I subscribe to piles of blogs and newsletters about marketing and advertising, social media, hospitality, demographics, and trends that affect all of the above. Some of these are pretty esoteric, and some are very down-to-earth practical. One of our jobs at The B&B Team® is to weave the mass of information together and make at least some of it useful to Innkeepers, saving you time and helping you sell more rooms, make more money, and have more fun.
By now most of you realize that social media and consumer generated content, whether it be blogs, Facebook and Twitter, TripAdvisor, or product reviews on e-commerce sites, are essential to long term business success. After all, while Boomers still make up the lion’s share of inn guests (and, by the way, females aged 55-65 are the fastest growing segment of Facebook users), Gen X and Gen Y (the Millenials) are forming a growing percentage of the traveling public. And, since most businesses (like your inn) want to be around in a few years, paying attention is a smart choice.
A great article in Hotelmarketing.com called “Gen Y and the online travel marketer” by Caroline Gates of TIG has some eye-popping statistics blended with some good advice. For instance, not only did this generation (born between 1977 and 1995) grow up with an electronic device in their hand and a computer at every turn, but they are already spending about $200 Billion a year. The younger ones aren’t booking rooms at your B&B, but the older ones are starting to, especially if you give them a compelling reason and show them that you “get it.” Gen Xers, more than Millenials, are definitely part of every inn’s guest roster, and they’re pretty plugged in, too.
If 78% of people trust peer reviews and only 14% trust advertisements, and your website is an advertisement, the importance of bringing those reviews front and center is critical. If you’re already doing this, good for you. If you aren’t, start engaging your guests in the process and build a reserve of great reviews on all the main travel sites. And put those reviews on your home page. This is pretty basic.
The younger generations, who are the future of travel, want to be entertained and respected, too. Keep your content on Facebook, your blog (which you should be doing) and your website fresh. Keep and show a sense of humor. Seek out places where all your guests might congregate, and join the conversation. Read and respond to travel blogs. In other words, engage.
In branding and marketing we talk about the fact that travelers want “bragging rights” when they return home. Where once being able to have stayed at the most luxurious, well known, and expensive place constituted the only important thing to brag about, today people want to brag about what they did on their vacation. And increasingly what they did may have social implications. They helped build a Habitat house, volunteered to clean up a park, ran a race for the cure, or otherwise did something that, in their opinion, “mattered.” And hopefully they also stayed at a great inn whose owners helped them find the opportunities and took good care of them. They’ll tell all their friends (via social media), and we’ve always known how important word of mouth is.
We all know about SEO, search engine optimization, and how important it is for travelers to find your website. But are you aware of Google’s new real-time search results? There’s a new wrinkle in SEO, and it involves social media. Google can now find and index information about your inn as it is being published on Facebook, Twitter, and other media. What does this mean for you? The more people you can have writing about their great weekend with you (bragging about it), posting pictures, telling their friends, the more prominent you’re going to show up in the new search results. Will it affect traditional search ranking? No one knows for sure. But “social rank” is increasingly more important to many than organic Google ranking.
But let’s be honest, innkeepers don’t have to obsess about this the way Pepsi or Apple do, but you do have to be in the game. For years at conferences in our blog (The Innkeeper’s Resource™) and in personal consultations with clients we’ve spoken and written about changing trends, tastes, and demographics, social media marketing, and the basics of hospitality. In the end, the important thing is not to get discouraged. Take bite sizes. Put together a plan for reinventing and reinvigorating your marketing. This may have to start with reinventing your inn, but you won’t know if you don’t ask. Sound daunting? It doesn’t have to be. Think of it as FUN! And if you can have fun, you’ll be happier, your guests will be happier, and your bed & breakfast will be more successful. Did I hear “exit strategy?”
What are YOU doing to be part of the new world we live in?