Tag Archives: marketing

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: uniqueangles@gmail.com 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

How To Profit From Designing Bed and Breakfast Retreats


bed-and-breakfast-retreats

Bed and breakfast retreats can be very profitable for bed and breakfast inn owners. I will be presenting on an upcoming Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII) webinar.  Here is the blurb:

“From dreaming to planning and pricing to marketing, Kristi Dement will show you how to profit from designing retreats at your bed and breakfast.  She will reveal 15 different types of B&B retreats that your inn could host.  Plus, learn several reasons we should all love retreats!”

We will discuss:

  • 3 Essential Questions To Ask in the Dreaming Phase
  • Understanding the Role of Activities and Breaks
  • Crucial Planning Considerations
  • Option of Working with Outside Professionals
  • Types of Retreats and The Importance of Names
  • Customizing Retreats for Specific Clients
  • Critical Retreat Policies to Have in Place
  • Retreat Pricing Guidelines
  • Structuring Your Retreat
  • Building Retreat Buzz
  • Key Retreat Marketing Strategies
  • Reasons to Love Retreats

Throughout the Professional Association of Innkeepers International webinar, I will be sharing the images (like the one above) from talented hospitality photographer Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography.  

Click here for the blog post with a link to the YouTube video of my previous PAII webinar called, “How You Can Profit From Creating Memorable Guest Packages” led by Heather Turner, the Marketing Director for the Professional Association of Innkeepers International.

This PAII webinar is scheduled to take place on Wednesday January 25 at 2 pm.  After the webinar, I will provide a link to the presentation right here.  To get more ideas for designing retreats, look at BnBFinder’s website under Specials and then Classes, Courses, and Workshops.  

If you can think of another issue for me to address, with regards to designing bed and breakfast retreats, please feel free to comment below.  Alternatively, if you have experience leading bed and breakfast retreats, I welcome you to introduce yourself.  Tell us the name of your inn and where it is located and let us know what has worked well for your bed and breakfast retreats.

How To Let Someone Know About Your Inn


Unique Angles Photography beach mural bedroom

How to let someone know about your inn…there are many ways to do this.  The more creative and original you let them know about your inn, the more likely you will get bookings.  Try answering questions that they will likely want to know.

  • Why do most people stay at your bed and breakfast?
  • What do guests love most about your inn?
  • What are you most known for?
  • What makes your inn unique?
  • Why do most people visit your city?
  • What is the best kept secret about your area?

It is important to understand why people stay at your bed and breakfast.  There could be many reasons, including some of the following:

  • Your luxurious amenities
  • Your gourmet breakfasts
  • Your warm hosptiality
  • Your ideal location
  • Your thoughtful packages
  • Your reasonable rates

Unique Angles Photography hot tub with brownie and sundae

Pay attention to your guest comments and feedback.  Keep track of guest compliments so you are sure to continue getting that response.  On the flip side, make note of negative feedback, so you can make the appropriate changes.  Knowing what guests love the most (and what they don’t love at all) helps you provide the best environment possible to your guests.

Are you, your inn, or your area famous for anything?  For example, you could have won a breakfast recipe. Your inn may have received a prestigious award.  You area could be home to the world’s most awesome event.

Be sure to emphasize these accolades in your marketing messages.  Marketing messages can be spoken (e.g. what you tell your guests in person or over the phone), be online (e.g. your blog, newsletter, or website), or be in print (e.g. your sign or your brochure).

It is fundamental that you know what makes your inn so special.  What do you offer that other area accommodations do not?  In marketing, this is called your “unique selling point(s).”

What attracts people to your local area?  It could be one or more of the following:

  • Business
  • Concerts
  • Conferences
  • Festivals
  • Nature
  • Sports
  • Universities

In response to the question, “What is your area’s best kept secret?” you could reply in any of the following ways:

  • Tell about a famous local legend
  • Recommend your favorite local restaurant
  • Reveal a local hot spot not commonly known to tourists
  • Reassure them you are not hiding any local area secrets and that you will gladly answer all of their questions to the best of your ability

Thus, answering guest questions they want more information on is a great way to let someone know about your bed and breakfast inn.

Images by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Easy Ways to Better Understand Your Guests’ Lifestyles

LawnChairs-01Logo

Understand your guests’ lifestyles to satisfy their unique needs.  The more information you know about your potential guests, the better you are able to target your marketing messages and offer attractive hospitality services.

There is no point in trying to be everything to everyone.  It is rarely possible to satisfy all customers in the same way.  When you know what your potential guests’ values and what motivates them, you are better able to attract them.

