Millie Freed, the CEO of Nomadness Rentals, from $1.5 million in 2014 to $3.2 million in 2017, a 112% increase, and to around $5 million in 2018.
Nomadness Rentals is a vacation rental and property management company with proprietary reservation software.
In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, Millie shares how she and her team accelerated their high value sales by:
- Providing outstanding customer service: renters and homeowners can easily and quickly reach their team by email or telephone.
- Marketing with a deep understanding of what specific groups of renters want in a property, and the best mediums to engage them.
- Ensuring that renters have an amazing experience, so that they’ll leave and provide fantastic reviews and referrals.
Malcolm Lui: Welcome to the High Value Sales Show of Eversprint.com. I'm Malcolm Lui, the Managing Member of Eversprint, and today you're speaking of Millie Freed, the CEO of Nomadness Rentals, a vacation rental and property management company with proprietary reservation software. Welcome to the call Millie.
Millie Freed: It's a pleasure to be here.
Malcolm Lui: Millie, you grew your company's revenue from $1.5 million in 2014 to $3.2 million in 2017, a 112% increase, and in 2018 you hit around $5 million. But before we talk about how you grew your company so fast, can you briefly share what your company does beyond my quick intro, and how your company differs from the competition?
What they do, and how they differ
Millie Freed: I'd be delighted. We're a property reservation management company that has a unique and different outlook and business model than traditional management companies. And we believe in good old fashioned customer service high tech reservations and marketing for our company online and with social media and all the other wonderful things we have out there these days and also providing not only renters but homeowners with individualized customer service and outstanding sales and rentals for them.
Malcolm Lui: Okay. So your company does a couple of things you people can list a property on your system for people to rent and you also own properties yourself that are also there when your system is that write.
Millie Freed: No we just rent properties that owners have that are looking to generate revenue for their vacation homes and these
Malcolm Lui: Okay
Millie Freed: Are exclusively vacation homes not homes that people live in that they're renting out a room say
Malcolm Lui: Right. And in your right now which destination locations that
Millie Freed: We
Malcolm Lui: Are
Millie Freed: Currently.
Malcolm Lui: Operating
Millie Freed: Yeah we're currently in California. We are currently also expanding to Colorado and in Maryland Baltimore
Malcolm Lui: Awesome fantastic. Now can share with us what your three biggest drivers were that grew your revenues so fast over the past few years
Millie Freed: There are three and they're pretty simple and they almost sound too simple. One is as I mentioned earlier good old fashioned customer service where you can actually pick up the phone and talk to somebody you're not hitting extension to Extension five ext seven then finally being hung up on. We don't believe in that. We believe in being able to speak to someone. We also believe in not delaying responses so our emails are always answered within 24 hours or less to everyone. And finally it's our marketing ability and how we're approaching the marketplace and who were attracting and who were driving our rentals too so that both the homeowner and the renter are happy with what they're ending up with.
Malcolm Lui: Okay. So I have customer service and I have your marketing. Did I miss a third one.
Millie Freed: The third one is word of mouth is everyone's so happy both the renters and the homeowners are happy with what they're either renting or the results that they're getting from renting that they're letting their friends know about us. And that's really probably the biggest driving force of all
Malcolm Lui: Okay. So what you're referring to coming on both sides of the equation at both the homeowners as well as the people who are renting as well yeah. Awesome. Can you share a little bit more about your customer service philosophy. How did you come up with that. How did you develop it.
Millie Freed: Well the way it was developed really was from my personal experience and as time has evolved I got very frustrated with calling large companies and even small companies and being put through automated services where you had to hit one number and be transferred to another number and then another number and I found it very frustrating. I know that A.I. is a big thing and we're all moving in that direction but I do feel that people do like that personal touch in that personal contact if and when they want it. And so we want to be able to provide that ability to talk to a real life person whenever a homeowner or a renter is looking to do that.
Malcolm Lui: Now is it 24 by 7 availability
Millie Freed: It is. We have business hours. However we do also provide 24/7 ability for our renters in the event that there is some an emergency at the property that they need help with or they're unclear on where they're going. There is a number that is provided that we do offer 24/7 Absolutely.
Malcolm Lui: Fantastic. And do you find though that you're having the availability of someone to speak to it that's more of a demographic specific type feature. Because I know
Millie Freed: It
Malcolm Lui: Some people just abhor speaking to someone live right for a not to.
