August 21, 2012

Wakeup Someplace Special…at Your Inn!

Hotels have B&Bs beat when it comes to taking advantage of Internet marketing…or do they? True, they have infringed on our territory; brands from the Four Seasons to Hampton Inns are offering complimentary breakfasts and an abundance of amenities - hallmark features of a bed & breakfast getaway. However, I believe there is still plenty of room to compete.

Cottonwood Inn, Holland, MI
When I started BnBFinder in 1998, the Internet was about to become the great equalizer; it gave B&Bs the chance to be on a level playing field with hotels because of a cost-effective advertising vehicle (a website) to get the word out about our properties. Our industry has changed a great deal because of the Internet and the benefits have not come to an end.

Our agility and individuality are some of the advantages we should seize. As a small business owner, you’ll never be held up by corporate bureaucracy, so you can make a decision right now and implement it immediately. You can provide a truly personal experience for your guests, something even a 5-star hotel will have trouble rivaling. When couples become engaged, you frequently know ahead of time or are the first to know and can add an extra touch such as champagne at breakfast or a mug from your inn as a remembrance of their engagement. You also have the advantage of deciding on the spot what to do based on guests’ personalities and making the gesture more meaningful than a canned, corporate response. Beyond the special touches, guests would have to stay at a very high-end hotel to experience the type of concierge service offered at most B&Bs. Innkeepers are “in the know” about the best spots, restaurants, and local secrets.

As a result of your agility and individuality, I believe your “Internet message” should always convey the value and experience your B&B offers. Your advertising should start with the premise that your B&B is more than just a place to sleep--it’s an opportunity to wakeup someplace special--and B&Bs are a better way to stay. This message means something different for every inn, so how do you use the Internet to convey it?

Good photos are essential, especially right now with the emergence of popular photo-sharing sites such as Pinterest and apps like Instagram. Does your marketing (website, blog, newsletter, directory listings, etc.) show your breakfast, amenities, and area activities? Keep it simple and appealing, and when it applies flaunt it! Video tells your story and conveys the experience far better than words. No longer must you be able to shoot and edit video clips or hire a high-priced videographer to have great video for your website. Programs, such as Photo Story 3, make it easy to assemble photographs into high quality, engaging video. I created a video in less than an hour after one webinar taught by Acorn Internet (if you're not an Acorn customer you can sign up for their webinar series by contacting sales@acorn-is.com).

Lovill House Inn, Boone, NC
And, don’t forget social media. At an HSMAI (Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International) panel discussion I attended last year, revenue managers were asked how to judge the return on investment (ROI) of their social media efforts. I listened closely for this answer since it’s a question I am frequently asked by innkeepers. Interestingly, many chain hotels only recently have embraced social media as a format for engaging guests. Whether it’s the priority of other corporate tech projects or the personal message necessary to engage in social media, they are unable to approach this medium with the agility that countless B&Bs have.

As an innkeeper, it’s important to constantly think about what makes your inn special and how to convey that message in whatever form of Internet marketing you use. Want to learn more about bringing out the unique characteristics of your inn? Read “Identifying what makes you unique” in Chapter 8 of my book, Running a Bed and Breakfast For Dummies.

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