We all know marketing is very expensive. In-effective marketing is even more expensive.
Although I am directing these comments regarding my own personal experience operating the Manor Inn in Yarmouth, it is very indicative of the constant hurdles that operators face throughout all of Atlantic Canada, and of which we often hear about on a regular basis. Although this may sound like an opinion that is geared primarily for the interests of Nova Scotia (southwest in particular), many of the problems that I suggest here affect tourim throughout the entire Atlantic Region, as our guests would normmally explore the entire region and the policies and procedures that I mention plague us all.
The word is out.... The Department of Tourism now admits what many operators have been saying for a long time.Visitation numbers are down and the decline has been going on for some time. This is especially true of the American market which has traditionaly been very lucrative for Nova Scotia.The stated goal of the Tourism industry as espoused by TIANS and the Tourism Partnership was to double revenues over ten years. This is a joke. Many operators are begining to feel that this season may well be a replay of last year. For the record last year was a disaster.
The Department of Tourism is advising that American visitation to Nova Scotia may well be off again this year due to the increase in the value of the Canadian dollar vis a vis the US dollar, the high cost of fuel, the ongoing war in Iraq and the threat of terrorism in general. And we are being told that next year will be even worse when the proposed passport regulations kick in for air travellers and International Ferry passengers.
The reaction of the Department of Tourism has been to refocus some of its marketing efforts towards regional traffic. ie convincing Nova Scotians to travel within Nova Scotia and perhaps encouraging some folks from New Brunswick and PEI to visit Nova Scotia. While this is commendable, it is not enough. This regional message is being directed towards the smallest geographic area of the country, the most sparesly populated area of the country, the areas with the highest unemployment in the country and also towards the least affluent people in the country. How effective can this campaign be?
Nova Scotia is sitting alongside the most affluent and densley populated megalopolis in the Western world. ie the Atlantic coirridor. Yet we are very difficult to get to . Recent visitors at our Inn from California and Colorado spent two days travelling by air and vehicle to come to our area in Southwestern Nova Scotia. Yarmouth is a major gateway that is totally under utilized.Where there were once three vehicle and passenger ferries coming from the US to Yarmouth, there is now one seasonal vessel ( The CAT) which will sail part-time from Bar Harbour and part time from Portland. The industry is hopeful that this service will help to boost sagging visitation numbers.
Yarmouth also has a fully functional International airport. However no scheduled carrier flies into or out of Yarmouth. Air Canada / Air Nova which once serviced the area along with Air Atlantic drove its competitor out of business with predatory pricing practises and shortly thereafter abandoned the route. A foreign carrier will not come into Yarmouth because of the federal policy preventing it from landing in more than one Canadian location......So , at the end of the day, we are stuck in a rut. We hav e a great airport but no carrier, hence no visitation.
Numerous potential American visitors have told me they would love to come to Nova Scotia but they just can't get here, either because of airline or ferry schedules and they aren't prepared to drive the long distances required if they can't co-ordinate their schedules with either an airline or a ferry..., or its just too expensive.
Nova Scotia needs to adopt a bold transportation policy. If we want the world to come to our door , we have to make it easier to get here and safer to drive once they do arrive here.
A business colleague suggested to me that the Province should purchase an ocean going ferry running from the Eastern Seaboard to Yarmouth...., staff it with students and graduates of our various hospitality schools and offer free transportation to and from Nova Scotia. His prediction was that we would have people lined up to take advantage of this service and that the economic boom to Nova Scotia would be phenomenal. Is there anyone who would disagree with this ?
We also need a bold message to encouage people to come here and we have to be prepared to go "head to head" with competing destinations that are also targeting our markets. The message that the Department of Tourism is putting out is "we are safe, friendly, quiet yet fun". Doesn't this sound a bit like a boring date ?
And increasingly so..., the Dept of Tourism is spending its very modest marketing budget in markets other than New England / Mid Atlantic. An ongoing concern of the former operators of the Scotia Prince, the car ferry which travelled from Portland to Yarmouth for 35 consecutive years before abruptly ending its service in April of 2006, was the cost of promoting its service to Nova Scotia and the relatively small amount of contribution it was receiving from the Dept of Tourism. This year, the provincial government is providing an operating subsidy to the CAT in the amount of $ 1,250,000 as well as co-op marketing monies. While this is good, it may be a case of "too little, too late".
