The Quick and Easy Way to Market Your Bed and Breakfast

Looking for the quick and easy way to market your bed and breakfast? Share information from our essential bed and breakfast content checklist.  This can be shared on your website pages, in blog posts, in social media, in emails, in videos, and more.  

Essential Bed and Breakfast Content Checklist:

  • Activities: What can people do when they stay at your inn?  This includes activities at the inn as well as activities at places and events in your local area.
  • Amenities: What amenities do your guests have access to?  Perhaps you have something as unique as a heated pool or billiards room.  The picture shows a lovely outdoor area for guests to relax and hear music.  Be sure to list every amenity your inn offers.
  • Area: Think about why people visit your local area.  Do you provide information that includes the many reasons people decide to stay at your inn? 
  • Associations/Ratings: Do you belong to any B&B associations that regularly inspect your inn for quality assurance? Let your guests know what professional associations you belong to as well as any ratings of distinction such as Select Registry or Historic Hotels of America.
  • Blog: Do you have a blog? Blogs are great places to regularly share new information such as seasonal changes, local annual events, and more.  
  • Decorating: Do you have any decorating tips to share? Perhaps you could feature pictures of your decor and give ideas for how guests can make their own homes more decorative.
  • Employees: No matter the size of your staff, you can share a picture of them and some fun facts about them.  Include where they are originally from and a brief background like their favorite sports team, college alma mater, favorite breakfast food, favorite thing to do in your local area, etc.  Also let guests know what roles they have at your inn. 
  • Events: This includes both activities that happen at your inn as well as local activities.  Be aware of any major local activities and conferences to specifically attract those guests.  
  • Food: Food is so popular that entire television channels are devoted to it! Share recipes to your most popular items and share behind-the-scenes photos of preparing for breakfast.  Feature your farm fresh produce.
  • Fun: Highlight the fun that happens at your inn.  This could feature guests (with their permission) having fun in common rooms or anywhere on your property.  
  • Gardening/Landscaping: Do you have award-winning gardens? Do you have attractive fountains and outdoor sculptures? What is in bloom right now at your inn?  Focus on seasonal changes and promote Fall Foliage if that is something your area is known for.  
  • Guests: Think about what types of guests you attract.  If the guests tell you the reason for their visit or activities they participated in, make a note of it.  Offer recommendations to local restaurants and shops.
  • History: Do you have a historical inn? If so, consider sharing your B&B’s unique history.  If you built your inn, share pictures of its construction and your motivation for building your own B&B.
  • Holidays: Does your inn show off unique decorations with each holiday? Valentine’s Day is just one of the many holidays that bed and breakfasts can feature in blog posts and on social media. If you have any holiday-related packages, be sure to feature them during that time.
  • Promotion: Consider promoting local events and businesses. You may want to feature a contest on your website and/or social media.  Require those who enter your contest to enter by sharing their email address.  Then you can add them to your email list.
  • Publicity: Was your inn featured in a magazine or the local news?  Be sure to have links to any publicity your inn receives listed on your website and share it in social media.
  • Renovation: Did you renovate or redecorate any areas of your inn?  Share before and after photos of any indoor or outdoor transformations.  Describe the process it took to get it from the before picture to the after picture.  There are lots of people who would be interested in learning how you remodeled that space.
  • Success: Did you receive an award for something? Perhaps your won a local recipe contest.  Maybe you received an award in your local town as an elite place to stay overnight.  Be sure to include this in your content.
  • Support: Do you support any charities or host charity events? Do you sponsor any local teams or events? Any community outreach you do can be featured in your content.  Share pictures of the events. 

This list is certainly not exhaustive. There may be other areas to promote, depending upon where you are located, the types of guests you host, and the unique accommodations you provide.  The key is to regularly share new content. This makes you more visible online when people go to search for specific keywords.  

Not sure what keywords you should feature? Consider using the name of your city, popular tourist destinations, popular local activities, and so on.  That way if someone types in “your city name and a popular activity” they could find your content and land on your website.  

Need help marketing your inn?  Contact Kristi Dement of Bed and Breakfast Blogging for a free consultation.  Bed and Breakfast Blogging specializes in not only blogging, but also social media marketing, email marketing, reputation management, and more. 

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

The Yellow House in Waynesville, NC

As soon as we met Owners and Innkeepers Ken and Kelli Todtenhagen, we felt very welcome at The Yellow House in Waynesville, North Carolina. We were in town to tour Western Carolina University in nearby Cullowhee.

We stayed in the Rockwell Suite (pictured above), named in honor of the famous 20th-century American author and prolific artist Norman Rockwell, who produced more than 4,000 works in his lifetime.  Rockwell is most famous for the color illustrations of everyday life he created for the Saturday Evening Post for nearly five decades.

In the suite, some of Mr. Rockwell’s pictures are on the walls and there are art supplies (including sketch pads and adult coloring books) available for guests who like to draw.  Ken and Kelli are amazed at some of their talented guests who have left pictures for them.

