New Facebook Business Page changes Bed and Breakfasts should be aware of

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https://www.facebook.com/Applesauceinnbnb (new Business Facebook page layout)

So as I continue my love-hate relationship with Facebook and it’s ongoing changes, I am endlessly fascinated as they givith and then they takith away. It’s sort of like watching a horrifying train wreck for me, I just can’t look away and feel impelled to poke around in it to see just what they changed this time.

For those of you that still are utilizing Facebook for business, you may want to get up to speed a little on a few of the changes, some are big, some little, but as usual infinitely annoying for those that have much better things to do with their time, like perhaps making breakfast for lovely guests.

When you log in to your Facebook page some time soon, you may get this option on your page.

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I don’t have a specific time period for how long it takes after you select “Join Waitlist”, some pages seem to get the option to convert in a few days, others are still waiting.

I do know out of the 1166 small lodging facilities I track on Facebook, (https://www.facebook.com/lists/10202488504832479 if anyone wants to follow the list) only 17 of them have the new timeline as of now (4.8.2014).

When your page has the option to convert, you will see this (below) the first time you login. BEFORE you click update now for Fans, take a look and see if you have any tabs that are really important to you FIRST! (more on this in few screenshots down)

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Your custom tabs are moving down below the fold to the left hand side. Apparently Timeline, About and Photos are going to stay the same, but if you have a custom tab in the top four tabs of your page, it will bring it into the toolbar, the rest (if you have them, will be under “More”)    This is important because apparently, once the page converts, you can not move the order around.

Updated: May 2014, it now does give the option of rearranging which tabs get switched with which with the exception of timeline and about. Photos can now be moved.

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Other changes to be aware of. The Admin panel looks very different, I think it’s actually more user friendly now then it was before.

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If you are using the prescheduler, the pre-posted posts are now under the Activity “Tab”

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Other changes to be aware of:

  1.  The reviews option seems to be a sore spot because you cannot remove the reviews and in most cases can’t reply to the reviewer. If you do get a review (or a troll) you do now have the option of taking the reviews/stars away. Previously you had to delete your whole address for it to disappear. Now you lose the map but can still keep your address listing. The change is located under “Settings” and then “Page Info”

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  1. With the new page layout, you can still highlight a post or photo but it will not go across the whole page width anymore, as the left sidebar is there. All it does is give a star at the top of the picture/post (at the moment) so not quite sure what the point of highlighting something is for.
  1. When you upload a photo album it doesn’t let you pick a primary photo to highlight anymore (I hope they change this back) From testing, it’s the first photo in your album that shows up as a larger view. And the layouts are a tad different.

Vertical album photos

fb8https://www.facebook.com/D53Toastmasters/posts/626093410797124?stream_ref=10

Horizontal album photos

fb9https://www.facebook.com/KornerKottage/posts/10152144852791026?stream_ref=9

Albums sizes are 518 X 518 (pixels)

  1. The other major change is photo sizing. If you post photos on your business wall, the new sizing is approximate 415W X 557H for vertical photos and 555W X 308H for horizontal photos. Sizes are approximate because I had to use a photo snipper, I could not find where the actual size is listed yet, (but this is close to what it will be).

Photos posted on your business wall are going to become somewhat smaller on the internal page viewer of someone’s feed. The sizing becomes 511H X 344W for vertical photos and 320W X 437H for horizontal photos*

I’ll correct the sizes when the official sizes are made public.

Because of the new photo size changes, where it previously was better to post horizontal photos, it now may be beneficial to try more verticals, as it’s taking up more visual timeline space or even albums in groups of 4 photos.  Albums 518 X 518 (pixels)  gives you more advertising eyes on space then single pictures now.

  1. The biggest annoyance B&Bs will probably have is the new banner layout, Like, Follow, etc and the name of the business now overlays the banner itself, If you have a long description it brings the text up even further. The top two are the new layout, in comparison with the last which is the current/old layout.

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Essentially your losing almost ½ of the banner in terms of visual usage and if you have text in there now currently, you will have to revisit what it looks like when it converts. It also appears that the square avatar image has moved over very slightly more to the left hand side.

