I was recently asked what would be my top ten tips for getting more business for your B&B, inn or small hotel. So here is my list:
- Identify your target market. Consider who is the best match for what you offer, and don’t try to be all things to all men. Focus on your ideal guest and have him / her in mind with all your marketing and in the way you operate your B&B. If you want to attract thirty-somethings on adventure holidays your approach will be very different to families with small children or affluent retired couples.
- Define your point of differnentiation. Think about how you compare with your competition, and what makes you different. Focus on what’s of value to your ideal guest. This could be as simple as your interests, the view from your bedrooms, or the local information you provide for your guests. Whatever it is shout about it, otherwise people looking for a B&B wont know what makes you any different from everyone else.
- Show your passions and interests. Start to create rapport with your guest before they even book with you. This could be through your website, a blog, social media, the photos you use on your website. If you have a particular interest in local history, food, sport, the environment, gardening, or anything else for that matter, talk about this in your marketing. People will do business with people they know, like and trust. This starts to build all three, and you are far more likely to end up with guests you like too!
- Make best use of your website. This means lots of detail and keeping it up to date. Tell prospective guests as much as possible about what you offer, be descriptive, include lots of photos – both of the B&B and the surrounding area. Be like the tourist office, and tell readers what’s going on in the area so they can see there is plenty to do and see. Going through a web designer every time you want to make a change or an addition can be a chore (as well as adding additional cost), so ensure you are able to update the content easily in-house. This flexibility allows you to add local events, last minute promotions, update availability, tariff changes, travel bulletins, seasonal messages, and so on. If your current website doesn’t allow you to do this – seriously consider getting a new one (it will pay for itself in time saved and the opportunities it gives you very quickly).
- Build a list of existing customers (and prospects). Capture the contact details of anyone who enquires. Collect any information that would help you segment your customers, e.g. interests or hobbies. Send confirmation of their booking, a welcome email prior to their visit (with directions and what’s on) and a thank you note after their stay. Then keep in constant contact with your list. OK, they may not be booking a week away right now, but by keeping you in mind makes them more likely to come to you when they are looking, and are more likely to refer you to others.
- Add value to attract attention, set you apart from the competition, and stimulate sales. Give people an incentive to try you, book something different, or make a return visit. This might include special offers, try before you buy, holding special events for guests, offering upgrades on availability, including special extras to create a deluxe package e.g. include a chauffeur driven car from the station or airport; offer champagne, flowers, fruit or chocolates, or including admission to local attractions.
- Ensure your guests get a first class welcome the minute they arrive. After a long journey your guests want your entrance to be well sign posted and well lit. Ensure they are greeted with a warm welcome and something to refresh them after their journey. First impressions do last, and have a dramatic impact on their perception of their stay and willingness to come back.
- Be consistent. Set standards you can maintain, and encourage repeat business by being consistent with these standards. Ensure you train anyone else involved in your business (even if this is your spouse!) so your guests know what to expect. Then set up systems to enable you to monitor these easily. Take the customer journey regularly, and see everything from a guest’s perspective.
- Show your guests you listen. Be visible in your business and talk to your guests to build rapport. Avoid being so bound by your own rules that you cant be flexible. If a guest wants a lye in and would like breakfast at 11.30, is this really that big a problem if it means they enjoy their stay and tell their friends? Ask for feedback. Face to face feedback will always win over a comments form or questionnaire. Ask them what they like and what disappoints them if anything, so you can learn form this and continually improve.
- 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, and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals – it’s a great way to build your customer base. The person making the referral has already experienced what you offer and will do the selling for you. Making referrals builds loyalty as well as bringing in potential new business. Its all about giving guests a reason to return.
All these points are discussed in more detail in the Hotel Success Handbook.