October 8, 2012

Keep it Clean

It may sound strange, but cleaning and marketing have more in common than you think. Both are laborious and require hard work and patience. Yet, the payoff at the end is always incredibly satisfying and worth the effort. It's important to remember that we all have our own cleaning rituals and the same rule applies in marketing. What may work for one inn may not necessarily be right for your inn. The hardest part is determining where to start "cleaning." Ask yourself the following questions: will new marketing efforts affect the overall guest experience or will they bring you more guests? How much time and energy are you willing to invest? Set realistic time goals for your inn. A good point to remember is that it's not how much you want to accomplish but rather how much you can actually accomplish.

Terrell House B&B, New Orleans, LA
Before you "clean" house or make any drastic changes, take a look at all your marketing avenues. If you're still advertising in guidebooks, make sure you're receiving an acceptable rate of return and your ad is up to date. If you have a blog, think back to your last post or entry. Have you taken the time to update your blog consistently? If not, you should reconsider keeping a blog. Remember, an outdated blog is like a half-cleaned window and can actually turn your guests away. Your blog may be the first impression they have of your inn, even if your website is up to date. It's a way for you and your first-time and repeat guests to stay connected to you. If blogging feels like a chore, write about topics that interest you such as local happenings and upcoming activities in town or at your inn. Your blog can serve as a platform to come up with new ideas for specials and packages (just make sure you don't sound too advertorial). Insert rich keywords that search engines would like and update your specials on your directory listings as well.

If you have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, you probably already know it’s the quality and not the quantity that matter most; encouraging interaction is key. The Timeline allows you to showcase a large, beautiful image of the inn, pin important posts to the top of the page and add milestones of the inn’s history to your page. If you're interested in creating a Facebook or Twitter account, you can always hire a professional or set up a Facebook business page yourself. If you’re not ready to jump into either Facebook or Twitter you might want to set up a basic account, so you own the rights to your inn’s name. This will not only prevent a mix up from other inns that share a similar name to your inn, but if and when you are ready to use Facebook and Twitter, you won't have to worry about selecting a username. Inactive Twitter and Facebook accounts are similar to an outdated blog; so while it's worth considering protecting the right to use your inn's name, I recommend updating each one occasionally.

Spring cleaning at your inn also means checking to make sure everything is in working order. Look at your Google Places listing and verify that you have claimed your listing. Your website information and all your advertisements should match your Google Places information. Don't forget to review your website and advertisements. Your information should be up to date, appealing and, most importantly, easy for guests to contact you and/or make reservations (you’d be surprised how many inns with beautiful websites lack user-friendly reservation systems).

There are always ways to scrub and polish your marketing efforts, but if a spruce up is all you have time for then place your focus on a "clean" return. Start with the basics, like an attractive, easy-to-use website, your Google Places listing, guest reviews and updated directory listings. Your "cleaning" should also include regular touch ups so your inn stays current and guests can always see your inn in the best possible light. For more ideas about marketing your inn, read Chapter 8, “B&B Marketing 101,” of Running a Bed and Breakfast For Dummies.

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