I’ve bookmarked 22 pages so far that have the new timeline live as of now (4.8.2014) if anyone wants to check them out. https://www.facebook.com/lists/10203050584244113   You will have to click on the individual pages themselves to see the changes as you can’t see them from the feed.

If anyone else sees/comes across more changes they find, I would much appreciate a heads-up so I can update this.

Posted in B&B, Facebook, Hospitality News, How tos, Inns, Lodging, marketing, Observations, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Pros and Cons of Offering Pet Friendly Lodging (plus notes)

dreamstime_3531367These are my notes from this past March’s MidAtlantic Innkeeper’s Conference presentation. I recently had a few emails from innkeepers asking for suggestions so thought it might be helpful to post them.

Statistics

Forty-nine percent of pet owners in a survey said they plan to travel with their pets within the next 12 months. Via Tripadvisor Biggest pet peeve when traveling with pets? 50% Finding Activities to do with Pets 25% Additional Fees 15% Weight Restrictions (rough estimate) 15% Finding Accommodations (rough estimate) 10% Breed Restrictions (rough estimate) via GoPetFriendly.com

Pros

  • Targets a niche demographic, usually people with double incomes, no kids or retired
  • Offer something other area lodging may not, especially if you decide to allow larger dog breeds.
  • Pet friendly guests are year around, unlike tourism niches

Cons

  • Other guests may be allergic or be turned off by the nearness of having pet friendly rooms.
  • Potential damage to rooms/property
  • Extra cleaning needed for rooms and property
  • Potential liability biting, issues with other dogs, barking, fleas
  • Pet odors

Recommendations

  • Ground-floor rooms, with separate entrances if possible.
  • Wood or tile/easy to clean floors
  • In Room Amenities for the pets, dog beds, custom bowls etc.
  • A set aside area specifically for dogs to relieve themselves with waste bags and a disposal can, gravel or rock areas are great for this.
  • Develop relationships with your local vets and pet stores, cookies help :)
  • Develop a pet waiver and have it clear state dos and don’t for guests and dog guests, including fees for damages
  • Decide if you want a weight limit on dogs and/or a limit on how many, excluding large dogs excludes more than 50% of your pet friendly guests.
  • Decide if you are going to accept any other types of animals
  • In pet policies, make it a requirement that pets be spayed/neutered
  • Put together lists (and advertise online) of things to do and places to go for guests with their pets, as well area kennels and dog sitters
  • Have a list of local vets and emergency services in the area, both on the website and in room

Dog Amenities and Suggestions

  • Plastic or metal water bowls with inn name, plastic ones can be gifts
  • Easily cleanable Dog beds
  • Extra Paper towels
  • Dog towels (if you have a rain storm and the dogs have muddy feet have some towels “for” the dogs so they are not using your good ones.
  • Consider having your pet free refundable at the end of the stay, but markup pet friendly rooms.
  • Consider developing some specials, amenities and packages just for pet friendly guests
  • Pet type “extras” with your inn’s name on them are inexpensive and can help brand the business, water bottles, pet frisbees, leashes, collapse able water bowls, the small plastic containers that attach to leashes to hold plastic dog bags for disposal etc.

*Many travel people bring their own bedding and toys with them, as well as food, but extras are always welcome Some sample wording for pet friendly policies: (you don’t need to use everything but find out and customize what works for you.)

Reservations, which include pets, must be made by telephone.  800-555-1212 We charge a $25 – one time pet fee.  The charge for a second dog is $10.

We require a $250 fully refundable deposit, which is taken at check-in.  Damages incurred because of your pet(s), will be added to your bill.

Your innkeepers will help identify special pet activities & services including hiking trails, pet friendly parks, pet specialty stores plus local veterinary & grooming services for a pet spa day. Please click here for a list of things to do with your pet in the area and other area pet friendly services and amenities.

Sample Pet Policy (selections pulled from Pet Friendly Lodging B&Bs that have been offering Pet Friendly for more then 5 years)

The guest whose signature appears below agrees to have a $100.00 authorization (refundable pet deposit) per room charged to their credit card and refunded upon departure unless any room damage incurred during stay and agrees to abide by the following guidelines: Guest is solely responsible for their dog. This includes, but is not limited to, the dog’s behavior and/or noise.