Millie Freed: Absolutely depends on if you're talking to a millennial or agenda. Then we're talking to different demographics. Then I won't mention what group on it but typically
Malcolm Lui: You mean where in
Peeps across generations will want to talk to someone live when there's a problem.
Millie Freed: Even even some yes even the millennials and even the gen Zee generation do from time to time believe it or not want to pick up the phone and actually talk to somebody in person primarily. If there is a problem if they're if they're having an issue at the property because the electricity isn't working or or a dishwasher is not working they want it solved immediately. And a lot of times we found that through email or texting sometimes it isn't even fast enough and they will actually pick up the phone and they do prefer that and that is one of the key other reach or other reasons that we do well is that we have amazing reviews both from renters and homeowners on multiple platforms on the Internet. And as we all know and myself included I look at reviews before I hire someone that's going to work at my home or I'm going to go to a specific restaurant. I look at reviews and I want to see what these people are like and that's what our renters and homeowners do when they go online and look at us. They look at our reviews and how do we perform and how do we handle things. And they're very pleasantly surprised because we really crush it compared to the rest of the industry.
Malcolm Lui: Right. Yeah. Reviews are key. I definitely look at that as well whenever I check out takes the rent buy or even a hotel is going to go to a place that has some beauty is not for these
Millie Freed: You want to know that if there is a problem there are gonna be there for you.
Malcolm Lui: Yeah definitely. Now what can you tell me about your marketing ability. What have you. What has your team done. What does your team do to attract more people to find your site and find these properties and get the right people to want to rent them.
Millie Freed: Well I think it's really understanding the mindset of the group of travelers that are looking at booking and understanding that mindset and what they're looking for really can help hone in the type of marketing that we're doing for a specific location or a specific group of properties whether they be high end or if their budget units if they're slope side or if they're a single family home. We've learned that doing the right research finding out the correct information and then targeting those particular renters the all the platforms that are available these days online and off line and however else we do it really we're able to find the right match for that home and that renter.
Malcolm Lui: Right now I took a quick peek at what kind of a online marketing you might be doing. I saw a pretty substantial SVOD presence I didn't see so much on the paper like ad. Are you doing a lot of that type of marketing campaigns.
Millie Freed: Yes I know a lot of it is through email. We are doing fairly well we have a heavy presence on social media LinkedIn Facebook you know all of the usual ones where it's interesting maybe not as heavy as other industries but in the vacation rental marketing industry if you look at a lot of the the large OTOH online travel agencies or other smaller management companies they're not utilizing social media to the degree that we are. And I believe that we're getting a lot of traction there. Plus as I said in the beginning word of mouth is what's really driving a lot of the business
Malcolm Lui: Okay so
Millie Freed: I mean
Malcolm Lui: When you
Millie Freed: Sorry for
Malcolm Lui: Get
Millie Freed: Interrupting you but you know you have a great experience. You're going to tell your friend you have a bad experience. You're going to tell your friend don't go there and
Malcolm Lui: Here
Millie Freed: That really is is the nuts and bolts of it. I believe
Malcolm Lui: Were right now I said before you do some paid ads like you referring to pay out to them at paid ads on the likes of the social media platforms like Facebook or. Also on AdWords for example or being
Selective use of PPC ads
Millie Freed: Will do from time to time depending on the season depending on our numbers. When we look at the numbers and we look at vacancy rates we look at different properties and if they need a boost we'll do advertising on Google we'll do AdWords we'll do Facebook depending on the property depending on the demographics that we're trying to attract. There are many variables determine how we're going to advertise but we don't do anything in any consistent manner because I believe and we believe that you need to be fluid and flexible in how your marketing
Malcolm Lui: Right now you said you do a lot of e-mail marketing. How did you build your email marketing list.
Millie Freed: Is built from prior renters and then signing up for subscriptions. We're also now recently started targeting texting because the open rate for email is so low it's really dropping significantly and we've found that texting significantly is far more effective and the open rate is considerably better.
