Arthur Colker (01:02.511)
Exactly. All of it here.

Jasper Ribbers (01:27.342)
invite you back on the podcast and and You know learn about what what the developments have been on your ends I know you you guys are very active with rolling out new features and whatnot. So yeah, give us a quick intro. What what is stay five?

Arthur Colker (01:42.543)
Yeah, so the original issue that Stafi solved is guest data collection. So that was really why I started the business is I wanted to help short -term rental operators collect valuable marketing data, not just from the booker, but every single person staying with them. And that we do through the wifi. So the same guest experience you've had at a Starbucks, an airport or hotel where you join the wifi.

You get this captive portal or splash page on your device, enter your information, connect, and then you're on the internet. We're the first company to introduce that to short -term rentals. So everybody, the booker, the friends, family, eight other people staying in your property, they have to enter their name and email in order to get access to the internet. We find we collect anywhere between 80 and 90 % of adult guests emails during the course of the stay. So you have 10 people staying in a rental.

we'll get eight or nine emails. And then obviously what you do with those emails is very important. So step number one is we're introducing your brand to every single person there. So maybe one person booked on Verbo or Airbnb, but now all 10 of them, when they go through the splash page, we'll learn about your independent company, your brand. And then we have some marketing tools within Stafi to then help reach out and get in back in touch with those guests. So we started with the data collection.

And then we added new tools that build on that to help become more effective at marketing to those guests. So we now have an email marketing tool within Stafi, a text marketing tool. So you can automate emails to every single person that stays with you. So for instance, guest logs onto the wifi, we collect their data. Then in Stafi, you can set up an email that gets sent automatically to them, introducing your brand, explaining the importance of booking directly again with you.

giving them advice on local tours, attractions, activities, as well as a text marketing tool that can do something very similarly through text marketing. So those are all the tools within Stafi that help you not just collect data, but then also remarket to those guests so they know how to come back and book with you again and again. And then over time, ultimately, we want to help you decrease your dependence on third party channels and get higher overall occupancy.

Arthur Colker (04:05.807)
So we see both, you know, stay -at -home customers over time not just reducing the percentage of overall bookings that come from third -party channels, we see them also increasing their overall occupancy rate because they can advertise unbooked nights to this audience of loyal guests who hopefully love the first day and are going to want to come back and book directly again.

Jasper Ribbers (04:06.126)
Mm -mm.

Jasper Ribbers (04:26.35)
Yeah. Yeah. And there's, there's a couple of reasons why this is so powerful. One, one of the biggest reasons is that this allows you to fill up your calendar gaps and offer reduced rates to your past guests while still maintaining a higher price level on the OTAs. Right. So one, one mistake that I see a lot of hosts make is they want higher occupancy. They're looking for 80, 90%. And what they then do is they just lower their base price in the pricing tool until they reach that stage. Right.

But that means that everybody's booking at that lower price, right? Versus if you set a higher price level on the OTAs and then try to fill up those gaps by sending emails to your past guests and letting them know like, hey, we have some availability. We want to offer you as a loyal guest. We'd love to host you the last time. We want to offer you the opportunity to grab these dates at a reduced rate.

and then fill up those gaps that way that will kind of allow you to have the best of both worlds, right? Maintain a higher ADR through the platform and at the same time also really drive that higher occupancy. And I think right now it's really, really important to start focusing on this because we all know that the OTA landscape is getting more competitive. Five years ago, you throw an Airbnb listing on there, you sit back and it's like, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, right? Bookings coming in right now.

I've seen some recent students that have joined our groups who have amazing properties and they have a beautiful Airbnb listing and they're not just getting booked. That's not enough anymore. We really have to professionalize our business. And one thing that's kind of crazy to me is I feel like guest marketing is one of the last pillars that hosts will implement. So I look at operators and I see, okay, your hospitality is great. You're getting five -star reviews.

Your Airbnb listing looks amazing. You're doing OK with your pricing. I think there's a lot of improvement on the pricing side. But then I always ask, how do you drive your past guests to come back? 90 % of operators will say, we don't do that. Which is kind of crazy if you think about it, because any business owner knows that your hottest leads are your existing customers. Isn't that crazy?

