by Johannes Tromp
Innkeepers with exposure on the internet will certainly have become familiar with the myriad of directories available to the B&B industry. The profit potential for directory owners is significant enough to attract a constant new batch of such directories and their off-spring. You might receive at least one or two new offers a week to be listed on new directories for the hospitality business in general or B&B’s specifically. But beware: while you must maximize your internet marketing in order to increase your occupancy rate, you are at peril of wasting precious marketing dollars on non-producing or overpriced directories. To justify our own internet marketing expenses, I analyzed Kilburnie sales sources over the last 3 years, and noted that 62% of our new and repeat business was generated through our presence on the internet. This percentage is significant and very telling of the times in which we are operating.
Through the internet we have reached a world-wide audience, which has brought visitors to our inn from Europe, Asia, Australia and even Africa. Never in my wildest imagination would I have expected guests from those locales. Fortunately our property, Kilburnie, the Inn at Craig Farm, is only a 45-minute drive from Charlotte Douglas International Airport and has gained the enviable reputation of being the perfect gateway to the Carolinas for foreign visitors.
The analysis also showed the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of each directory. The consistent top producer for our operation is www.bbonline.com, followed by www.bedandbreakfast.com. Few of the many other directories we use have produced measurable results. Picking the best-producing sites is using your marketing dollars wisely. You should see a measurable average occupancy increase. Some directories, however, are more concerned with their own growth and success than their effectiveness for your business. (Again, buyer beware). For instance, some directories offer competitive bidding for featured listings. This undercuts the value of participation because in addition to the annual fee one has to spend considerable amounts of money to even be noticed on such directory for which you already have paid good money.
In addition to being listed on B&B directories, try linking your inn’s web site to as many free directories and search sites as possible. These could include association sites, state tourism sites, Chamber of Commerce sites etc. An excellent free guide for marketing your inn on the internet can be requested from Blizzard Internet Marketing. Visit their web site at www.blizzardinternet.com. This handy and easy-to-read guide, written by Trent and Susan Blizzard, has plenty of tips to help any innkeeper become internet savvy.
Your inn’s web site should be informative, attractive, invitational, and easy to navigate. Keep in mind that you have only one chance to capture the attention of potential guests surfing the net. Your website should reflect your business realistically and be representative of the style of hospitality and services your inn offers. Try to present your inn from the guest’s perspective. Innkeepers often get so wrapped up with the personality and/or history of their inn that they tend to forget what the guests are looking for. Your web site must appeal to your potential guest’s quest for comfort and hospitality. Understating the positives of your B&B leaves room for guests to discover the “rest of the story” on their own. In the process, they will be pleasantly surprised, and you will garner more repeat business. Overstating the facts on your web site leads to disappointment and a resulting loss of future business.
Do compare your website with those of other B&B’s. Seek out professional assistance if your site is not comparable to those of inns in your area, or fails to produce a reasonable amount of traffic to your inn. Updating your web site at least annually is a must. Ideally, you should be reviewing your site at least once a month. This may seem like a lot of work, but it pays off. Most households in the USA now have access to the internet and potential guests on-line are quite sophisticated in surfing the internet. Few potential guests have the patience for slow-downloading sites, or sites which are difficult to navigate. Bear in mind that high-speed internet access is not available in some areas. Keep your site as simple as possible without losing visual impact. An alternative solution may be to split your site into high-speed and dial-up access versions. You cannot afford to lose business because of an inadequately designed site.
Finally, take a critical look at your State Association’s web site. Many of those I have visited do not meet the standard of contemporary expectations, are not comprehensive, and often are difficult to navigate. Speak up if this is the case in your state! After all, it is your business.
Johannes hails from Holland, where he was trained in the classical European manner to be a chef. He immigrated to the USA in 1973, where he started his own catering business. After moving to New York City in 1979 he was director of Catering at the Rainbow Room on top of Rockefeller Center and later became General Manager of the Windows on the World restaurant complex on top the World Trade Center. He settled in Lancaster, South Carolina in 1998 to oversee the restoration of Kilburnie.
Please address article comments to: Claude or Mariette Gagne ~ The B&B and Country Inn MarketPlace
926 Lenoir Rhyne Blvd., SE, Hickory, NC 28602 | Email us
Toll free 877-828-2323, Office: 828-324-7291