Hospitality is the key to successful B&B innkeeping. And by hospitality I am referring to the art of making your guests feel happy, welcome and taken care of. Employees benefit from this same attitude. And your marketing is real with this habit of hospitality.
Your reservation procedure is vital to your business success. It’s part of your marketing plan too. We’ve all had reservation experiences; some have been great, and some are outstandingly bad. You can learn more from a bad experience than a good one (though I prefer good ones). Let the personal touch that’s the hallmark of B&Bs lead the way to your business success, starting with your reservation tactics.
For many innkeepers, having a solid year-round business would be fabulous. But the reality is that doesn’t happen often. And some areas experience a light 15-25 percent occupancy rate, making it hard to make ends meet, much less have a viable business to sell.
Do you know the marketing rules-of-thumb (RT) that will help you promote your B&B? I don’t know if these are official rules or guidelines, but they are pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up through the years and called my Marketing Rules-of-Thumb. You’ll find a marketing mix of advertising and design pointers in my RT that you can use as you want.
In typical “Yankee” fashion, Americans have taken the British bed and breakfast concept and grown it into a widely diversified industry. You’ll find every conceivable style of inn varying in size, architecture, business style, attitude, culture, cost, and location. There are Manhattan apartments, boats (ocean, lake and river), Kansas farm houses, mountain chalets, urban mansions and townhouses, as well as country inns. I have seen churches, schools, jails, and firehouses used for B&Bs. The house styles I’ve seen usued for B&Bs include Victorian, modern, log, adobe, plantation, farmhouse, and even beehive. B&Bs have been found underground, in high-rises, in trees, in townhouses, and underwater. Along with different styles of structure you will find different styles of environment ranging from casual to elegant, eclectic to period furnishings, garage-sale to designer decor, shared baths to luxury private baths, and low- to high-touch. These characteristics influence the B&B classifications.
Think of your B&B inn as “hospitality pie”. The aspects of the inn are wedges of the pie. Let’s look at the pie graphically to see what it is composed of.
Let me share some examples of market niche, as provided by the restaurant industry which does it so well. You have Denny’s on one end of the spectrum, an establishment that provides basic food quickly. Or you have restaurants that offer specialties of seafood, steak, Greek, Chinese, Italian, or Brazilian. But if you are going to be an Italian restaurant will you be generally Italian, northern Italian, southern Italian, Tuscan, Roman, or Venetian? Focusing on one Italian cuisine will garner you a stronger, clearer brand — especially if you are thorough with the presentation by having not only the food but also ensure the wine, tablecloths, music and decorations are authentic. I have known of B&Bs with market niches of poetry, writers, cat and chocolate lovers, farm and ranch experiences, and healing.
A few weeks ago I wrote about characteristics of the entrepreneur as far as the bed and breakfast world goes. By now you should know, understand, and work with your personality strengths and weaknesses. Support your weaknesses either through the systems you develop or the staff you hire -— or both. Capitalize on your strengths. Be aware of your guests’, employees’, and vendors’ personalities to help you manage your environment and strive to keep everything on even keel.
The previous article on marketing activities set out some basic terms and concepts, as well as reminding you of the need for a sharply-focused image or brand. This article continues by sharing some image building concepts, advertising, and public relations. This is the second installment of the two-part series on marketing.
Marketing your B&B is a big key of success, closely following your customer service as the best marketing tool you have. The focus of this marketing discussion is the basics of the activity you take to get the word out about your bed and breakfast. This is the first installment of a two-part series.
For those of you who have taken my seminars or read my ebooks, you have heard about West Point Market in Akron, Ohio. I learned about this grocery store from Inc. Magazine back in 1990. For those of you who haven’t read about West Point Market, it’s a wonderful example of focused and diligent marketing. This market has developed an image of the place to go to buy good food and wine, and all without advertising. That’s not to say the owner doesn’t spend money promoting his store, he just doesn’t invest in traditional advertising. And the store is wildly successful. In the day of large chain groceries that keep customers based on low prices and weekly specials, this grocer is making it on quality products and without weekly specials or discounted prices.
There is so much going on with the greening of the hospitality these days I am both energized and overwhelmed. It’s great! Take a look at Green Lodging News this week to see me profiled — it’s always a kick to see your name in “print”. This is a great weekly ezine promoting the greening of the hotel industry. Subscribe if you have any interest in expanding your environmental or hospitality knowledge.
Your marketing materials, which at the very least include your website and brochure, are the avenue to tell prospective guests what experience they will have while staying at your inn. Those marketing avenues also give you a way to communicate your guest amenities, rules, contact information, and other important facts about your B&B business.
The B&B industry is in transition: from young to maturing, from “build it and they will come” to targeted marketing, and from undefined to defined market niche. Defining the inn’s brand — or market niche — gives innkeepers the competitive edge they need to flourish, not just survive. Guests’ wants and needs have changed through the years; it’s important to understand those changes so the innkeeper can react and the B&B can thrive.
You know it when you see it and use it, but what is it about a bed and breakfast website that makes it good? Your website is an imperative B&B marketing tool. The quality of the website creates the first impression of your inn and hospitality; it sets the tone for the guest experience.
The most successful inns establish a specific market niche and work tirelessly to ensure all aspects of running it reflect that niche.
[This is from the old forum:]
Like a number of us in the B&B industry, we started the B&B in our home. The big issue comes from when it is time to sell your B&B/Home. As you should know, if you have lived in your home for two of the last five years, you may deduct for a couple, up to $500,000 of profit on the sale, tax free.
From “Ask Kit!”:
Q: I enjoyed your website, lots of information for people thinking about buying a B&B. We are selling our B&B and have found very little on the internet regarding selling B&B properties. We have had four showings in the past 5 months and are having a difficult time finding qualified buyers. We seem to attract those dreaming of the B&B lifestyle with little knowledge about what it takes to be successful or even if they can afford to do it. Most have unrealistic expectations regarding income and occupancy.
Any advice to those of us selling??
Marketing 101 for Bed and Breakfasts
The basics of marketing is to build awareness of your inn so that business will follow. Do you advertise or publicize — and what’s the difference between the two activities? Advertising is a message you pay for. You control the message and thus it’s less credible. Publicity is free; it’s what someone else says about you and thus is more objective. You have minimal control because it’s the truth from the author’s point of view and thus has high credibility. How do you know what to do when? That’s what my whole marketing e-book is about: helping you know what to do.
or… Your Best Marketing Tool
During a B&B conference session on using Press Kits for your marketing, we tossed around lots of ideas about using press kits effectively. After more than half of the session had elapsed someone asked how effective press kits were for people in the room. Essentially the answer was, not at all. One innkeeper did succeed in getting an article because of a press kit she had sent, but not the article she had been fishing for.
I have been exposed to quite a bit of technology and web site discussion lately, so I thought I’d share some of what I learned combined with my observations and biases as they relate to this business.
Until my Budapest conference, what I called market niche other hospitality consultants call branding. I want to share some of the concepts I gleaned from conference conversations about branding, and translated to the B&B industry, so you can start changing your vocabulary along with me.
In reading an article on marketing, I saw a statement that got me to thinking about market niche and its value to B&B innkeepers. The statement, made by Peter Yesawich of Yesawich, Pepperdine, and Brown, who does market research for the travel industry, was that consumer activism has risen to an all-time high.