July 30, 2009

Putting B&B Myths to Bed

The natural tendency when putting together a marketing campaign or message is to start by asking what makes this product so special? Innkeepers think about all the good that their inn has to offer, but another marketing strategy could be to think about what would guests find wrong with my inn? New innkeepers quickly learn and seasoned innkeepers know that there is a large segment of the traveling public who rarely consider B&Bs when making their lodging choices based on outdated myths, stereotypes and misconceptions. We all know that in order to grow a business you need new customers and in my new book, Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies, I address and debunk these myths and provide tips on how to get a clear marketing message across. At BnBFinder.com, our marketing message and tag line has always been, “Wake Up Someplace Special,” which helps guests and the media identify us and separate us from our competitors. But what are some of these myths and how can innkeepers address them in their own marketing campaigns?

B&Bs are cheap and second-rate. Talk about missing out! If they only knew! While bed & breakfasts may provide an economical alternative to fancy hotels and resorts, a good B&B website lets guests know about unique amenities such as luxury linens, home baked cookies, fabulous breakfasts and special touches not found even at higher-priced hotels. The best B&B websites describe room amenities alongside professional quality photos of the rooms and often have a page devoted to breakfast with pictures and descriptions to match. When creating a breakfast page one should consider adapting the old saying, “the quickest way to one’s heart is through one's stomach” and create a breakfast page that is visually tempting and enticing enough for a guest to book a stay.

Bathrooms are shared. According to the Professional Association of Innkeepers International (www.paii.org), nearly 95 percent of inns include private baths and many now offer private in-room Jacuzzis for two. Innkeepers can debunk this myth by including a description of the bathroom as part of the room description on their website. A picture of a private Jacuzzi with bubbles or a spacious bathroom is an inviting way to showcase a private bathroom.

Privacy is limited. The amount of privacy varies from inn to inn and for many guests, the general appeal of a B&B stay is the camaraderie amongst guests. Where else can you meet a group of diverse and interesting people in a relaxed atmosphere than at a bed & breakfast? B&Bs that offer private accommodations should market their inn as such with descriptive text like, secluded, quiet solitude, retreat, intimate, separate and private. This should be prominently featured on the inn’s website so guests don’t have to figure out what to expect. Two great examples are, “Guests are delighted by the privacy of our bed & breakfast suites” or “Inn on the Way B&B is for people seeking quiet, independence and privacy.”

The breakfasts are fattening and unhealthy. Most innkeepers offer a variety of food choices at breakfast and many ask about dietary restrictions when taking a guest’s reservation. Guests should know about these options prior to making a reservation. A good breakfast page on a B&B website will display an array of breakfast choices that include healthy and decadent choices. At BnBFinder.com we’ll be debunking this myth even further in an upcoming blog post in September for Better Breakfast Month.

B&Bs are boring. On the contrary, many bed & breakfast inns provide activities for their guests free of charge or have deals with local vendors to offer guests discounted rates. Devoting a page to local area attractions and even suggested tours or itineraries not only provides guests with information about the area, it may also entice them to stay longer once they realize how much there is to do. An activities page also helps create content for search engines which is keyword rich.

B&Bs have too many rules. Although there are a few innkeepers who enforce extreme policies, a majority of innkeepers focus their concern on the safety, comfort and enjoyment of their guests. Not furnishing an inn with irreplaceable, valuable personal property and priceless family heirlooms will help everyone relax and enjoy themselves. B&B policies need to also include cancellation policies. Unlike hotels, B&Bs do not overbook and due to their small size, cancellations can have a huge impact on their revenue; and thus the need for a cancellation policy. Many innkeepers include a short blurb explaining this along with their cancellation policy on their websites. Successful innkeepers know that there is a difference between policies and rules. Polices are a good thing because they let guests know what to expect for their own safety and enjoyment.

Once guests realize that a bed & breakfast is not a spare room offered by empty nesters or an outdated establishment with Bob Newhart, they will quickly appreciate the unique and charming qualities that a B&B has to offer, as well as the money saving value and the chance to “wake up someplace special.”

Mary White
Founder and CEO of BnBFinder.com
Author, Running a Bed and Breakfast For Dummies

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