April 30, 2012

Toot Your Horn Loudly

It was more than an “aha!” moment. It was an “Oh my gosh, hit me over the head, how can they not realize moment” when I once again grappled with the question, “Why do guests not realize how special B&Bs are?” The moment I’m referring to happened recently when I attended a conference with my husband held in a very nice and well-known hotel chain. To thank him for being a loyalty program “Special Member,” they gave us a card upon check-in entitling us to a free bottle of water at no charge (how generous). We needed to replace the small bottle of water in the mini-bar with the card so we wouldn’t be charged. Then, one evening we wanted to have a cup of coffee in the room. As a coffee snob, I don’t like the powered creamer provided; so, in order to have milk or cream I would have to order room service, pay for the milk, and add a $4.99 delivery fee as well as a 20% gratuity (an additional tip also would be welcomed). These and similar experiences are all accepted in the hotel world and why, when guests try a B&B for the first time, they are blown away by the value not to mention the personalization, service, amenities and more. This leads to the question: What are we doing wrong as an industry and why are we not communicating our value better?

Fruity French ToastFruity French Toast at White Cedar Inn, Freeport, ME
Many inn websites barely mention the breakfasts and the savory dishes that are served. Many don’t list or, better yet, picture the added extras offered such as your guest pantries (with milk or cream for coffee), complimentary drinks and bottomless cookie jars. Room pages don’t discuss amenities such as luxury robes. During my recent hotel stay the room had one robe, yet rates were quoted as double occupancy and two of us were listed on the reservation. I suppose in the hotel world decisions such as how many robes in a room are made by corporate people who are not on-site and just don’t seem to get it; but, you do and we need to let potential guests know it. As new innkeepers, I recommend packing a bag and staying in each of your rooms as a guest to be sure you have the appropriate and needed amenities for guests. In Chapter 2, I discuss “Matching your B&B style to the guests you want to attract” so you have a good idea what will make your guests comfortable during their stay and, hopefully, return for many more visits.

So how do you get the message out? I’m not suggesting if you already have a website that it has to be redone. But, every time you describe your inn, amenities or rooms, make sure to paint a complete picture of all that you offer. If you have a blog, ask your webmaster to tie it into your website. This is an easy way for you to make sure your information is updated (Google loves updated info) and you'll be showing potential guests up-to-date and enticing information about what your inn offers. If you have a Facebook page, add pictures of your breakfasts and amenities. When you print or reprint your rack cards, make sure you paint the picture of the value and experience here, too. This all sounds so obvious but I find that innkeepers spend so much energy providing a wonderful experience and they don’t spend enough time tooting their own horns. Chapter 8 gives you insight into indentifying what makes your inn unique; so, once you find out what separates you from the pack, let guests know about it any way you can!

Mary White is the Founder and CEO of BnBFinder.com, a top rated bed and breakfast online directory. White is also the author of Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies. As an authoritative voice on B&B travel, White is a go-to source in the bed & breakfast industry for opinions and advice. A noted expert on bed & breakfasts, she has been involved in promoting and marketing B&Bs on the Web for more than a decade. She has appeared in dozens of media outlets. Her site, BnBFinder.com, is hailed by professionals and consumers alike as one of the most informative B&B sites on the Web. Follow her on Twitter at @Mary_White.

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