November 4, 2014

Co-opetition

You may be tired of hearing about identifying and catering to niche markets. Though you may be discouraged when trying to create an environment to accommodate a particular group, please don't dismiss the concept all together because it is a good idea. However, you don't always have to go it alone. There is strength in numbers and when we come together to create experiences for guests we further differentiate what we offer our guests and give them more reasons to choose B&Bs over other lodging options such as hotels, Airbnb and vacation rentals.

 The B&B For Vets campaign is a great example. If you don't know the history it started with one innkeeper and expanded to a handful of inns in West Virginia and then to hundreds of inn across North America. Our recent promotion of this campaign resulted in media placement in outlets such as Yahoo, The Boston Globe and NBC, ABC, FOX and CBS affiliates nationwide. While all promotions may not get this level of media exposure, all promotions usually do what you want at the very basic level, which is to fill rooms.

 I've seen some wonderful examples of inns working together. I call it "co-opetition". Sure, you want the guest to stay with you. But when you band together with other inns, you are promoting the B&B experience and your area. Many of you are already doing this successfully and others are doing it but could do a better job at spreading the word about the experience. Several of you have created Inn-to-Inn Holiday Tours where guests visit local inns (as an open house) sampling cookies and other holiday treats. Then perhaps the next day is shopping with coupons from local merchants and an afternoon of gift-wrapping with hot chocolate (or other fun beverages and treats) at the guests' host inn. Inn-to-Inn Bike Tours are another idea. Ask yourself and nearby inns, would you be willing to drive a biking group's luggage to another inn if it meant you booked all of your rooms? If so, find inns a reasonable distance from your inn and put together an Inn-to-Inn Bike Tour. You can promote it in biking magazines, blogs, websites as well as in your local area. Are you located in wine country? If you are not don't count yourself out just yet. What about an Inn-to-Inn Wine tasting? Again, when guests visit different inns they learn about the industry and spread the word to their friends. You don't even need to know about wine, contact a local winery or liquor store and ask if they would send someone for an hour or two to conduct a wine tasting. The challenge you have is transporting the group between inns and promoting the event; but remember with a little effort many new guests will know about and get to experience your inn.

 This same concept works with smaller numbers, even just one other inn. Do you offer cooking classes? Is there another inn nearby that does as well? If so, this inn is no longer your competition with "co-opetition" together you can now offer a 2-day experience with twice the appeal and only half the work. Foodies love an experience and together you can appeal to their desire to learn and to their taste buds!

 It doesn't have to be tours; most of you belong to strong, dedicated and wonderful associations. Your association might want to offer promotions of public interest such as something special during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month? The possibilities are endless. For more information on marketing read Chapter 8 of Running a Bed and Breakfast For Dummies for additional ideas for marketing your inn.

 Happy Fall ...

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