Malcolm Lui: Right. I've seen those sort of data points. I just saw an ad someone talked about texting marketing talk about open rates being so much higher than other channels would just fine. You know everyone always looks at the text but what about the response rate its response rate side of things
Millie Freed: If this is what I believe is really important. I get a tremendous amount of emails daily and even text some texting and what the company is offering me is nothing nothing that's going to make me move on on choosing their services or whatever it's just general advertising. We believe that if we're going to advertise it needs to be of value and benefit to the person receiving it. So when we're texting to the people who have subscribed for our texting texting messages they're getting value in that in that they're either getting some type of a discount or a property has been marked down there's some value and since there's significant value they will act upon it. And so we're getting a lot of success in that area because of those reasons.
Malcolm Lui: Right. I can see I can see that working especially if they're in the market for a property. But how about afterward. How do you provide value to peeps in between there. What's your ski rentals.
Millie Freed: Well a lot of times people are looking to go to a vacation destination but they really don't know enough about it. We're all extremely busy. All of us with the advent of the Internet back in the day we thought oh this is going to free us up in so many ways we'll have so much free time but I don't know about you but it seems like with the internet I'm busier than I've ever been
Malcolm Lui: Yeah
Millie Freed: And there isn't time to a lot of time to do the research about a new destination or what a destination has to offer. So if we do all of that for the renter and we market them via email or text or social media or however we're doing it we provide all the information there so they'll know what is there to do there how much it costs. What are the best places to eat. We provide it all so they don't have to spend the time and
Malcolm Lui: Right.
Millie Freed: That encourages them then to make a reservation
Malcolm Lui: Now you're at the mass market is it all just purely tax are you able to send images as well as part of the marketing
Millie Freed: I'm sorry can you repeat that
Malcolm Lui: So you're s m s marketing that you're doing that text message
Millie Freed: Mm hmm.
Malcolm Lui: Marketing are you sending images
Millie Freed: Right.
Malcolm Lui: Or just purely text.
Millie Freed: No images also
Malcolm Lui: Okay
Millie Freed: Images are in that old adage are worth a thousand words and and the image is if you have a beautiful plate that's been plated wonderfully with food you're going to see it. And too bad we don't have smell a vision because it'd be great if we couldn't pick some smells come through where they could smell it see it and then they're going to want to taste it. It's the same thing with our rentals. If they see it and they can experience the snow outside if it's winter or experience the fall leaves through the windows or the beautiful amenities of the property has to offer they're going to be more inclined to book.
Malcolm Lui: Right. I can see that. Can we think about the third biggest driver of. Word of mouth both from people who recommend your service to do to book out their properties and for people who use it. What do you do other than providing an outstanding experience to encourage referrals. Are you proactive about it. Do you make it easy or do you kind of let it happen by itself
They make it easy to give a referral by providing an amazing experience
Millie Freed: We we make it easy in the sense that one we encourage them if they come back. There is a there's an additional discount when they book because they are returning renter. But I think honestly and it may sound too simplistic but some times I think simple is the answer. It really is having an amazing experience. I mean for myself yes there is a there is a cost element to your vacation but if you go have an amazing experience in an environment that really left an impression in you you're gonna want to come back. And people really aren't going to have to hound you to come back. We want people to have that impetus to come back because they had such an amazing experience.
Malcolm Lui: But the experience is really up to the property owner right. You're not really involved with the experience other than the
Millie Freed: Oh
Malcolm Lui: Booking
Millie Freed: No
Malcolm Lui: Side
Millie Freed: We
Malcolm Lui: Of
Millie Freed: Are.
Malcolm Lui: Things.
Millie Freed: We have a lot of management companies if not all believe in volume. They just you want to sign up sign up with us no problem we'll take you on. We don't believe in that philosophy. Our philosophy is that we want quality properties because of that experience that the renter is going to have. And we believe that that experience is what's going to drive the additional business to keep coming back and growing. So we do not automatically accept rental properties onto our rental management program. We do an onsite evaluation. Every property owner is given a list of what the property needs to qualify for the rental program and they have the option to either make those changes or we just part ways and they can go on to somebody else. So we actually do have a lot of say so in the properties that we manage anywhere from the type of paint that's on the wall the kitchen cabinet tree the type of furniture we make recommendations. We've tested this over time where we've completely remodeled entire units and watched their revenue quadruple as a result of a remodel. So we do have quite quite a bit of influence because we are selective in who we bring on board
Malcolm Lui: So you make sure the property meets your standards of amenities and quality of shaping the experience of their visit it kind of ends there. Or is there like for example if
Millie Freed: No.
