I’ll Always Have Paris: My Virtual Vacation with CobbleStay Vacation Rentals

Eiffel TowerAs a marketer, I appreciate every interaction I get to have with clients and customers. That’s because unlike my colleagues on the sales team, I don’t often get the opportunity to meet with them and hear what they have to say. And that’s a shame, because it’s such a valuable way to get insight into what they really want – and how best to communicate with them.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with Drew Graham, the founder and CEO of CobbleStay, a vacation rental travel agency that provides extraordinary properties in stunning locations around the world. Drew isn’t just the CEO – he’s also in charge of sales and marketing teams for the agency. That means it’s his job to not only make sure their marketing efforts generate enough leads, but that those leads get turned into bookings, and that revenue continues to grow.

It’s not an easy task, especially since their website is so attractive to people (like me) who just like to look at the lush photography of lavish accommodations in locations such as Paris and Puerto Vallarta. Seriously, just look at this Mexico vacation rental. Or this Paris vacation rental. (Go ahead, I’ll wait.) So yes, they get plenty of interest in their houses and apartments. But sorting through massive numbers of visitors in order to find qualified leads can be a time-consuming process.  The sales team used to spend way too much time figuring out who was actually a qualified lead and who wasn’t. It was hard to tell the difference online between the person who was daydreaming about Paris (um, me again) and the person who was actively beginning to plan, so they weren’t able to prioritize them effectively.

cobblestay-logoOnce CobbleStay vacation rentals implemented a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, they had a good start. The CRM gave them a great deal of information about their customers and prospects. But Drew quickly realized that his team also needed marketing automation to help them take targeted action on the insights they were gathering about visitors to the site. And that’s when they turned to Act-On.

During the course of the interview with Drew, I learned a great deal about the entire process of adopting an automation solution: discovering the need for it, finding the right fit in a vendor, and what it takes to implement the solution as quickly as possible. CobbleStay has been an Act-On customer for over two years now, so I also had the opportunity to find out about the cumulative benefits of marketing automation. They’ve gained a great deal of value from Act-On by scoring leads and enabling the sales team to take targeted action – and to do it faster than was ever possible before.

It was all great information, but for me, the most interesting part of the interview came when I asked Drew for a sample of the email they send out to prospects. I had done some research in advance of this meeting (because, of course, if you read my post on how to write a good case study, that’s an important step) and I’d visited the CobbleStay site quite a few times. While I was there, I signed up to receive their e-newsletter, The Paris Journal. I hadn’t gotten a copy of it yet, because, as Drew told me, it goes out every two weeks.

036-M-Paris-Vacation-Rentals-Pompidou-Center-Beaubourg-036So as we talked, he quickly called up my record in their CRM, sent me the newsletter, and told me a little bit about what I was interested in.

“So, I see you want to go to Paris,” Drew said. “When would you like to visit?”

“Tomorrow,” I said. “Well, make it Tuesday, since I’ll need to clear it with my boss.”

A few seconds later, I received another email with a customized quote for three nights in a studio apartment near the Louvre. (Alas, my boss had other ideas, and said any expense report filed for a trip to France would not get approved. Zut alors!)

The most amazing thing? That the whole process took about 30 seconds.

And so, even though I didn’t get to go to Europe, I got to take a quick tour inside the process our customers go through every day in order to send relevant, timely messages to their prospects. I saw for myself how the sales team is able to create custom quotes and real-time responses to visitors on their site. It was very cool, and it made the process of writing the case study even easier, because I didn’t have to imagine it – I got to see it in action.

What kinds of results has CobbleStay seen by using marketing automation that’s seamlessly integrated with their CRM? You’ll have to read the whole case study to find out. But I will say this: email open rates are on the rise, conversion rates are growing fast, and they’ve seen an impressive rate of return on their investment.

As for me, I think I need to go do more research. (I’ll be out on their Facebook and Google+ pages for sure.) Now… anyone know where I can find discount airfares to Europe?