Lifestyles are ways of living based on motivations, needs, and wants:

  • Activities: actions pursued for pleasure or relaxation
  • Attitudes: feelings about people, things, or situations
  • Beliefs: trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something
  • Interests: curiosity, attention, or concerns about something
  • Opinions: judgments or ways of thinking about something
  • Values: important and lasting ideals

These lifestyle factors can explain why your audience buys the products and services they do.  There is power in knowing how your prospects make their buying decisions.

How you package and promote your services is a key component of your marketing strategy.  Put together a list of different guest personas you want to attract that is based on what is in your local area, your unique talents, and your amenities.

First, ask yourself these three questions:

What is in my local area? This could be anything from college campuses, to concert venues, to national parks, to business conferences.  Once you know what is in your local area, you can better understand your potential guests’ lifestyles.

What are my unique talents?  If you are an official tour guide (local trail and/or hiking tours), a party planner (excellent anniversary parties), a massage therapist (with a spa on site), a vegetarian-only chef (cooking for vegetarians and vegans), then you have a better idea of the lifestyles’ of the guests you want to attract.

What amenities do I provide my guests?  This could be anything from game rooms, to gardens, to hot tubs, to luxurious linens, to indoor and/or outdoor pools, to tea rooms.  Understand what amenities you have that are attractive to potential guests.

Then segment your customers into different personas.  For example:

These are easy ways to better understand your guests’ lifestyles.  Then you can promote your place of hospitality (bed and breakfast, inn, resort, restaurant, etc.) on your website and through social media.

Kristi Dement at Bed and Breakfast Blogging can help you attract more guests.  Click here to contact me and/or feel free to comment below on what you do to attract more guests.

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

NC Bed and Breakfast Inns

NCBBI logo

NC Bed and Breakfast Inns Association was established in 1985.  For thirty years, they have been dedicated to serving those traveling to North Carolina.  This non-profit, statewide organization recognized the need for an association to ensure high standards in safety, housekeeping, food service, comfort, and hospitality for all member inns.  This allows the traveling public to have confidence in their B&B lodging.

NCBBI is the first state association in the United States to require rigorous inspections as a condition of membership.  To maintain these standards, NCBBI re-inspects member inns every two years.  There are many benefits to bed and breakfast membership in the NCBBI association:

  • Networking, educational, and marketing opportunities
  • Remain knowledgeable and up-to-date about meeting the needs of travelers
  • Keep up with the latest requirements for state and local laws and standards
  • Show potential guests that they can expect a higher level of service
  • The prestige and credibility of passing their rigorous inspection
  • Regular blog and social media activity
  • Their printed travel planners found at welcome centers, tourism attractions, visitor bureaus & chambers of commerce throughout North Carolina
  • Quarterly newsletters and monthly emails with important industry-related news, alerts, opportunities, reminders, and updates

 

From East to West, North Carolina measures 580 miles. That is more than a day’s drive, so NCBBI encourages guests to stay in more than one region as they travel around our gorgeous state. Based on the topography of North Carolina, the association has assigned three different regions.

  • Coastal Region: to find the perfect B&B in the Coast, near the Atlantic Ocean, beautiful beaches, birding, water sports, boating and summer fun.
  • Piedmont Region: to find the perfect B&B in the middle Piedmont region, where you’ll find dynamic growing cities, wineries, universities, golf, lakes and rivers.
  • Mountain Region: to find the perfect B&B in the Western Mountains region, home to the beautiful Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge parkway, the Biltmore Estate, waterfalls, hiking and fall foliage.

The North Carolina Bed and Breakfast Inns Association features specials and packages from member inns on their website.  The specials include for military, veterans, and emergency workers (like police, fire and EMS) as well as last minute guestsInnkeepers also offer creative packages so guests can relax and enjoy their stay:

North Carolina Bed and Breakfast CookbookBlue Gift certificate (Voucher) template. Pattern Royalty Free Stock Image

From their website, The North Carolina Bed and Breakfast Inns Association offer its online visitors an opportunity to purchase their NCBBI cookbook so they can sample the best of North Carolina cooking with their collection of bed and breakfast and inn recipes. In addition to the cookbook, give the gift of memories by purchasing lodging gift certificates (available in $50 increments) that may be used at any NCBBI member B&B.  An NCBBI gift certificate is a thoughtful way to say “thank you” or to surprise someone special. They are also great gifts for special occasions like anniversaries, honeymoons, birthdays, and retirements.

The NCBBI website lists North Carolina events (searching either by name, type of event, event date, or venue).   They also provide a way to search for local North Carolina attractions by its name, location and type of attraction, or by a specific local area (within a designated amount of miles).

