May 11, 2022

99 STR Problems, But Airbnb Ain’t One: The Direct Booking Playbook with Boostly CEO Mark Simpson


Tune in for today's episode with Boostly CEO Mark Simpson, joining us from across the pond to chat about the importance of building a book direct strategy. The Pandemic showed the short term rental industry how dangerous it can be to rely on only 1 or 2 platforms for bookings, especially when you don't have control of these platforms. There's a heavy price associated with playing by someone else's rules and as the old adage goes, "don't build your house on someone else's land."

Smart marketers are leaning into building and leveraging their own UGA's - user generated audiences - that provide security from a platform suddenly changing it's rules. While we hope none of us will ever live to see another Pandemic, we also need to be prepared in case these platforms - which have all the control - decide to impose commission increases. Margins and profitability are the key to growing, scaling and sustaining a vacation rental business - and Mark is here today to share with our audience how his new book The Book Direct Playbook can help you do just that. 

CONTACT MARK SIMPSON
https://geni.us/bookdirectplaybook
https://boostly.co.uk/
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CONTACT ALEX & ANNIE
AlexandAnniePodcast.com
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Podcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel

Transcript
Alex Husner:

Welcome to Alex and Annie, the real women of vacation rentals. I'm Alex. And I'm Annie. And we're joined today with Mr. Mark Simpson, who is the founder of boosts leave. Mark, welcome to the show.

Mark Boostly:

Thank you very much for having me. This is very exciting. I was saying before we started recording, this is off my bucket list of podcasts I wanted to come on to. So thank you for having me.

Alex Husner:

Oh, six. I'm glad that we're on somebody's bucket list. That's pretty cool. That we're excited to have you here today and talk about all the things that you are involved in which there are plenty of them. You are very much an advocate of the book direct movement, which I think our audience is also very interested in. And Andy and I have a lot of experience in the book direct type strategies and OTA strategies too. But certainly, knowing how to drive that direct traffic is really important. You also just wrote a book. But before we get into that, why don't you tell us a little bit. Tell our audience a little bit more about you and your history? Yeah, definitely.

Mark Boostly:

So I've been involved in hospitality short stay accommodation since the age of four. I pretty much went when I was when I was born. I was born into a 200 acre farm in the middle of nowhere in the United Kingdom. The little town was called Scarborough. So if you've got any UK visitors, you'll know what Scarborough is very touristy area and happened in the very early 90s, where my parents needed to diversify their their farm and they went down the route of accommodation. So they tore down a ban turned it into a fob for bedroom guesthouse. And this was before Expedia and booking dot coms and online or anything. So they basically had to market their business through word of mouth and magazine ads, etc. But it worked really well, because the farmstay sort of brand back then was was was no, nobody was doing it. And that was one of the first and they definitely had first mover status. And over the years I'm growing up in, in this business, and he was getting really popular and busy. And they tore down another band and added another 10 rooms on and he got busier and busier. And the word of mouth was going and I'm a young teenager serving breakfast, going to school coming pack, you know, serve an evening meal, meeting so many amazing people, I just got to the point where I was so used to always having people in my house, just imagine walking into your kitchen is somebody. And that was me until the age of 1920, when I then had an amazing opportunity to become a soccer coach. And I got my qualifications. And then I spent six, seven years traveling to America, every single year, for six months at a time not to travel to every single state. I've been to both the states that you two are based out of and some amazing times Myrtle Beach and Florida and on the west coast as well. And then in 2011, I moved back to the family business. And that's where I came in full time, me and my wife and my my eldest who was one at the time, he was now nine and over there. So it was a five, six years there really helped get the business online. And we got to a point where we were the most recommended business on TripAdvisor, which was fantastic is when TripAdvisor was a thing back in 2016. And we were the most followed social media business in our area. So the Independent Business on Facebook, which was, which was fantastic. We just took that offline word of mouth, brought it online. And then in 2016, I started to go to local tourism meetings. And at these meetings, it was full of other hosts and guest house owners Bed and Breakfast owners rental owners. And they were sort of really puzzled with the new age of marketing, social media and etc. And they were having to rely on booking.com For bookings and Expedia for bookings. And I just just started asking questions, finding out if there's any support for these hosts, and there wasn't on a local level there was on on a county level or a state level, and there's no tourism help. So you know, I, I just created a Facebook group called the hospitality community. And it's still there now. And it was just for local hosts. And I just everyday just shared a little tip, whether it's a Facebook tip, or a Twitter tip, or whatever tip, and I just stopped doing it every day. And people showed up. And people from around the UK wanted to join and requested to join. I thought obviously, this is interesting. And then people from Germany and France and Spain, and Australia and American before I knew it, we had 1000s of hosts from all over the world who would have shown up because they wanted help when it came to direct bookings. And so I built a community. And then in 2017, me and my wife, we wanted to travel again, because we were we've always traveled it even before I met my wife, she was a traveler. And so me and Alfie and Frank, my, my eldest child, Charlie, we basically started traveling. And at that time, I thought, well, there's something I can do here where we can travel, and we could have, you know, I could build something where I could help hosts all around the world. And the goal was just to get free accommodation where we could rock up somewhere. And then what what's transpired from that is pretty crazy, to be honest. Now, it's to a point where 2022 I wrote a book, best selling book, which is amazing. I've helped her Over 1000 hosts, whether it's training or website design, and yeah, my main mission now my main goal is to help 1 million hosts cut down on an over reliance on the OTAs. And to help them show how they can get their own bookings directly through whatever means it may be. And I'm really excited. This is just the beginning. And thank you for having me on the podcast. I'm really looking forward to a nice discussion about just how have grown, I think and share any tips along the way?

