Related Reading: What Info Goes In My Digital Guidebook?
Note: If you’re a visual person, watch my Hostfully review and tutorial with David Jacoby, Hostfully Founder, where he gives a demo of the product and I ask questions to clarify certain points I had trouble with while using the product. The video is supplemental to this and is meant to provide a live view of the product plus sprinkle you with best practices and tips to create the best guidebook.
You need a digital guidebook. It’s not optional. Unfortunately, many Airbnb hosts view guidebooks as solely a cost or a nice-to-have. Not only is it extremely useful to the guest (speaking from experience), but it’ll save you countless hours in not answering the same questions over and over.
It brings a professional aura to your hosting style. And, if that weren’t enough, unlike many other tools I recommend, this one is set-it-and-forget-it. Create the guidebook, add a link to your Smartbnb check-in message and you’re done.
[bctt tweet=”A digital guidebook increases your hosting game 10-fold and saves you time!”]
If you’re unfamiliar with digital guidebooks, here’s what it looks like (this is the desktop version):
Why Not Just Use Airbnb?
If the above photo doesn’t do a good enough job of answering this question, let me explain…The ‘House Manual’ within Airbnb is not sufficient because of two main factors:
1. No organization – you are only allowed to add text so the guest will have to dig through to find check-in info, how to work the TV, etc.
2. Time of delivery – it is presented to the guest at the time of booking. The guest does not need this info until they are near check-in. If you present it any sooner, it’s information overload and the guest starts to devalue any information you send their way because you don’t know what you’re doing.
There are many options on the market. As you know, I test all of them and my favorites are Coral and Hostfully (others are Touch Stay, YourWelcome, and HelloHere). Out of the two, Hostfully wins out in ease of updating and uptime (ie the link works when the guest clicks on it). Thus, I am writing a review on Hostfully as they have outpaced the others in terms of innovation and progress. They’re also the market leader and doing a good job at branding to try and get guests to recognize Hostfully so they know they’re in good hands if the host uses them.
Before I jump into the review, I want to call out a few items:
- Hostfully has one of the top travel blogs on Medium, even outranking Airbnb’s Design and Engineering department. Yours truly has been featured on it a handful of times!
- This is not an app. It’s a mobile-optimized webpage meaning it works equally well on computer and phone screens. This is a good thing because you don’t want to make your guest download an extra app onto their phone.
- There is a useful demo guidebook on the Hostfully homepage. Understand that yours won’t look like this right away. You will add to it over time. Drag the browser window to the size of a smartphone to see what it will look like on mobile.
- You can print a physical copy of the guidebook. If you do this, buy plastic covers or laminate the pages so they stay looking new.
- Hostfully provides a badge to let guests know you are a Hostfully Host (ie use their guidebook). I recommend using this and adding it towards the second half of your photos as it won’t make a guest book your place, but it could be one of many items (ie an optimized listing) that puts you over the edge.
[bctt tweet=”Are you a Hostfully Host?”]
Hostfully Review – Pricing
Except for the initial free digital guidebook, the pricing is clunky.
As an individual host, you can create one guidebook for free. Of course, you can upgrade for added functionality, but I find the free version is sufficient. If you have many properties, they charge starting at $7.99 per guidebook per month billed annually ($9.99 per month if paid monthly). However, if you want more than one guidebook, you’ll have to become a ‘Business’ customer. I find this wording confusing. Worse, Hostfully restricts you to the following categories (prices are monthly paid annually):
- 1 digital guidebook: FREE (you can upgrade to Power Host Pro for $7.99)
- 2-5 digital guidebooks: $19.99
- 6-10 digital guidebooks: $44.99
As you can see, you are SOL if you are a host with 2, 3, or 4 or 6, 7, 8, or 9 guidebooks because you’ll be paying based on 5 or 10 guidebooks. In other words, you can’t pay for 3 guidebooks. You have to pay for 5 which makes it more expensive.
If you are a property manager or an individual with 10+ properties, they have a “Business Professional” package. Use OPTIMIZE for 2-months free of Hostfully Pro.
[bctt tweet=”Get 2-months FREE of Hostfully, Airbnb electronic guidebooks”]
Hostfully Review – What I Like
Admittedly, this first one is a personal preference, but it made an immediate impression on me. We all know how important first impressions are! When you create a login to their website, they do not require you to input your password twice. This always annoyed me on other websites as if subtlety telling me I’m incapable of entering my chosen password once correctly. As if I have to enter it a second time to protect myself from myself. I digress, but it did start things off on the right foot!
I love that the first guidebook is free. And, their intention is to have the first guidebooks always be free. This means that a host with a $25/night room can be just as professional as the host with a $250/nt home. This is important to me.
Super, duper easy to add recommendations. This is a huge time saver! It’s actually fun to add recommendations. Simply, type the name of the recommendation and Hostfully automatically fills in everything else including letting you choose a professional photo. They want you to make the recommendation personal and tell the guest why you’re recommending it, so text is not automatically added.
Pro Tip: Have your typical guest in mind when adding recommendations. A Michelin ranked restaurant for the guest renting a $50 per night Airbnb doesn’t make sense.
The guidebooks are not indexed by google which you can feel safe putting secure information in there. However, as a word of caution, I recommend you separate the address and entry info to protect yourself.