Last year, when the Scotia Prince terminated its service, then Minister of Tourism and now Premier Rodney McDonald, predicted there would only be a minimum impact as a result of the cancellation of the service.This message was echoed by TIANS and the Tourism Partnership. These people were very mis-informed. The economic impact to the Nova Scotia Tourism Industry in 2005, as clearly predicted by the operators of the Scotia Prince, was in excess of 100 million dollars .This was felt throughout the Province but moreso in Southwest Nova Scotia and certainly in the Yarmouth area.. Many businesses suffered, some failed. Many people did not have sustainable employment. The response of the provincial government was neglible other than a few platitudes and pull in your belts another notch or two.
Recently the Province offered Stora Enso 65 million dollars in an effort to protect 600 jobs the Port Hawkesbury area. The Tories have been making financial committments for various causes over the past few months. But, there has been VIRTUALLY NOTHING for the tourism industry. Why has this happened? We are an industry that employs thousands of people in Nova Scotia and contribute tens of millions of dollars to the Treasury each year in terms of personal and corporate income taxes, property taxes and HST.
If the government of the day does not take this industry much more seriously and provide the Department of Tourism and it's industry members is with additional funding to promote Nova Scotia as a desirable and competitive destination, there might possibly not be a tourism industry at the end of the day... certainly not one that is operated by regular Nova Scotians.
There are many capable and experienced people in the Department of Tourism who have a vision and are doing a very good job to encourage visitation to our area, but without adequete funding and the neccessary transportation infrastructure, they are attempting to perform a very difficult task.
Something like trying to push water with a stick, you work real hard but don't accomplish very much.
Best Regards Terry Grandy CA President
We are still enjoying tremendous response to our many initiatives and we are pleased to report that we are
well ahead of our membership goals for 2006, so we figure that we must be doing the right things right.
If you have not yet renewed or joined IGNS, please visit our website or send your renewal documents
(and payment) back to us so that we can record you as a current member.
Drop us a line by e-mail if there is anything that you would like us to be aware of.... any issues
ir concerns... or red tape.... whatever....
We are here to help support your ability to make a profitt. Afterall, that's what being in business is all
about. Please remember to keep in touch regularily....
President: Terry Grandy, Yarmouth
Sectretary-Treasurer: Sebelle Deese, Lunenburg
Past-President: David MacDonald, Halifax
Director - Hotels/Motels: George Faddoul, Dartmouth
Director - Hotels/Motels: Jim Dyer, Tatamagouche
Director - Country Inns: James LeFresne, Tatamagouche
Director - Country Inns: Bob Benson, Yarmouth
Director - B&Bs: Marlene Hubley, Antigonish
Director - B&Bs: Peter Sheehan, Margaree Harbour
Director - Cottages/Lodges: Jack MacIntosh, Petite Riviere
Director - Cottages/Lodges: Ray Tudor, Brier Island
Managing Director: David MacDonald
Guerilla Marketing for the Aspiring Innkeeper
This is a three part series focused on small business marketing and geared specifi cally to aspiring innkeepers who hope to be both wildly happy and wildly successful at what they do.The Innkeepers Guild has reproduced all three articles in this issue of Keeping INN Touch.
In this fi rst article, I will defi ne what guerilla marketing is and how it applies to innkeepers. We will also talk about how it fi ts in a hospitality marketing plan among other important things you will be doing. I will show you why, as a new innkeeper in a market full of other options, guerilla marketing will give you what your competition may, in fact, view as an "unfair" advantage. But don't worry, that's only sour grapes from people who are either unaware or unwilling to take advantage of these powerful techniques.
So what is guerilla marketing? The term refers to guerilla warfare and specifi cally to on the ground, hand-to-hand combat.
I fi rst encountered guerilla marketing in the high-tech world when small upstart companies successfully challenged the major players and won market share. The majors were so sure of themselves that they ignored the initial efforts of these newbies. When they realized they were losing market share, the majors tried desperately and at great cost, to compete. They were largely unsuccessful with a few famous exceptions like the IBM personal computer. The lessons of this experience came with me to my inn and to my amazement, worked even better in that world than in high tech. Talk about transferable skills!
Basically, this technique is a way of looking at your business and reaching your customers using very inexpensive venues that take almost no time from your very busy innkeeping day. Guerilla marketing techniques do not replace in any way your Internet marketing or any other broad approach you may employ to reach the marketplace. What they do is get you business that almost no one else in your specifi c market is going after. This translates into real revenue and occupancy numbers. We ran 5-15 occupancy percentage points above the market average in our area simply because of these techniques.