Alex Husner:

Yeah, oh, gosh, there's so much there to unpack, Mark. That's awesome, too. And I mean, amazing business you've built in a relatively short amount of time. But I think you've seen the business change extensively, since you know, those early days, certainly on the farm, but even in the community when you first started that, but the first question that comes to mind, and I'm sure there's there's different differences from where you are versus where we are in the States, but the individual hosts that you started with that you are helping, you know, were they were they directly themselves putting those properties on booking and Expedia, or are they just on VRBO and Airbnb?

Mark Boostly:

Yeah, I feel like in the UK, in Europe, I definitely feel and this could be more so when you look at hotels and small guest houses in the States. But when you've got a bed and breakfast, for example, or you've got a small hotel, you are more going to have a property management software or PMS. And because of that, you're just naturally going to then list your properties on on the online sites like booking.com and, and Expedia were the were the two big ones back in 2015 2016. Airbnb really started ramping it up a little bit later. And so what I found was, and what I noticed was that it was so easy to get a booking from booking.com. And Expedia, we didn't really need to do much because it's so in demand in this industry, but we are in is so in demand. And you literally can just put a couple of pictures upon a couple of OTAs. And especially if you're in a, say, a touristy location, you could very easily sell your property out two or three or four times over with the help of the OTAs. And it's a blessing and a curse, because it's a blessing because it is so easy to bring in revenue, but it's a curse, because then you become so over reliant. Right? And when you become so over reliant on one platform, say like booking.com or Airbnb or Expedia, then you are playing in someone else's sandbox. Yeah, absolutely. And when you become over reliant, you go, Oh, well, I'll stop doing this, I'll stop doing whatever like Mark and I was doing and then something could happen, your account could get hacked into, I've seen that you could get a couple of really bad reviews, I've seen that and you just drop off the algorithm of for whatever reason, you just may not be stopped getting reviews, and that's when it really hurts. So yeah, it was a lot of people were struggling. And I definitely know is really now especially when I speak to hosts in America, who are, you know, just on Airbnb, I really noticed that more than ever, because they haven't even got a PMS, a channel manager, you know, they haven't got somebody helping them. So they're just solely reliant on one platform. And that's, I think that's a massive pain point right now in our industry.

Annie Holcombe:

I'm curious. So I was a property and property management. And then I was at Expedia for a few years. And when I was first at Expedia, the first year and a half or so that was when booking.com came over from Europe, and was really making a play for the states. But one thing I noticed was in just talking with people since I've been on the channel management side of things, is that the vacation rental industry in Europe, it's been around like it's been it's been going on and it was part of the the traditional OTAs if you will, for a long time. And I there's a there's there was a hesitancy in the States for people to work with those channels. So they did become I think that's how the Airbnb and the verbo was able to kind of harness that there was the growth going on. And they were harnessing that audience and not allowing the regular OTA to kind of step into that space. But for you, do you see a the same amount of difference that I know I saw a few years ago now when you're talking to a UK provider versus a US provider on the rental side.

Mark Boostly:

I feel like now, when you're talking about booking.com, it's come over to the states and say Airbnb has come over to the UK, I definitely feel like we're an equal partner. And I definitely feel like in in America and bearing in mind, for full context, I probably speak to hosts who have got one property to about maybe say 50. So you'll have the hosts that have got maybe one or two properties, then you've got the property managers that have got more than four or five, six, up to about 50. Very regularly when I speak to people consistently I've got 100 plus. So there's like there's two sort of smaller end of the scale. And what I've definitely noticed in the last year and a half ever since the pandemic started and then all of the things that have happened is that property managers and hosts now in in United States, more Also, whenever I've realized that they can't put all of our eggs in one basket, they can't just be on one platform, they do need to be diversified to a point. And they do need to be multi platform, they do need to have a presence on booking.com They do need to be have a presence on the bow, and they have to get a property management software. And I think that has been a major kick to it. Because we all know what happened in March, we all know what happened with Airbnb where they just canceled everybody stays and all of the refunds and and I feel like that's where people go, Okay, I've got to, I've got to do something about it, which in a crazy way, is being one of the major growths in Bhosle, we had a tuner percent growth in 2020 10, with a massive amount of growth came from the States, because people were going, Okay, I know I need to do this thing called direct bookings.

