Inn Consultants and Brokers Since 1993

The B&B Team

Rick Wolf and Peter Scherman (that’s Rick on the left and Peter on the right) are both experienced speakers who have presented on a range of innkeeping related topics at the state, regional, and national level. They gather and analyze research for the Innkeeping industry and welcome the opportunity to share it with others. Contact Us

Posts Tagged ‘social media’

What Story Does Your Inn Tell?

June 27th, 2018 by Janet Wolf

waht story does your inn tell?

What Story Does Your Inn Tell? Devonfield Inn, Massachusetts Berkshires. Jumping Rocks Photography

What story does your Inn tell? Or in the tried and true marketing term…what is your USP, unique selling proposition?  Its’ all about defining who you are, what makes your product (your Inn) stand out above the ordinary. If someone asked you this moment to describe your USP, could you answer without hesitation? What unique experiences does your Inn offer? Marketers call this the ‘elevator pitch’.

One way is to tell your story with images. Images that a viewer can see not just on your website, but Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest. Compelling images that tell your story and motivate a viewer to book a stay with you and become a repeat loyal guest.

Hospitality photographers, Jumping Rocks Photography‘s portfolio of images include images of ‘experiences’.  Mathew and Mark describe how they approach photographing the guest expereince.

“When providing inn and hotel photography, we understand that interior design and architectural photography cannot tell the whole story. The guest experience transcends these physical elements; the human aspect must also be conveyed. Authenticity is key to making effective travel lifestyle photography. Typically, we use our models as “props” to help sell the unique experience of a particular resort or hospitality property.”

These experiential images on your website are important. But what about the instant gratification images that today’s travel shopper is seeking.

If you are marketing for a visual-heavy industry, like travel, food and beverage, or the arts, or any brand that targets millennials, you can’t afford to ignore the latest force to join the social media leviathan line-up.” Ignite Social Media.

What is this? I gave you a hint, Instagram. Maybe not the latest force, it has been around since 2010, but a most popular one, specifically for mobile engagement.

Hint: Add special events to that list, especially weddings.

What story does your inn tell?

Travel for Food & Beverage here at The Inn at English Meadows, Kennebunk Maine

What story does your inn tell?

Eden Vale Inn, Gold Country CA. Photo by Jumping Rocks Photography

With Instagram you can shoot and post your images not only instantly but often. Each photo you post adds to your story.

Now some people are better at taking smart phone photos. You may be one of them, or not. But you can learn. There are short webinars that show you some tricks. Experiment and find your hidden talent. It’s there!

The Monhegan House on Monhegan Island Maine. I Phone Photo by Janet

And then there are hashtags. (Do I have to!?) Why are they important? Here is a good explanation from ‘secret Instagram hashtag formula.’

“Instagram hashtags aren’t just about keywords. It’s about expressing commonality with your audience.” Jenn’s Trends

The author’s formula recommends 15-20 hashtags per post. Wow, that is a lot but worth it when it works.

Another eye opening article on Instagram. Top Tips on Instagram Marketing From the World’s Instagram Experts. By Foundr, Jonathan Chan

After posting images on Instagram (and other social media platforms) that tell your story, your USP enfolds. You now have the opportunity to expand on your story, add chapters that ‘transcend your physical elements’ and tell the experiences your brand/Inn conveys.

Thanks for Listening,

Janet Wolf

Online Marketing Made Simple

February 22nd, 2018 by Janet Wolf

Online Marketing made simple

The Lodge at Moosehead Lake’s New Head of Guest Relations and Marketing!

Online marketing made simple? I think this is an oxymoron (a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction). Any moron knows online marketing/social media is NOT simple, but I got your attention, right?

In a recent article by Steve Olenski in Marketing Insider Group, ‘4 Online Marketing Tips That May Sound Obvious But Should Not Be Overlooked’, the author attempts simplicity. I will further attempt to simplify his 4 tips.

