Archive for the ‘ Inn Marketing Tips ’ Category

 

10 ways Innkeepers can convert lookers into bookers

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Are you an owner/innkeeper who would like to increase occupancy rates, conversion rates and profit margins?  Read on and you’ll learn how to convert lookers into bookers!

1) Design and performance – First, you simply must have a website that uses the latest design and programming technologies. I would recommend developing a site using a content management system such as WordPress so that you can easily add and change content to keep the website up-to-date. Lookers are very savvy today and you only have a few seconds to make an impactful impression, therefore it’s worth the investment to have your site built by a professional. Your website is your single most important marketing asset. It’s simply not worth skimping.

2) Image is everything – To catch the viewer’s attention, use big, bold, high quality and captivating images.  The expense of having professional, signature photographs taken will be worth ever penny you invest.  You want images that will lure people into the rest of your site. Make sure to stage the shots.  For example, have flowers in the rooms, people enjoying breakfast, swimming in the pool, etc. You want shots that will evoke a sense of what it’s like to stay at your inn. When lookers can relate to what they are seeing, their propensity to become bookers increases.

3) Make it easy - To convert lookers into bookers, you need to make the booking process as simple as possible. The fewer steps the better. Make sure you have enticing room descriptions, clear pricing, stunning photos and answers to the frequently asked questions. And, if you are going to use a 3rd party booking engine, make sure it’s one that can be fully integrated into your website and POS (point of sale) and/or CRM (customer relationship management) system, so that the booker is not taken away from your site.

4) Be a showoff - If you have good reviews from previous guests on rating websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, consider using their API to showcase those reviews on your own site. Your webmaster should be able to easily integrate this into your website. If you don’t do this, there is a strong likelihood that the looker will go to one of these review/rating websites on their own to look you up—when they leave your website, you’ve just reduced the chances that your looker becomes a booker. This scenario is similar to the car shopping experience…salesman know that if you leave the dealership, the likelihood you’ll return is slim to none. Do everything you can to keep the looker on your website.

5) Brag – In addition to sharing your consumer reviews, you also want to showcase press/media write-ups from travel journalists/writers/bloggers.  Having articles from travel media folks provides a seemingly unbiased look at your inn that lookers trust. Developing trust with lookers will convert them into bookers. If the last time a travel writer visited your property was a decade ago, reach out to folks in the travel industry to get your name out there. See who has written about other inns in your area. Hosting a writer for (typically) 2-4 nights is a small price for the marketing return. You can then re-purpose those write-ups by engaging your own audience, i.e. telling our Facebook or Twitter followers that you had a travel writer review the property and this is what they had to say. It’s newsworthy, so you could mention it in your monthly email newsletter.  The write-up provides you with an excuse to engage your own audience as well as your local media outlets.

6) Let the numbers be your guide – There is an array of simple tools out there to track everything! And, those numbers provide valuable insight that will help you make educated decisions rather than ones in a vacuum. Lookers have a short attention span—so, you want to make sure that you’re providing the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible. Before adding or redesigning your website, look at your Analytics to see what pages of your site are being visited most often…then, make sure those are most visible/accessible. Make sure you monitor your reservation system from time-to-time to make sure lookers are being converted into bookers. If your current reservation system doesn’t integrate with your website traffic to see how many people are converting, you should look at a new system. Metrics are your friend and it’s amazing what small things you can often do to increase the conversion rates of lookers and make them into bookers. Increasing your conversion rate just 5% could make all the difference to the bottom line.

7) Can you hear me now? - Mobile is only going to get more popular and more important to your business—therefore, make sure your website renders well on the various mobile platforms.  You may also want to consider having a dedicated mobile website for information that a mobile viewer might need quickly and easily, i.e. contact info, directions, availability and ability to book accommodations. Make sure the mobile experience is easy; for example…have your address hypertexted so that when the users click, it takes them directly to their mobile map app. Before you invest into mobile development, refer back to #6 on this list. Check your website stats to see how many people are accessing your site from mobile devices…if it’s less than 10%, perhaps you can wait a while before investing. However, the number is 30, 40%+, those are significant numbers that cannot be ignored.

8. Ready…action! – Video is no longer an option…it’s a must. And, just because you have one, you’re not done.  Video content should be part of a long-term content marketing strategy.  Consider having an overview video on your home page, and, individual videos for each room and/or accommodations level. You’ll also want to consider a video of your area/attractions, as well as on-site activities, amenities, breakfast/restaurant, etc.  In additional to promotional videos for each aspect of your inn, you also want experiential videos (editorial style) from local media/news stations, video bloggers/vloggers and network shows. Having videos on your website can increase your conversion rates from 40-200%. Today, people research their buying decision more than ever; having videos available for the lookers will allow them to get a better sense of what they’re about to book. For three years now YouTube has been the second most popular search engine; not having videos means you could be loosing out on a swath of folks looking for lodging in your area.