Alex Husner:

This thing,

Mark Boostly:

very fortunate that for the five years before that, I've been talking about direct bookings, every single day, every single week, and I was just in the right place at the right time. And it's been so cool to help so many people in America, I get so many messages on Instagram, from people in America and Canada and, and even Australia that have just been provided a solely on one channel and now want to be diversified, which is which is great.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, well, it's interesting to me what's happened in the professional management industry in the last year since COVID. And there's two tracks that people took during the pandemic, either they put all they had all their eggs in one basket on Airbnb, and they really got taken to the cleaners on that, because they didn't get the money that they were supposed to have and be able to pay their their owners and all those types of terrible situations that we heard about. And then after that, though, TAs that we're not spending any money. Now, they did not have a way to market the properties that were definitely wide open at that point. Or you have the people that decided, okay, we've already been building a book direct type of a company for a few years, many years, whichever is the case. And now we're going to go straight to the search engines, and we're going to put that money into PPC because we're not competing directly with the OTAs. And that's what we did conda world and I know several other companies within our destination here and and Annie's area in Florida, that had that mindset, really were able to catapult our growth because of not having that competition. I mean, our cost per clicks were significantly less. And we were able to just attract a wider range of people that we're still now we've got so many new guests that came from that push that the pandemic was terrible, but at the same time, that really made a big difference for us. But it's, you know, we booked direct has been something that we've focused on since the dawn of time. I mean, even back before OTAs, you know, that our owner, of course, was trying to cut costs and not have to do as many newspaper ads or, you know, the all the ways that we used to advertise. So it's, it's really just a cost to advertising is what that means. But it's interesting to see how things have have changed throughout the years there and the emphasis that has really started to focus on it now.

Mark Boostly:

Yeah, I think one thing as well, if any, anybody like like condo world has really wanted to take a push to the search engines and do PPC, then coming out of 2020 in that middle of 2000, who was the perfect time to sort of give it a go because the booking.com and everybody have a scale back their their advertising costs Oh, so much because they had to. So it was definitely a play. And, you know, obviously you've been speaking to Pete at your travel in the rebrand. And so they are so much more clever and switched on that sort of side of things than I am and they are perfect people to chat to about that, because they are so switched on with that sort of thing. But I definitely, definitely definitely definitely feel like there is there's a really good opportunity now to for property managers at a lower end or a higher level that can take advantage of the fact that guests now are more inclined to click around, they are more inclined to not just go to one place they they will click around because they now know that they can get a better rate or they can get better incentives. And and it's the whole reason why I started mostly was because I knew that there's so many benefits of booking direct and just there's so good marketing going on at expedia@booking.com and Airbnb, which which drives people to their sites. But I wanted to re educate the guests. And that's what I've been doing at the family business since 2011. Re educating the guests so by by leaving little placards in the rooms by sending emails by talking to him because the beauty of being on the site and the family business is that I checked in every guest I walked from the check into the room and I sort of got to speak to him firsthand surveys of like, why they booked and how did they book and how did they find us and whatnot. And it was awesome. But what I realized is that I couldn't educate, re educate the guests. What I needed to do was re educate the hosts because once I re educate the host if I can re educate 1 million hosts then they will then Be able to rededicate their guests. And that's how we get the attention of the OTAs. That is how, you know, we can be seen not just as a number, but we can actually be seen as a as a partner. So I think that's where it's really important to keep on doing this.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, I

Annie Holcombe:

think that COVID just changed. It changed the the power, you know, it went from the OTAs, being in power to the, to the PMCs, having that power. And I think that that's one thing that I liked to see out of COVID. Again, there's a lot of positives that came out of it, as bad as it was, is that the voice, the collective voice kind of came together, and coalesced around this conversation of direct booking. And like, let's cut the fees. And I'm a channel manager. So I sit in this weird space of like, I want to advocate for the property manager, because I've been a property manager, and I understand that, but I also need to advocate for using the channels and kind of diversifying, you know, that that cost of distribution, but I think it's it's put this whole community kind of on footing. That was it's a much stronger footing than they were on before before.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, and I'm glad you said that, too. Because I think that's what makes you unique, and what you do, and really mark the same thing for you, as well. And I also think, for me to WonderWorld because when you have that diverse perspective, it just your the advice you're going to offer is more. I mean, it's just more holistic, and it's going to be better, I think overall versus being so granular one thing because you have to look at it that way. I mean, what's best for your customer is not just always from the book on the OTAs, which is going to benefit you what's best for Mark, it's not just for them to always book direct. Same thing with Connor Waldman, but you have to have that even balance. And I think sometimes it's just depending on which vendor you're talking to. It's their way or the highway. And it's important to have that different perspective.

Mark Boostly:

Well, I really agree is and this is really important to stress is that when I talk about direct bookings, people just naturally assume that I say you have to go cold turkey on the on my travel agents. But that's that's so not what I'm saying. Our middle of nowhere, it was it was a farm in the middle of the North Yorkshire Mooers. It should never have got the attention it did. And we would never have got that attention if we hadn't listed on booking.com booking.com opened up the potential guests that could see us on an on a national and an international level. And I was I was doing a lot of promotion and podcasting on the book direct day, which was in February, which Amy? Hi, no, I know you've had on the show. Yeah, massive ANOVA was a promoter of it for like, five, six years, she started it off. And when I wasn't doing book direct days, somebody played devil's advocate with me and said, Well, should you go 100% direct bookings? And they were going to assume I said, Yes. But I said, No, you can't again, you can't go 100% Booked direct, because what you're going to do is, again, you're putting all your eggs in one basket, right? Anything could anything could happen, you could lose access to your emails, your database could go, you've got to have that balance and that split. And if there's any, if there's any business owner, if there's any vendor, or anybody who's watching this, and you're trying to think of like a little takeaway to take from it, is that you have to make sure you spread all of your marketing and all of your business has to be split evenly. You can't just be solely reliant on word of mouth. Yeah. Because what happens if people stop talking about you? So you have to make sure, yeah, exactly. And you're diversified. So it's really important that we would sort of get across,