Arthur Colker (06:49.327)
Yeah, but I think it's surprising in this industry, right? Because Airbnb made it so easy to get bookings through Airbnb. They kind of suckered you into a little sense of complacency and dependence, right? And so then once things become more competitive or, you know, in the US Airbnb and Verbo are almost a duopoly, right? Like booking and TripAdvisor, they have pretty small shares of the OTA market. You know, they could raise their commission rates, right? There's…

Jasper Ribbers (07:01.006)
Mm -hmm.

Arthur Colker (07:16.783)
this or they can penalize your properties or you can become less attractive in their algorithm for reasons that are completely out of your control. Right. So there's lots of different aspects to why being dependent on OTAs is risky. But of course, at Stafi, we don't recommend not using OTAs, right? It's really important. But we see, you know, the price you slash the guest is paying the OTA to do the booking. That's really the cost to acquire that customer.

Jasper Ribbers (07:46.446)
Mm -hmm.

Arthur Colker (07:46.991)
Um, it's a big shame, right? If you've paid that cost once and they book again through the OTA, cause then you're paying the OTA multiple times for a guest that should have come back and stayed directly with you. And the other thing is getting a direct booking website and facilitating direct bookings is now really easy. Just about every decent property management software, which you've implemented, hopefully to list on multiple OTAs from one calendar and implement a pricing tool, right?

They all have direct booking websites that you can use. Many have built in tools to do damage waivers, insurance, protections, sign guest agreements. All the things you need to safely accept direct bookings and payments are now offered within those property management software platforms just about, including a high quality direct booking website that you can get started with right away. So the barriers to get started with direct bookings are lower than ever and will only get lower.

And then also now with Stafi, the ability to collect guest data and market to those guests is now accessible just about for every short -term rental operator out there in the world.

Jasper Ribbers (08:57.614)
Yeah, you know, the biggest objection that I see operators have against like direct bookings is they're worried about safety, right? They're like, well, you know, we have one operator in our group who has like 50 listings or so in the greater Los Angeles area. And he's saying like, I get every week I'm submitting these damage claims to Airbnb, right? Because every week I'm having damages in my properties. Like if I'm, if I'm sending these people to direct bookings,

Like, how am I gonna collect that money?

Arthur Colker (09:31.279)
Yeah, for sure. I mean, there are a wide range of like insurance, guest waiver, damage protection offers or programs out there that are even superior to Airbnb's coverage and can even cover your OTA booking. So definitely things like Super Hog is a partner of ours that provides the guest identity, checking waivers, damage protection, all of those things. And then there are some…

PMS's like hospitable that build a direct booking suite of tools that include all of those things so that your bookings that are direct are even safer and more covered than OTA bookings because we know that Airbnb Protection program is not always that easy to you know get those claims paid right so they're definitely third -party products or insurance offerings like proper

that can really holistically protect properties in a way that your coverage is actually better than just relying on what the OTAs provide.

Jasper Ribbers (10:36.11)
Yeah, one way to think about it is with a direct bookings, we're saving around like, let's say like, let's call it 15%. Right. We're saving 15 % on the booking, right? Whether the guest pays it or the host pays it, it doesn't really matter. And at the end of the day, as a team, as the guest and the host, as a team, we're saving 15%. So if we, if we look at like a, let's say a $1 ,000 booking, right. That's $150.

If you then spent of that thousand dollars, if you then spent, let's say $50 on insurance and, you know, different ways and tools to protect yourself, that's fine. You're still, you're still a hundred dollars in the plus on that booking, right? So it's okay to spend some money on creating a way for you to accept those direct bookings in a way that is safe.

Jasper Ribbers (11:37.454)
Does that make sense?

Arthur Colker (11:39.599)
Yeah, I lost you there for a minute because of our internet connection, but hopefully it was captured. Sorry about that.

Jasper Ribbers (11:46.67)
You can just say yes. Just say yes, it makes sense. So, offers in Hawaii. So, the connection is a little shaky here now, but we'll make the best of it. Another topic I want to discuss is what kind of emails should we be sending to our guests? That's another big bottleneck for a lot of operators. They're collecting the emails.

Arthur Colker (11:49.071)
Yes, totally yes, totally makes tons of sense.

Jasper Ribbers (12:15.438)
And then I ask them, okay, well, how often do you actually email your guests? And it's like, well, once every three months or whatever. And I asked, why don't you email every, you know, once every two weeks or every week? And the answer usually is, well, I don't know what to send out, right? I don't know what kind of content should I create? Do you have any tips on the content creation side?

