Inn Marketing Tips for B & B Proprietors

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.

Mike Shubic

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Mike Shubic is a seasoned road trip travel video blogger, traversing the byways of the world looking for those hidden gems of the road. From unique destinations, unexpected discoveries, creative cuisine, intriguing inns to exciting attractions…the road is his page. The experiences are his ink. And every 300 miles, a new chapter begins. Whether you live vicariously or by example, Mike will do the exploring so you can have an adventure.

10 Comments

  1. These are great tips for the small lodge owner. I have found that the social marketing is huge and that people really want to know what is going on in the area/Glacier park long after they have stayed. I keep up to date and what is going on in the area and post 2-3 times per week. It is not only important to have these social marketing tools, but it is also important to stay active on them. Another great resource for small budget, time crunched business owners is the GDS network. This plugs you into 2200 websites/750,000 travel agents. Work smarter not harder and your dollars will go a lot further. 🙂
    Amanda

    1. Hi Todd,

      Well, first…don’t discount links, they are very important for SEO. Second, there are some creative ways to use social media…in this context, building and maintaining relationships with past and future guests. Bottom line, social media is just one tool in the marketing arsenal.

      Cheers,
      Mike

  2. I agree, all of these things are important. One thing I miss in the above is the publication of availability. Guests get used to many B&B’s showing it and not having a calendar rapidly is seen as a minus.

    Being an innkeeper myself I don’t want an automated booking system, however (just want to be in control on who visits my house). That’s why I developed a simple calendar and res management system. With one of the main features is that you as an innkeeper can manage the calendar and its reservations on your iPhone, allowing you to respond to inquiries faster than your competition. The calendar is commercially available at: http://www.bedandbreakfastcalendar.eu

  3. Hi Mike
    First – thanks for the follow on Twitter 🙂
    Your article is very interesting to read and although we do most of it already there is always room for improvement !
    I have to agree on one thing especially though – it is a lot of work if one wants to keep up all the websites (we have two) blog, FB, Twitter and on top all the inquiries and questions by emails. Not to forget to build up a solid link-partnership (which I by the way more and more neglect :().
    Anyways – it seems to be a lot more work to get your name out there and stay competitive than it was some 10 years ago.
    Thanks
    Shirley
    Abadin European Style Bed & Breakfast between Montreal and Ottawa

  4. People spend more time in social media (mainly Facebook) than any other past time, this includes watching TV and Sports! Innkeepers need to think about integrating Facebook into their websites and blog, and yes they should have a blog! They need to roll with the punches, they need to stay abreast of marketing their inns!

    Why a blog? It is an extension of the inn, the innkeepers themselves, and adds a personal touch. People are staying in your home and sleeping in your beds!

    Blogs are a great opportunity (and it’s free!) to bait the hook, to share extra details about events, gardens, the inn itself (have a featured room, share guest comments and more photos) if you are lacking ideas. There is so much to see and do, grab your camera and go for it!

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