Annie Holcombe:

I had an experience and my market. So I was at a management company and then made the grave misstep of starting another management company company, right about the time the economy crashed. And then we had an oil spill in the Gulf, and fighting against what social media was putting out there. And again, fake media people were telling stories and saying that they had seen you know, all of this oil on the beach and they'd seen it everywhere and the beaches were terrible people were dying and it was just all this stuff that we would get out literally every day my husband and I and do a YouTube just a quick YouTube video from the beach to say look at the beach. It's beautiful. There's nothing going on here. Just because we couldn't there was no advertising that we could do that was going to combat what people thought the gossip was at the grocery store. But if it had not have been for Expedia at that time for us, we wouldn't have had any business that summer I mean they saved our skin and I've always been very you know big advocate of absolutely have a plan to get as much direct business as you can. But you got to have somebody there when you fall everybody's going to trip and fall and you got to have somebody to help you so the OTAs while yes, they get a bad rap and they're the 500 pound gorilla in the room they're aligned they want to help with business just like you do Yeah, they're taking a piece of it but you're you're giving a piece of it to the you know to Google every time you pay for an ad so it's it's dependent on who do you want to give the money to what's your best ROI

Alex Husner:

you know, and we can we can definitely see that the industry has grown so much because of Airbnb and VRBO and the exposure and just you know, magnification that is given to our industry so their CI you can't completely count them out.

Annie Holcombe:

You try you don't like them but

Alex Husner:

yeah, there's you just got to work with them. That's the end of the day. That's the best thing.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah. Yeah, so what out? So Mark, you wrote this book was this? I apologize. I've read a little bit of the blurbs that you shared with us on our Clubhouse group, but not have not gotten the whole book. What was was it just all this experience that you had that you decided you needed to put all these tips and tricks down into writing and publishing?

Mark Boostly:

Let me get a copy. I've got one. I've got one here. So it's called the Yeah, if you're watching on the on the YouTube on the YouTube, it is very much look at the cameras called the book direct playbook. And yes, basically, the reason why I wrote it is that I've recorded nearly 500 podcast episodes, I've done nearly like 1000 1000 blog posts, and I can't even think posts on social media. So there's lots and lots and lots out there. But yet still, I get people in my inbox, in the Facebook group, in the comments, asking asking questions, and I'd like, well, I've got a video is right here. But for whatever reason, it's like, it's really hard to turn up to divert them. So about a year and a half ago, I had a conversation on the beach in Spain with Julie George and other guests. She was the one who gave me the kick up the ass, so to speak. And she basically said, Mark, at the end of the day, a book is going to be your business card, it's going to be it's going to be like the thing that not only that you will remember in years to come. Well, there'll be something that you can pass on to your kids when they get older, etc. And, and I just sort of stopped and I thought, Well, okay, if I can come up with a book, and I don't want it to be autobiographical, I don't want it to just be about my life and my story. I want it to be something that is going to help and benefit hosts. And I'm a massive fan of books. And we're talking beforehand, and I'm a massive fan of Mike McCalla wits, very big offer. Sorry, my camera's a bit of a focus, I can just see if I put my hand here. I'm also a massive fan of Tim Ferriss. And my favorite ever book is tools of Titan. And with tools of Titan, he basically took his 200 podcast episodes. And he put the best of into this one book. And the book isn't something that you read from page one, to page 300. It's a book that you go in, you find the chapter and go, Okay, I want to learn more about this and you skim to it. And like I say, I, I used to be a soccer coach. And I would always have a playbook with me at the side of the pitch. So when I was coaching, when I was working, when I was ABA, running a drill or running a game, I wouldn't have my playbook. And if I wanted to run a certain drill on passing, or shooting or goalkeeper, whatever, I would open my playbook, I would go to it, I'd find the chapter, I would do it, we would implement it, and then I would review it afterwards. So when I came to sort of draft out the idea of the book, I was like, Well, what, what can I do? And it just came back to this playbook over the idea. So I took 10 years of what I've been doing, I thought, well, what am I like top 100 tips, and I just put them into this. So anything from how to get your customer avatar, how to do email marketing, how to set up a website, how to be a content creation machine, how to build relationships, how to get corporate bookings, it's all in all in here. And when you when I announced it in the group, the first five out of 10 comments was a while you write in a marketing book, it could literally die a day by the time it gets released. And so that was always at the back of my mind. Oh, yeah. And so what I did was, I created everything that was going to be generic. So it's generic advice. It basically social media is this, the tactics that you share is the same for every single platform. So for example, if I'd have started writing about musically, musically, is no more it's now Tik Tok, you know, and LinkedIn has changed so much, and Snapchat has disappeared. So this this, the advice that I share is more about the psychological aspect of social media and how it can be generic so that if my Alfie for example, who was now nine in like 10, or 20 years time, if he decides to get into hospitality and short term rental, he can pick this up and put it into practice. So but what I did is, I created an online course, as part of this book. So everybody who buys the book, you get a special little code, you then go to the online course, and there's so many videos and resources and tools that I'll always be able to update behind the scenes. So it doesn't matter what you buy now in 2022, or if you get it in 2032, that will always be updated and be be accessible. And, and yeah, it's it's very interactive. The first chapter of the book is that I asked people to send me a message and tell me who their customer avatar is. And this has been the best, best, best best thing, just getting messages from people that I've never converse with before on Instagram, saying, Hey, I'm reading the book, or I'm listening to the book. And this is my customer avatar makes my day and it's the best thing that I've I've ever done.