Bed and Breakfast Blogging has even featured some of the NCBBI inns on this blog:

If your bed and breakfast is located in another state, we have a link to other state bed and breakfast associations.  Together you can promote all the wonderful things that your state has to offer its visitors.  You can educate potential guests about everything that comes included when they stay at a bed and breakfast.  You will also have a network of innkeepers with which to ask questions and refer each other business when your own inns are full.  Those are just some of the many reasons why it is important to belong to a bed and breakfast association.

4 Secrets to Biltmore Success

secrets-to-Biltmore-success

What are some of the secrets to Biltmore success?  I am referring to America’s largest private residence, the two-hundred and fifty room Biltmore Estate.  After six years of construction while collaborating with architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead, on Christmas Eve in 1895 George Vanderbilt officially opened Biltmore House.

George Vanderbilt pictured the possibilities for his family and friends on his eight thousand acres of Blue Ridge Mountain beauty.  In present day, the Estate includes:

  • delightful shops
  • four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate
  • gorgeous gardens
  • romantic restaurants
  • wonderful winery

Today, with two hundred full-time employees and a total of over eighteen-hundred employees working for The Biltmore, bed and breakfast owners may wonder what they have in common this hospitality giant.  If we can understand what helps make the Biltmore such a success, then hoteliers (as well as owners of restaurants, shops, and wineries) can apply this knowledge to run their own hospitality businesses better.

Secret #1: Offer add-ons, like tours and activities, to your guests.  This caters to individuals who have the ability and desire to pay more for these additional benefits.

The visitors to the Biltmore Estate can opt for additional tours:

  • Audio Guide to Biltmore House: capture the feeling of being guided through Biltmore’s grand rooms by our curators and hosts on this ninety-minute audio tour filled with stories about the Vanderbilts and treasures in their collection
  • Behind-the-Scenes Guided Upstairs-Downstairs Tour: in this sixty-minute guided tour, descend the back stairs to explore servant life at Biltmore, discover cutting-edge technology that kept America’s largest home humming, visit the domains of the butler, head housekeeper, and lady’s maids, then continue on to a suite of guest rooms to learn about grand house parties hosted by the Vanderbilts
  • Rooftop Tour: enjoy amazing views from rooftops and balconies and get a closer look at the design and construction of the Biltmore House with this sixty-minute guided tour of areas not on the regular house visit
  • Legacy of the Land Tour: take a motor coach tour of the estate and learn about the history of the land, structures, and former residents while visiting areas not usually open to guests

For an additional cost, visitors to the Biltmore Estate can participate in certain activities (available seasonally):

  • Biking
  • Carriage Rides
  • Fly-fishing School
  • Guided Horseback Trail Rides
  • Land Rover Experience Driving School
  • River Rafting, Kayaking, and Paddleboarding Trips
  • Segway Basic, Off-Road, and West Side Tours
  • Sporting Clays School

Morehead Manor Bed and Breakfast of Durham, North Carolina gives guests options for extras, such as:

Rosemary House Bed and Breakfast of Pittsboro, North Carolina offers add-ons, such as:

  • bouquet of roses or variety of flowers
  • chocolate-dipped strawberries
  • fruit and cheese plate
  • handmade Deneen pottery mugs
  • restaurant gift certificates
  • wine tastings for two at five local wineries

Secret #2: Variety encourages your guests to return.  Always keep things fresh.  Each Biltmore experience is different.  As the seasons and their themes change, so does their décor and displays.

For example, during our visit to the Biltmore, they had a Downton Abbey theme and featured real gowns worn on that popular British television show.  They had signs informing visitors about the material of the gown and what was happening in history during the time it was made as well as more information about the character who wore it on the television show.  A Biltmore employee revealed to us that each gown was literally made in that time period or individually hand-made to be authentic to that time.

Many inns choose to decorate during major holidays, such as Christmas.  One of the Biltmore’s biggest attractions are its Christmas displays.  In addition to the obvious holidays, how about choosing a less commonly celebrated holiday like Arbor Day?  Plant a tree in the backyard of your bed and breakfast.  Then show the growth of that tree by taking its picture each year.  Many innkeepers have their inn for more than twenty years, so this could really be a focal point in your yard.

On the topic of gardening and variety, Biltmore plants things that will bloom at different times of the year.  The acres of gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the father of American landscape architecture. That way whenever people visit, they will see something pretty.  When we visited the Biltmore Gardens, the tulips were in full bloom.

Secret #3: Offer a closer look at your inn.  The Biltmore Estate is full of carefully researched stories of its past.  The people who lived and worked at Biltmore, the events and people they hosted, and how historical events (including war) affected them.  The Biltmore has many stories to tell.

