How one vacation rental company’s audience helped them reopen with a bigger, warmer audience, ready to travel

Chances are you heard Florida’s beaches have reopened. Despite the initial 24-hour news bloviation, things seem to be normalizing, and the travel industry in the lightly affected panhandle of the state is ready to jump-start.

For Resort Collection, that means 1,000 rooms spread across the coast of Panama City Beach are ready to be enjoyed.

Thanks to a strong audience paired with a platform and strategy, they’ve hit the sand running. Here’s how.

Putting their own audience first

Most travel businesses experienced a “what’s next?” mentality as the pace of cancellations, refunds, staffing and financial decisions peaked. Even in the confusion and shock of the shutdown, Resort Collection had the clarity to realize this would pass.

Without normal channels of marketing, they knew reaching and nurturing their existing audience would be critical in the plan to reopen.

Striking the right tone

Keeping that audience in conversation during one of travel’s most challenging times ever would require empathetic outreach and careful messaging.

The Flip.to platform played a critical role, helping more than two hundred people share their stories with Resort Collection at the center during the pandemic-induced downtime.

It’s those storytellers who are so important to the company’s strategy. These are real people who shared authentic moments, and in doing so, introduced the VR company to a community that trusts them the most: their own friends and family.

Photo submission from Nykia O. showing 4 african american females enjoying the sun on a hotel balcony

The audience responds

The response was phenomenal, and grew the collection’s audience even wider. Beyond scale, these trusted connections were with a new, high-quality audience of like-minded individuals who mirrored the original storytellers—the right-fit audience for Resort Collection.

Now in active conversation, this new audience is primed as Resort Collection excitedly takes its first steps forward in more than a month.

Photo submission from Sheri S. a family of 4 standing in the middle of crystal clear waters of a beach

Authenticity and trust make better marketing

Resort Collection immediately noticed the stories generated by using the platform resonated with their audience.

How? For starters, they saw a spike in engagement and conversion, a testament to better conversations that are meaningful, timely and appropriate—all at a moment when people are deciding how and when they will be ready to travel again.

The platform put happy times at the front of mind for Resort Collection’s new and old audience alike.

In just 62 days, Resort Collection engaged 265 storytellers who shared their greatest travel memories. 401,876 friends and family were introduced to Resort Collection by a trusted friend or family member. 2,936 warm leads in conversation-an audience who are the perfect demographic.

As they’re phasing back into operation, the platform is now helping the collection immediately start welcoming this warm audience to their newly reopened properties.

And as units book and first guests arrive, they, too, will become storytellers, continuing to grow Resort Collection’s audience, and seeding the funnel in the same way.


Resort Collection recognized the most important lesson in the pandemic: keep your audience at the center. Sparking the right conversations with that audience, and nailing timing and tone are incredibly important.

By prioritizing these efforts, when the time is right for both your properties AND your audience, they’ll be there for you.

How collaboration helps these small Key West hotels see spectacular results that will live beyond the pandemic

Tucked among tropical foliage, and in the company of buzzing scooters and free-range chickens, eight boutique properties scatter the eclectic neighborhoods of Key West. The inns, B&B’s and small hotels are each unique except for a theme of pastel hues and a proximity to Ernest Hemingway’s favorite watering holes.

Yet each was looking for a way to attract more travelers within the country’s southernmost vacation outpost.

At the time, their parent company, Riley Hotel Group, ran all eight as a collection, but marketed the properties individually. And one big opportunity stood out: collaboration.

A platform to work together

When Riley switched on the Flip.to platform, our teams worked closely to not only reach and inspire a bigger audience, but also to build an overall plan to help all eight hotels collaborate.

In those conversations, Flip.to Account Manager, Joseph Meuse, also recognized the need to speak to travelers with a unified voice and to build awareness of the other hotels in the family. That suggestion garnered more fuel to continue evolving The Key West Collection by Riley, a plan that grouped the boutiques together in strategy, marketing and content, and would introduce the sister properties to travelers who previously knew no affiliation.

Riley the Rooster debuted as the hero of the new logo, and excitement built for the official kickoff of the platform.

A launch and a pandemic

Photo submission from April A. showing man holding a rooster and a hen.
Photo submission from April A.

Just when the new brand started to take off, the bottom fell out of the market as the pandemic swept the nation and grounded travel. While excitement deflated quickly, the groundwork from the collaboration proved to be timely.

The eight properties in the Key West Collection are now working together on a single Flip.to platform to inspire an audience of travelers, and rebuild their marketing funnel while the island is shuttered.

Their audiences, once compartmentalized, are learning about the group in a more authentic way. They’re also growing a team of storytellers who are actively introducing their friends and families to the entire collection. That sets up the properties to be in a great position when the time is right.

Photo submission from Kathryn S. standing in front of palm trees in Key West.