Malcolm Lui: You want to be really extreme you can offer a concierge you know a butler that's available 24 by 7 or 8
Millie Freed: Absolutely. I mean if they want us to stock the refrigerator before they come in the refrigerator will be stocked if they need maid service we can provide that if they need babysitting service we can provide that if they're looking for a wedding venue we know who to reach and who to contact to coordinate a wedding venue and provide lodging for all the guests. So it's a one stop shop that everything is vetted our service providers are vetted our housekeepers are vetted the people that we work beyond our own boundaries are all vetted and everything is tested. We test drive everything before we even recommended
Malcolm Lui: Ok. So. So your quality your the way you differ from your competition right the ones who are out there the other online booking vacation home rentals is one you make sure the properties meet your standards and they are higher than you want to stick anywhere once that's 1 2 you're able to help people with additional amenities and services that they might want that many of the other online travel agencies or online property management companies wouldn't help you with. But there are other factors that you that your team is able to do that and you also have a phone service available for people to get help when they need it. It's something else that your team also does that you know the competitors don't do for you.
Millie Freed: It depends on who you're looking who you're talking about. As for the renter. It's really the the added experience of the quality of the entire experience. Now also the a lot of management companies in the past and I think this is changing in time. We're really charging a lot to manage properties and not doing very much. In fact I spoke to a new homeowner just yesterday who was very very upset but we actually keep our rates very low and since the rates are low the homeowners can offer a lower rate to the renter so the renters having not only an amazing experience but one that set a quality price.
Malcolm Lui: Ok so the way your company makes generates revenue you charge an annual fee or is it just
Millie Freed: No
Malcolm Lui: A per
Millie Freed: We
Malcolm Lui: Booking
Millie Freed: We
Malcolm Lui: Fee
Millie Freed: We charge a percentage for every reservation
Malcolm Lui: Ok so there's
Millie Freed: From
Malcolm Lui: No fixed
Millie Freed: The
Malcolm Lui: Fee
Millie Freed: From
Malcolm Lui: That
Why homeowners love them
Millie Freed: The homeowner from the homeowner and the homeowner since they're using our proprietary reservation software which I really don't know of any other management company that has their own proprietary reservation software. It allows that homeowner to capture those funds within three business days whereas in a traditional setting from any other management company or any other online travel agency those funds are typically not available until the renter is arriving or shortly after they're departing. So if you're making a reservation today for six months from now as a homeowner you wouldn't be getting those funds till six months from now. Without proprietary reservation software that homeowner gets all of the funds within three business days which adds to their cash flow right off the bat and also the software provides that homeowner all the information about that renter. So there's complete transparency and there are multiple reports so that the homeowner can track the success of their investment by looking at all of the expenses that they're incurring for that particular reservation and they can track those reports daily weekly monthly annually. To really understand how their business is doing with us
Malcolm Lui: Right now. Now when they list with the list their property with you that they re is in an exclusive type listing only on your platform and not on any others or are they free to also list property elsewhere simultaneously.
Millie Freed: No it's exclusive with us but we have partnered with the the large OTOH like HomeAway fear bill or B and B booking dot.com Expedia. Our software is fully integrated with those partners so their property would not only appear on our own Web site but would also be on those other global advertising agencies which is what I look at them as
Malcolm Lui: Correct. So if I book through HomeAway is it using their their platform to make a booking or they just send me to your site to do the booking
Millie Freed: It's the. Our software is integrated with them which means that you'd be booking on their site but it's following through to our software and booking with us. But you wouldn't be
Malcolm Lui: Right.
Millie Freed: Leaving their site it would just all be handled through us
Malcolm Lui: Right. Imagine the information that they request would just be a subset of what you normally would want
Millie Freed: The integration process with all of these OTOH A's is quite extensive quite expensive but it really does allow for things to flow much smoother and there's constant testing the companies are constantly testing our system and we're testing theirs to make sure that all the information that's being constantly moved back and forth between us is accurate and correct
Malcolm Lui: By hand or the other services that you provide to the renters that that the air BND typically wouldn't do the arranging for a nanny housekeeper arranging a wedding planner to be part of the process. How do you get that worked into it into the third party system.
