Happily, the bed and breakfast trade has long since shaken off the image of shabby décor and stern faced landladies and today’s establishments typically offer a much more agreeable B&B experience to discerning customers.
You have done the hard work in setting up your bed and breakfast to meet the needs and expectations of your guests and must now find the most effective ways announcing it to the world. Here we provide a few simple advertising tips including writing good advertisements and on where your should consider placing your marketing ads.
A good start is to understand the requirements of your clientele and to determine which of these requirements you can meet. In short, know your strengths.
If you are in a location which is very popular with followers of a particular activity be sure to state that you specifically cater for them. For example, if you attract golfers offer a tee-time reservation service, equipment storage facilities, course recommendations etc. Consider presenting your top selling points in bullet point form as these often catch the eye. Also include a strong call-to-action at the end of your advertisements such as “Call Us Today” or “Quote this Ad for a Discount”.
Advertorial style advertising is a great way of getting your message across. Your marketing message would appear as an interesting news story or editorial feature under a compelling headline that grabs attention. In fact, you are reading such an article now!
Once you have decided on your B&B's best selling points you must consider the various advertising means available. Here we suggest a number of ways in which you can market your bed and breakfast.
A website is now essential for any B&B business and, if presented well, is very likely to be the most cost efficient marketing tool that you will ever have.
You may have to pay a few hundred pounds to have your website built by a professional web designer but the initial investment is likely to recouped relatively quickly, especially if combined with effective online advertising to drive potential customers to your site.
If you have a modicum of computer knowledge you can save money by using a self-build website creation tool. All you have to do is select a pre-designed template and then add your text and images using a simple editor facility. These services offer a cheaper solution than commissioning a website designer to create a bespoke website for you, but can still produce professional results. Our own website creation service, Simplicity Websites, is specifically designed for bed and breakfast and rental accommodation providers and you can build your website within a day. The service includes online reservations, domain registration and referral tracking (through Google Analytics). Go to the Simplicity Websites homepage for a free trial.
Seriously consider including an online room availability check, reservation and payment service on your bed and breakfast website. There are many companies that provide this facility, usually in return for a percentage commission of each booking. One such service, that is specifically aimed at smaller establishments and is commission free, is Thor. They are a great choice for your first venture into online room reservations.
Online advertising compliments your website because you can encourage people to click through to your own website from your advertisement, where they can find out all they need about your B&B and then reserve rooms online if your site has this facility.
Online accommodation directories form an important part of bed and breakfast advertising. There are many around so use them selectively, look for free trials and monitor the results from each one. A long established online B&B directory that offers free trials is Bed and Breakfasts UK.
Another option is pay-per-click advertising, which is provided by many major search engines, including Google whose service is called Adwords. Using pay-per-click you are charged a small fee each time the search engine sends a visitor to your website. You can set your maximum “bid” per click, we suggest just a few pence – but the higher the bid the higher your ad is placed in the “Sponsored Links”. You can also set a limit on your daily expenditure and pause the ads when you are full so this method of advertising is very flexible and need not be expensive.
Many organisations such as local tourist boards and VisitBritain operate quality accreditation schemes. Getting rated will say a lot about your B&B and certainly help to attract guests. As standards improve it is becoming more difficult to achieve a high rating, however such an accolade would enable you to charge more per room.
These schemes can be a little expensive and are most cost effective if your bed and breakfast can achieve a higher than average rating.
Is your bed and breakfast located close to a large business or organisation that attracts overnight visitors? If so, a potential source of free advertising may be available by being included in their local accommodation listings. Such organisations include large companies, tourist attractions, hospitals, universities and airlines.
If you offer a small discount to employees of local business they are likely to welcome you onto their accommodation list. Tourist attractions may be pleased to recommend your B&B if you, in return, promote the attraction to your guests.
Do not underestimate the potential of repeat business. Your existing customer base is a valuable asset and effort should be made retain past guests as prospective future customers. A good way to do this is to send out electronic newsletters. These could offer exclusive special offers or “bring-a-friend” discounts and should be sent out at selected times, such as when bookings are lower than average. We would however suggest that you send no more than four or five newsletters per year.
By maintaining regular contact with past guests you are also increasing the chances of generating new customers to your bed and breakfast through word-of-mouth recommendations.
We recommend the following books which provide valuable advice on marketing your bed and breakfast and on other aspects of running your business.
Be sure to find out from your guests (and enquirers) where they found out about you. For online advertising, this can be done by using a referral tracking service on your website, such a Google Analytics - which is free.
By determining your most cost effective marketing solutions and eliminating poorly performing ad placements you will be able to maximise the return on your bed and breakfast's advertising expenditure.
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