After a husband and wife book-author team successfully self-published a how-to guide to vacation home rentals, they decided to test launching a membership site on the same topic. If you have published a how-to book (or are thinking of acquiring the rights to one), and are considering turning it into a membership site, check out this exclusive Case Study.
Fully Booked Rentals hopes to serve the 3.5 million people who already earn some money by renting out their second homes to vacationers. A secondary market is people who own second homes and would like to try renting them.
Content is mainly text-only. It includes instructional articles, forms/checklists, an Ask the Experts forum, and resources such as lists of vendors and tips articles. Members can also post profiles including a link back to their own site, which is marketed as more as an SEO link-boosting tool rather than a social networking or rental-prospecting tool. All content is created by the publishers, the husband and wife team of Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner, who base it partly on their own long-term experience as vacation rental owners and believe that quality trumps quantity. “We only put information in our resources guide that we’d use ourselves. Our site can save owners time and money,” said Emily. Members can comment on stories, but few chose to. Member-created personal profiles are not terribly popular either. “Most people seem to want to keep a low profile,” she noted.
Site memberships are $49.95 per year. The site’s store offers a range of $5.95 how-to article downloads on particular topics and a $69.95 book/CD package “seminar in a box.” (To put this in context, the authors’ original book on vacation rental homes is on sale at Amazon for $99.) Site visitors can also buy consulting, marketed as “Booking Booster Phone Consultations” at $250 for the initial one-hour call, including pre-call prep, and $100 per hour thereafter. The site does not accept advertising or sell its lists.
The site depends largely on passive SEO to drive traffic. Member referrals, although not actively encouraged through a formal program, also drive memberships. Emily told us that although most members prefer not to post a profile of themselves on the site, those who do are highly likely to refer additional members. They make great evangelists. Emily admits marketing has been tough. “There’s no central way [we’ve found] to reach owners of second homes. The only way we’re found so far is a forum on Yahoo! That’s been going on for several years and only has 3,800 members,” she said.
Technology and Vendors Used
SubHub: The all-in-one subscription site platform this site is built on and operated using. http://www.subhub.com
About the Glossbrenners
The Glossbrenners have been writing how-to books together–a total of more than 60 titles such as the Smart Guide to Managing Personal Finance–for more than 20 years. In 2005, their self-published book How to Make Your Vacation Property Work for You!: The Quick & Easy Guide to Advertising, Renting, Managing, and Making Money from Your Second Home sold so many copies via Amazon.com and other outlets, that the Glossbrenners decided to start a membership site on the topic in 2008. Emily told us, “So often when you hear about membership sites, somebody’s got a great idea but then they wonder, who’s going to write the content? Alfred and I get a huge laugh out of that because we’re writers!” Alfred adds, “The challenge for anyone who aspires to do this is to figure out the marketing first. You could have the best site in the world, but if there’s no productive way to market it, you could waste a lot of time and money.”
Subscription Site Insider’s Analysis
The content is solid, and it’s a hot market niche right now with multiple mentions in Kiplinger’s alone. We’d like to see more alternates to text-only content on this site, such as how-to videos, although we don’t know if that would lift sales or not. We suspect the Glossbrenners could lift revenues by switching to perhaps a six-month auto-renew term for the $49.95, instead of a whole year. We also suspect their “we don’t take ads” bias is based on their personal perceptions (lots of folks from editorial backgrounds just hate advertising), rather than any true benefit a member would care about. If/when their email list hits the 5,000 mark, they should probably start selling sponsorships and/or look into relevant merchants’ affiliate programs. Lastly, if they don’t want to invest in professional marketing help or campaigns, we suggest they push a member referral program harder, perhaps offering a premium for referrals.