Arthur Colker (12:37.135)
Yeah. So I think number one is messaging around availability. So I think what you brought up before is really important. And this depends a lot on your portfolio size, right? Because if you manage 500 properties, other than some maybe marquee weekends or holidays, you have availability typically somewhere. But if you only own or manage a small portfolio, you don't want to send marketing messages encouraging people to book.

Jasper Ribbers (12:42.19)

Arthur Colker (13:07.055)
homes that they cannot book, right? So I've seen some great examples around the eclipse, local events, activities, unbooked weekends that most likely should be booked or just unbooked weeks that are coming up in the next month, where they're just informing their audience of people who hopefully love staying there and want to come back. You know, hey, coming up in March, or in this case, let's say coming up in May or mid late April to May.

You know, these are the five homes in availability we have because then you're really going to be marketing inventory that you can actually sell. And you don't want to be, you know, saying like, Hey, come book us for July 4th when you have no July 4th availability. Right. So that's one thing to keep in mind. I think activities, um, tours, attractions, seasonal, anything happening in your destination that is popular.

or maybe not that popular, but you know about and you want to spread the word like, oh, we have this festival food and wine thing, this thing happening at the beach, whatever it is, you know, take a look at your, hopefully you may have like a local, uh, like tourism board or authority with all the events and calendar like that are in your areas. Think about how you can message against those new properties are very popular. Like you're launching a new resort.

mini hotel conversion, you sign on a new property. Guests love seeing these, you know, especially if you're doing more luxury homes, just look at these awesome three new properties. Let me imagine kind of what a trip there would look like. So new properties are really important, tourist activities, events, as well as seasonal things going on in your destination and then availability. Last minute cancellations is another one, especially through text marketing that I've seen be very successful.

So for instance, we had an operator in Missouri who, uh, someone like canceled right at the end of the cancellation window for Thanksgiving or like a 12 bedroom home. They sent a text right away saying, Hey, this home just opened up for Thanksgiving. Just contact us if you want to book it. So you can use all those different types of timely offers to also fill in those last minute availability. So there's lots, lots of ways to generate interest, um, and keep it simple. Right. So.

Arthur Colker (15:27.855)
I think a lot of people get intimidated by need to send out a complicated newsletter with many items. It could be as simple as think of it like a postcard, just, hey, we launched a new home. You know, come visit us in Lansing, Michigan or wherever you are. And that can be just a nice way to show to your past guests what's new and available. And also, and maybe in press, you know, show that homeowner that you're taking as your property manager, they're taking those extra steps to promote their property outside of what

Jasper Ribbers (15:37.006)
Mm -hmm.

Arthur Colker (15:57.839)
Typical property managers do would just be OTA listings, right? So that's another thing I think people under count is, you know, if you go to an owner and, you know, one selling point you have to them is, hey, we have a list of 10 ,000 guests that have loved and stayed at our homes. So we're going to be able to drive you more bookings than somebody who's only using Airbnb and Verbo, right?

Jasper Ribbers (16:21.294)
Yeah, that's a good point. And then a couple of other tips is number one is when you put together your content schedule to email or text your guests, think about where they're coming from, right? For example, in our market in Idlewild, 99 % of our guests are drive -to and they usually come from the San Diego, Los Angeles area. So we know that it's a two, three hour drive for them.

Right? For us, it makes sense to on a Wednesday, if we have a spot for the weekend, it makes sense to send out an email Wednesday and saying like, hey, we have an open spot for the weekend. We'll give you 20 % off. Cause we know that those people can jump in the car and just come over for the weekend. Right? If you're in like Hawaii where you are right now, then you probably want to give people more of a heads up. Right? Cause I don't know how many people are jumping the plane and fly to Hawaii on a two day notice.

So then it might be more like, hey, look what's coming up in the summer or look what's coming up like next month or something like that, right? So really understanding your guest avatar, I think is important. And then number two is use, get inspiration from other operators, right? If you don't know what kind of emails to write, just go to some well -known operators that have solid marketing in place, sign up for their email list and start receiving those emails and take inspiration from that.

And feel free to sign up for a FreeWild newsletter. So the emails that we send out to our guests, if you go to freewild .com, you can just sign up for ours and you can take inspiration from what we are sending out.