Understand that Social Media Constantly Changes

  • Instagram is taking the lead with “more than 500 million active daily users”.
  • Facebook has fallen behind for the first time recently.
  • “Facebook created quite the buzz when they began limiting organic exposure in an effort to drive more businesses to run paid ads. Instagram is currently making headlines for doing the same thing now.”
  • But Facebook is still an important social media tool for you. It is still a good place to share basic information and direct visitors to your website. Don’t give up on it, even though those ads may drive you crazy.
  • Instagram-Show what you offer

whitefenceswatermill#breakfast on the go! #international #travels can’t stay for breakfast but we have them covered! #coffee and #croissant #bedandbreakfast

Don’t Get Hung Up on Outdated SEO Techniques

The one and most important tip here is, SEO is not a good DIY project!

  • Old outdated techniques and strategies are just that, old and outdated. “What worked several years ago just simply isn’t effective these days, and in many instances can get your website penalized.”
  • “Want to master 2018 SEO? Learn from people who are practitioners, not just talkers.”
  • We have many excellent ‘practitioners’ in our industry. Work with them and you will get the best results.
  • Refer to The B&B Team’s Industry Referrals page for a list of internet marketing companies that are leaders in our industry.

Share Your Story and Leverage It to Connect with Your Target Audience

This is my favorite tip. Something innkeepers should make sure they do, not only on social media but face to face with guests, community and staff.

  • “Your personal brand can be one of your most valuable marketing channels, but it requires putting yourself out there and sharing your story. Most consumers will connect with a person over a brand much easier.”
  • “The average consumer is going to welcome inspirational and educational lessons coming from a business owner, while blocking out messages that come from a company and reek of an advertisement.”

Create Content That Delivers Value

Content Marketing, the buzz phrase that has been out there for a long time. On all Social Media platforms.

  • “Focus on creating content your audience loves so much that they are encouraged to share it on social media. The referral traffic and social shares will positively impact your SEO naturally.”
  • This includes the image driven platforms, Instagram and Pinterest.
  • Check out this blog; ‘The Nine Ingredients That Make Great Content’.

I am going to end with sharing what I believe to be a very clever and compelling email newsletter from The Lodge at Moosehead Lake, it illustrates great personalized content that connects, tells a story and promotes. Opening with an image of a cute dog, always a great way to engage! Go Phoebe.

Thanks for Listening,

Janet Wolf

Rabbit Hole of Social Media

September 14th, 2017 by Janet Wolf

Rabbit Hole of Social Media

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”. Lewis Carroll

This is a quote we often use in The B&B Team’s ‘Better Way to Learn Innkeeping’ seminars for aspiring innkeepers.

We suggest our seminar attendees need to focus on where they want to live. It helps them focus on where to start looking for inns for sale. You have to know where you are going.

This line of thinking can also relate to how small business owners/innkeepers should approach managing their social media.

  • Focus on the what, meaning which social media platforms will be most effective for your inn.
  • Focus on the when, how much time you should plan on spending on each platform.
rabbit hole of social media

Focus

I found a good blog on social media tips for small businesses. ’21 Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Businesses.’ Interesting that the author used many Lewis Carroll quotes to illustrate the sometimes overwhelming tasks associated with social media. This article is chock full of good information, worth a read and a save for future reference.

“The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.” Chapter 1- Alice in Wonderland

Do you sometimes feel like you are falling down the rabbit hole of social media? To avoid the tunnel it takes a game plan. I will take some key points from the 21 that the author lists. Points I believe relate to our small business niche. Points I hope will help you focus.

Facebook, blogging and email newsletters will most likely be your first platforms to attack. If you are in love with the image driven platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, go for it. They can be very powerful image tools. No platform is a requirement.

1. “Concentrate on your target audience and your goals from social media. In a world of choosing social platforms to concentrate on for small businesses, less is often always more.”

2.  “Take on what you can handle-and nothing more.” i.e. Scheduling, making a posting plan. I know an innkeeper who planned his social media on his weekly calendar. Facebook Monday…Newsletter Wednesday…Bogging Thursday. And most important, be consistent.