The fi rst thing to know is that you should start the process of guerilla marketing before you buy your inn or even identify where it is. You have at your disposal hundreds of potential guests. Make a list of all of your friends and family. Then add to that list every, teacher, classmate, preacher, lawyer, doctor, car salesman, etc. that you have ever done business with in any capacity. Think big and you will have hundreds of names and addresses. Keep in mind that a high percentage of these people will be happy to know that you are an innkeeper. Many of them have considered it and most of them will envy your career choice. People will actually brag that they know you because you own an inn.
This list of names that you have created will be the basis of your fi rst "friends and family" letter. It serves two very important purposes; fi rst it allows you to invite these people to be your customers and they will give you an instant fi rst year boost in revenue! Second, it allows you to tell these important stakeholders that your new inn is a business at which all guests are treated royally and happily pay for the experience. It eliminates the uncertainty these folks will have about whether they should pay or not. They should and happily will if you tell them.
So start your list now and get a big head start on your fi rst year occupancy.
Bottom line, if you want to be successful, all you need to compete is a few simple techniques and a good four-color rack card.
Next, let's assume that you will have a bang-up website found on all the right search engines and be listed on all the right hospitality websites. That is simply the entry level requirement to play in this game if you plan to be fi nancially successful. That will get your inn's face, name and toll free telephone number out to the world and allow you to accept reservations from the increasing number of guests who book online. It will also get you to about where most of your competition is today. But you are selling a completely personal product &emdash; an experience (not a bed) that people want to buy. Guests are largely tired of being a number and living in the fast lane without enough time for themselves, friends and family. You offer a genuine alternative to the large, impersonal chain hotel. They offer a lot of things that you probably don't like a health club, indoor pool and video game room, but your guest is looking for personal attention, unique ambience or some other quality not found in the big chain alternative. So, how does this relate to guerilla marketing?
Rule #1 in this hand-to-hand combat is: The most important marketing you do is to your guests, at the inn, while they are with you. If you assume that once they are there, they're on their own, then you have lost the fi rst and most important battle of this war. It is your job to look for opportunities to amaze our guests with small unexpected gifts of kindness geared to their very personal and unique needs. None of this takes a lot of time or money, but it counts more than most anything in the minds of guests. For example, in-room postcards are a nice and a common amenity. How about adding stamps and a convenient spot to drop them off so that your guests don't have to fi nd the local post office? And now for the punch line &emdash; when you put those stamps on those postcards, those lovely guests who just paid to stay at your inn will write pretty things about you and send them to a host of people who you don't know. Your guest's words about you are invaluable compared to all the paid advertising you could imagine because they are believable and heartfelt and come from a trusted source. Your cost is minimal and based on my experience, the payback is huge. If asked, I would happily give a guest 100 post cards complete with stamps and personally carry them to the post offi ce.
When we began the practice of providing stamped postcards, several experienced innkeepers warned us of the cost of stamps for a new innkeeper just starting out &emdash; until they began to notice that our parking lot was always full. They still talk about how we managed to succeed so quickly, but don't see the opportunity for themselves. Therein lies the basis of our next rule.
Rule #2: Most people are lazy and complacent, therefore it is easy to exceed their expectation simply by staying on task. Guerilla marketing is your constant job as a small business owner if you want to excel.
So, what else could you do to wow your guests and create a memorable experience? Here are a few simple examples. Guests with food allergies are used to eating a boring bowl of cereal while the rest of the guests gorge on lovely breakfast treats. I always made sure to prepare an equally gorgeous breakfast for the allergic guest. What a lovely surprise! The story of that breakfast gets told over and over again to friends and family long after the other guests have forgotten what you served because it was an unexpected kindness and recognition of that person as an individual.
Guests who are arriving late due to extreme circumstances like fl ight delays or car trouble are incredibly grateful for a simple unplanned snack. I often used treats from afternoon tea or, if I knew they had missed dinner, I would include some cheese and fruit. To a weary traveler who hasn't eaten and has missed the local restaurants, this is a godsend greeted like manna from heaven.
The possibilities are endless. The only requirement is to listen and to treat your guests as you hope to be treated in the same circumstances. Turn small problems or special needs into great opportunities to increase your bottom line. Happy guests will tell others &emdash; that is basic marketing 101 &emdash; but unhappy or needy guests will RAVE when you turn it around. They will be your best salespeople and will sing your praises for years.
Some other guest service ideas:
- Put together a basket of things people usually forget, e.g. toothbrushes.