Arthur Colker (17:59.887)
Yeah, I mean, I see some larger operators do things like giveaways, contests, you know, post a picture of your last time you stayed with us and then, you know, so and so will win a coupon, a free stay, whatever. So there are so many different ways to engage people outside of the norm. Other operators are bigger on social media. So, you know, during the stay, for instance, when they joined the wifi, they'll text them, you know,

Hey, post and tag us here and you'll get, you know, XYZ or you have a chance to, you know, get, you know, something. So kind of like, where are you, where are you finding success in marketing? And then how can you just naturally amplify those channels? And we know for a lot of people that operate these very cool and unique, uh, destinations that are very popular on Instagram or Tik Tok or social media, you know, driving their existing guests to engage with the content there is a great way to kind of naturally build the brand.

in a place where you've already found success. So people kind of lean into what is what they already see working, especially if they've been kind of experimenting with different types of marketing in the past.

Jasper Ribbers (19:05.134)
Yeah, for sure. Let's talk about an event that we're doing next week, which is called Shaping the Future of Direct Bookings. It's going to take place on April 11th at 1 p .m. PST. And we will be joined by not just Arthur, but also Conrad O ‘Connell from Build Better Bookings and

the one and only Mark Simpson, Mr. Direct Booking. He's going to join us as well and we are going to talk about Direct Booking as well. Why don't you, you came up with the idea to do this training. So why don't you give us a bit more detail on what people can expect from this event.

Arthur Colker (19:53.807)
Yeah, I mean, I think we're really bringing together like the three most crucial pieces of a direct booking strategy. Number one is website, because that is like the front page of your brand that establishes authority, trust with guests, gets them to book with you, needs to work well, you know, be responsive, work on mobile. You know, Mark Simpson's Boosley websites work with just about every PMS now.

and has a great track record. Millions and millions of dollars of direct bookings have gone through their websites. They're used all over the world. And he really can bring the latest when it comes to what is working with websites and kind of what is making some operators more successful than others. Conrad O ‘Connell from Buildup Bookings, he has a huge depth of knowledge, not just in email marketing, but also SEO and kind of how you can use content.

to improve your results in Google search and really dominate a destination. I see some of his clients when I search, you know, Charleston vacation rentals or Charleston vacation homes, like I see his clients organically outrank Airbnb and Virbo, right? Like Charleston vacation homes are these larger folks. So especially in the more, you know, 50, 100 plus home area, he's seen how people can build these brands.

Jasper Ribbers (21:05.294)

Arthur Colker (21:14.703)
where they're driving 10, 20, 30 % of their bookings from organic Google traffic, which once you've unlocked that and like dominated destination, that's just, you know, that upfront investment is going to generate basically free bookings, you know, forever once you establish the brand. So you can talk about how he's brought brands along those journeys and use content SEO, social email to get there. And of course from Stafi's collection, we're all about data collection, marketing with texting email.

And now also we have some upselling tools in the platform for tours, activities, and stay alterations through things like late checkout, early check -in. So we can talk a little bit about how to not only monetize beyond the booking, which I think is really important, but the tours and activities component through a partnership with Viator that we have can really also help enhance the guest stay where you're providing really great recommendations to folks that are staying with you. And then of course you also,

get a percentage of those bookings. So we can kind of bring in some of that guest experience piece as well into how to kind of differentiate your brand from OTAs, earn more revenue and get loyalties if you will come back again and again. So I'm super excited that we have all of this coming together.

Jasper Ribbers (22:30.286)
Yeah, yeah, I'm super excited too. I think it's gonna, it's a very solid crew. I'm honored that I was invited as the person to ask the questions and moderate the conversation. So super excited about that too. And I created a…

Arthur Colker (22:44.175)
Well, you have your own operator perspective too, which I think is really important. So yeah. Yeah.

Jasper Ribbers (22:48.302)
That's true. That's true. Thank you. I'm not just a puppet asking questions. So I created an easy link for people. If you're listening and you want to improve your guest marketing, your direct bookings, go to getpaidforyourpad .com slash direct. That link will redirect to a registration page where you can put in your email.

Arthur Colker (22:53.871)

Jasper Ribbers (23:16.494)
and then we will save your spot on the Zoom. Do we have a limit on the Zoom or are we able to?

Arthur Colker (23:24.655)
I don't think we're gonna hit it.

Jasper Ribbers (23:27.694)
It's like a million.