Hostfully has made the signup and creation process straightforward. But, if you’re also using other software for pricing and automated messaging, I realize this is just one more tool you need to learn. I’m hopeful this brief review and guide will give you an introduction to the service before you jump in.
Hostfully Review – What I Don’t Like
I found the process/UX of creating a guidebook to have some friction. It’s not super clear what the next step is upon sign-in. Instead, you have to read a bit as they introduce unfamiliar concepts (Decks vs Cards vs Guidebooks) right away. The above-referenced video is meant to bypass this confusion. To clarify, cards are pieces of information (check-in instructions, trash info, wifi, recommendations, etc.) while decks are guidebooks. However, you’ll see Hostfully refer to both Decks and Guidebooks throughout. Just know, they are used interchangeably.
Pro Tip: If you attract foreigners who do not know the local language, include basic phrases with recordings from Forvo.com as a card in your guidebook.
[bctt tweet=”Pro Tip: Add common language phrases and words to your electronic Airbnb guidebook.”]
You don’t create cards then create the guidebook which is what I thought after reading about cards vs desks. Instead, you simultaneously create a guidebook with the necessary cards. To be clear, this is how I expected the process to flow so the extra verbiage (card vs deck) just added unnecessary confusion for me.
The pricing structure is bad. You should be allowed to pay for the exact amount of digital guidebooks you need rather than paying for a tier of up to 5 or 10 guidebooks as they use now.
Hostfully Review – Customer Service
Hostfully is a busy, growing startup, but I’ve only ever experienced quick email responses. They seem to go over and above with helping you. There’s no chat box on their website, something I think would be really useful for the host creating the first guidebook, but you can email them at Support@Hostfully.com.
Hostfully Review – Overall Thoughts
I give Hostfully a two thumbs up. It’ll take you about 30 minutes to create your first guidebook and save you hours of future time in answering guest questions. It’s clear that Hostfully is the market leader and dedicated to providing the best electronic guidebooks on the market. From their impressive blog to their useful email campaigns, Hostfully and the Airbnb digital guidebook have become synonyms in my mind.
Hostfully Q+A with David Jacoby, President, and Founder
[bctt tweet=” Check out this Q+A with Hostfully President and Founder, David Jacoby!”]
Tell me about when the idea for Hostfully hit you.
As a Superhost myself, I’ve been overwhelmed dealing with all the questions from my guests, both before they arrive, as well as the separate set of questions they have while they’re staying with me. As most hosts have done, I started to painfully create a mediocre-looking Word document guidebook with all sorts of details to leave in the listing, and even email in advance. As I was fumbling through the formatting, I started doing some research online and was surprised that there wasn’t a platform out there that would make it easy for me to make a beautiful looking guidebook in both digital and print versions.
Where did the name come from?
Lots of implications with regards to fully being a host and hosting to your maximum capabilities. Our original name was Guidebook. Ugh, what mouthful that would be. I can just imagine every time talking about it and having to also spell it, too. It was also too limiting with regards to our long term roadmap of providing more services to both hosts and guests. So we went back to the drawing board and we’re quite proud of where we ended up.
What is one tip to maximize the effectiveness of your guidebook?
Make sure to mention it in all your guest communications: your advance emails, your phone conversations, etc. If a question is asked, respond with a link to that specific answer in the guidebook. If you greet your guests in person, ask them to bring it up on their phone (the short URL makes it easy to just type right in). A day before check-out, include a link to the specific departure section of the guidebook.
One thing that differentiates you from the competition? This is your time to sell Hostfully to the reader!
We are beautiful! No, seriously, we get great feedback about how engaging our product is, especially our recommendations sections which guests say remind them of Pinterest boards. It’s really fun to look through all the great pictures of the recommendations (along with easy-to-see reviews). We are “responsive design” so it looks beautiful on every device, whether the guest is viewing it in advance on their home computer, or if they’re pulling it up for the first time on their phone when their flight lands. The back-end is just as user-friendly, making it quick and easy to create beautiful guidebooks.
What are the big innovations around the corner with guidebooks?
We are experimenting and testing some exciting features, ranging from collecting more info from the guest (such as a Terms of Service/contract agreement, or emails to help with future marketing), to making it easy for you to provide additional services to the guest (eg: links to popular tours and activities, some of which could potentially earn the host a commission). We’re looking forward to some big jumps in 2018!
What if Airbnb comes out with their own guidebooks?
The answer actually lies within the question itself. They already do have a guidebook! Our experience is it is clunky and hard to create, and most hosts don’t use it…and even those who do, most of their guests don’t see it. But nonetheless, even if they make improvements and promote it more, we find that most of our users are not 100% exclusive to Airbnb. Many users list on multiple platforms, and other users are primarily on Airbnb, but they still have personal friends and other situations where they have guests outside of Airbnb. Hosts don’t want to manage different processes based on where the reservation is coming from. How annoying it would be to have to create a guidebook on HomeAway for those reservations, one for Airbnb for those reservations, and then a separate one altogether for other reservations. We are “platform agnostic” and make it easy to streamline your guest communications no matter where the reservation came from.
[bctt tweet=”Are you a Hostfully Host?”]
Are you going to give them a try after reading my Hostfully review? Are you already using Hostfully? Share with me in the comments. I would like to know about your experiences.