3. “What sort of content is your audience looking for?” Start with your location, location, location and all the offerings your area provides. This shows and tells the special experience your guests will be having. Your goal is to educate and entertain. Keep your readers engaged. Suggest NOT to bombard them with your ‘discounted, buy one get one free’ specials. Yawn and delete. ( You can always sneak your offers in AFTER you have engaged them with your great content).

4.  “Use high quality, crisp visuals. Recent research shows images increase social media engagement. Twitter updates with images in them receive 150% more retweets than those without and Facebook posts with images in them receive 2.3 times more engagement than those without.”  Show them the money shots.

5.  “Be patient! A lot of small business owners don’t know about all of a platform’s capabilities, or get frustrated when they don’t see a high engagement rate or grand following right away.” Frustration can lead to inertia. Don’t let that happen. Keep posting regularly, focus on the what and the when. And by all means…

“Remember what the Dormouse said…feed your head.” (with knowledge that is!). White Rabbit lyrics. Jefferson Airplane. Couldn’t resist that quote, it just popped in my head!

rabbit hole of social media

The rabbit hole of social media is not something you want to fall into. Hope this helps you focus as well as inspire you to find your old childhood copy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Fun reading in between posting.

Thanks for Listening,

Janet Wolf

Bed and Breakfast-Experiential Travel

January 28th, 2015 by Janet Wolf

 

 

experiential travel and millennials

Experiential Travel-Seek and they will find.

It’s the new buzz phrase and it has caught on big time. Once again the focus is on the millennial and their travel wants and needs. Despite what the studies and media are putting out there the generation gap may not be that wide. We all want an exceptional experience when we travel.  But for this post I will focus on experiential travel for the millennial traveler. A Huffington Post article lists 29 wants and needs the millennial traveler is seeking. Let’s take a look at a few of the bullet points that relate to experiential travel. Followed by some suggestions for Bed and Breakfast innkeepers.

#2. They make quick decisions.

Email marketing is a great way to promote timely events and new businesses in your area. Content marketing is hot right now. Also engaging and timely blogs that are shared on your social media platforms. Good example of a timely blog is from the Brampton Inn in Chestertown MD about the new restaurants in town. They also shared it on Facebook.

#10. They’re comfortable booking trips on the go. #20 They’re spontaneous.

Mobile booking is becoming more main stream. It will become a must to have the ability to book from mobile devices.

#5. They travel to pursue their own interests (like food, wine, or outdoor adventuring) more than other generations do.

 

experiential travel for food and spirits

Flights of beer or any trendy libation

Spotlight those restaurants that offer a hipper experience. i.e. Wine, beer or whiskey flites. Local foods with a creative flair. Food carts. Local bands, entertainment. Pop-up restaurants.

 

For the experiential traveler a food truck is fast. fun and very local.

For the experiential traveler a food truck is fast. fun and very local.

Find out what is new in your area that screams ADVENTURE, connect with the provider and promote it big time. It may be that there is an adventure experience out there that is virtually unknown. Great opportunity to get the word out to your guests.

#24. Many of them are seeing the world’s wonders for the first time, generating an unmatched essence of thrill and awe.

What a great opportunity for innkeepers! If you are near any national or state park, the millennial traveler would love to experience it their way. (not the way they experienced it at 12 from the back seat of the family wagon).

Scenic highway road trips. Create your own itinerary that leads right to your door!

They have lots of energy and can pack 3 adventures into one day. Backpacking, on a trail then a horse then hop on a jeep. Or a dog sled… The Lodge at Moosehead Lake in Maine does a great job creating and promoting their Wilderness Adventures in all seasons.

 

experiential travel at Lodge at Moosehead Lake

Dogsledding-Mush your own dogsled memorable adventure. Lodge at Moosehead Lake, Maine

Have information available (online and onsite) that offer ‘free’ places to visit.

Out of sequence but a good finish to this post. #14. They want to travel more than older generations do.