There are many reasons why guests love to visit The Yellow House, including:

  • Luxurious guest rooms and suites in their Main House and Pond House 
  • All ten guest areas include their own gas fireplaces
  • Two dog-friendly rooms in the Pond House
  • Guest amenities including complimentary wine & hors d’oeuvres, 24-hour access to drinks & snacks, comfy robes, and private baths (some with jetted tubs)
  • Gorgeous mountain views
  • “Rest and Relaxation” and “Playing Hooky” specials
  • “Gone Fishing”, “Girls Getaway”, and “Honeymoon/Anniversary Picnic” packages
  • Extras including balloons, chocolate, picnic lunches, wine & cheese tray, flowers
  • Delicious fresh complimentary gourmet breakfasts each morning

There are many special occasions guests celebrate at The Yellow House, including:

  • Memorable anniversaries 
  • Unforgettable birthdays
  • Joyous graduation parties
  • Festive holidays
  • Elegant weddings

The Yellow House is close to so many noteworthy and scenic places, such as:

  • Biltmore Estate
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Brevard Music Center
  • Cherokee Indian Reservation
  • Folkmoot
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Pisgah National Forest

Guests of The Yellow House enjoy activities and adventures, like:

  • Flyfishing
  • Golfing
  • Hiking
  • Horseback riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Mountain and road biking
  • Rock and ice climbing
  • Skiing
  • White water rafting

Some favorite restaurants where guests like to dine are:

  • Bourbon Barrel Beef and Ale
  • Boojum Brewing Company
  • Frogs Leap Public House
  • The Chef’s Table
  • Trailhead Cafe and Bakery

Ken and Kelli have done some major renovating to the house (built in the late 1800s) to restore its grand historic appeal.  They have added antique furniture and some of their delightful decor changes throughout the year to reflect the seasons and holidays.  We highly recommend a visit to The Yellow House and we look forward to many return visits.

The Secret to Improving Your Guest Experience

If you want to know the secret to improving your guest experience, the answer is found in several areas of hospitality.  It begins by asking yourself questions like the following.

What do you find out about your guests before they stay at your inn?  When your guests book a room, do you learn the purpose of their visit?  Whether they have any food allergies or dietary restrictions?  Knowing these things can help you prepare for their visit.  

What on-site amenities do you offer your guests? Amenities can include free wireless internet throughout your inn, watching television and movies from the privacy of guest rooms, large hot tubs, indoor or outdoor pools, a game room, a workout room, spa treatments, a library, a conference room, privately stocked guest room refrigerators, 24-hour access to free refreshments and goodies, and so on.  The more amenities you have at your property, the more likely guests will write positive reviews of their experiences.  

Do you offer concierge services to your guests? This could range from making restaurant reservations, to arranging for spa treatments, procuring tickets to special events, assisting with various travel arrangements, and booking tours of local attractions.  

How does the innkeeper benefit from offering concierge services like these? You may set up partnerships with local restaurants, spas, event venues, tours, and travel options.  If you receive about as many referrals as you give, this may be a win-win situation with no need for an exchange of money from any of the parties. 

However, if it is more one-sided and you are not receiving as many business referrals as you are giving, then think about requesting a referral fee when you refer business to them and giving them a referral fee when they refer business to you. That way it is more equitable.   The point is to have a fair incentive to refer business to each other.

Do you host events? People often come to bed and breakfast inns because of celebrating special occasions.  You could host private parties for a variety of occasions, including: anniversaries, baby and wedding showers, birthdays, family reunions, graduations, and so on.  The more special you make these events for your guests, the better their guest experience.  

What kind of feedback are you receiving from guests about your food?  How well do you accommodate guests with food allergies and dietary restrictions?  Do guests ask for your recipes or if your inn sells a cookbook? Even if you are not the caterer for all of the events you host, the food you provide at events you host affects their guest experience and perceptions of you as hosts.

Do you offer custom packages for your guests? These could include restaurant gift certificates, tickets to a local event, fresh flowers, desserts delivered to your room, and so on.  Are you attracting the types of guests you would like to host? One way to do that is to offer packages they would be interested in.

How do your guests sleep?  Whether they are looking for a more restful sleep or a more passionate romance, make that possible for them.  Do you have extra blankets and pillows?  Do you offer a turn-down service or romance package with rose petals and LED lights?  

How will you know if your guests have had positive experiences?  Encourage feedback by asking non-intrusive questions (questions that do not pry, but show that you care about making sure they receive the best hospitality possible).  Read the comments in your guest books and online reviews.  Take guest advice to heart.  As you see evaluations of guest experiences increase, you will experience a tremendous amount of satisfaction.

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Why Local Partnerships Can Make You Rich

Do you know why local partnerships can make you rich?  Do you know that your local area could be your best asset?  Travelers tend to pick the area of their destination BEFORE they choose their accommodations.  So innkeepers can profit from thinking about: “Why do guests visit my local area?” 

Word-of-mouth marketing can also be very powerful.  What do you want to become known for?  A big part of becoming more well known is developing ties with other local businesses and organizations in your community.

Who, in your local area, offers complementary products and services?  There are many reasons why it is in both your interests to form a mutually beneficial relationship:

  • You can refer each other business (since you don’t have all the same customers)
  • You can promote each other in a variety of ways (such as via social media)
  • You can form exclusive partnerships (more on that later)

So, you may be thinking, what types of places and with whom could I form local partnerships?:

  • Caterers
  • Chocolatier 
  • Entertainment providers
  • Florist
  • Gift shops
  • Museums
  • Nonprofit organizations and charities
  • Realtors
  • Restaurants
  • Spas (if you do not have your own spa)
  • Sports
  • Tourist attractions
  • Wedding planners

There is a whole movement going on to support local businesses and service professionals.  Spread the love for your local area by featuring these other businesses:

  • Brochures (display them at your inn)
  • Coupons (arrange for your guests to receive discounts for using their services)
  • Menus (let people see what they offer by providing their menus)
  • Preferred list of vendors (such as caterers and wedding planners)
  • Social Media (share a picture of them and write about why people should want to use their products and/or services)
  • Video (partner with other businesses to promote your town as a vacation destination)
  • Word-of-mouth (if guests ask for your recommendations)

Develop “exclusive partnerships” in which you agree to only buy from them and they offer you a reduced rate for doing so.  This works out well in the case of using one chocolatier and one florist.  Especially if you offer packages to your guests which include chocolate and flowers. 

