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Too Many Marketing Choices
I am stunned at how overwhelmed I am with the task of marketing my B&B. Where I am stuck is which websites to join? How many B&B books do I have to be in? How many registries/organizations should I associate with? Some are very costly and I feel I could spend my days just joining one site/book/organization/registry after another. Any suggestions?
Don't let it overwhelm you -- it's actually not as difficult as it seems. The greatest problem is all the misinformation out there. We try to only talk about things which are proven to work but there are so many people touting themselves as experts and giving false information that the message gets lost. The result is confused and skeptical innkeepers and I personally don't blame them.
I understand how you feel about the hype surrounding signing up for absolutely everything. Don't submit to it. First, read our article on Common Sense Web Marketing and America's Most Wanted Lodging Guides available here: http://www.moriah.com/publishing/innres.html. Next, start asking other innkeepers which associations to join. Generally your state association would be the first and a local association a close second. These are fantastic resources and a link from their website to yours will usually be worth at least $200/year.
As for print guides, there are so few these days which still work. The exception is any guide which is free to the public as the internet has replaced most paid books. Generally your state association will have a printed guide and there are often regional guides like our own available in your region. Ask about 20 innkeepers which they think before signing on though.
I don't mean to burst bubbles but there are a lot of wrong ways to go in marketing and only a few right ones. My job is to direct innkeepers to the correct choices the first time.
Frustrated with lodging guides
What frustrates me is that you have to pay more to include a link to your site from sites like bbonline.com and bedandbreakfast.com. So you buy a package that is more than you need, or pay an additional fee, just to get that link to your page. I know they have to make money, too, but it frustrates me just the same.
Mike and Beth Hettich
The William Strong House
I understand your frustration but here are a couple thoughts:
1. Nobody is getting rich off of innkeepers especially B&B directories. As the publisher of one of the oldest B&B directories, I know what it takes to run such a company. Bottom line, they are charging what they need to charge in order to continue providing a great service to you.
2. 90% (to be safe) of their clients (BBOnline and BedandBreakfast.com) are receiving greater than ten times in revenue what they pay annually. Once you know who the good directories are and you pay the fees, you start reaping the benefits. Very few industries enjoy such assured success ratios.
3. Does it cost more for a link or less if you don't want one? We hear the argument both ways from innkeepers. Basically, you get exactly what you pay for.
I know my arguments sound one sided but they are based on years of speaking with and listening to innkeepers and there are plenty on each side of the argument.
Eric (BedandBreakfast.com) and Randy (BBOnline.com) have worked very hard for many years for innkeepers. They represent the industry well and are excellent resources for innkeepers. I cannot say enough nice things about their services. They are easily worth what they charge.
Which Sites to Choose
As a new innkeeper and new to internet/computers, I have many questions about which sites, how many, etc. to belong to. I am constantly bombarded with e-mails, letters from sites that would like to include my listing. It is very confusing and can end up being very costly if you sign up with many. How does one determine which are the best? Which are rip offs?
On average one third of all visitors to your website will follow a link from some other website. This makes knowing which sites to get a link from very important. Links from web sites fall into two categories -- 1) Local Links such as your chamber of commerece web site and 2) Internet Lodging Guides such as BBOnline.com and BedandBreakfast.com. Quality Local Links can be some of the best referrers to your web site producing hundreds of visitors every week. However, there are generally only a handful and it is impossible for me to predict what they are for each town. Be sure to ask other innkeepers in your area what has worked for them.
Unlike Local Links, the best Internet Lodging Guides are generally well known. More often than not, the more focused on your region, the better the lodging guide will perform. So a B&B guide which covers your state or nearby group of states will usually be a top performer. Several National Lodging Guides run a close second in importance although they can outperform the more regional guides. I wrote an article a while back entitled "America's Most Wanted (Internet Lodging Guides)" which covers all the national guides which we know to be top performers. You can read it online at: http://www.moriah.com/publishing/articles/mostwanted.html
A final tip. Whenever you are solicited by some unknown lodging guide or any service for that matter, ask for a free trial. I wouldn't trust any company without a free trial unless it was highly recommended by a professional in our industry. There are just too many ineffective services and even scams out there to waste your money on. Buyer beware, "Everything which glitters is not gold" and just because the link is only $30/year doesn't make it a good deal.
Where to spend your marketing dollars
We get bombarded all the time from different websites/search engines to join, but which to choose? How many should we be on? I realize that a lot of business comes from the internet these days, but what other alternatives can we maximize?
Page House Bed and Breakfast
What do you think we should spend our marketing dollars on, besides a webpage, etc?
We find there are just so many advertising opportunities out there -- it's hard to decide what to do, in what publication to go into, etc.
The Orchard Bed and Breakfast
Besides web marketing, there are very few marketing opportunities for innkeepers which still pay off. That is not to say print is dead, far from it. It's just the number of quality printed guides as diminished to only those which remain effective -- a kind of survival of the fittest.
Printed regional B&B directories, state B&B association guides and a few national lodging guides are still a very necessary part of every marketing budget. High quality four-color rack cards have replaced the traditional brochure and can be extremely inexpensive (10,000 for $750) if you shop around. Other than that, the majority of traditional mediums and media no longer produce much bang for the buck.
That said, let's go back and discuss what you didn't ask for -- Internet Marketing. Many innkeepers believe having a web site is enough. However, "if you build it, they will come" does not apply to web sites. As a matter of fact, they won't come unless you actively promote your web site.
Your own domain name web site is the hub of all your marketing. All of your efforts and marketing dollars should be in the design and promotion of this single entity. After it is designed, you will want to starting signing up for some of the national lodging guides being sure to get a link back to your own web site.
I know there are a veritable plethora of marketing choices out there but marketing need not be confusing and shouldn't cost a fortune. Our articles are based on 20 years of experience marketing Bed and Breakfast Inns and they help take the pain out of the process.
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