Monthly Archives: March 2010

Your customer mailing list is one of the most valuable assets of your hotel or restaurant.

Building a mailing list

Your customer mailing list is one of the most valuable marketing assets of your hotel or restaurant.

I am amazed how few hotels and restaurants use e-mail marketing. It’s never too late to start building a database, and e-mail marketing is a great way to continue to build the relationship with your customers and keep you in their mind when the time comes for a return visit or when asked to make a recommendation.

Without a list, every time you want to get something in front of your guests or prospects you have to start all over again. Your list gives you the opportunity to tell every existing and potential customer about promotions, seasonal events and any other newsworthy information relevant to your niche.

The more detail you have on people who are interested in what you offer, the more often you can return to them with additional offers that are tailored to them. And the more often you do this, the more likely it is that this will result in business.

Asking for a lot of personal detail up front is, however, not very practical (and likely to be very off putting) so it’s better to gather it over time.

Offer incentives to build your list

To build your list, you may need to set up incentives for people to fill in a physical form or coupon, or sign up online and share their details. Some ideas might be:

  • Discounts or vouchers
  • Free downloads such as a guide to something of relevant interest to your target market
  • Prize draws or competitions, with relevant prizes from your own products or services
  • Access to exclusive offers or ‘members only’ offers

There are three key sources of names:

Existing customers: Simply ask them to leave their business card, or, filling out a blank card which enables those who’d rather not give their business details to fill in their personal contact details. Present this with their bill so it gets their attention.

Online: This may be existing customers, but more likely will be for people in response to an advert or people who have just stumbled on your website.  You’ll need an ‘opt in’ or ‘landing’ page to capture their details.  As there is no relationship yet with these people you need a really enticing offer to encourage people to share their details. And remember some of these may be those who may not want to buy right now.

Your joint venture partners: Ask your JV’s to give their customers your discount vouchers or an invitation to receive your exclusive offers. Then ask customers to complete their details in order to redeem them with you.

You could in theory use contact information taken from guests’ registration details, but use this sparingly and only for a follow up and very relevant offers. You’re legally entitled to contact your own customers with future offers, but ideally always seek permission to use guests’ details for any marketing activity. And of course if any guest asks not to be contacted at any time, you must respect this, and record their preference on your database.

Whichever way you capture prospects’ and customers’ contact information, under the Data Protection Act 1998 you must have permission to communicate with them. The Information Commissioner’s Office website ( shows what you need to do.

What to do with your list

Once you have your list, don’t just leave it in a drawer somewhere. There are two things to do:

Firstly have a system for safeguarding your valuable contacts and managing your list.

Then use it to keep in touch! If you intend to contact people on your list by email, the easiest way to set this up is with an email management system.

More information on managing your list and email marketing can be found in the Hotel Success Handbook.

Caroline Cooper

Why having the best hotel, B&B or guest accommodation doesn’t guarantee you bookings.

Celebrating British Tourism will attract the crowds but will they stay at your hotel or B&B?

Today is the start of British Tourism week (15th – 21st March) and the whole country is being promoted. This should mean an increase in awareness and enquiries for guest accommodation and holiday bookings. But how can hotel, B&B and guest accommodation owners ensure they get these bookings? They need a plan.

Well, I’m delighted to announce that help is at hand to help with that plan. My new book – the Hotel Success Handbook is published this week.

The handbook is a practical guide to marketing actions, sales tips, staff training ideas, operational must do’s (and don’ts) to help owners and managers fill their hotel, B&B and guest accommodation with the guests they want.

It’s for seasoned hoteliers and those new to running a hotel or B&B alike, the Hotel Success Handbook is packed with practical tips and actions to improve business results.

De-mystifying and explaining good sales, marketing, operations and training practices the Hotel Success Handbook is a guide for owners and managers of small hotels, B&Bs, Restaurants with Rooms, Inns or other guest accommodation.

As Sally Shalam, Hotel Critic for The Guardian explains in her foreword to Hotel Success Handbook, it’s not just about being the best: “owners of small hotels, B&Bs, all manner of guest accommodation, who fail to market themselves, are leaving a lot to chance. So while you’re planning how to bring your stamp, your style, your vision into the exciting arena of the modern British hotel, this book will serve as the reality check, a handbook to guide you through the marketing maze while you’re realising your dream.”

 There is a huge opportunity with current demand for ‘staycations’ and people looking outside of their usual ‘fly and flop’ package holidays to make independent UK hotels, B&Bs and other guest accommodation businesses a huge success. But it is hard for those running them to know where to start to make that happen.

“Should you be collecting fans on Facebook? Attracting a following on Twitter? Still printing glossy brochures? Investing in a booking system? Going organic? Offering all-inclusive? There are these and lots of other questions hotel and B&B owners are asking everyday.” Says my co-author Lucy Whittington. 

