I just read a GREAT article by Gregg Swann of Bloodhound Realty entitled "Why Do We Link In a Web 2.0 World?" While the blog post is geared toward real estate professionals, the observations and wisdom are worthy of anyone in commerce to consider, especially innkeepers. It’s all about transparency.
At the PAII conference we heard about "Transparency Tyranny," and lots of innkeepers continued to fret about online reviews and how bad they are. Gregg Swann points out how the issue of transparency is really about honesty. People want to buy a product or a service, and they just don’t know whom to trust. The old fashioned marketing as monologue was where you told me how great your product was, and I was supposed to believe you. But, too often, you told me what you wanted me to hear, and when I thought was buying a rabbit, in actuality I got an empty hat.
With Web 2.0 and Travel 2.0, marketing is a dialogue between the provider and the consumer and between consumers. To the extent that a prospective guest at your bed & breakfast can read what others say about you, they gain a measure of confidence, especially if those comments and reviews reinforce what you have said about your inn. That shows honesty.
"Transparency and verisimilitude both mean the same thing in this context: This is real. People are so used to marketing trickery that they expect it everywhere. The challenge for anyone seeking to change minds in the Web 2.0 world is to take away that expectation. Transparency doesn’t mean I am obliged to disclose to you the color of my underwear. Transparency means that if there is any possibility that you could entertain the smallest doubt that I am effecting some kind of sleight of hand to trick you into doing something you otherwise would not do, I have to give you the means of eradicating that doubt to your own satisfaction." (Gregg Swann) The means to eradicating that doubt in travel is reviews. To the extent that you promote them, encourage them, and make them accessible, travelers will trust your honesty, that you have nothing to hide.
Gregg concludes his post with words that are very apropos to innkeepers and which echo what we have been saying for a long time. "…Web 2.0 consumers are already pretty sophisticated [the i.guest] – and everything they do on the nets teaches them how to be more sophisticated. If you are not willing to be completely transparent in your online marketing presence, consumers will gravitate, one by one, to people who are willing to back up everything they say."
At The B&B Team we buy into this concept for ourselves as well as our clients. One of our mantras is that you hire us to tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear. We think that’s the honest thing to do. And we have absolutely no qualms about giving you every opportunity to interview past clients. In fact, we think you should. Your reputation for honesty and transparency is something that no one should take away. And if you feel that people are seeing the color of your underwear, then maybe you have to examine what you’re wearing!