Great news. But they must be able to find you. You have the unique lodging experience as well as the personal knowledge of your area. Where are the millennial travelers finding their lodging choices? Online reviews are a biggie. AirBnB is another, as well as some OTA’s.  Something to think about.

But once they have found you, they may come back and book with you directly. Or…they may tell their buddies about their experience. Word of mouth, so easy to communicate on social media. #6 They’re Internet masterminds.

Thanks for Listening,

Janet Wolf

Are You A Connector?

September 20th, 2012 by Janet Wolf

In Chapter 2 of  The Tipping Point – How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell  (a must read in my opinion), he writes about three personality types; Connectors, Mavens and  Salesmen. A quote …”What makes someone a Connector? The first–and most obvious–criterion is that Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this.”  From what I understand  this is not about your BF’s.  It is more about having the knack or instinct that helps you relate to people you seek out and meet. Connectors are curious and get excited about meeting people from all walks of life. Another quote…”The point about Connectors is that by having a foot in so many different worlds, they have the effect of bringing them all together.”

I contend that good innkeepers are good connectors. Innkeepers welcome guests from an array of social, cultural, professional and economic circles.  ‘Arrive as guests and leave as friends’? The B&B Team often sees this phrase on plaques in the many inns we visit as well as on B&B websites.  Those guests  who leave as friends will be your most loyal return customers. I may be stating the most obvious here, but think about it for a minute. Gladwell attributes the social success of Connectors to the fact that “their ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy.”  If you possess those four attributes in any combination people are naturally drawn to you, thus the connection. It does take two to tango, so those guests who connect are willing partners and are usually the guests who have the best time.

What about the grumps, complainers and ‘I wish they’d go away’ guests? Do you go out of your way to connect with them? It is hard but sometimes just a little bit of TLC does the trick. After one of those tired road weary grumps would check in to our Inn, Rick or I would make a bet with each other to see who could turn them around first. We had the assurance or self-confidence that the seemingly unwilling partner would relax and have the best  time once they connected to us and our Inn. It worked probably 99% of the time as I’m sure it does for most successful innkeepers who make the effort.

The guests you successfully connect with on a daily basis Gladwell calls acquaintances,  the ‘weak ties’. He contends that these ‘weak ties’ are more important than the strong ties, your real friends. “Acquaintances, in short, represent a source of social power, and the more acquaintances you have the more powerful you are.”  This principle holds for anything that “moves by word of mouth”. And we know our industry moves by the power of social media as well as the old fashioned WOM. If you think about it, this is the principle behind Facebook. The more connections  (likes and followers) we make on Facebook, Twitter, the more WOM exposure you acquire.

In addition to the Connector there are the other personality types, the Mavens and the Salesmen.  Mavens are “information specialists”. “They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace”. Boy does this ring a bell. Successful innkeepers must keep up with the trends in marketing their Inn or be left behind and be deemed irrelevant by the public. Pretty scary! A Maven is also someone ‘who wants to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving his own.” Another bell ringer. Innkeepers are constantly working to solve problems which in turn improves the Inn’s  physical property, operations and the profitability of your business. 

Salesmen are ”persuaders, charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills”.  We all know people that have that special knack, you may be one of them. But if you are upbeat and enthusiastic about your Inn and love what you do that may be all you need in the persuasive and charismatic department. No one can ‘sell’ their Inn as well as you do.

Your ability to connect is the most powerful tool you can have as an innkeeper.  And if you possess the drive to acquire all the knowledge that is available through education (conferences, our blog and Facebook feeds, webinars, just to name a few) this will help you make knowledgeable and prudent decisions and improvements. And if you enthusiastically deliver service with a smile (even to those grumps). Man you have got it and you get it!

Thanks for listening.

Janet Wolf

Is Living Social or Groupon Confusing Your Performance Indicators?

July 27th, 2011 by Scott Bushnell

Countless inns are participating in the Living Social and Groupon craze (not sure if I should use the word “fad” there, which implies a short-term shelf life) and, as seen in previous postings from Janet and me, there are a number of “rules of thumb” that can make participation worthwhile.

