Marketing a B&B as you Brace for Recission

These are tough times for everybody but perhaps the hospitality industry is feeling the impact a little more than most other businesses since people are taking few trips and staying closer to home.

So what can you do, if you have a small bed and breakfast operation to survive these down times?

Here are some suggestions for you:

1. Look at your marketing budget and see where you can increase exposure.  Many innkeepers make the mistake of cutting back on marketing in down times when just the opposite is needed.  Cutting back in marketing in slow times is a terrible idea, although for many B&B owners it is the first thing they think they can do to save money.  What is really needed is to make sure that your marketing dollars are working hard. If you don’t know if a marketing campaign is working for you, then assume that it is not. For example, don’t spend money advertising in newspapers, magazines, radio or Yellow Pages if you can’t count how many customers these ads bring to your place. You need to make sure that you are making more revenue from the ads than you are spending in this type of advertising. This looks like an obvious thing but I can guarantee you that many owners never question or analyze their advertising expenses.  Next tackle your Internet marketing.  Since it is a proven fact that more and more people are making their travel plans online, it is foolish to ignore the potential business that can be harvested from the Internet.  If you have a blog on your Web site, make the time daily to post on it.  If your state B&B association makes a blog available for your use, get on there daily and post.  Blogging is often more affective than pay-per-click, so make the time to blog.

2. Reduce your portions if you give lots of food in your breakfast dishes. Not only you’ll be doing a favor to your customers (they really don’t need to overeat these huge portions) but you will save in food costs. Reduce quantity, but be sure you also improve quality. It is a win-win and everyone will benefit.

3. Look at your menu and see if you have dishes that give you very small profits because they are  very labor intensive and difficult to prepare. If you are serving such dishes, replace them with recipes easier to make or that require less time to prepare. Again, you will save in overall costs and increase your profit.

4. Keep an eye on your labor expenses. If you see that some days of the week are slower, reduce your employees these days. If you reduce your labor expenses, you will cope better with slow times.

5. Spend extra time and energy pleasing your clients. They are your most important asset, more than your amenities or food or anything else. If you don’t have clients, nothing else matters. Period. Pamper your clients.  Make them very welcome, bend over backwards to please them and try to always exceed their expectations. This is the best way to assure that they will come back.

6. If you haven’t done so, start a formalized referral system to build a returning clientele.

7. Replace costly snail mail by communications via your website and email. This cost you nothing since you already are paying for the services.  Plus, getting into the habit of keeping in touch with your guests will always pay-off over time.

These are just a few ideas for you to implement. In these down times and fear of financial crisis, ingenuity and excellence go a long way to make sure that you’ll be there when the economy recovers and guests eager to travel are looking for the best lodging properties to stay. Your B&B should be always on top of their lists when they think of traveling to your destination.

Amelia Painter specializes in Bed and Breakfast Marketing and Consulting Services. You can find more about her marketing & consulting offerings by visiting her web site: http://www.totalwebdesigner.com.

B&B Owners, How Loud is Your Marketing Voice?

If you own a Bed and Breakfast establishment, it is important to have a loud marketing voice in these times of high gasoline prices, economic uncertainty, and an unresolved U.S. credit crisis.

If you have not taken the time to give thought to your marketing voice in the past, hesitate no longer. Most innkeepers tend to work with relatively small marketing budgets. A smaller budget might reduce the volume of your marketing voice, but it doesn’t have to reduce its quality. To get your message through with the clarity of a string quartet, start by analyzing what your current message is saying to your potential guests:

  • Does your message tell a potential guest what you have to offer? More times than you might expect, innkeeper messages don’t really say anything at all, at least not anything a potential guest cares about. Cut through the noise by basing your message on what you know about the needs of guests.
  • Does your message say the same thing every time? Consistency is crucial, particularly in noisy, crowded marketing environments. Are your printed materials, online communications and everything else in harmony? If yes, then, resist the urge to change your message just because you’re tired of it — you hear it a thousand times more often than your potential guests. Remember, the goal of your message is to be Recognized, Received and Remembered by potential guests!

The importance of carrying the message to the Internet

Because research has shown that nearly 90% of new inn guests are now coming from the Internet, it critical that all B&B owners have an easy to navigate, informative and visually appealing website.