An “influencer” is a person who has the power to influence many people.  How do you meet and form relationships with the “influencers” in your community? 

  • Consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce which will have local business owners and service providers as members. 
  • LinkedIn is a powerful social media network for finding other local business owners
  • There is nothing like meeting face-to-face to discuss how you can help each other’s businesses grow 
  • Look online (like at TripAdvisor) to find lists for the best restaurants near you and the top things to do in (and near) your area for ideas of people and places to contact

That is why local partnerships make you rich.  No time to connect with others in your area (since you are so busy with the responsibilities of innkeeping)?  Or are you not comfortable networking with other people and other places?  Contact Bed and Breakfast Blogging for help today!

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

How To Easily Brand Your Bed and Breakfast

Branding your bed and breakfast is both easier and harder than you think.  What do I mean by that?  Well, little things can make a big difference so there are plenty of things you can do.  However, it is harder than you think because you don’t want to make costly mistakes along the way.  

Your goal is to attract a particular target audience to your bed and breakfast inn.  The type of inn you have including your location, its amenities, its surroundings, and its weather (among many other factors) all play a role in who will want to visit your accommodations.

The following are descriptions of very different places to visit:

  • A twenty-room mountain getaway for avid skiers and hikers 
  • A B&B spa in the woods with separate cabins, each with private hot tubs
  • A modern urban inn that caters to business travelers & hosts corporate retreats
  • A historical inn that has hosted celebs & famous people in history
  • A five-room inn with horse ranch and trails, riding lessons for guests
  • A tropical beach resort with its own restaurant and live music in the evenings
  • An inn located on a vineyard, with tours and tastings with cheeses and desserts
  • A B&B in a popular tourist town with lots of local activities and attractions
  • A Southern inn with an award-winning flower garden; gazebo, pool, swing, etc.

As you can tell, from the above examples, bed and breakfast inns, hotels, and resorts, can narrow their marketing to reach the most ideal audience for what they offer guests.  Since you cannot be all things to all people, the best brands:

  • Visually grab the attention of their target audience (with pictures, images, quotes, testimonials, etc.)
  • Emotionally attract (tug on the heart) their target audience (“because time passes by so quickly, capture memorable moments with us”)
  • Convey a simple message to that target audience (ex: guests deserve time away to enjoy their loved ones)
  • Differentiate themselves from their competitors (show why you are the best accommodations for your target audience in your local area)
  • Develop their reputation for excellent hospitality and exceeding guest expectations throughout multiple touch points along the way (check-in, front desk, guest services, hospitality, use of amenities, breakfast, check-out, and opting in for your e-mail list with a loyalty program)

Brands can differentiate themselves in the following ways:

  • Name
  • Logo
  • Slogan
  • Curb Appeal
  • Decor
  • Guest Rooms
  • Amenities
  • Photography
  • Website
  • Social Media
  • Blog
  • Stories
  • Guests Testimonials
  • Email Marketing
  • Hosting Events
  • Videos

According to “Telling Your Brand: How Your Brand Purpose and Position Drive The Stories You Share” by Rob Marsh, the importance of differentiation can be seen through the efforts of four national pizza chains:

  • Pizza Hut (the market leader) uses their advertising to feature new innovations like hot dogs or cheese baked into their crusts, chocolate chip cookie pizzas, pizza sliders, stuffed crust pizzas.  Pizza Huts stands out with their innovations.
  • Dominoes (focuses on owning the “delivery” position), focused on it more before lawsuits forced them to soften their claim of “30 minutes or less or its free.”  Dominoes is the go-to choice for home delivery.
  • Little Caesar’s (focuses on the “value” position), offering 2 pizzas for the price of one, with tagline (“Pizza. Pizza.”) Today they offer ready-made, grab-and-go pizzas for $5, emphasizing their ownership of the low-price position in the market.
  • Papa Johns (focuses on fresher ingredients), with tagline “Better ingredients, better pizza”, the emphasis on high-quality ingredients reinforces this position in the minds of consumers.
  • The point of positioning is to own one idea.  The brand story you tell will help position your inn in the minds of your guests and potential guests.  

Mr. Marsh advises companies to think about these questions (which I have rephrased to apply to places of hospitality):

  • What benefits do guests receive from staying at your inn?
  • How are you different from competitors and how do guests experience that difference?
  • What are the stories your guests tell about themselves now?
  • If your brand were a person, what kind of personality would it have?
  • What adjectives describe your brand?  What adjectives do not?
  • Does your B&B brand have a compelling story?  
  • How does your company’s values and mission make an impact on your guests?
  • What’s your brand’s purpose?  

Denise Lee Yohn, in her book, “What Great Brands Do: The 7 Brand-Building Principles That Separate The Best From The Rest“, argues that your brand is WHAT your company DOES and HOW you do it and NOT what you SAY you are.  It matters more what you DO.  Identify the key values and attributes that define your inn.  People buy according to how brands make them feel, or what identity they help their guests experience and express. 

Focus on the unique way you bring value to your guests.  Understand and communicate what makes your business different and better than the rest.  According to Denise, “Great brands know that if you try to be all things to all people, you’ll never connect deeply with anyone.”  She offers the following template for companies to use building their brand:

“For ________ (your target audience), we are the _____________ (frame of reference) who does ______________ (the unique value you deliver), because ______________ (the reasons why consumers should believe that you deliver value).  