- Iron or steam a special garment while the wearer takes a bubble bath.
- Lend a shawl or sport jacket or tie to a guest who forgot theirs and is rushing around trying to find a
- Serve mimosas to all at breakfast to toast a new grandchild, engagement or any special event that a guest
thought enough about to mention to you.
- Drive a foreign couple to dinner who are clearly fearful of driving themselves.
- Make someone's favorite childhood breakfast or holiday meal "just because."
- Write little congratulations notes to guests who have a reason to celebrate a new baby, new job, new spouse.
- Order a glass of champagne or dessert for an anniversary couple whose dinner reservation you make.
At our inn a guest who complained about a noisy bed or leaky faucet got a hand written thank you letter and a $50 gift certifi cate after they left. Very few guests will tell you what is wrong with your inn. It's the nature of an intimate service business that guests are embarrassed (for you) when they fi nd a problem, so they rarely tell you about it. When they do, you owe them a thank you. They will be completely amazed and tell the story forever. By the way, your competition (you know...the ones who said don't put stamps on your postcards) will be in the kitchen seething about that guest complaint while you are taking that guest's reservation to return again as a forever loyal customer..
So by now you are wondering what do I do with those 10,000 rack cards? In our next installment (below) I will take you outside the Inn to introduce you to a group of stakeholders who will literally sell rooms for you and who, like the guests with the postcards, will think you are doing them a huge favor.
In the first part of this series I defined guerilla marketing as a set of techniques for every day, "hand-to-hand" marketing that enhances your bottom line by increasing your occupancy at minimal cost and nominal effort. We discussed two important rules:
Rule #1 - The most important marketing you do as an innkeeper is to your guests while they are staying with you.
Rule #2 - It is easy to exceed guest expectations simply by staying on task.
In this segment we are going to move outside your inn and meet local stakeholders. Your stakeholders are anyone who has a stake in the success of your business.
We have talked about your friends, acquaintances, family and, of course, your guests. They are all obvious stakeholders in the success of your new inn. Let's take a look outside your immediate circle of stakeholders for other people who will help you to increase your business. These are your fellow business owners, your suppliers, your local and national business organizations and, let's not forget the media.
There are some clear marketing opportunities in partnering with your fellow innkeepers to market your region to visitors. But, thinking outside the box, you need to reach the businesses that will send guests to you happily and thank you for supporting them. For example, our biggest stakeholders &emdash; as measured by reservations booked &emdash; were; a local restaurant, gas station, fl orist and neighbors.
Here is where the four-color rack cards I mentioned in last month's article are important. Our rack cards cost about seven cents each printed on high quality card stock. They feature several photos &emdash; shot professionally &emdash; of the inn, a few carefully chosen descriptive words, rate ranges and our contact information.
I discovered early on that other businesses in our area shared our guests; the obvious (restaurants, theatres, whale watch captains) and the not so obvious (fl orists, gas station owners and our neighbors.)
So, here's where a good guerilla marketing strategy works well: I visit the local fl orist with my rack cards in a neat lucite stand. I ask if she would be willing to display my rack cards. She leaps up from her seat and thanks me profusely. Many of her customers are planning weddings and ask her where to send wedding guests. She, of course, wants to spend as little time as possible as their travel agent. No one else has ever approached her or supplied her with marketing materials. And, she thinks I am doing her a huge favor, since she never stays at inns in our town and doesn't know who to recommend. I have the same experience at the gas station. The owner often calls me to say "Hey Carol, your killing me here. I'm out of rack cards again, can you drop some off today?" I, of course, oblige and deliver as soon as I can.
Another nice surprise was our neighbors response to our inn. Neighbors who referred guests to us, were invited to come for breakfast one morning while the guests they referred were at the inn.
Surprisingly, I found that most of my neighbors had never been inside the inn. They loved the idea that they could take advantage of our hospitality and spend time with their visitors also. Once they tried our breakfast, they were loyal stakeholders, either sending their out of town visitors, or in some cases, even staying with us themselves while their out of town guests used their homes.
Here is a quick variation on the neighbors idea. While at the super market buying an unusual variety of items the check-out person asks me "are you giving a party?" I reply, "no, I own an inn" and, like an E.F. Hutton commercial, silence falls all around me. My fellow shoppers begin asking me the usual questions about innkeeping and I, of course, provide each of them with a rack card. From then on, I look for a new check-out person so that my chances of getting asked increase each time I shop.