Arthur Colker (23:28.399)
It's a lot. Yeah, it's thousands of people. So I think we're going to be okay.

Jasper Ribbers (23:32.398)
All right, cool. That's good to know. So go ahead, sign up for our training here, getpatreopad .com slash direct. The training is free. And again, it'll be, yeah, I think it's gonna be very, very valuable. And again, I think this is really something that is really going to separate the, how do you call that? I don't know what the expression is, but.

I'm just saying it's very important to focus on this.

Arthur Colker (24:02.799)
the wheat from the chaff or something like that. Like who's gonna, whose brands will last and who, you know, I think a lot of people that built their business only on Airbnb, it's gonna be harder and harder to be successful. Not that you can't be, but it'll just be harder.

Jasper Ribbers (24:10.222)

Jasper Ribbers (24:16.11)
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Well, and there's, there's no real reason not to leverage this, uh, this marketing channel, right? Uh, it doesn't really, unless, unless you're putting together like a big advertising budget to, to source the guest initially, and you're competing with Airbnb, et cetera, like that, that requires an investment, but just to collect the guest email and, you know, set up MailChimp. And I think you guys integrate with MailChimp.

You know, like it doesn't cost more than, you know, 50 or a hundred bucks a month or something. You could have everything set up and all it takes is a little bit of your time to write the content. Right. Um, and if you find, I know you guys at Stafi, you also have a lot of templates that people can, uh, uh, can get access to, right. Examples of emails that you could send. So it doesn't require that much investment. It doesn't require that much time. So I think it's really like a no brainer.

And it's again, it's surprising how few operators are focused on this. Right. If you go, if you go to like somebody who go for it.

Arthur Colker (25:18.703)
Yeah, and we…

I just want to say, I think some people don't realize how successful some operators are with direct bookings because maybe they've never been introduced to somebody who runs a property management business who is 60, 70, 80 % direct bookings. Sometimes I think people are just a little limited by what they even can imagine as possible. We want to bring those stories of how did X brand go from 0 % to 30 % to 50 %?

Because I think sometimes people think it's much harder than it really is. So we kind of want to show no matter whatever stage you're on, especially I think in our roundtable, we'll have content that's seated and explains, you know, going from just Airbnb to being listed to getting a website to starting to market at whatever stage you're at, we can bring kind of useful tips to how to get started on the journey or how to go from 10 to 50%. Right? All of that is definitely possible.

Jasper Ribbers (26:19.054)
Yep. Sweet, sweet, sweet. All right, so for everybody who's listening, go ahead, sign up for the training. It's free. It's 11th of April at 1 PM PST. So that is 4 PM Eastern time and somewhere in the evening in Europe. Not sure exactly what time, but I'm sure you can figure it out. Yeah, I'm sure you can figure it out.

Arthur Colker (26:40.527)
Mark can have a late night, it's okay.

Jasper Ribbers (26:45.71)
GetPaidForYourPet .com slash direct will take you to the registration page. And last but not least, if you are curious about Stafi, then we also have a, Arthur has also given us a special deal for people who want to sign up for Stafi. You can get, I think it's 30 % off for the first two months, or no, 50 % off for the first two months. Is that correct? Three months even. Man. So.

Arthur Colker (27:10.063)
Three months.

and I believe the promo code is PAD.

Jasper Ribbers (27:17.454)
That's right, PAD, our famous discount code that will get you a discount on almost all the tools that are out there. Not all the tools, but almost all the tools, the most important ones. Yes. And as an added bonus, you will be supporting the GetPaidFreePAD podcast because we get a couple of dollars for everybody who signs up as well.

Arthur Colker (27:28.975)
Basically just try it on any website, right? You go to. Try Pad.

Jasper Ribbers (27:43.31)
just to be transparent, but yeah, getpaidforyoutepad .com slash state .ai. You could also use that link if you wanna get that discount. So, Afar, I appreciate you jumping on here. Any final thoughts before we wrap it up?

Arthur Colker (27:58.287)
No, and I'm super excited for next week and thanks for having me on again Jasper, I appreciate it.

Jasper Ribbers (28:03.118)
Absolutely. And I found your last day in Hawaii. Hopefully I'll be able to make it there soon and to the listeners hope you enjoyed this podcast. Go ahead sign up for our training and we look forward to seeing you next week on Thursday the 11th. With that said, get Patriopet out.

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