Millie Freed: Into it. Well that is. Well when that happens through a third party it still comes back into our database once we get that database there then the customer service representatives can see what the additional requests are. And then we can contact the the vendors that we've vetted it with in each location to make the following arrangements.
Malcolm Lui: Right. I mean I guess I'm trying to get a if I read a book through Airbnb B for a property that you have that's also listed on your software. Can I make the same exact sort of booking and check off all the things I want. Or there's some things that the likes of Airbnb aren't able to do. Just because it's not a feature that they support.
Millie Freed: Correct it if it's something it did depends on certain companies HomeAway view or bio has different options. Airbnb has different booking dot.com has different Expedia has different when it comes to additional add on items such as you know booking a sleigh ride for instance or booking a gondola ride or a buying ski lift tickets that would have to be handled directly through us. So once that reservation comes in we'll reach out to that renter and we'll see if there's anything else that they need to do or purchase. And then we can go ahead and take care of it on our end.
Malcolm Lui: Ok so you pay your system pays the homeowner within three days of the booking for booking that might not occur for another six months. What happens if there's a cancellation. What happened to the homeowner. Something happened to they cannot provide that home to the renter six months from now
Millie Freed: Sure if something happens and there's a cancellation. Then the same thing would happen as if you were to if you went to Target and you returned an item that you purchased the renter would be refunded according to the rental terms and conditions.
Malcolm Lui: Ok so but you know from a cash flow perspective right it's not really any sort of problem of any sort
Millie Freed: No
Malcolm Lui: Is that
Millie Freed: Not
Malcolm Lui: Since
Millie Freed: At all. We haven't run into that problem not even once.
Malcolm Lui: Right. OK. So what can you share about your plans for 2019
Millie Freed: Oh my gosh we have a lot of plans for 2019. Do you have about another hour.
Malcolm Lui: I do actually.
Their 2019 plans
Millie Freed: Primarily it's expanding our our reach here in Colorado to beyond Steamboat Springs providing greater services for our renters and our homeowners. It's making the INC 5000 list for a third time and basically continuing to to grow our tech part of the business which is the reservation software to allow other management companies to utilize it if they choose to.
Malcolm Lui: All right. And for expanding your reach beyond Steamboat Springs what. Can you share some details behind you can do that.
Millie Freed: I'd love to tell you but I can't because it's a secret
Malcolm Lui: Ok how about for growing at your tech platform and in putting you know putting in touch with other property management companies. How are you going to contact them and let them know that it's there and available for them to check out
Millie Freed: I think that's probably been our biggest hurdle is letting other management companies know about our software. There are a number of I think there's about three or four large companies out there that offer the reservation software that management companies use currently because they're not directly integrated as we are. The problem is and I've looked at all of these other companies there. Their systems can be at times overly robust for the smaller management company but the fees are incredibly expensive. So what we're targeting currently is a robust system that will provide that integration for the management company at a price that's affordable and a price and a system that can be customized. So if a smaller management company would say 50 properties or 100 properties doesn't need all the bells and whistles they don't need to have all the bells and whistles and they can choose a part of the software that will just provide them basic basic integration with the LTA at a much lower price. So our system is very flexible. It can either minimize or it can grow based on what a property management company needs and desires are.
Malcolm Lui: Right.
Millie Freed: Now how we're gonna get that information out there. I assume that the marketing departments are busy at work and they're gonna tell me some magic bullet that I'm going to go yay. That sounds great.
Malcolm Lui: Ok. Something that's actually potentially the most lucrative side of your 2019 plan is expanding the software side of your business am
Millie Freed: The
Malcolm Lui: I
Millie Freed: Software
Malcolm Lui: Mistaken
Millie Freed: Side
Malcolm Lui: About that
Millie Freed: Is is is extremely lucrative. Obviously it's less labor intensive than the property management side which involves customer service representatives housekeepers plumbers electricians and all of the other things that are necessary to keep a home going smoothly. But on the other hand with the tech side we're looking at programmers and a whole set of nother employees that specifically focus on that. But I do believe that the whole industry is going further and closer to a A.I. and that that we need in order to be successful we need to keep up with that and provide services that for the next generation that's moving into that area. We have those services from a tech perspective in place.