Never go anywhere without your rack cards and distribute them every chance you get. My personal favorite reservation, as a result of this technique, was from a San Francisco street car conductor . He stayed with us on Cape Cod three years after the San Francisco PAII conference because I gave him a rack card while he was showing me how the cable system worked.
Rule #3 - It's your job to promote your Inn shamelessly. If you can't say it's wonderful, then who will? (Hint - not your guests, not your stakeholders and not the media)
Don't forget your suppliers, including those from whom you may never buy. Another of my favorite examples is a wholesale meat purveyor who called me once a month. Since we only served breakfast, I did not need his products. Off season, I teach cooking classes at the inn. The cost of the class includes a weekend stay and dinner after the class. As a part of his sales pitch he told me that he loved to cook. I sold him on the cooking classes. Even though he is local, he and his wife stayed for the weekend class and dinner. He has been a cooking school regular ever since. And... I have never purchased his products.
Rule #4 - Everyone is a potential guest. Innkeepers who don't understand this rule are at a huge disadvantage in the guerilla marketing world.
Reciprocal website links are like an electronic rack card, but free and easy to do. Our favorite whale watch operator books trips in advance. A high percentage of our guests go whale watching. So we agreed to put a reciprocal link on his site and ours so that if someone booked a whale watch excursion, they could click on our inns web ite directly from his site to book rooms and vice versa. This is a classic win-win-win. The guest books inn and whale watch reservations quickly and effi ciently and both the inn and the whale watch reach guests they might not have otherwise, at no cost. Be selective - it is critical to partner with high quality stakeholders like yourself. Don't waste a minute of precious marketing energy on someone you would not do business with if you were a guest. The right partners will send you the kind of guests you want.
In the next article, we will outline your long range plan for marketing success. We'll discuss how to make a major impact through the media, at a minimal cost and how to train staff and stakeholders to sell your product.
We have some very exciting committees that are looking for volunteers. If you are interested in participating in the committees of IGNS, we'd love to hear from you. Examples of our present ad-hoc committees are; Constitutional, Government Affairs, Canada Select, Tourism Marketing Committee, and Membership (others are also being developed). Please contact us, if you are interested in being involved in any committee work
Guests are given a personal welcome tour
Information about the area is readily available
Onnkeeper sets aside at least one special time to be with guests; e,g, breakfast, evening, tea
Guest happiness is more important than inn policies
Guest names are learned and individual records are kept for a repeat visit, remembering something special about that person
Innkeepers enjoy their guests and consistantly try to figure out ways to make them happy
Special extra touches are offered that welcome guests e.g. cookies, refridgerator usage, turndown, 24 hour coffee
Building and Surrounding Area
grounds are attractively landscaped and free of debris
Outside of building is painted and in good repair
Walking areas are safe and well lighted
Pools, Jacuzzis, spas etc. are well maintained and safe, with instructions for usage
Convenient, adequate and lighted parkingRooms:
Comfortable, firm beds with pillow top for comfort (for two people, a minimum of a queen size is recommended)
- Lights: 100 watt or three-way bulbs to at leat 100W - on each side of the bed, by mirrors, beside each chair (for reading), on desk.