Alex Husner:

Oh, that's so cool. That's awesome. I love that it's an audio book too, that's, that's gonna be how I consume it because I do just about everything on audio, but tell us about that experience, that's that must have been different. Going through that how

Annie Holcombe:

to do it again?

Mark Boostly:

Well, if, if I do do it again, if I do, if I do, then you know, I will definitely be a lot more relaxed, I will definitely a lot more calmer. I won't be panicking as much as when I did record it, because I will do it in such a different order as well. Because normally what happens when it comes to the audiobook is that you wait for the book to be released. And then you record the audio. And I'm very fortunate that I know, lots of amazing people have put books out and whatnot. And they're all given me advice, but I was dismissed a stubborn British guy, just I know, I'm gonna do it this way. And that I did it anyway. So I recorded the audio two weeks before the printed version was due to come out. And I was panicking because I, I again, one bit of advice for any author is don't have a set release date. Don't have a set release date and don't announce it publishing, like publicly as well. Because every author told me don't have a set date. But I did it because I wanted it to go out and book directly. Yeah, seen a book direct day was the second of February 2022. So 2222. It was like,

Alex Husner:

oh, yeah, what a great way to do it.

Mark Boostly:

And this book had 222 pages in it. So I was so

Alex Husner:

oh my gosh, wow.

Mark Boostly:

I had all the promotion, I had all the planning I had, I had all all the sponsorships and all of the affiliations and everything lined up for the second. And yeah, two weeks beforehand. Two days in in the freezing cold, we're in between moving houses as well. I had to get it done. I've luckily I discovered a very, very, very good recording studio and a team that was so patient with me. But I mean, the best way to describe it is right now you pick up a piece of pick up the book and just try and read a page. And when you read it, you just read it like we're talking right now. Yeah, when you recorded an audio book, you have to go slow, you have to stop, you have to reread. And it was it was so stressful. But we got there, we did it. And it's really interesting. Now me hearing the book. So I've got it on Audible and I listened to it back. And I can just tell how nervous I am for the first say 1020 pages. And after that it gets a lot a lot more confident. In fact, I've had people who have been following me for about five, five years now who said, I've got the audible and they send me a message on WhatsApp saying I can tell how nervous you are.

Alex Husner:

Isn't it amazing that when when you being a podcast or you know that to the first few episodes where you listen to yourself, it's pretty crazy. I mean, I used to hate, even listen to myself on a voicemail, and you just have to push through that. And hopefully you start to improve as you listen to yourself over time. But that's definitely a challenge in any of this.

Mark Boostly:

Well, it's like taking yourself out of the comfort zone taking a selfie, you're only gonna improve. So I ever since I started this, I mean Bucha was everything. And if Bruce Lee wasn't successful, then you know, the our family would have been eaten. It was like that's like literally is how it is. So it's like you're just taking yourself out of that comfort zone. And just stepping forward. And as long as you're always taking yourself outside your comfort zone, you're only going to improve. So hopefully the next book, if there is one and I do an audio, I'll be better. I think there'll be I

Annie Holcombe:

think there's going to be like a second edition of this. You'll have to update it. Of course, you'll learn a bunch of new things to share.

Mark Boostly:

Yep, yep. Well, who knows? Who knows, hopefully one day, if enough people want it. And you know, it'd be a long way down the down the line and then you have to recover after this one first. Because barely a month old. So

Annie Holcombe:

did you have? Did you have a goal for how many books that you wanted to sell? Like, right out of the gate with your editor? Probably.

Mark Boostly:

Yeah, you're never really gonna make money on a book. And because, and again, this is a big this is a big worry to me, because since writing this book, I had to I had to have to didn't have any other option I had to put on Amazon. Okay, so I had to there's no other way I couldn't get this book, done it directly. Okay. And Amazon started all those years ago with Jeff Bezos and his garage was posting our books. And now it has grown so much. And it's just literally monopolized the book market, the E commerce market, and who knows what's next. And I look at hospitality and I look at Airbnb and I look at the growth. And since 2016, Airbnb has been the scrappy little OTA that's tried to take on Expedia and booking.com. Now in 2022, it's a fair argument to say they're above them. Right. And, you know, it's no coincidence that they've raised their commission from 3% to 14%. And as you know, and Expedia for like 15% booking.com 15% is very on purpose. And so what what happens now is if Airbnb grows and grows and grows and grows, and it's and it's literally now on This big marketing Spiel to get more and more hosts, they say, Listen, we need millions of hosts and their hosting. They're very clever. They're targeting verbal people to get onto their platform. What happens if they get so popular and literally, they are the dominant market leader. And they go to a host, and they can see all of our bookings, and go Well, Mister missus host I can see that we provide 80% of your bookings. I don't think a 14% commission is about right. I think this is more 30% Commission. What percent of this is a 5050 relation? For me with Amazon for every book that I sell, I only get 30%. So I pay 70%. It's a lot of commission. You look at Amazon, you look at Airbnb, and you look at the what's happening and how it's trying to grow. And this is this is why it's important for me to keep saying what I'm saying, I'm talking about direct to show hosts that listen, you can do this yourself, you can do these little marketing tactics and tips, it is a lot easier than what you make it out to believe it doesn't have to be Google ads. It doesn't have to be Facebook ads, you don't have to spend money. In fact, every single tip in here costs you nothing to do. Oh,

Alex Husner:

well think about it. You're trying to tell people it's booked direct, but you are trying to get them to buy your book directly. Direct.

