June 28, 2012

Finding Your Niche

Despite years of extolling the virtues of B&Bs, writing Running a Bed and Breakfast For Dummies, and founding a B&B directory, many of my extended family members had never stayed at a bed & breakfast, but that all changed in June of 2011. I’m excited to share this story because the event surrounding this conversion was a very special occasion for me – a family reunion. Also, I think group gatherings are a business opportunity that some inns are missing out on. Many inns may not be set up to accommodate groups and events; but, if your inn can, it’s a niche market I encourage you to consider. If you’re thinking about hosting group events or exploring other niche markets to find new business, here are some suggestions from my book:

There are countless niche markets from which you can attract guests, and it’s easy to get started:

1. Identify a market segment or unfilled need.

Be creative, yet practical. The rewards of niche marketing come when you think outside the box and brainstorm about ideas for groups of people you want to attract to your inn. For example, if you want to bring in local corporations or church groups, try marketing the inn as a comfortable meeting space in a serious, but relaxed, atmosphere.

Coombs House Inn, Apalachicola, FL
2. Research the feasibility of catering to the niche market you’ve identified.

Don’t waste your time on impractical ideas. There could be any number of reasons that no one else is catering to your niche including:
  • Not enough potential guests are interested. 
  • Zoning restrictions or regulations are prohibitive. 
3. Once you find a niche that’s workable and likely to attract guests to your inn, clearly define that niche.

Decide exactly who you are targeting, why you are targeting them, what you will offer them, and how you will get the word out:
  • Make sure you have appropriate accommodations for the guests you hope to welcome. 
  • Evaluate and adjust your reservation and damage policies. 
  • Update your website and marketing materials with keywords. 
  • Create special packages surrounding your niche. 
  • Update all of your current advertising (directory and association sites) to include your niche markets and seek out niche websites to join. 
  • Issue a press release. 
  • Contact writers who’ve previously written about your niche in articles or blogs. 
Make sure to read the section “Envisioning Your B&B Style” in Chapter 2 of Running a Bed and Breakfast For Dummies. I discuss the importance of finding a style that best reflects you, matching that style to your guests and one method for figuring out what a guest may or may not want when they come for a stay.

Bridgeview Bed & Breakfast, Marysville, PA
Our family reunion was very special. My cousin, whom I have only seen 3 times in the past 40+ years, decided to get our family together near Harrisburg, PA. Our grandparents lived there and it is a place we all have fond memories of visiting. She chose the Bridgeview B&B in Marysville, PA, because its proximity has sentimental value for us. My mother, aunts and uncles spent summers in a rustic cottage on the Susquehanna River as kids and, eventually, so did I along with my siblings and cousins. I remember hearing stories about my great-grandfather and how he helped build the famous Rockville Bridge, the longest stone arch railroad bridge of its time.

Located on the shores of the Susquehanna overlooking the Rockville Bridge, the Bridgeview B&B offered a comfortable setting for our group as well as the few other B&B guests who were there at the same time (something to consider is if you will host other guests at the same time if you book the majority of rooms to one group). Innkeeper Keith’s ability to accommodate is extraordinary. A large eat-in kitchen has a guest refrigerator and the inn has many outdoor decks and porches, a backyard, and two common areas that offer ample space for guests to congregate and reminisce while giving everyone (including the other B&B guests) plenty of their own space.

Not only did we vow to meet again at the Bridgeview B&B, I was able to share first hand why B&Bs are special with so many of my family members. You can bet they’ll be bed and breakfast regulars from now on. And, seeing how quickly my family became B&B converts sure brought home the importance of reaching out to niche markets.

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