- Comfortable chairs for reading
- Adequate space to hang clothes with at least five hangers per person
- Ample surface space to set things down
- Individually decorated rooms
- One suitcase rack per person or equivalent surface space
- Two pillows per person - one hard, one soft - choice of feather and non-feather
- Door has privacy lock
- Tissue and wastebasket available
- Room can be darkened at night and affords privacy with curtaons or blinds
- Reading material in room especially a folder with information on the inn
- Dressers / shelves for putting clothes away
- Individually temperature controlled
- Large mirror
- Emergency evacuation instructions as well as information on the inn
- A posted standard "innkeeper statement" for your area about valuables and the innkeeper liability
- Adequate soundproofing
- A light as well as a heavier blanket provided to allow for guests' temperature needs
- Adequate fire safety measures e.g smoke alarms, easy egress
- All bedding, wall hangings, drapes and furnishings are in good repair and clean
- No innkeeper clothing or personal items stored in drawers or closets
- Two blankets on bed; one light, one heavier with an extra in closet or dresser
- No more than two rooms to a bath
- The usual: sink. shower (or tub/shower combination). A tub alone is rarely satisfactory. All should be immaculate. "Antiquity stops at the bathroom door"
- Mirror appropriately placed for shaving amd/or makeup preparation
- At least three square feet of surface space for guest overnight kits (excluding toilet tank top)
- Clean and odour free - paramount
- Tub/shower grout, caulking and shower curtains to be mildew-free
- High-quality bath, hand towels, washcloths and bathmats in good repair
- >At least 100 watts of light near mirrors; night light available
- Safe, easy-t-reach electrical outlets
- Individual bars of soap per person or liquid soap
- Drinking glasses for each guest
- Ample, steady, hot water
- Breakfast Service (where provided)
- Attractive, ample meal is served or placed buffet-style (plastic and styrfoam containers are not appropriate)
- Minimum breakfast; fruit, juice, breads, hot beverage, granola/cereal, sliced cheese/meats. Where possible a hot entree should be available
- Guests' dietary needs are cheerfully accommodated
- A warm, friendly host/hostess is present during breakfast
- Breakfast service hours acknowledge guests' travel needs e.g. business, airplane flights, late weekend sleepers
- Some flexibility for early departures. e.g. bag breakfast, refrigerator pick-up
- kitchen meets Health Department standards or standard public kitchen expectations of sanitation and food storage
- Common Rooms
- Large enough to receive all guests at the same time
- Comfortable amd inviting enough to encourage guests to linger
- Well lighted (100 watt bulbs) for reading; night lights for late arrivals
- Good information on the area and restaurant menus with guest comments, as well as books, magazines, games, puzzles, tapes, etc.
Furnishings are well maintained
Available at all times for guests
Pre-arrival communication provides good directions as well as a clear understanding of policies and non-standard qualities of room e,g. shared bath, twin beds
Telephone available on premises for usage by guests, in private, and available at all times
Telephone messages for guests can be taken 24 hours daily and are promptly delivered
Guests know how to reach the innkeeper at all times
Warm, helpful telephone presence: minimum usage of answering machine
Professional use of telephone answering machine; prompt callbacks
Adequate commercial liability insurance
Compliance with zoning, health, fire, safety, building and other governmental codes, licenses and regulations
Door keys available so guests may come and go as they please
Keeping a B&B / country inn is a demanding and personal business. You will no doubt feel that this list is below your standards (and that is a good thing). We have chosen not to list those items we consider obvious, such as changing the sheets between guests.
Guerilla Marketing for Aspiring Innkeepers: Part three a three part series - By Carol Edmondson
Welcome back to Guerilla Marketing. In this fi nal segment we will focus on the media. We will also discuss how to keep up the good work by tracking your results and acting on what you learn.
Before we begin, let's review. So far, we have four rules for marketing from our previous
Rule #1 - The most important marketing you do is to your guests, at the inn, while they are with you.
Rule #2 - It is easy to exceed guest expectation simply by staying on task.
Rule #3 - It's your job to shamelessly promote your Inn. If you can't say it's wonderful, then who will?
Rule #4 - Everyone is a potential guest.
It is often tempting as a new innkeeper to pay for advertising in the media. You will be bombarded with offers from magazines, newspapers and websites. Like the old saying goes, "If it seems to good to be true, it probably is." Claims that any advertising medium whether print, or broadcast will fi ll your inn during off season are at least suspect. You will hear these claims often. Most of these claims are false or exaggerated and some may even be scams. But, as a guerilla marketer you don't care because you will not pay for any kind of advertising at all... anywhere... anytime. As I mentioned in the fi rst installment you will have a fabulous website and be placed on a few key search engines and hospitality sites. This all costs money. You will not advertise elsewhere.
Simply put, paid advertising doesn't fi t the small inn or B&B model. Nothing you will say in a paid ad will ring true or create bookings like what others will say about you if you are doing your marketing job. So what do you do to get the media's attention? You create your own little public relations department and keep the media you are trying to reach informed of what is happening at your inn. Simply by being a B&B you are news to many sources from your local newspaper to major players like USA Today and Conde Nast Traveler. What you need to be a player is a few simple tools.
First, create a media kit containing professionally taken photos of your inn (sorry no snap shots allowed), any clippings of past stories written about the inn, your personal bio, your rack card, your press releases. Fact: writers love to write about inns that other writers have already written about... go figure.
Write a press release for every event, anniversary, special offering and local happening that you can think of. We suggest that our clients write a press release every month. It sounds hard but it is very easy. In our fi rst year we had a press release about our opening, the 50th anniversary of our inn, our new cooking school weekends and a charitable fund raiser that we sponsored.