One thing that is happening, however, is the monstrous effects it has on Occupancy and Average Daily Rate (ADR) calculations…typical discussion mileposts among innkeepers concerning the strength of their businesses.  The voucher bookings send occupancy soaring but the revenue margin on each voucher is miniscule compared to the “normal” operating rates.  Consider this example from this 10 room inn in Pennsylvania:

2010 revenues were about $156,000 and occupancy was 31.7%.  They sold 1156 rooms in 2010 giving them an annual ADR of $135.  Like many inns, they are seasonally slow in January-May and participated in a coupon drop with a net income per coupon (after discount to purchaser and the company) of $47.25.  They sold 413 coupons for a windfall check of almost $20,000…nice bucks in the slow season.

Using their 2010 performance, with these additional 413 room-nights sold, their occupancy for the year LEAPED from 31.7% to 43%!  But because their revenue for the additional 413 rooms was so low, their ADR fell from $135 to $112.

With these indicators was the coupon drop worth it?

Don’t know yet.  The hotels have been using RevPar as their measuring indicator forever.  RevPar is the Revenue per Available Room and is calculated by dividing the total room revenue by the number of rooms in the facility times 365 (days per year).  This combines the Occupancy level and the ADR into one number and makes comparisons so much simpler.

In our guinea pig inn above, the RevPar for 2010 prior to the coupon drop impact was $42.76.  With the addition of 413 room nights at $47.25 each, RevPar increased to $48.10.  This makes an easy correlation when comparing performance indicators from year to year or from inn to inn.

So was the coupon drop worth it?

Some of you just now said, Yes!   (I heard you!) but I am not sure you are right.  RevPar does NOT take into account your expenses and the ultimate impact on Net Operating Income…the REAL driver of the strength of your business.  If the inn’s expenses for the coupon drop are above $47.25 (the revenue received for each one) …their NOI dropped unfavorably.  And, as you have seen in previous postings, an inn’s variable costs (for housekeeping labor, those little soaps, laundry, breakfast, etc.) can easily be $30 or more.

RevPar needs to become the measurement of choice in the B&B industry to replace Occupancy and ADR.  It’ll take a generation or two to evolve, but with the current discounting crazes that will, most likely, become routine marketing tools (thus throwing the traditional indicators into a roller-coaster tizzy), RevPar is the only one that makes sense when comparing performance from year to year or from inn to inn.      Scott

Give Me the Simple Life

May 11th, 2011 by Janet Wolf

Ahh…the simple life of an innkeeper. Well maybe not so simple these days with social media, online reservations, website updating, conferences, webinars, the list goes on. So let me tell you a story of a couple of innkeepers of yore. Their names were Maryline White and Louise Shangle, partners in business and life. They owned a house on Goose Rocks Beach on the ocean in Maine. Many friends came to visit being that they loved to cook and entertain and the location was grand. So they say one day,”why not open for business, share our lifestyle with guests?”  So they did and The Snow Goose was opened.

Maryline now lives in Oregon and just celebrated her 90th birthday. Unfortunately Louise passed away a while back. Rick knew Maryline and Louise when they had a small restaurant in Carmel, California. They moved there after closing The Snow Goose.  The two of them were very adventurous and nomadic for a while!  Rick bused tables for them when he was in junior high school. They eventually moved back to Goose Rocks Beach and when Rick and I vacationed in the area and eventually moved and opened our bed and breakfast in Kennebunkport we reconnected.

I recently called Maryline and asked her a few questions about her and Louise’s experience as ‘simple innkeepers’ in the early 1960s.

Q  What are your memories of the worst guest?

A  I don’t think we had any bad guests. There was one that was unusual, he would bark at our two Scotties, maybe trying to communicate with them? They would just bark back. They had a great conversation.

Q  What did you do to market your inn?