Mark Boostly:

I literally cannot I cannot have anybody buy this book for me direct because there's no way for me to go. So really, there's no way there's I haven't got a printing machine behind me. But you have to use Amazon's product. It's literally it's crazy. But it is what it is to answer your question. Like there's no there's no goal on numbers or anything like that. I'm very happy that I've actually had a return of investment cuz I have to pay to get it to get it out there to the world. And it was amazing. Like God, George likes, you give me the kick up the bum all those years. I say all those years ago was only 18 months, but it's like, now, my business card. And so many people have messaged me asking a question. And it's just buy this book. Buy this book, and it's a tenner, you know, so it's $10 or whatever it may be. And, and again, this, this is going to be something that I will have the years and years and years and years to come. So when I go to an event or a conference, I'll have this with me and you know, just be a great sort of way to sort of get people more aware of what I'm doing and mostly under booked out movement. So as a pastor, any individual goals that I had, and I got it to the best seller. I mean,

Annie Holcombe:

that's amazing. That's so wonderful. Yeah, that's really cool.

Alex Husner:

I think Annie we need to start working on a book, it sounds

Annie Holcombe:

more creative for us

Alex Husner:

in our spare time.

Annie Holcombe:

But what a great thing and one thing that we've learned and Alex and I've learned just for through ourselves is that and Amber hurdle was our very first guest and she kind of really pushed us she was probably our Julie doors, like as we were doing this was that, you know, all of your, your strengths and your gains and your successes are going to come if you push through that fear, you just have to you just have to do it. And if you just get past it, you look back and you're like, Okay, that wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. But for these owners, these individual people, you know, what you were saying is they just think it's so overwhelming for them to try to do some of these things and and to set some of it up Yeah, you got to put some time into it. But once you get a routine going, it all makes sense. And it works and I think that they just have to get over that, you know, this is the way I've always done it attitude and try all of these great tips that you share with them I registered on your website as a as a guest or as a host to to see how that all worked. And I mean, you bombarded me with a whole bunch of really cool stuff and questions and things that I was like gosh, I never I never even thought to ask that when I was in property management let alone asking a property managers some of these questions so your your passion is clearly driving muesli and your success and so I just applaud you and it's been great to virtually meet you in some of the clubhouse chats and and see you succeed and you share all this stuff on LinkedIn and I'm so happy for you.

Mark Boostly:

Oh, thank you and you know I am a fan of the show and it is awesome to be on here and I listened to the one you did at the start of March and one of the core little takeaways that I took from that episode is a theme has been throughout this whole series of of you running these podcasts is just do it what's the worst that can happen and I that stuck with me massively since listened to that episode. And it's definitely what I've I've had a recurring theme is just do it what is the worst that can happen? Yeah, and I feel like that has definitely been the core driving factor behind mostly behind the podcast behind the book What's the worst that can happen? So at the end of the day taking yourself out that comfort zone is only gonna improve you doesn't matter what you're doing

Annie Holcombe:

to Julie George statement right there that yeah, you just what's the worst that can happen? I think

Alex Husner:

it is it's all about consistency and just showing up I mean put putting one foot in front of the other. It's you know, looking back at our stats on our podcast, you know the first episodes that we would air would get okay Amen. So you know, some downloads, but now every every time we release an episode, so many of our past episodes, people go back and listen to those. And it's really interesting to watch that progression. But it doesn't just with anything, and this included when you, when you get that momentum, it just it starts to build, and you just have to keep showing up and keeping consistent to it. And then that's where the success comes. But not an easy thing to say, in any adventure, where you are putting yourself out there and going outside of your comfort zone. Because it is a little stressful, you know, and this is kind of, it's a very synergistic job to what Annie and I do everyday anyways, I mean, we're having great conversations with people but it from a time perspective, you know, outside of the office, we're you know, Andy, I think we've talked to each other every single day, five ones, I've talked to more than I talked to, I mean, anybody really, but a lot of fun.