According to the book “Brand Intimacy: A New Paradigm in Marketing” by Mario Natarelli and Rina Plapler, the following are types of “Brand Strategies”:

  • Fulfillment: always exceeds expectations, delivers superior quality/service, good value for the money, reliable (ex: Amazon)
  • Identity: projects a favorable lifestyle, values your target market aspires to (or identifies with) (ex: Whole Foods)
  • Enhancement: makes your life easier, more effective, smarter, more capable, more connected (ex: Apple)
  • Ritual: part of your routine, ingrained in your life, more than a habitual lifestyle behavior (ex: Starbucks)
  • Nostalgia: reminds you of your past, evokes warm memories and feelings, associates with you in some way (ex: Lego)
  • Indulgence: a personal luxury, makes you feel pampered, pleasing to the senses (taste, touch, sight, smell, sound) (ex: Sephora, a beauty brand)

In the book, “Building Your Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Your Customers Will Listen,” Donald Miller argues that stories organize information in a way that compels people to listen.  Miller advises readers to make the customer the hero of the story and to position your brand as the guide.  Focus on the success of your customers (and not the success of your business).

Donald Miller explains that since human beings have two motivations in life (to escape something bad and to experience something good), we can include these motivations in our brand stories.  Great brands obsess about the transformation of their customers. 

With the permission of each guest, you could their personal story of what their life was like before coming to your destination and how your destination impacted their life for the better.  Using guest testimonials carries a lot of weight and provides social proof.

Motivation 1: To Escape Something Bad

  • Boredom with Life (Feel Stuck in a Rut)
  • Escape the Noise/Traffic of the City or Escape the Isolation of Rural Life
  • Fast Pace of Life (Escape the Busyness and Routines of Everyday Life)
  • Perceived Lack of Quality Time with Others
  • Stress from Job (or Other Responsibilities like Education and Parenting)
  • etc.

Motivation 2: To Experience Something Good

  • Adventure (for athletes, adventurers)
  • Business Success (for corporate travelers)
  • Culture (for art and music lovers)
  • Food (breakfast, local restaurants, etc.)
  • Health (improve fitness and nutrition)
  • Relationships (for family and friendships)
  • Romance (for stengthning committed relationships)
  • Shopping (for retail therapy)
  • Sports (for sports lovers)
  • Travel (for travel buffs)
  • etc.

All businesses need to distinguish themselves from the competition.  By determining your target audience, knowing what will attract their attention, and differentiating yourself from other inns with meaningful brand stories (with your customer as the hero and your brand as the guide), you can feature reasons why potential guests should escape their current circumstances to experience a variety of pleasant experiences that all begin with a stay at your place of hospitality.  This is how to easily brand your bed and breakfast inn.

Need help branding your bed and breakfast inn?  Contact Kristi Dement of Bed and Breakfast Blogging for a free phone consultation.  

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Do You Know What Your Guests Really Crave?

Do you know what your guests really crave? What Customers Crave: How to Create Relevant and Memorable Experiences at Every Touchpoint by popular speaker and corporate strategist Nicholas J. Webb gives more insight into the desires of customers.  Mr. Webb explains with customers being able to rate their experiences and express their opinions online so easily, especially on websites like Amazon, TripAdvisor, and Yelp; there has been an irreversible shift of power from businesses to consumers. There is no place to hide for those who deliver poor products and services because they will be vetted by customers who will share that information throughout cyberspace forever. 

Mr. Nicholas Webb argues that we, as business people, first must understand our consumers better and then create relevant experiences to specific customer types.  What does he mean by “types”?  Simply, knowing what customers love and what customers hate.  Make the effort to understand what customer types we serve, and then learn what those types love and what they hate to design beautiful experiences throughout your time together.

5 Critical Touchpoints:

  • The pre-touch moment is when your potential guests are checking you out online and looking at how you maintain your inn.
  • The first-touch moment sets the theme for how your customer will view their experience with you.
  • The core-touch moment represents how you serve them throughout their stay.
  • The past-touch moment is the final experience they have with you so send them off with a memorable good-bye, so they want to come back. 
  • The in-touch moment is how you stay connected with them after their experience with you.  Consistently and pleasantly provide them with ongoing value so they willingly want to come back.  This is not the time to be sales-y.

When you go far above what they expect, you have given them a memorable experience.  Listen to your customers.  Read their comments in reviews and in your guest books.  Ask your guests when they book how they found you and if there is a reason for their visit. 

Webb advises that you must invent the experiences that fit your market, service product, and customer types. Not sure of your audience(s)? Create a one-sentence mission statement that is powerful and to the point.  It should define the foundation for why you are in business.  

The author writes about an experience he had staying at a luxury hotel in San Jose, California.  At the extravagant price he was charged, he expected an extraordinarily high level of service.  He was disappointed with several things:

  • He found a plastic card informing him that he would be paying $29.99 a night for internet service (most B&B inns offer free wireless internet)
  • There was a large Evian bottle with a card hanging from its neck reading, “Enjoy this for $19.95” (B&B inns are known for giving their guests access to free refreshments and goodies)
  • On the back of the remote there was a sticker warning him that if he stole the remote, he would be charged for it (given the unlikelihood of a “remote-control heist”, he said he would forgo the label that insults a customer’s integrity)

Webb points out that when your customers love you, they will buy more and stay longer all while referring their friends and family to stay with you.  However, if you deliver only what your customers expect, Webb states that you will lose your guests to a competitor that wows them.  The “innovation zone” is where you begin to exceed your customers’ expectations.  The better you get at this, the further you will rise.  

What gets even better is that your customers will become your marketing machines through social media and word of mouth and you will rapidly build a reputation as the best place to stay in your local area.  Satisfied customers will nurture you with sales, repeat visits, referrals, and incredibly powerful ratings on social media as well as through digital sharing.  