The impact of collaboration

The introductions are adding up at a brisk pace. That’s no small feat considering the collection only counts a total of 105 rooms.

In just 56 days, Riley Hotel Group engaged 342 storytellers who become an extension of Riley's marketing force. 270,000 friends and family were introduced to Riley's Key West Collection by someone they know. 3,600 dreamers in conversation-an audience who are the perfect demographic.

Their marketing team is adding great value at the moment, which is bringing The Key West Collection by Riley more than 3,600 dreamers that they can speak to until the Hemingway daiquiris are flowing again.

An extension of your marketing team

Flip.to and Joseph proved to be an extension of The Riley Group team, and a partner willing to join in thinking big to overcome its challenges. Neither could have foreseen the biggest challenge to date, but those initial conversations show getting the fundamentals right is the best way to weather any storm.

How 3 properties are adjusting their marketing during the pandemic, and how you can too

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less,” stated Nobel prize winning physicist and chemist, Marie Curie.

COVID-19 has thrashed our industry. The challenges are great, but the decisions and adjustments made today will ultimately decide the future as our industry emerges into a changed world.

As Curie suggested, the more information we have, the better positioned we are to do that. (As you’ll read below, wine also helps.)

When traditional marketing isn’t an option

At Flip.to we’re working hard to help our customers understand, strategize and adapt. The goal is to set the stage for the most profitable rebound while resources are limited.

With traditional marketing off the table, it’s critical to maintain a relationship with your audience of travelers, or risk degradation, with your audience ‘going cold’.

As properties continue to grow that audience for the time when travel is back, it’s equally important it’s done in a way that builds relationships and avoids missteps.

How our customers are adapting

Our Account Management team is working with customers on the platform to maintain and grow these audiences during downtime—in the right way.

Take a peek at some of those stories in action, and check back for more in the coming days and weeks.

STONEWALL RESORT

Roanoke, West Virginia

With travelers grounded at home and cabin fever setting in, Stonewall Resort launched a Flip.to campaign called “Travel Buddies,” asking their audience to share stories of adventures past with a favorite companion.

The platform rekindles the feelings surrounding those memories while making authentic connections with the storytellers and audiences they’re reaching.

Beyond maintaining their current audiences, Stonewall Resort aimed to reach a new, wider audience so that they could build a funnel of conversations to tap into when the time is right.

They invited anyone to share a ‘Travel Buddies’ story, even if they hadn’t visited in the past. Growing their team of storytellers exponentially increased the impact they earned.

In fact, the 208-room resort has been introduced to 608,438 friends and family directly by their storytellers in the first 3 weeks starting March 24th—all reached organically.

That adds up to fourteen times more than their already healthy audience of existing followers and fans, and is a great set of travelers to engage more down the line.

Kim M.'s photo submission to Stonewall Resort's Story Contest

Cheri G.'s photo submission to Stonewall Resort's Story Contest

Denise D.'s photo submission to Stonewall Resort's Story Contest

THE GUEST HOUSE AT GRACELAND

Memphis, Tennessee

Elvis Presley fans can’t help falling in love with The Guest House at Graceland’s “Taking Care of Business” campaign.

By sharing memories from a past visit to Graceland or The Guest House, past guests can play along with The King. For those feeling lonesome tonight, the Guest House also welcomes stories from anyone sheltering in place, even if they have never visited Memphis.

It’s a playful approach that has a new audience professing their burning love with stories.

Elvis fans are passionate. And since kicking off April 1st, in two weeks The Guest House has been introduced to an audience of nearly 250K by their storytellers.

Beyond that, they’ve earned almost 2,000 warm leads. These are the friends and family of storytellers now in conversation with the 450-room property thanks to the platform—helping to be present and useful to those dreaming about getting back to travel without the pressure to ‘buy now’ weighing on their suspicious minds.

Lisa P.'s photo submission to The Guest House at Graceland's Story Contest

Ashley W.'s photo submission to The Guest House at Graceland's Story Contest

Eric H.'s photo submission to The Guest House at Graceland's Story Contest

HARVEST INN

St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

If the best memes of the pandemic are any indication, wine has played an important role in the national mood. A hectic reality resulting from school closures and working from home, colloquially referred to as “WFH,” has made the product of the vine an even more popular stress reliever.

In their “An Enchanting Slice of Napa Valley” Flip.to campaign, the Harvest Inn introduced a playful spin on WFH—Wine From Home. The invite calls on wine lovers everywhere to share their best moments of enjoying wine from wherever home may be.

The platform is introducing wine-lovers the world over to both Napa Valley and Harvest Inn. So far, to the tune of 88,933 friends and family, and thousands of new conversations with future travelers.

For a property with only 74 rooms, this is helping grow an audience of dreamers at a time when the power has been effectively cut to the “book now” button.