I was impressed that was a huge painting of the architect and one of the gardener.  The audio guide noted that this was rare for a wealthy person to have portraits made of two people that worked for the family.  This is a testament to how George Vanderbilt honored his employees and valued their contributions to the overall look of his estate.

1898 Waverly Inn of Pittsboro, NC has photo albums with historical pictures of the people that actually lived at their inn.  The Esmeralda Inn and Restaurant of Chimney Rock, NC also is full of history, including a Presidential visit and two fires.  If your inn is brand new, then share pictures of its construction and let your guests know the steps it took from the time you decided to build your bed and breakfast to the time that you opened your doors.

Find your bed and breakfasts’ story.  Some name their rooms after a significant person in history or after their official state symbols such as the state bird and state tree.  Then you can tell stories about the people who made important contributions in history or about how your state symbols came to be.

Secret #4: Make visitors feel welcomed and appreciated.  Biltmore employees are very attentive, polite, knowledgeable, and helpful.   They go out of their way to help you and smile while doing so.  Let that be said of you and your inn.  Extend to your guests your greatest hospitality, and they will reward you by returning and referring others to visit.

While there is no other place quite like the Biltmore Estate, we can implement some of their secrets and apply it to achieving our own success. Innkeepers can ask themselves if they offer extras, create a variety of looks and themes throughout the year, reveal a deeper look to guests, and help their guests feel appreciated. May your place of hospitality be profitable like the Biltmore.

Do you want help marketing your bed and breakfast onlineBed and Breakfast Blogging writes search-engine-optimized blogs as well as gives inns an active presence in social media.  Let us do that work for you so you can focus on what you do best!

The Art of Social Selling

the-art-of-social-selling

I highly recommend Shannon Belew’s book called The Art of Social Selling: Finding and Engaging Customers on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and Other Social Networks. Belew says the power has shifted from the brand to the consumer.  Marketing has become a two-way conversation with the customer.  The art of social selling is based entirely on your ability to build relationships.

Did you know that over one BILLION people are active on social networks? Thus, it is extremely important that you know where your customers are hanging out.

Shannon Belew defines “social selling” as the identification, targeting, and reaching out to prospective and existing customers through social media channels and social communities in an effort to engage them in conversations that result in a potentially mutually beneficial relationship.  This means being more social (listening and conversing about the customer’s needs) and less traditional selling.  The heart of social selling is relationship building.

This book reveals Belew’s ten most important rules for online social interactions:

1) Be genuine: your social networking persona should be an extension of your real persona

2) Listen, listen, listen: to truly hear what the customer is saying so you can present a viable solution you must find and monitor conversations that relate to your prospective customer’s needs, concerns, and interests with the goal of remaining relevant to your customers

3) Be responsive: to customer-related complaints and concerns voiced across social media channels

4) Follow the leader: follow group guidelines, watch how members participate and interact with one another

5) Tailor the conversation: find common ground and share information relevant to your audience

6) Be helpful: offer educational opportunities, general support, and even inspiration

7) Identify the enter and exit signs: know if it is polite to enter the online interaction and make sure to exit gracefully

8) Maintain separation of professional and personal: make sure what you share is suitable for both audiences

9) Be consistent: give people a clear expectation of who you are and what your area of expertise is

10) Admit when you are wrong: be willing to apologize, it is a sign of strength and goodwill

Shannon Belew’s concept of “unselling:

  • Unselling is a process that occurs over time
  • Requires consistent interaction with your prospects via social media
  • This establishes your credibility as a good resource
  • Identify and interact with industry influencers
  • Be a thought leader to build social influence
  • Embrace consultative sales in which you are developing conversations that educate and assist the prospect through the buying process
  • This opens the door to an increased amount of sharing
  • This increases the comfort level of prospects as well as puts you in the role of expert

Belew talks about word of mouth marketing.  Social shoppers are not only influenced by their friends and family, but by perfect strangers, too.  Encourage your happy and satisfied customers to provide online testimonials.  Include your links on thank-you pages and emails. Respond to negative reviews quickly.  Thank customers publicly for their positive reviews.

In this book, Shannon Belew cites a 2013 Technorati Report that stated that blogs are the third-most influential digital or online resource and the fifth most trusted resource on the internet.  Blogs are great for sharing on social media.  Plus, points made in a blog post can be posted or tweeted on social media.  Later in the book, Belew gives specific tips about using each of the major social media channels.  This is an incredible resource for business owners.

*Please note: I am not being compensated for this review.  I just really love this book and think it will help others wanting to grow their business!

 

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

« Older Entries