Nicholas Webb reminds us that acquiring new guests is much more expensive than keeping current guests.  That is why we should deliver exceptional and relevant experiences to build an excellent reputation across all touch points and to all customer types.  

If your price is less than the value customers expect, you will increase sales as well as happy customers.  However, if the price exceeds the value customers expect to receive from you, they will leave in droves.  

As you begin to distinguish between customer types, your perspective on how you view customer expectations changes. You can see the world through your customers’ eyes, including what they love and what they hate.  

You customers can clue you in to areas that need improvement and tell you how to improve them, which allows you to provide the most exceptional and relevant experiences.  Reward your guests who present ideas on how to improve their experience at various touchpoints.  If customers leave because they are not being properly served, your hospitality business eventually fails.  

Mr. Webb advocates for collaboration with people in your same industry since it can add to greater mutual prosperity through an exchange of ideas, experiences, and skills.  This explains why bed and breakfast inn associations are a great resource.  There is strength in coming together as fellow proprietors who want to offer the best hospitality possible.  

Your customers can do a complete background search on your business literally in seconds. To stay on top of your business reputation, Nicholas recommends using Google Alerts on keywords that are relevant to your business name, industry, and competition.

Put together a contest encouraging people to specify what they love and what they hate in overnight accommodations.  Reward prizes to the top three people who offer most helpful suggestions (such as a free night’s stay or free room upgrade during their next visit).  

Mr. Webb gives practical tips for making an upset customer (guest) a lifelong guest in five easy steps:

  • State to the customer that you intend to listen to them and work hard to make them happy.
  • Know that sometimes you just need to remain quiet while the customer releases steam and talks about why they are upset (if you listen carefully, you can learn what will make them happy).
  • Confirm with them that you heard them correctly by restating it back to them and asking if that is correct.
  • Offer a solution based on what you learned from carefully listening.
  • Follow up on the mistake to make sure you met with their approval (this shows them that making the situation right was a priority for you & your inn).

Great organizations love their customers and want them to be happy.  Businesses get better when companies get better.  Constantly look for ways to reinvent the customer experience by removing pain and adding pleasure.  

Always leave your guests wanting more!  Continue to provide exceptional service throughout their stay.  Customer experiences are not just one event, but a series of events.  Think of your last touch as a way to prove to your guests that you love and cherish the relationship.  Then continue the relationship by offering personal, relevant, and valuable information on your website, in social media, and in e-newsletters.  

Providing excellent service is vital to those in the hospitality industry.  Mr. Webb stated that one of his clients who operates high-end lodges and resort hotels started having team members take pictures of the guests throughout their stay and a few weeks after guests returned home, they would receive a complimentary and beautifully bound photo album ($40) delivered to them (for less than $20).  Annual re-bookings increased by 78%!

What’s more is that hundreds of customers posted the pictures on their social media which resulted in a 20% uptick in new bookings because of this practice.  Today, guests are also sent a digital photo album to make it easier for them to share their photos on influential social networks.  This proved to be a fabulous idea well worth the investment because of the additional business (from returning guests and new guests).

Taking Mr. Nicholas Webb’s advice, we should discover what our guests love and what they hate.  Of course, this depends upon who we are trying to attract.  What types of guests stay at your B&B?  Are these your ideal guests?  What do your ideal guests love and what do they hate?   Keep track of all of your ideas, brainstorm with employees or others in your industry, and listen to your guests, so you can know what your guests really crave.

How One Man Immediately Improved His Company

They Ask, You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer by Marcus Sheridan is a must read for business owners, including those in the hospitality industry.  Mashable rated this the #1 marketing book to read in 2017.  It is the true story of how one man immediately improved his company.

Mr. Sheridan, a co-owner of River Pools and Spas, in the wake of the 2008 economy struggles, witnessed his business rapidly declining.  Rather than see his company go bankrupt, he decided if he simply answered the questions that people were asking about pools on his website (writing articles and making videos), he could become an authority and go-to resource that people could trust.  According to Marcus, the business we are all in is trust.

We must understand what our customer is searching for, asking, feeling, and fearing. We must not be afraid any and all questions.  First, he brainstormed all of the questions he received about fiberglass swimming pools. Then he spent all his spare time answering these questions.  

He emphasizes that business owners should take on more of the “teacher” mentality than the sales role.  Sheridan advocates against sticking your head in the sand (like the myth that ostriches do) and hoping your problems go away.  Rather, he argues that we should do everything we can to earn our customer’s trust.  

He uses CarMax as an example of a company that admitted their industry (selling used cars) had no consumer trust, and gave examples of what they did to earn back people’s trust:

  • One price is listed for vehicles (nothing more and nothing less)
  • Sales team is given the same commission regardless of what vehicle is sold
  • A five-day money back guarantee to those who purchase their used cars
  • An intensive inspection process that all their cars go through
  • A CarFax vehicle history report that details its history of repairs
  • Listing the Kelley Blue Book Value with all their vehicles

This eliminated the four major fears that used car buyers have:

  • Dealing with the salesperson
  • Buyer’s remorse
  • Buying a lemon
  • Not getting ripped off

Brainstorm every single reason why someone would not buy from your company (or for the case of innkeepers, stay at their B&B).  How many of these reasons have been addressed by your website?  Sheridan said that most companies never take the time to properly address the biggest fears of their consumers.  For example, bed and breakfast inns should educate their potential guests on how they are different from hotels.  

Marcus advises that it does not matter what you or I think, but what the consumers think, how they behave, and what they expect.  Are we willing to meet their expectations? Write out the specific messages you want to get across to your most ideal guests.  Figure out what your guests are thinking, feeling, asking, and going through. Assume your potential guests already know about all of the alternative places to stay in your local area.  