Annie Holcombe:

In the same town, so it's like, it's great. Yeah,

Mark Boostly:

this is this is what you will find is that, because of what you do, and because of the podcast, I now know more about YouTube. And I did let's say five, six months ago and right you now on conversations wherever it is for condo world or lexicon or you're an event, people will instantly recognize you will recognize the face to voice and, and the name and it will just open up so many avenues I against totally the same same scenario 2016 17 I started the podcast, I did loads of little different styles. At first I released in a Netflix where I recorded six episodes released at once and then I went to weekly in an A. So for some bizarre reason did a daily podcast last year? Well, the offset has been that now. The boozily podcast is in the top 1% downloads in the world of all podcasts. Wow, that's amazing. You think that that's a massive number. But to get in the top 1%, because there's so many podcasts to get in the top 1%, you only have to have just under 7000 downloads in the first 10 days, just 7000. And you know, that's not a lot if you think about all the other like Joe Rogan's of the world podcast, all the multiple podcasts that we all listen to and consume. So it's by being consistent is by showing up and with podcasts in particular, is the only this is why audible. This is why podcast and audible is so possible. And we talked about this in a little preamble is that every other form of content, whether it's reading a book, reading a blog post, watching a video, seeing a social media post that is disruptive, it disrupts what

Alex Husner:

you have to be like,

Mark Boostly:

yeah, or the podcast, it doesn't end. And people can listen to podcasts, and so many they consume it. And if they like it, and if it's sticky, and if they keep coming back, they will be with you for the long run. And it will do nothing but good things. If you still go in this time next year, and you've got a gold bank of it, you will do a lot of things. Number one, it will build networks, communities, relationships within the peers and the vendors within this industry. But also as well, it'll have potential customers come to you as well. And they'll discover you via the podcast.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, absolutely. You know, Stuart, obviously, and Pete from the fuel marketing podcast, which is now travel boom. And we've we're gonna have Pete on the show coming on when this airs very soon. But that was one of the things that got me so interested in it was that Stuart said, We never had to do any advertising for our marketing services. So that podcast was the number one business development tool that we had. And that's what we were looking at at first, but it's become so many other things besides that. I mean, that's definitely a great advantage to it. But there's there's a lot of a lot of great things that come from being able to do this. But when you started the podcast 2016 2017 I mean, people the buy in or understanding of what a podcast was back then was minimal. Because even at this point, I mean, podcasting is still in its infancy as far as where it's going to go. I think it's only like 35% of people listen to podcasts. I mean, it's still fairly low in the grand scheme of things. But for people who do listen to them, I mean, I'm an avid podcaster. Now, like, I prefer to listen to podcast, over music, in most cases when I'm driving or getting ready in the morning, and just, I'm addicted to it. But you got started so early, that that's you've definitely been able to reap the benefits of that.

Mark Boostly:

Yeah. And I really liked what you're doing as well with the audio, but you've also got the video. I mean, that is really, really important. Because again, it just opens up so many avenues. And this is where podcast is evolved. Definitely. And I feel like by having a video that you can just put upon YouTube and the socials. Fantastic. So now, for me coming on here. I'm a massive fan. And I look forward to seeing it at this time in 2023. And beyond and the growth of it. So well done for getting it started.

Annie Holcombe:

Thank you so much. And we're kind of nearing the end. And I know we wanted to throw a couple of questions at you and I actually had one that popped up since you were talking about soccer. So are you a TED lasso fan?

Alex Husner:

Good question. So

Mark Boostly:

I had to do one thing when I was Started Bruce Lee. And that was sacrifice something. And I didn't want it to be sacrificing time with the family. And as my one core thing, I had to sacrifice one thing and that was watching TV programs. Before Bruce Lee, me and my wife, we used to get the kids to sleep and binge and I mean being billions and suits, cards and Game of Thrones, you name it, but I had to cut some out on it. And it was that and since then, I've never watched a TV series really, and the TED law so phenomenon, I know who it is. I've seen two clips in the bloopers. And obviously it's Emmy award winning and I love the actor, Jason So Dukas, you know, even though I've cut out TV series, I am my biggest passion outside of all of this is going to the cinema going to a movie, okay? I love it more than anything. In fact, as one of my favorite things now is that our boys are nine, six, and three, and the six or nine year old are just getting into movies as well. We take them to the cinema, it's amazing, because when you go watch a good movie, everything on the outside world disappears, right? There's no phones beside literally, that and you just get absorbed by it. And there's no better feed, and I'm a massive Marvel movie fan. In fact, there's a reference to a Marvel film in export,

Alex Husner:

isn't it? Yeah. Oh, that's awesome. Yes.

Annie Holcombe:

Okay. So no Ted law. So but yeah, he has some really great, he has some really great business tips that you might be able to pick up if you ever do. So. I'm a huge fan of it. But the other question was, what is the biggest accomplishment? Your greatest accomplishment that you're most proud of? I said, I'm gonna say your book. Yeah.

Mark Boostly:

Well, I was, that would be the easy answer. That'd be my biggest accomplishment is that I have built a business without having to sacrifice spending time with my family. I mean, that's the main thing. Having three boys, I've got three boys under six, under nine, sorry, three boys under nine and be able to still do the school run first and end and spending so much time with them and not having to sort of sacrifice the time with them to build all of this is definitely like something that I'm very, very proud of. Because you just you know, you see all the videos and you see all the things of how people have to like Elon Musk saying you have to eat glass and all that. And I was like, I don't want to do that. I want to build this on on my rules. Because I've worked in hospitality, I've done those crazy shifts. For many years, I've changed all the bunk beds and did all the things and that's when I couldn't spend time with Alfie and my wife Laura, as much. So yeah, that's probably my, my biggest accomplishment is, is now

Alex Husner:

that's a great accomplishment because a lot of people can say that they have built a great business or that they've built a family. But not everybody can say that they've done both of them well and together in a way that works on both sides. So pretty cool, Mark? Well, we appreciate you being here with us today. And I can't wait to get the audio version of your book. I'm definitely going to download that when I get off this call. But for our audience, what's the best way for them to get in touch with you and buy the book?