Last year, I visited a friend’s home in Seattle. And ever since my friend moved to this house, she has bragged about the view from her living room’s large picture window that looks into a massive yard filled with mature trees, striking exotic flowers and lots of wild life that she feeds regularly.

Well, the yard was everything she said, beautiful, peaceful and filled with friendly creatures. Once inside the house, however, she led me to the picture window. The yard remained spectacular, but, you barely noticed it. The inside of the window was dusty and there were fingerprints all over. The outside of the window was a target for bird droppings. It was difficult to ignore the window in order to appreciate the yard.

Your Web site might have much in common with this window. Your visitors come to your Web site to accomplish something — to research, to price your accommodations, or to make a reservation. Your site’s goal should be to become transparent — just like a clean, well-built window.

A window that’s cracked, or dirty, hung too high or too low only calls attention to itself. It doesn’t allow people to see past it and fully appreciate the view.

A Web site that’s inadequately planned and poorly executed, or a mystery to navigate, doesn’t allow visitors to accomplish what they’ve come to do. The site calls attention to itself and not the view it’s offering. Often, visitors will move on to your competition’s site because yours may not be helping them accomplish what they came to do.

A frustrating experience with your Web site tells visitors that they’ll probably have a frustrating experience doing business with you. A clean, efficient site tells visitors that you have a clean, efficient business. Here are some simple rules that will help you create a Web site in harmony with your goal to be Recognized, Received and Remembered by potential guests.

Tell your story on your Web site & in your print brochure
B&B clients that work with TotalWebDesigner.com have seen solid results from the practice of telling an easy to understand story in both their print materials and on the web, so I feel confident in telling you to use the same copy for your brochures and your Web site. You can refer inquiring guests to your Web site for more information on certain subjects appearing in your brochure. This practice creates a seamless link between your print and online communications. Use this step as a catalyst to also link your press releases, and other print materials to your Web site. The possibilities are endless. Here are a few pointers:

  • Always avoid having text that repeats the picture content – it should offer new information or place the picture in a new context.
  • Fast access is vital; research shows that if your site doesn’t load in 20 seconds most people will give up.
  • Content is Critical Provide only the amount of content needed to help your visitor reach their goal. People do not like to read volumes on a Web site. Reading from computer screens is about 25% slower than reading from paper.
  • People don’t want to read a lot of text from computer screens You should write 50% less text and not just 25%. Visitors don’t like to scroll: one more reason to keep pages short.
  • Skimming instead of reading is a fact of the Web It has been confirmed by countless usability studies. Web writers have to acknowledge this fact and write for scan ability.
  • The website must flow your message out when the home page first loads. Links to your rooms and the grounds will draw visitors into the site. Give people all the options to contact you. Be sure every page has a prominent link to a contact page. If you leave off an e-mail address because you do not want spammers to obtain it, then provide a form where a message can be forwarded to your e-mail account.
  • Be Inviting The site needs to be pleasant to look at and easy to navigate. Maintain a consistent look and feel that mirrors your brochure.
  • Provide Support A huge factor in the success of your Web site depends on you answering e-mail inquiries. If visitors send you e-mails and you do not return them in a timely fashion, you have lost a customer.
  • Showcase Your Company, not Your Designer!  Your site is about your inn, your services and/or your products. If your designer does not appear to understand this, find a new designer.
  • Include a Call to Action There is a precise point in the content delivery where you must include a call to action. The objective is to get a prospective guest to contact you for more information so you can realize your goal to have your message Recognized, Received and Remembered.

~Amelia Painter

RezOvation has Acquired Webervations

On November 4, 2008, RezOvation, a leading property management software company in the bed and breakfast industry, announced that had just completed the acquisition of Webervations, the leading online availability calendar and website booking company, previously owned and operated by American Dreams, Inc.

According to information from David Swain, CEO of American Dreams, Inc., RezOvation will continue to operate Webervations at its existing offices in Logan, OH, along with most of its current staff; Webervations customers will not be affected by the transition. John Banczak, Chief Operating Officer of RezOvation, will oversee the daily operation of the business, and David Swain, founder will continue to be involved with the operation of the business through the end of 2010.