Sheridan very boldly made a list of the pluses and minuses of his competitors’ pools.  Because he stayed objective, and based his information on facts, he was able to gain a lot of trust from others.  Some of his competitors were surprised (and even thankful) that their brands were mentioned in his blog post.  Of course, others were disappointed at his reviews, and a few even threatened to sue him, but because it was based on fact there was nothing they could do. By explaining the pros and cons of each type of swimming pool, he let the consumer decide what was best for their needs.  The key is the willingness to objectively address his competition and become a trusted source in his industry. 

Marcus urges business owners to have a steadfast commitment to helping consumers make the most well-informed purchasing decisions as possible.  Sheridan asserts that the most successful companies have a very clear understanding of the fact that they are not a good fit for everyone.  Focus only on the group that matters–the customers–and not the competition or guests that are not a good fit for what your inn offers.  Be a resource to help them make the best decision for themselves.  Distill the facts into simple-to-understand words that travelers find helpful.  

Every time someone consumes a piece of your content (video, article, etc.), the trust factor continues to rise.  In fact, with River Pools and Spas, they discovered that if someone read thirty or more of their website pages before their initial sales appointment, they would buy from them 80% of the time whereas if they didn’t read thirty or more pages, the average closing rate in terms of appointment-to-sale was only 20%.  

The moment your prospect sees you as more of a teacher than versus a salesperson, the amount of respect dramatically increases.  The goal of Google (and other search engines) is to give its customer (the searcher) the best, most specific answer to their question (or need, problem, query, etc.) in that very moment.  Places of hospitality that regularly offer fresh content that answers questions, will get more visitors to their website which can lead to more visitors to their inn.

Did you know that one-third of all time spent online is watching video?  Thus, videos and video blogs (vlogs) can be extremely beneficial.  People care about having their questions and concerns answered.  Sheridan recommends that for those just getting started on adding more content to their website, that they begin with the big five subjects:

  • Cost (focus on showing your value with customized packages)
  • Problems (address problems such as food allergies and handicap accessibility)
  • Comparisons (don’t be afraid to make a list of the pros and cons of your local competitors if they are based on fact)
  • Reviews (feature five-star guest reviews on your website and in social media)
  • Best of (feature the best of your local community: restaurants, attractions, etc.)

Please note, I am not being compensated for this book review, I really enjoyed reading this book and I know it will inspire other business owners, especially owners of places of hospitality such as bed and breakfast inns and restaurants.  If you would like a free phone consultation with Kristi Dement of Bed and Breakfast Blogging, I would be happy to speak with you about generating more traffic to your website with a focus on increasing the bottom line of your business.

Catapult Your Business Growth with Gift Cards

Did you know you can catapult your business growth with gift cards?  Bed and breakfast gift cards work well for both innkeepers and guests.  Individual inns as well as B&B associations offer gift cards or gift certificates for purchase. The North Carolina Bed and Breakfast Inns (NCBBI) makes their gift certificates available in $50 increments and guests can use them at any of their member inns.  

Special Occasions for Gift Cards:

  • Anniversaries
  • Birthdays
  • Employment appreciations
  • Holiday gifts
  • Honeymoons
  • Retirements
  • Surprising a loved one
  • Thanking a friend

Make sure you clearly communicate the the terms and conditions of your gift certificates and gift cards to those who purchase them.  You may restrict guests from using their gift certificates in combination with other offers, additional discounts, or third-party promotions.  Your place of hospitality may also exclude their use for group services including accommodations and catering for weddings and other large functions.

Be sure to state in writing that all property specific policies, including deposit, minimum stay, and cancellation policies still apply.  You may want to add that no blackout dates apply. If there is an expiration date, please state that directly on the gift certificate.  Give guests the option of allowing money left over to be put toward future stays.  

Consider offering a discount on your gift certificates or gift cards during the holidays.  Promote that they make great presents for those who are difficult to shop for!

Reasons Why We Should All Love Gift Cards:

  • Gift card recipients have the freedom to choose when they visit (as long as it is before it expires), the reason for their stay (they could save it for their birthday or anniversary), and even their choice of which inn (in the case of B&B association gift cards)
  • Gift givers do not have the usual stress involved in choosing a gift especially for the hard-to-shop-for people in your life
  • Saves time (no need for givers to drive all over the map to find the perfect gift and these are great for last-minute shoppers)
  • Saves money (givers decide the amount you want to give and stay within their budget)

If your inn or association offers gift cards or gift certificates, be sure to dedicate a web page to provide information and list all the necessary details.  Allow people to purchase your gift cards or certificates directly from your website.  Be sure to promote your gift certificates in blog posts (with their permission, share stories about guests who used gift cards).  Don’t forget that social media is a great place to announce that your inn offers gift cards.  Gift cards are a great way to catapult your B&B business growth!

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Hospitality Photography Advice From A Professional

Photos are an important part of marketing your bed and breakfast inn to travelers.  Professional hospitality photographer Marcus Berg, of Unique Angles Photography, shines the light on this crucial aspect of promoting your hospitality business. He specializes in photographing B&B’s and frankly, his talented work speaks for itself.

His company, Unique Angles Photography (UAP) was established in 1994 and over the years has created a niche in serving the hospitality industry. With exceptional attention to detail and skillful use of lighting, UAP has been privileged to work with lodging facilities that include bed & breakfasts, boutique hotels and inns. UAP also specializes in culinary and wine photography to showcase other aspects of hospitality.  Marcus is located on the West Coast in Oregon and can travel to your location. 