9) Be helpful – “YOUtility” is the latest marketing buzzword, and, I think there’s a lot of merit to the concept.  The book YOUtility was published by a long-time friend and social-media marketing guru, Jay Baer. The premise is that when you sell something, you gain a customer. However, when you help someone, you make a customer for life. The book is full of real-world corporate examples; however I think this concept is something that innkeepers already do, and is why the B&B/Inn experience is so appealing to many of us. For example, the innkeeper is a built-in concierge for restaurant and local activities. Of course, there is nothing like the personalized service of staying at an Inn.  I do, however, think that staying with the concept of this post, innkeepers could do a better job of conveying their “YOUtility” online by providing a list of recommended restaurants, activities, sights, etc. Take this a step farther; having reviews with photos of the recommended restaurants, activities and sights will serve two purposes. First, it will be helpful to your lookers and bookers, and, it adds content to your website, which search engines love.

10) Re-target to increase conversions - Conversions are directly related to the quality of the visitors coming to your website. If you have a business providing one thing, and someone ends up on your website looking for something else– chances are he will leave straight away. However, if you have qualified traffic, visitors become engaged and lookers become bookers. One way to achieve qualified traffic is by social sharing. Your booking system should make it easy for people to tell their friends how excited they will be to visit your inn. Chances are, those friends will consider your inn the next time they are looking to book a trip. If you participate in online advertising, you have to look at a retargeting service. Retargeting works by placing a cookie on a users’ computer when they visit your website.  If the looker doesn’t book, but rather they visit a site like Mike’s Road Trip, Travel and Escape, or Bedandbreakfast.com, your ad will show up while they are browsing…thus reminding the looker that they were indeed interested in your inn at one point, but perhaps didn’t book due to a distraction.

I realize that some of the items listed in this post may seem overwhelming, especially if you have only a modest understanding of online marketing. Additionally, many of these items are not inexpensive to implement, whether from a financial perspective, or, from a human resources point of view. However, if you’re in business for the long term and want to build an asset that will continue to grow in value…you simply cannot ignore these ten items that can help add to your bottom line. If you’re in an area with a lot of lodging competition, some of these areas will propel you ahead of the pack.

I hope you found this post to be helpful, if so, please share it with others. If you have questions, I’m more than happy to help. Send me an email with your questions, or, we can set up a time to chat on the phone. Thanks so much for reading.

About Mike Shubic
: I’m a seasoned marketer who has worked the client, agency and media sides of the business, in nearly every capacity. For more than three years now I have been road tripping around North America helping, consulting, writing and filming content for innkeepers.

Inn Marketing Tips for B & B Proprietors

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Inn Marketing | Top 10 Inn Marketing tips for B & Bs | Bed and Breakfast Marketing Tips

For the avid traveler there are is plethora of lodging choices, most of which come in the form of a generic hotel chain with large marketing budgets.  How do smaller Inns and B & Bs compete?  First, the community as a whole needs to do a better job of educating the public on why boutique Inns and B & Bs are a better choice for most travelers.  Second, the B & B proprietor needs to become more inn marketing savvy and glean an understanding of how to leverage the new rules of marketing and P/R.

The smaller lodging facility will never be able to compete with larger hotel chains for those seeking  meeting space/resource hogging amenities, but that’s okay because in so many other categories, the Inn / B & B outperforms.

Today it’s imperative to fully embrace the web when it comes to your inn marketing initiatives, as marketing now revolves around it. The following inn marketing tips will help drive more traffic and interest to your B & B or inn.

1)      Your Website – It’s imperative to have a compelling website…image is everything!  You have a mere three seconds to make an impression with your prospects…this is particularly important if you don’t get a lot of traffic to your site (each visit is crucial).  You should have your website professionally built, it’s just too important to your success to leave it to the neighborhood kid.  You should address your web presence every two to three years as the web is a technology, and therefore changes rapidly. Use quality images and video to showcase your inn / B & B.

Note: Be sure not to over-deliver and under-promise by inflating how wonderful your B & B really is…referral business is crucial.

2)      Video – Use video on your website to showcase your facility and to introduce the innkeepers. Talk about what makes your B & B special.  A video three minutes or less is best.