A  My career in NYC was advertising and PR and Louise’s was graphic arts. We purchased a mailing list of companies related to these two fields and sent out mailings. Then we had these cards printed and distributed them in the tourist centers. That was about it in those days, but it worked. We would also make friends with the other innkeepers in our area. The Colony Hotel would send us people who didn’t want to pay their rates. We would also send people to The Colony who we thought would not be happy with our type of lodging.

Maryline wanted to say that she is still actively organizing and promoting. She started a ‘Poetry Jam’ at her senior living center where she lives. She says, “We keep it simple, no rules, just don’t recite for too long so you won’t embarrass yourself. It is a very popular event, in our first session we had over 40 attendees.”

Reading their clever ad says it all. You know exactly what kind of experience you will have at The Snow Goose. Can you imagine taking a reservation on a party line? Do any of you recall what a party line is?

Well I’m not going to make this a long blog, just going to keep it simple. But first a line from the song ‘Give Me the Simple Life’, words and music by Harry Ruby and Rube Bloom.

‘A cottage small is all I’m after

Not one that’s spacious and wide

A house that rings with joy and laughter

And the ones you love inside’

I believe this is what The Snow Goose was all about, simple hospitality from the heart. Thank you Maryline and Louise for your memories.

Janet Wolf

Living Social Tips from Innkeepers

April 6th, 2011 by Janet Wolf

ShoppersAttention shoppers…group buying marketing companies have hit the air waves. In radio days the airwaves were the frequency that transmitted the signals that carried information to the world. We all know what claims the airwaves today, social media.  And the latest addition to the social media tool box is…

If you haven’t heard, Living Social along with Groupon are the front runners when it comes to social commerce. These two companies have attracted the largest audience of consumers.  Since the introduction of Living Social Escapes (many of us were first introduced at the Charleston PAII Conference) there have been a number of innkeepers that have taken advantage of this form of ‘social shopping’.  This is a new way to attract buyers to your brand. Increased exposure, isn’t that what we all need?

I recently interviewed Janel Martin, Innkeeper/Chef (extraordinaire) of The Wakefield Inn in New Hampshire about her experience with Living Social Escapes.

Chef Martin in The Wakefield Inn Kitchen

Q.  What was your motivation for using this social media tool?

A.  Marketing exposure. In the past I tried all the conventional advertising media and spent lots of money with no results. It has been a struggle to get my name, brand out there. I got instant and phenomenal exposure with my package posting. It went viral instantly.

Q.  What did your package include?

A.  I tell myself all the time, sell what you know and what you know will sell. I do cooking classes that are hands on; I love to get the guests involved. So my package includes a cooking class, a massage and a Deneen mug to take home, and the room of course. Oh yes, I believe it is important that the guest take home something with the Inn’s logo to remind them of the great time they had, so don’t forget to pre order the mugs, I ran out!

 Q.  What kind of feedback have you gotten from the participating guests?

A.  They all leave saying they can’t wait to tell their friends about the experience. I got at least 20 new reviews on Trip Advisor from these guests. Also there were at least 100 people that contacted me saying they missed the deadline and was I going to post one again. These are new people that are now in my database. Many of the people are from as far away as Montreal.

Q.  Would you do it again?

A.  Definitely!

Q.  What advice would you want to pass on to innkeepers who are considering putting a special on a social commerce site?

A.  If I was to do it again I would be more specific and firm about the rooms I offer and the dates. It would be for mid-week only and for a shorter period of time. You must structure your package very carefully and be very detailed about what you offer.

                Thanks Janel.

A point that Janel wanted to empathize is that you can do all the number crunching to see if your package will be profitable and that is important but her real motivation was the increased marketing exposure. This is what we at The B&B Team also believe is a prime reason to use any social media tool.  Marketing 101: Draw customers to your sell!  Your package is your invitation to customers to experience what you have to offer and it must be worth their while. If the growing number of customers using social commerce see your ‘escape’ and think it is worth their while than you have a new customer X 100, 200, 300, 400! Is it worth your while too?  Hope this helps you decide one way or the other.

This will a part of a series of interviews I will have with innkeepers that have participated in Living Social. Stay tuned.

Janet Wolf

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