Looking back, Marcus explains that he and his wife were spending an anniversary at a B&B and as he looked at their website; being an architectural photographer, he offered his services to improve their images. The second inn they visited, Marcus made the same offer and that innkeeper recommended he attend a B&B conference. Marcus said he’s been hooked on B&B’s ever since.

According to Mr. Berg, “It’s really not the equipment that is going to make the difference, it’s what the eye sees. It’s all about the lighting and where it’s placed. Turn on lights and try to bounce your additional lights off the ceiling.”  A poorly lit room can come off as stuffy, dark and small and may not be appealing to a traveler.  Utilize natural light to make your rooms shine. Taking interior photos during the middle of the day will help you maximize the sunlight.

According to Marcus, less is best.  The more you have the room cleaned the better.  Clutter in the background of an image can make your place less appealing.  Windows are often overlooked.  Remove the screen and clean the glass.  Hide the clocks, garbage can & telephone.  Set room up with some props for an invitational image, such as a robe, wine, fruit, coffee mug, chocolate, newspaper/book, reading glasses etc.

Marcus uses Photoshop to help with fixing his images.  Several things can be done on the computer. Lighting can be worked with, and levels of color to enhance the image. Removing reflections or unwanted objects and sharpening can also be done.

Berg advises that if you are going to do the exterior of the location, it’s usually best to have the sun behind you, which goes for interior photos too.  The two best times he likes to shoot is early in the morning or just at sunset or “the golden hour”.  One thing you want to stay away from is taking interior photos at night.

Avoid people in your photos, particularly when it comes to room or bathroom shots, as travelers want to imagine themselves in those spaces, not other people. 

When it comes to staging photos, set your dining room and guest rooms how you would normally but pay extra attention to background. Make sure TVs are turned off and wall decor is straight. Also, consider putting flowers and champagne next to the bed. A professional photographer can help with staging your rooms for photos.

Make your setting as inviting as possible.  For instance, taking a photo of a nice looking bed is great, however, if you turn down that same bed and add an inviting cup of coffee with and a flower, you have just turned that photo into something much more enticing.

In working with his clients, he begins with an agreed upon project and date. Upon his arrival, Marcus meets with the innkeeper(s) and reviews what they want to focus on.  He tries to use as many props as are available at the location.  We may choose to bring outside props in, such as flowers or wine/cheese plate.

Depending on the size of the facility, Marcus spends most of his time shooting the inn.  When editing photos, don’t add any borders, watermarks, arrows, or text. Photos are literally the window to marketing your B&B. Hiring a professional photographer, like Marcus Berg, is worth the investment. Marcus recommends that photos are at least 1024 x 768 pixels.

At the end of the shoot, Mr. Berg comes back to his office and then the work continues to prepare each image for its final print.  Once all the photos are done, he prepares a DVD in both a JPEG and TIFF file for the client.  JPEG is for the internet and the TIFF file is for printing or publication.

Potentially interested innkeepers can always reach him via his email address: or contact him through his website (link at the bottom). Other ways to contact Marcus Berg are through LinkedIn as well as several associations like: PAII, OBBG, CABBI, the Keizer Chamber of Commerce and the Wine and Hospitality Network.

Having high-resolution photos is no longer a luxury — it’s required. How will travelers know how great your B&B is if they can’t tell from a photo?  Photos can make or break how new visitors perceive your B&B.  Are the photographs of your B&B doing enough to invite and attract more bookings?

Thank you, Marcus, for sharing some of your professional hospitality photography advice.  I know that social audiences love stories AND they love photos. Share stories (along with your professional pictures) about how your guests enjoy all that you have to offer. 

By sharing photos on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter you can build your social following. Also, be sure to have social media icons easily visible on your website so that visitors can go directly from your website to your social media.  Make it as easy as possible for people to find your website and your social media online.  Pictures can make all the difference in the world!

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

40 Thoughts on Life Now That I Am 40

Now that I have turned 40 years old, I am writing to reflect on 40 things I have learned in my lifetime.  These thoughts are not in any order of importance nor are they meant to cover every aspect of life.  I’m sure every adult has at least 40 of their own thoughts on life.  