Until travel is ready, the platform is in conversation with the right content and context, leaving Harvest Inn with an audience primed for planning and booking later on., That audience is a wine-loving demographic, which is a great fit for Harvest, and earned at the lowest cost.

Tom and Emily B.'s photo submission to Harvest Inn's Story Contest

Haley D.'s photo submission to Harvest Inn's Story Contest

Angela M.'s photo submission to Harvest Inn's Story Contest

Inspiring your own audiences

When putting together your strategy, remember it’s important to empathize with your audience. Travelers share your concerns (and probably disappointment that their plans are on hold).

Here’s some of our take:

  • Include what makes your destination unique (wine, beach, Elvis, etc.)
  • Make sure the call-to-action is broad enough to reach the widest audience
  • Inject personality and lighten the mood, but take care to be empathetic toward the difficult situation many face
  • Have someone from your team kick off the campaign with a homemade video

As always, even remote, our AM team is here to help. We all need to be prepared for the moment the economic engine starts to rumble back to speed.

Wrappy Hour: Your Release Wrap-up from 2019

As you’ve probably seen, we may have dropped the ball on our blog. Excuses aside, we have at least one good reason: we spend a lot of time building product that’s damn good. Product that’s helping travel marketers of all sorts win over new audiences, and knock down their goals.

And we’re getting better all the time, too. We haven’t brought to light these updates nearly enough, but hey, much like our blog—new year, new us! 🎉

To kick-off, we’re recapping all the enhancements we made last year. Plus, be on the look out here for more updates to come—it’s one resolution we’re here to keep.


Our ‘Big Rocks’

We’ve broken out the pneumatic equipment to improve our platform—meant to fundamentally change our business—and yours.

We’re counting your dollars—even better
We set up new plumbing to more accurately attribute referral links down to revenue. It sounds like a basic update, but it’s truly game-changing.

We’re migrating to an all new Angular
We’re updating the infrastructure of our account (and eventually to our wider platform) to the newest version of Angular. If you don’t know what that is, you’re not alone. Google’s development framework simplifies our coding process, letting us build infrastructure faster and with fewer obstacles. And it’s kind of a big deal.

Feature updates & light enhancements

We’re also finding ways to make the features you know and use even better. When your life is easier, ours is too.

Even faster onboarding
As a new customer, you can get running at full speed now in a matter of days thanks to some process updates that lessen the workload for our account managers.

Data parse improvements
It’s now easier and more comprehensive to get import data into our platform. Hooray for data parse, as they say.

Better reporting
When you want to dig into the details, reports are the place to go. In this update, they got some much-needed house cleaning. Names, definitions, and data calculations are now more consistent, giving you more precise data.

(Even more!) Better reporting
We restructured our reports to provide a better look at audience segments on our platform. So it’s faster and easier to get to what (and who) you need.

URLs that say what you mean
The ten-character limit for shortened URLs has been increased to fifty. Now we can set up a link like http://go.flip.to/you-can-name-it-this-long-but-use-some-restraint. Go ahead and channel your excitement in URL form.

Put your stories to work, even easier (and see their impact, too)
See every bit of impact from every story, with a new look that’s even more insightful. Put your stories to use in a big way by broadcasting them in a snap.

💡 Recommendations from your neighborhood AM
Be on the lookout for recommendations hand-selected just for you by your friendly, recommendation-wielding account manager.

Stories, queued up
We made it easier to access the queue of stories that need curating. Just click the button called “Start curating” in the Library.

Bugs squashed 🐛

Based in Florida, we’re used to dealing with some pretty horrifying bugs. While we can’t always keep them out, we’re quick to swat them down. Here are a few we put the kibosh on in 2019.

Letting Angular young-and-old play nice
Some <a>s were updated to <button>s so our version of Angular plays nice with others.

Bubbling up your best stories
Sometimes our logic was butting heads, causing story randomization to be not so random. Story River, Explorer, Invitation page, and Confirmation Experience now show a better mix of stories.

Social channels are (constantly) changing—so we are, too
What can we say? Our travelers like sharing to all of their audiences, and we plug into the major platforms to make that possible. As those platforms make structural changes and release updates, it’s easy for bugs to creep in. When they do, we stay on top of it to make sure they don’t hang out for long.


Wrappy hour is officially a wrap! Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to follow our continued updates. Next time you find yourself in Florida we’d love to grab a coffee IRL. Cheers to 2020!

Blog? What Blog?

Hey blog reader! It’s been a while. Too long, perhaps.

It seems there’s always a reason…

  1.  “I’m busy building product.”
  2. I’m busy getting things Geetha-approved.”
  3. We have a blog?”

I set out to find out exactly why we haven’t updated this space recently, (completely unannounced, perhaps against their wills, and without even the most perfunctory duties of a stylist or paid hair/makeup professional.)

Here’s what they said.