Maintain list of travel writers by name and publication to whom you will send these press releases to. This is easily obtained from the web or from your local library. There are directories for both magazine and newspaper travel writers. My list included newspapers with circulaton over 100,000 all over the US as well as the key travel and food magazines. It also included local newspapers and magazines. Hint: I also sent a press release to many of my local stakeholders such as my commercial loan offi cer and my CPA.
What happens to these press releases is quite interesting. Travel editors almost always earn extra money free lancing for travel magazines, etc. They keep press releases and refer to themlater. So, in one case, a travel editor from a major west coast newspaper used a 12 month old press release about our aspiring innkeeping seminar to create a story for a major airline magazine about career changing corporate types. The resulting article created seminar bookings for three years and it cost me the equivalent of fi rst class postage to mail the press release. Another press release resulted in a fi ve page full color spread in a major regional magazine about our cooking school weekends. That story brought bookings for 4 years. One of the people who read the spread in the regional magazine was a TV producer from a popular regional evening news magazine. The producer did a subsequent piece on us for the TV show. He stayed with us and we wowed him with our service so that he did another story the following year. Oh, by the way, the subject of the TV spots were things to do on Cape Cod in the off season (when we were slow and looking for guests).
So, how do you know if your guerilla marketing plan is working? I'm so glad you asked! In order to benefi t from your good work, you must track your results. This is the key to your success! Simply ask every person who calls you, whether they book or not, how they found out about you. You will fi nd that people are more than happy to tell you. In the case of the ubiquitous "on the Internet" use good tracking software that tells you where your hits are coming from. It is readily available and absolutely crucial to the next step.
At the end of the year take the data you have accumulated and change your marketing plan. If you are not fi ne tuning what you are doing, you will miss out on the benefi ts of your work. The general rule of thumb we use for anything paid, like a listing on a key hospitality website, is booking dollars equal to ten times the cost of your listing. If you are not getting that then move on or improve your position on the site. This is how we realized how powerful our press releases were. We knew that they accounted for a signifi cant portion of our non-repeat business. We found ways to increase both their number and our list of recipients.
Marketing is a major part of yourjob as a small business owner.
You are the best person to market your very personal business.
Guerilla marketing will increase your occupancy and your bottom line by insuring repeat and referral guests, attracting new guests and reducing your marketing costs.
Greening Your Inn: Ways to Maintain an Environmently Friendly Inn
Greening the inn is an all-around winning proposition. Going "green" is cost effective; when waste is minimized, savings are realized in energy and water costs. Going "green" offers a marketing opportunity; increasing numbers of travelers espouse environmentally aware values. And going "green" creates a holistic approach to innkeeping, nurturing the environment as well as nurturing guests.
Cost effective. As business owners, innkeepers know that decreasing costs is one way to achieve higher revenues. Japanese manufacturing innovators coined the concept of muda (waste) to pinpoint unnecessary steps in manufacturing, but the idea also has relevance to hospitality. Waste is unacceptable, whether it be furnace heat that escapes through your inn's poorly insulated "skin" or water dripping down the drain from leaky faucets. Waste costs you money.
Marketing. According to a 2002 study by the Travel Industry of America, 71% of travelers agreed with the following statement: "It is important to me that my visit to a destination not damage its environment." (www.tia.org/survey.pdf) This segment of the traveling public, typically urban dwellers with higher-than- average income, expects inns to show evidence of environmentally sound practices. A marketing program that refl ects concern for the environment is a siren call for these travelers.
Holistic approach to innkeeping. Innkeepers deserve their reputation as caring individuals who both choose and create admirable environments for guests' enjoyment. It is incongruent with this image for innkeepers to abuse the very environment their guests appreciate. A nurturing mindset predisposes innkeepers to avoid polluting the indoor air with toxic cleaning chemicals, the garden with pesticides or the local landfi ll with unnecessary waste.
This article presents three ways to implement a "greening" of your inn: saving energy, conserving water and limiting pollution. Within each section is a list of steps an innkeeper can take, from simple, inexpensive beginnings, to larger changes with higher price tags. Generally speaking, the initial steps show an immediate cost benefi t: the efforts are inexpensive to implement, and the savings are immediate. The "giant" steps have a larger upfront cost with a larger payback over a longer time frame.
First and foremost It all begins with you! The innkeeper's commitment to environmentally sound practices may begin with a simple step such as learning what opportunities already exist in your community. As you look into options, choose your goals and then create a timetable to put those goals into action.