Malcolm Lui: Right. Can you share some of your marketing and sales challenges that you foresee in 2019 key to overcome to achieve your objectives
Biggest challenge are the huge online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline
Millie Freed: I think probably the biggest hurdle is the large O.T. A's the HomeAway the zero below the the Expedia the Priceline all of these travel argot are attracting a number of obviously renters. They're huge. They cover the entire globe. And so it becomes a little bit difficult for us as a management company to compete with that because we're only dealing with a few locations so if a renter were to come to us and really enjoy our website because it offers many more amenities and so many more things than say Air B and B but again they're limited with us because of the number of locations that we service. So I think that's probably our biggest hurdle is really overcoming that obstacle
Malcolm Lui: Right. Yeah. I think the the classical academic solution to this right is is one you're not going to compete on the same playing
Millie Freed: Level
Malcolm Lui: Field as the XP as the expertise of the world. They just have a reach that you're never going to have quite frankly right. But at the same time you can provide a much better service for a more specific segment than they can ever do as well. Right.
Millie Freed: Correct which is why all of those type of companies really rely on property managers for supplying them with the inventory that they need to do what they do but they also need property managers that have reviews that are outstanding so that renters keep coming back to them because the properties that are on their sites have really amazing reviews. So we really are partners with them and they are with us
Malcolm Lui: Right. I think more also along the lines of it just you got to touch on this a little bit the very beginning. Just targeting the vacationer the person who you know there's got to be a specific niche of people who resonate more with no madness rentals as opposed to others and in there you're going to always going to be Expedia on that front. Right. Because they just you know their marketing can be much more generic.
Millie Freed: Absolutely. When we look at the winter season the ski season here in Colorado and in California when we look at where our renters are coming from we clearly outperform all of the management companies because the renters are booking with us directly because we can provide the services the website provides the information and and gives the renter far more options than the other sites do. So in the winter we really have made a foothold for ourselves as being a better place to locate a rental than the big companies
Malcolm Lui: Yeah I find awesome when I book hotels in general I often prefer to book directly for the hotel than going through an intermediary just because there's a problem. It's so much easier getting it solved directly with the hotel than going through Expedia and Expedia has to contact their team whoever that might be at some back office location you eventually need to contact the hotel as well. So think
Millie Freed: Ed that's correct. And then the other thing is also cost. There is sometimes a cost differential when you're dealing with with an Expedia than if you're dealing with the with the hotel directly.
Malcolm Lui: Right. Right. Totally. I can see that. Three last questions for you. So say you had a billboard on the freeway and it's a no man it's rentals billboard. People only have about six seconds to see a billboard and read it. What's your sixth second message on that billboard.
Millie Freed: I love the question. I wish I could give you a wonderful answer. I need to think about it. I think it would be for the best place to stay. Stay with no madness because that's exactly what it is.
Malcolm Lui: Best place to stay at no madness all right. No madness. All right. And I guess with your business people who work through you they don't have any madness.
Millie Freed: No but we have a lot of madness in how
Malcolm Lui: And to ask questions Who are your ideal customers your ideal partners ideal homeowners and what's the best way for them to contact you and your team.
Their ideal customer
Millie Freed: Well our ideal customer is any traveler who's looking at coming to the mountains of Colorado or California. Also a homeowner who has a second or third or fourth vacation home who's looking at making a good return or better than average return on their investment because we can do that. And the best way to reach us is via our toll free number which is 8 8 8 4 7 2 5 7 7 7 or through our website which is no madness rental dot com and you can always reach me which is Millie at no madness rentals dot com
Malcolm Lui: All right. Fantastic. We get to spell out your username Millie and get sure people have
Millie Freed: Absolute.
Malcolm Lui: It nailed down.
Millie Freed: Yeah it's Millie m i l l i e at n o m a d and e s s r e n t a Ellis dot com
Malcolm Lui: All right. Fantastic. Thanks so much for joining us today Millie and sharing how you accelerated your company's high value sales
Millie Freed: It's been a pleasure. Thank you Malcolm.
Malcolm Lui: We've been speaking with Millie Freed, the CEO of Nomadness Rentals, about her company's rapid growth. For interviews with other fast growing high value sales companies or to learn how we can accelerate your firm's high value sales through automation, visit Eversprint.com.
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