September 30, 2009

Guest Loyalty - An Easy and Economical Marketing Strategy

When you operate a great bed & breakfast you provide R&R for your guests but have you thought about what R&R you're receiving in return? While getting rest is important, I'm talking about the three R's that matter most to innkeepers, Repeat guests, Referrals and Revenue. Building guest loyalty may sound like nothing new, but whether you’re an existing or aspiring innkeeper, it’s never too soon to start thinking about repeat guests and referrals. It's an important topic that I devote a full chapter to in my book, Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies. It's also a popular topic at many conference workshops (and you can find a list of the best conferences in my book.) The chances of securing repeat reservations and referrals start even before you speak to or meet your guests as they are forming their first impressions of your inn. The likelihood that you will have returning guests begin with your website and the initial contact that you have with the guest, whether that be over the phone or in person. Don’t underestimate the importance of first impressions and Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies provides all the information that you need to create the right first impressions, such as creating a website, taking reservations and greeting guests. It goes without saying that new innkeepers have to put a lot of thought into their marketing to draw in new guests, but if your inn is already open, don’t dismiss your existing guests. Treat all guests as potential repeat guests and as referral sources. Since every inn has their own method and there is no comprehensive list to follow, so go through all the points of guest contact and think about ways you can easily tweak them to be sure that your inn stands out. Keep it simple but show that you care and you'll find your guests doing the work for you through return visits and guest referrals.

Many established innkeepers are surprised to learn that repeat guests and referrals don't find their inn by visiting their website directly. Instead, they find the inn by visiting an online B&B directory. We know this because at BnBFinder.com, which is a popular B&B directory, two common questions we receive are about inns that don't list with us. Guests want to know what is wrong with an inn when they don't see it listed on BnBFinder.com, not knowing that innkeepers choose to list with us and not the other way around. Other guests want to verify if an inn is still in business because they can't find it on our site. Just last week, we were contacted by two writers updating guidebooks. One writer was updating a bicycling book in New Hampshire and another writer was updating a book on haunted inns in Florida. Both writers inquired about inns that they believed were out of business since they were not listed on BnBFinder. Of course, I know it's impossible to be listed everywhere so I devote a full section in the book to help you figure out how to allocate your advertising budget. You want to be sure that your inn is included in the directories and places that will bring you guests, guest referrals and media exposure. So no matter where you are in the process of running your bed & breakfast, devote a little time to getting your R's in order - your business needs and deserves them!

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

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