Bringing staff on board is critical. Solicit suggestions, ask for advice, and then honor that input by taking action, if possible, on the suggestions. Bring staff together regularly to brainstorm housekeeping or gardening improvements and to share positive results, such as lowered utility bills. As you become more knowledgeable, circulate literature relevant to your goals. Assess progress and reward staff members who are faithful "green" allies with passes to an environmental conference or with a n overnight at a nearby inn that is also going "green."
The high cost of waste. Wasting electricity, natural gas or fuel oil is like burning little piles of greenbacks in your garden &emdash; a senseless waste of dollars. Think of energy conservation as a guaranteed boost to your inn's bottom line.
Baby steps to giant steps:
Ask your utility company for an energy audit (often free).
Buy or borrow (from the utility company) a watt meter that will allow you to measure the power draw of appliances and business machines. "Watts Up" and "Killa- Watt" are two well-known brands.
Close the chimney flue except when you have a fi re in the fireplace.
Take an evening power tour through your inn. What appliances or machines are on or in standby mode overnight when no one will use them?
Vacuum your refrigerator's coils regularly.
Set your water heater at 125 degrees, or to the lowest temperature that delivers "hot enough" water to guest bathrooms.
Close the drapes and turn down the heat in unoccupied guest rooms.
Replace ordinary light bulbs with compact fl uorescents (CFLs). Choose Kelvin ratings (color temperature) in the 2700K range to most closely approximate incandescent bulbs. The CRI or color rendering index, a rating that indicates how accurately colors are perceived by the light, should be 80 or above. Mark bulbs with date of installation so you can compare longevity between one manufacturer's product and another. CFLs also eliminate muda by reducing time spent changing bulbs.
Use a timer for hall lights or outdoor lights. Reset seasonally.
Install a programmable thermostat that changes room temperature settings according to the time-ofday patterns that you choose.
Insulate, insulate, insulate: water heater, hot water pipes, walls, ceilings, around the attic access door, etc. A tube of caulking can correct that drafty feeling and keep heated (or air conditioned) air indoors.
Install dual pane low-emissivity windows.
Building an inn? Consult with an environmentally savvy planner to incorporate energy wise elements in the original design: siting, landscaping, window choices, heating/air conditioning, water heating, daylighting with skylight "tubes," etc.
Water, the stuff of life Water cannot be taken for granted. Some communities already suffer from diminishing supplies; others will soon. This growing scarcity is reflected in the high cost of water and sewer services.
Baby steps to giant steps:
Repair leaky faucets and toilets immediately.
Install low-flow showerheads and sink aerators.
Initiate a towel and sheet re-use program. When guests are given an easy-to-use option clearly outlined on an attractive card, a large percentage choose to re-use. Not only will you save water, but also the energy to heat it, the human effort to do the laundry, and the cost of laundry supplies. Muda is inherent in the use-it-once system. Stock bathrooms with an abundance of high quality towels and supply a wicker basket or other attractive container for towels to be laundered.
Replace your landscaping &emdash; section bysection and as appropriate &emdash; with non-thirsty, native species that are naturally resistant to pests. Install drip irrigation. Mow less frequently.
Do no harm: Recycle & avoid noxious chemicals Innkeeping implies an attitude of nurturance; innkeepers take pains to support their guests' comfort in all areas of the inn, from fluffy pillows to special-diet menus. An innkeeper's commitment to "greening" the inn is an extension of this care.
Clean air, clean water, and reduced waste in landfi lls (muda, again) support guest and staff personal well-being, as well as community health. Innkeepers can improve the inn's indoor air quality by choosing non-toxic cleaners and they can save money on trash collection fees by recycling.
Baby steps to giant steps:
Add a recycling container to guest rooms so guests can participate in the inn's "green" effort.
Place live plants in guest rooms to clean the air.
Choose concentrated non-toxic cleaning products in minimal, recycled packaging to improve indoor air quality and reduce water pollution. Patricia Griffin, Green Hotels Association, offers this simple recipe for a do-it-yourself, all-purpose cleaner: 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar (use 9% "cleaning" vinegar), few drops of dishwashing detergent - Spray on, let it rest a few moments, wipe off.
Offer better quality soaps, shampoos and conditioners in reusable dispensers. The earth will thank you and your guests will appreciate the fi ne quality bath products conveniently at hand.
In closing "Green" practices are good ideas for diminishing waste and thus saving money, good ideas for attracting guests and good ideas for preserving the environment &emdash; an extension of innkeeping's nurturing outlook.