Mark Boostly:

Yeah, definitely. So there's a book, all you need to do is go to boost li dot code at UK forward slash book and boost Lee is b o s t o y.co. UK forward slash book, it'll take you to the Amazon store of your country, wherever you are. And you can choose the audible, you can choose the Kindle, you can choose the print. So that's the best place and then once you get the book, it will tell you how to reach out to me because the book is very interactive. I want it to be one where people reach out to me and ask me questions and interact via whatever social media channel etc. So yeah, go get the book book direct playbook on Amazon. And then let's chat after

Alex Husner:

they're awesome. And if they want to just contact you, you're on LinkedIn also. Is that the best?

Mark Boostly:

Yeah, Instagram, Instagram is my favorite one. Instagram is my favorite channel of choice is the only app I've got on my phone. I don't have any other apps on my phone, just Instagram

Alex Husner:

on Instagram, so

Mark Boostly:

I love it. I love it. I really do like to say yes, at booster UK on the on the Instagram, please do come up and say hi.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, and we'll we'll make sure to include links so that everybody can contact you from our show notes. But for anybody who's listening, or watching on YouTube, thank you so much for tuning in for another episode and we will see oh, if you want to contact me and I Sorry, I was forgotten Alex and Annie podcast.com You can contact us through there or if you're enjoying the show, we'd love to hear from you. If you could leave a review that would be awesome. But until the next time we will see you soon and thank you again for tuning in. Bye

Mark Simpson Profile Photo

Mark Simpson

CEO Boostly

Born and raised in Scarborough, close to the popular touristic region of the Yorkshire coast, Mark Simpson grew up surrounded by the hospitality industry. From the age of five he became immersed into the family business, a charming farm known as The Grainary offering tourist accommodation.
A lifelong passion for football and, specifically, Liverpool FC, saw him training to become a coach and, eventually, Mark flew the nest to teach soccer in the United States. After taking some time out to travel the world, he eventually began his marketing career at Qype, a web 2.0 company centred on social networking and local reviews based in Hamburg, Germany, which was eventually bought by Yelp.

In 2012, Mark took over The Grainary with the mission to bring the traditional, 25-year-old business ‘online’. Over the next five years he built up the humble farm stay’s web presence to rank amongst the top three properties in this competitive region on TripAdvisor, as well as the ‘most followed’ independent business on Facebook in the Scarborough area. His initiative not only won The Grainary several awards, it also saw the property expand with the addition of further rooms, a tea room and restaurant.
Always looking to improve and grow, in 2016 Mark began to network with other small business owners and hosts to see how they bring in direct bookings. He discovered they didn’t have any strategies in place, solely relying on online travel agencies [OTAs] like Air B’n’B and Bookings.com. Considering the commission rates and other costs attached to working with these platforms, Mark figured there must be a more rewarding way of attracting guests.
Frustrated by the lack of online support for marketing strategies specific to hospitality owners, he started the Hospitality Community Facebook Group, dedicated initially to just the local area. Helping owners and property managers from every niche of hospitality and accommodation, through word of mouth Mark’s social media community began to grow and is now one of the world’s most engaged groups on the platform with over 6,600 members and a 89% engagement rate .

Mark says, “I have lived and breathed this for so many years. I can see the difference when you get your own bookings; the increased power you have as a host and the improved quality of your life. Growing this community is one of the best things I have ever done, and I love seeing every single one of my clients’ wins.”

Recognising a gap in the market, in the same year the marketing expert set up Boostly, an online academy that gives hosts the tools, tactics, and training to boost their profits through direct bookings – with actionable advice.

Through Mark’s expertise, hosts can learn how to:

* Save thousands in commission costs
* Stop wasting time learning complicated and outdated strategies
* How to build a hospitality business that is not reliant on third parties to be profitable
* Take control of their destiny and attract their ideal guests to book directly through them

To date, Mark has worked with thousands of short-stay accommodation owners and helped them to skyrocket their direct bookings.
Staying true to his life motto, “Done is better than perfect”, what makes Mark a leader of the pack is his consistency, proactivity, and commendable ability to “show up”. Attracting a global audience through his successful podcast, engaging social media presence and the Boostly Academy, Mark has access to the most credible influencers and resources in the hospitality space and can help his partners make a big impact.
Named one of the "Top 20 Most Influential People in the Vacation Rental Industry Globally", Mark explains, ”My big, ambitious goal is to help 1,000,000 hosts to cut down on their over-reliance on OTAs such as Air B’n’B and Booking.com. I want them to increase their direct bookings, and I want them to have bookings that are on their terms without having to rely on a middleman. If I can teach 1,000,000 hosts how to do that, and they, in turn, can educate their guests on the benefits of booking directly, the big OTAs will have to start paying attention to us - and maybe we can have a seat at the table. There may be an opportunity where we can lower our commission costs, where we can get more power, and where they treat us like partners.”
The Book Direct Playbook will become another building block in Mark’s offering, allowing a whole new audience to access his expertise and support. In a nod to the coaching manual he used when teaching soccer in the US, the tome has been designed so readers can jump between the chapters that are the most relevant to them at any given moment, rather than reading the book cover-to-cover.