The Hotel Success Handbook asks the right questions and shows how to use the answers to push an independent hospitality business forward, and make it the success it deserves to be.

The Hotel Success Handbook contains Lucy’s and my combined experience of over 40 years of hospitality training, business coaching, sales and marketing. 

We’ve had some great praise the book already from B&B and hotel owners:

“This is a great book to have around – like having a brainstorming team and personal business advisor constantly on hand”

“A thorough and comprehensive guide”
Joy Huter 5* Bed and Breakfast owner

“Although I hate to admit it I learnt an awful lot and found it an addictive page turner.”
Patrick Burfield, Award Winning Restaurateur and Hotelier

“I wish I had had this book to hand when I started out”
“If you do not want to be the laughing stock of the next series of The Hotel Inspector you will want to read this book – from start to finish”
Thomas Dowson, B&B owner

 And praise from leading UK hospitality industry figures:

“Devoid of sales and marketing jargon, this handbook is just what every manager needs ready to hand and to be dipped into regularly.  The Hotel Success Handbook is an essential addition the hospitality manager’s tool kit.”
Philippe Rossiter MBA FIH FTS, Chief Executive, Institute of Hospitality

“This handbook provides all the relevant information for selling and marketing small hospitality businesses in an easy-to-read and easy-to-find format.”
Bob Cotton, Chief Executive, British Hospitality Association

“It really is a “bible” for the twenty-tens and I defy anyone to come up with something that is not between the covers that should be included.
Running a small business in tourism and hospitality just got a bit less scary.”
David Curtis-Brignell, Chairman, The Tourism Society (2004-7) and co-chair of British Tourism Week 2010

“An indispensable tool for small hotel and accommodation business owners who want an accessible guide to both traditional and online marketing.”
Dr Philip Alford, Senior Lecturer Tourism & Hospitality Marketing, Bournemouth University

The Hotel Success Handbook is being officially launched at the Hotel and Catering Show in Bournemouth, held during British Tourism Week, which takes place on 16th and 17th March at the Bournemouth International Centre (, so if you are in the area, please pay us a visit.

The Hotel Success Handbook is also available to buy from the website (currently with a special launch price of £10.95 – RRP £12.95 – P&P to UK addresses free). The Hotel Success Handbook is also available on Amazon, and from good bookshops, both in the UK and Internationally.

Give people a reason to talk about you

There’s nothing like a testimonial or referral to endorse your hotel or restaurant. Pick up any research on advertising effectiveness and you’ll see word-of-mouth at the top of the list.

Many people are likely to be influenced having read testimonials from other guests.

One of the best things about word-of-mouth is it is essentially free. But word-of-mouth can be slow and people are far more likely to tell other people about bad experiences than about good ones.

So how do you get people talking about you, and how do you get referrals? They won’t say good things about you unless you meet and exceed their expectations.

First, do something exceptional. Think of the things that are of high value to your guests but low cost to you so you can give added value. Give people a reason to talk about you.

Then ask for the testimonial. Ask for a comment in the guest book, on email, or on a review site. People need to be prompted.

See the full article here (login required) or buy the book

Are you missing golden opportunities

Yesterday I went to Hotelympia.  I saw some interesting new ideas, and met some knowledgable people, and it’s always a good opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues.

However, I was somewhat less impressed by the lack of enthusiasm by some of the stand holders to tell you much about their products.

But one stand in particular stood out as wasting a golden opportunity.  They had an interesting product, so I asked what I thought was quite a basic question (this was a bio degradable product and I wanted to know if it was washable and reusable).  ‘I don’t know’ came the reply.  I asked another question on price. ‘I don’t know, but the prices are on our website.’ I got the same response to the next question, and the next. When I asked if anyone else could help ‘no, he’s busy at the moment’. And so the conversation went on. Needless to say I have not looked at their website – why would I when there were plenty of other suppliers offering comparable products who were prepared to talk to me and give me information?  And will they be contacting me? No, because no one even bothered to ask for my details.

The morale of this tale: If you are going to invest your hard earned cash on any form of marketing for your hotel, restaurant, B&B or bar – be it an exhibition stand at a wedding fare or a simple ad in your local paper – make sure anyone fielding the response is fully briefed.  They need to know:

  • The products and services you are promoting
  • Price and what this prices includes
  • Availability
  • How to handle enquiries
  • What to do if asked something they don’t know the answer to (hint – referring them to your website is not the right answer!)
  • How to take an order or booking.

And even if these simple steps are beyond the ability of the person dealing with the query, make sure at least that they capture their contact details. And then follow up on these golden opportunities.