Note: YouTube is the second most popular search engine; therefore optimizing your video for search traffic can be very helpful.

3)      Follow up – Referral business is EXTREMELY important for any small business.  Here is a simple tip to increase your referral business…when your guests check-in, get their birth date, physical and email addresses—when they check-out send a handwritten note thanking them for staying with you and encourage them to write a review on Google Places, TripAdvisor and/or Yelp.  Each year be sure to send a birthday card with well wishes and perhaps a discount coupon.  This will keep your B&B/Inn top-of- mind with your guests for their future lodging needs. This proactive good-will will also help fuel positive word-of-mouth advertising.

4)      Social Media – Utilize social media websites to build a fan-base/followers…this is a great way to keep in touch with past guests and perhaps attract news ones.  You can write posts on good restaurants in the area, things to do, places to visit, seasonal specials, etc.  Consider the following sites: Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare, YouTube and others. 

Note: Also worth noting…when you have profiles on these social media sites you get to include your website address (url), this helps build referral traffic to your website while also having an external link to your website, which the search engines look at as one of their algorithm metrics when ranking your site in a search query.

5)      Mobile/Smartphones – Smartphone mobile devices are revolutionizing the way we communicate, it’s like having full-blown minicomputer right in our hands.  According to Neilson, by mid 2011 nearly 60% of mobile users will be using phones connected to the internet.  What does this mean for the lodging industry?  It means a good percentage of people are going to learn about your business not by searching Google, Yahoo or Bing, but rather a GPS social networking review site like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Where, FourSquare and others.  Good reviews are crucial to business; mediocrity is becoming more and more difficult to get away with.  Get familiar and be aware of this emerging technology and look for inn marketing opportunities.

6)      What are People saying? -  Knowing what people are saying about you online is very important…if someone says something negative, you need to try and rectify the situation; a bad review can have a lasting effect on your business.  There is no way that you can please all the people all of the time—most people realize this when reading reviews, so don’t stress-out if you get a poor one, just try and do something about it.  First, subscribe to Google Alerts, each time there is a mention of your business, Google will send you an email you.  If you find a poor review on Yelp for example, login and address the concern the person had.  Try and take the conversation offline via email or phone call…offer the person a free dinner or free night’s stay if they amend or delete their post/comment. Bottom line, try and do the right thing.

7)       Testimonials – Posting testimonials on your website is great, however what would be even better is getting your guests on video.  If you really connect with a guest, simply ask them if they would mind saying a few things in front of the camera.  If that feels a bit contrived, post a sign or include the question on a comment card or something, that way guests who are comfortable being in front of the camera can come to you.  Don’t have a video camera?  May I suggest the Kodak Zi8, it’s a very good quality camera, simple to use and very affordable.

8)      Search Engine Optimization – It’s really worthwhile to hire a professional to optimize your site for search engine traffic.  In addition, any time you post a comment on a blog or upload a video, make sure to add applicable tags.

9)      Blog Posts & Comments – If you have a blog on your website, great!  If not, what you can do is create a list of applicable blogs in which you could visit from time-to-time and write a comment on a particular post that might be related or applicable to your bed and breakfast (be sure to include your website link), you will be amazed at what kind of referral traffic you can generate to your website.

Note: Search engines love blogs for the quality, quantity and frequency of content, so consider adding one to your website.  Blog posts could include, new restaurants/activities in your area, improvements to the Inn, interesting stories from guests, acknowledgments, etc.  All the content you develop can be used/duplicated on your social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc.

10)   The Plan – I know how incredibly busy it is being an innkeeper/proprietor and that marketing often falls by the wayside.  In addition, I’m sure many of the items I listed here may seem a bit overwhelming.  My suggestion is to put together a plan, not all of the stuff above needs to be done overnight.  Carve out a couple days per week in which you can dedicate time to your marketing efforts.  Many of the items above are DIY and require more time than money.

If you would like further clarification on any of the top-10 inn marketing tips provided, please feel free to contact me…I’m happy to be of service.

About Mike Shubic: I am a seasoned marketer with over fifteen years of experience (resume) on the client, agency and media sides of the business.  Prior to Mike’s Road Trip I was a freelance web developer and online marketer for over four years (Shubic Web Design).   I still offer web development and online marketing services for the right clients…so if you’re in need, please inquire.

This post was intended to help Bed and Breakfast Proprietors and Inn Keepers better market their properties…if these inn marketing tips have been helpful, please pass it on to friends and colleagues by clicking the “like” button below.