Maximizing your Area and Existing Markets
by Pamela Lanier
In order to make your innkeeping venture successful, the continuous and creative marketing of your property in a wide variety of venues is imperative. Since people search out information in many different ways, it’s important to utilize all available media. And, marketing your inn doesn’t have to take a huge budget.
Network within Your Community
Work within your local community and establish relationships that are mutually beneficial. One innkeeper handed out brochures to local businesses, large and small, thereby increasing awareness of his inn. Work with local businesses to create coupons and specials just for your guests. Great sources for prospective inngoers are colleges, universities and trade schools in your area. Get in touch with their administrative offices and find out when big events will be happening, then coordinate specials to encourage visiting parents to stay at your inn. College reunions are another bed-filler. Contact the reunion coordinator to get the schedule.
In addition, your local chamber of commerce, visitors’ bureau and tourist center are great sources for guests. This is true for regional tourist publications as well. Keep them involved by sending them your newsletter or press packet, and keep them stocked with your rack cards. Always, always carry your business cards and keep brochures or rack cards in your car. Make sure to attend as many local civic functions as possible such as Rotary, Lions, Parks and Recreation, etc. and remind them about your “spare” room for their visiting friends.
More Ideas that Really Work
a) Donate, Donate, Donate – Donate a free room mid-week to a cause or event that a radio or TV station is sponsoring, especially your local public TV station (to YMCA, ballet or symphony, etc.) The same applies to public radio. While they are promoting the event, you will hear your inn’s name mentioned over and over – great advertising!
b) Be Involved in Community Activities – Garden Clubs and other women’s groups host different events during the year such as teas, fashion shows, and craft boutiques. You can donate your inn (or have a special non-profit rate) for the event and charge for a luncheon afterwards. Or, feature your inn in a Tour of Homes for a community fundraiser. During the holidays, team up with other inns in your area for your own Inn to Inn Christmas tour. Serve your best holiday cookies and offer a tour of your inn adorned in all its holiday finery. Remember to provide a brochure to every one who visits so they can share it with family and friends.
c) Get your name out to local businesses – Contact local realtors and have them gather at your inn to begin their caravan tour of homes for sale. Provide them with your brochure so that their clients coming from out of town can stay with you while they search for a new home. For local corporations, contact the Human Resources Department, and meet with the coordinator to drop off a cookie tray and brochures. Let them know that you are there to assist with clients visiting from out of town, for small corporate retreats, luncheons, dinners or special events.
A simple and very effective marketing tool is to make sure that your Internet and guidebook listings are kept current offering the best and newest information. Make sure that your Internet listings are easy to view and to update, especially if they have a way to do the updating yourself. Guidebooks continue to be one of the top three sources of reservations. Don’t overlook them. Readers often equate to mature and affluent “Golden Guests.”
Marketing your inn may sound overwhelming, but it’s not. Instead think of it as a One-A-Day Plan. Do one thing every day and by the end of the year you will have done over 200 marketing activities, which will reap benefits into the future. Don’t forget to keep handing out your business cards. You never know when an opportunity to promote your inn may come up – in the bank, at the grocery store, doing all the normal things. It is just a matter of being open to the possibilities.
Pamela Lanier is author of The Complete Guide to Bed & Breakfasts, Inns and Guesthouses, presently in its 18th annual edition, host of TravelGuideS.com available on over 7,000 Internet sites and portals and, with a membership of over 6,000 inns, hers is the largest organization worldwide of independent innkeepers.
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