  1. Life is short and long at the same time.  Sometimes things seem to take forever while other times you want moments to last forever.  
  2. The older you are, the faster time goes by.  As a child, it seemed like it took forever for your birthday and Christmas to come.  Now, birthdays are a reminder to me that we will not live forever.
  3. Life can change in an instant.  Health challenges, car accidents, and other tragic events can drastically change your entire life.  
  4. You can either grow stronger or grow bitter after enduring the challenges of life.  I choose to grow stronger each day.  I am not referring to physical strength, but of growth in character and integrity as a person.  
  5. Our life is meant to be a blessing to others.  Look around you.  There is always someone less fortunate than you.  
  6. Sometimes your own time is the best gift you can give someone.  Time with the ones you love and care for.
  7.  Take time to celebrate life.  It is a gift to live every day in the PRESENT.  We cannot change the past and if we only live for the future, we can’t enjoy today.
  8. Surprise yourself or someone else in your life.  Let someone know what they mean to you by giving them a hug or telling them in words specific things you appreciate about them.
  9. As you spread love, it comes back to you.  It may not come from the same person, but you will be rewarded for your kind words and deeds. 
  10. Be grateful for the little things every day.  Thank God for things that we may take for granted.  That the sun is shining (providing us heat) or that it is raining (watering our plants and farmers’ crops).  
  11. Keep a gratitude jar with scraps of paper noting one thing each day that you are grateful for or something you heard that made you smile.  Read it aloud with family and friends on New Year’s Eve.  
  12. Life is an adventure.  Routines can help you achieve great things, but even for people that like to plan out every minute of their lives, you need to challenge yourself to do something different every day.  Drive the scenic route.  Smile at a stranger on the street.  Post something inspiring on social media.  
  13. Don’t be superstitious.  Thirteen can be a good number.  Maybe you were born on the 13th or the number 13 has another positive meaning for you.  Don’t bother with reading horoscopes or visiting psychics. Life is what you make it.
  14. In all things, lean on God.  He’s got your back if you earnestly seek Him and ask Him to help you.  He loves you and wants you to live the best life possible.  He may allow challenges in your life, but He will never allow you to experience something greater than you can handle.  
  15. Appreciate what others have done for you. There is no way you would be where you are in life today where it not for the help of other people.  Take time to thank them personally.
  16. If you are struggling financially to make ends meet, don’t be afraid to let others know.  Maybe some time in the future you can repay the favor to another person in need.  
  17. People need to know that you care.  There are people you probably know that may suffer from anxiety and depression as well as those who may be dying or in the process of recovering from a major surgery or even a stroke.  Reach out to them and listen.  Your presence in their life may be the motivation they need to live another day.
  18. It is impossible to know everything about anything.  There is always something new to learn.  Even the most accomplished people in life, continue to practice their gifts.  Surgeons learn new procedures and artists learn new techniques. You can always grow in your abilities to do something–even in areas where you are considered an expert!
  19. Everyone has their own opinions about a variety of issues.  Be less concerned about being “right” and be more concerned with how you treat others.  Kindness goes a long way.  
  20. Be a good sport when you lose at something.  This doesn’t necessarily have to be something athletic.  Whenever someone does something better than you, be thankful that they proved it possible to achieve.  There will always be people more talented than us.  What matters more is your character than your abilities.
  21. Be a good sport when you win at something.  Recognize others for their achievements and thank them for participating.  You may be a role model or mentor to them.  It is important to help make other people feel important.  
  22. People tend to respect those that show them respect. Every person deserves respect.  Wealth, prestige, and fame are what the world values.  I believe it is more important to value someone for their character.  
  23. Your character is who you are when you think no one is looking.  If you do and say what you do only to impress others, in time it will become obvious that is your motivation.  However, if you are truly being YOU, then you may inspire those around you.
  24. Look after those who cannot defend themselves.  Abuse (in all its forms) of other humans and abuse of animals must be stopped.  The sick and elderly also need looking after.  How you treat others reflects on who you are as a person.  
  25. People can change.  It is possible for people to improve their character and their life habits.  Be open to giving someone another chance.  
  26. Look for others around you that could benefit from your wisdom.  Even young people know things that older people may not.  
  27. Eat things that will fuel your body to function at its best.  The old saying is “garbage in, garbage out.”  I gave up the sugary (but oh so tasty) Chic-Fil-A frosted coffees to make my own healthy protein shakes at home.  
  28. Exercise regularly.  I need to do more than just walk my dog outside.  It may help for me to get an accountability partner to discuss my health and fitness goals.  I do know that working with weights helps build muscle tone and burn fat.  I think the more consistently I do something like exercise, the easier it will be for me to make it a good life habit.  
  29. Write down your goals in life.  Break them into smaller steps (a daily to-do list) that you can work on each day.  They say that those who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them.  
  30. Allow yourself to have fun.  Sometimes we can be so goal-oriented that we don’t reserve a little time each day to do something we enjoy.  For me, this includes spending time with family, watching movies, reading, and solving crossword puzzles.  
  31. Volunteer some of your time each week to help a person or a cause.  This gives your life more purpose.  You are contributing to something you feel is worthy of your time.  You are using your unique skill set (there is only one person exactly like you) to achieve things.  
  32. It is easier to keep things clean than to have things become messy all over again.  For example, I don’t keep many things in my car so that my car stays clean.  However, I need more discipline when it comes to my house.  I love how I feel when I just finished organizing a closet!
  33. Be your own person.  Don’t try to impress others by being someone other than yourself.  Be authentic to who you are! 
  34. Always be considerate of others around you.  You may not know everything they are going through.  Some people don’t feel comfortable sharing their personal challenges with others and they may even keep it bottled up inside.  If someone (in your opinion) overreacts to something, there may be more to the story.  Be there to listen, but don’t force them to tell you everything on their mind.
  35. Not everyone is confident in their abilities to do specific things.  There are plenty of things I’m not yet confident in my abilities to do.  I have spoken on a few webinars, but I don’t feel comfortable speaking in front of others who can see me as I am speaking.  With the webinars I’ve done, no one could look at me.  However, if you stuck me in a room full of people looking at me, I would be more nervous.  Even people who appear confident may be faking it.  Fake it until you make it!
  36. Do your best to avoid negativity.  Speak only positive words!  Replace “I can’t” with “I can”!  Swap “I don’t know how we will get this done” to “I know we will get this done.”  I don’t mean for you to be unrealistic, but belief in yourself and other people goes a long way towards achieving great things.
  37. Take deep breaths and five-minute breaks throughout your day.  Those who work nonstop are LESS productive than those who take breaks.  It is more effective to study in twenty-minute bursts followed by ten-minute breaks than it is to study without taking a break.  Your brain and your body need time to accomplish what you are learning and doing.  
  38. Better to eat and stay hydrated throughout your day than to eat one big meal each day especially late at night.  Your metabolism does not need the shock!  
  39. Do a little bit each day towards your specific and measurable goals.  Don’t wait until the last minute to do something.  That just makes it tougher on yourself (and probably the people around you).  
  40. How much time any of us has is unknown.  People are more important than money or things.  Be loving and generous towards others.  Make the most of every day! 
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