Plans for the 2009 enhancements of Webervations include:

• Completing the development of Webervations 2.0 with advanced features, (launched earlier in 2008 and originally called the ‘new Webervations,’) so that all customers who wish to use it will have access to this system.
• Further developing the website booking product for associations, directories, and chamber of commerce/CVB sites to include complete customization and a streamlined booking process.
• Incorporating an advanced data security and encryption package into both the original Webervations product (now called Webervations 1.0) as well as into Webervations 2.0.
• Waiving the annual $99 BedandBreakfast.com availability calendar link fee for Webervations customers (also waived for RezOvation Booking Engine customers).
• Waiving all Webervations 1.0 fees for all existing or RezOvation customers using annual support and/or booking engine products.

RezOvation will launch other initiatives with the Webervations system after extensive innkeeper and association feedback. RezOvation will conduct a comprehensive survey of Webervations customers in the next few months, and will form a customer advisory panel in early 2009 to help guide the future development of the product.

At this early stage it is difficult to know what lies in the future for existing Webervations clients.  Check back to this blog for future updates.

Logo Makes “First Impression”

New owners of B&Bs often ignore the important role a logo plays in the overall marketing of a lodging property. Graphic Professional agrees!

As Lead Graphic Designer for TotalWebDesigner.com, Angie Roberts incorporates her years of marketing experience with a formal education at the University of California, San Diego (Communications/Visual Arts 1996) to specialize in print materials for companies such as Universal Studios, Qualcomm, Hitachi and AT&T. Angie brings a noteworthy portfolio to TotalWebDesigner.com. Logo branding, brochures, rack cards, annual reports, large display graphics and specialty web design are just a few design areas Angie takes pride in presenting.

As a freelance designer, Angie has built a strong following through her company, Graphic Details, established in 1995. Through her own company and, as of 2004, through a strategic partnership with TotalWebDesigner.com, she serves clients nationwide with offices in San Diego, CA, Friday Harbor, WA, and Fostoria, IA.

At TotalWebDesigner.com, we work to establish your business image through affordable, consistent design. Our web and print services compliment each other. We strive to project a consistent message helping prospective clients to recognize your services, and, when ready, to call you rather than your competitor.

The first, and most important, element of a successful marketing strategy is brand recognition. An effective logo design should transfer from print, to web, to large format design and should be the basis on which you seamlessly build all other marketing materials. In order to do this efficiently and retain quality, a vector formatted logo design is essential. A vector logo is resolution independent and mathematically scalable so it will look as clear, clean and crisp on your business cards as it will blown-up 3000% on a trade show booth backdrop. A raster image (those drawn in programs like Photoshop) are resolution dependent; they may look great on the home page of your Web site but in print they will look jagged and fuzzy and are incapable of being rendered at large format size.

When deciding on a logo, both your company’s identity and the psychology of your target market should be your first considerations. If a company is highly professional, such as a hospital or law firm, a tendency toward a classic design would make sense. If, however, you are the proprietors of a cozy bed and breakfast, you may want a logo that projects a clean, friendly image. Perhaps a design that reflects a home or geographic element. Sometimes it’s as simple as using your company’s name or initials to achieve a great design.

Remember, a distinctive logo is the first and most effective way to reach potential clients. It is your “first impression.” Keeping the design simple allows the public to recognize you at a glance (think Nike swoosh) and this same element will be repeated on all business cards, letterhead, envelopes, brochures and rack cards giving you the needed repetition for marketing success.

Tips for Senior Inn Travelers

Today’s senior citizens are on the road and enjoying some serious travel time on a regular basis in their retirement years. If you have recently retired or will be retiring soon, here are some tips you might find handy.

Prior to leaving on the trip, do your homework and learn all you can about your destination. With the Internet, destination research is as close as your computer. It is also a good idea to use traditional sources as well. Visit your local bookstores and libraries to discover interesting travel guides.

Plan ahead of time to take along enough medication for the entire trip plus several days after your return home. (Give yourself a few days home before you’ll need another refill.) On the trip you will need to carry your original containers, and if possible, copies of your prescriptions — this is where good planning comes in handy.

Wear a “medical alert” bracelet or necklace if you have unique medical problems. In some cases it makes sense to carry a card or letter from your physician outlining the proper treatment should you become ill on the road.

Be sure family or friends know where to contact you. Leaving a travel agenda with someone makes good sense, this way at least one person knows how to contact you in case there is a family or home emergency. (Travel itineraries should always include names, addresses, and telephone numbers.)