Dogs may not be left unattended in guestrooms for any reason unless secured in a dog crate. Guestrooms will not be serviced by housekeeping if this is not adhered to.

Guest is responsible for any boarding fees associated with the dog’s removal from the inn. Reasons for removal can include violence, noise, and/or other damage.

Guest is responsible for any lost revenue incurred by Jane Doe Inn as a result of noise complaints or any other situations associated with their dog(s). Guest agrees to have dog(s) leashed at all times when at the ane Doe Inn and in the designated area just outside the Inn marked pet friendly.

If dog is known to be aggressive, the guest must have the dog muzzled.

Dogs are allowed only in the designated area marked “pet friendly” next to the Jane Doe Inn.

Dogs are not permitted in any pool area, interiors of buildings (except guest’s  room) or any other recreational areas of the inn.Please refer to the guest directory in your room for town’s regulations on animals on  public beaches.

Guest is responsible for any injury their dog(s) may inflict on others.

Guest is responsible for cleaning up after their dog and must dispose of waste in appropriate containers in the exterior trash cans provided in the designated area. Pet waste may not be disposed of in any indoor trash containers, including those  in guest rooms.

Guest must provide the Jane Doe Inn with a valid, authorized credit card for any property  damages or other fees associated with pet(s).

Jane Doe Inn reserves the right to ask to leave any pet(s) and/or guest(s) from the property at any time.

Dogs are not permitted on the furniture. If you feel your dog may try to get on the furniture, ask the innkeeper for coverings.

Dogs are not to be bathed in the whirlpool tubs or showers.

Dogs must be leashed when on Inn grounds. The Town of ——- also requires that dogs be leashed.

I attest that my dog(s) has not been attack trained and to the best of my knowledge has never injured or threatened to injure anyone.

I agree to be liable for injury to any person or any animal caused by my dog(s) while on the Inn premises.

Dog(s) may remain in guest rooms unattended. Guests should bring a crate(s); if you are concerned their dog(s) may damage furnishings. Should your dog(s) cause a disturbance while you are out, you will be contacted by phone and agree to return to the Inn immediately. I, (print name) ________________________, agree to abide by these guidelines and understand that failure to abide can result in additional charges and fees or potential non-refundable eviction from the resort.

Guest Signature___________________________________________

Date_______________________________

Example of “things to do with your dogs” page: (courtesy of the Glynn House Inn in Ashland, NH

Hiking trails – Dogs and their humans enjoy a huge number of hiking options. The Rattlesnake trailhead – 15 minutes away – offers a series of dog friendly trails and easy climbs. Franconia Notch State Park – 25 minutes drive – has over a dozen dog friendly trails. The only trail, which isn’t dog friendly, is the Flume Gorge. Greeley Ponds and the Lincoln Woods Wilderness Trail – 25 minutes drive – off the Kancamagus Highway scenic Byway – offers several moderate dog friendly hiking options The Welch-Dickey Loop Trail – 25 minutes – off Upper Mad River Road in Waterville Valley – provides another terrific hike for humans and their favorite four-legged friends.

Boating: You can take your best four-legged friend on a six or ten mile paddle on the “Pemi” River.  Canoes provide a great home for floating dogs. The river scenery is spectacular. Take your dog on a cruise around Squam Lake. Rent small aluminum runabouts or roomy, comfortable pontoon boats.

Shopping: Dogs like ice cream during the warmer months too. Why not take your four-legged friend for ice cream in Meredith? Pet Paradise in Center Harbor 603 524-3373 has a great selection of pet goodies. Dog Mountain, World-renowned artist Stephen Huneck created Dog Mountain so people can experience his artwork and share his passion for nature. Dog Mountain is filled with joy and fun for dog lovers. Every year thousands of people attend the annual footloose and fancy-free Dog Parties. For more information, visit http://www.dogmt.com.

Specialty Pet Services*** Pet Grooming: Why not give your dog the opportunity to be really pampered?  Doggie Designs (603 279-8777) will provide a shampoo, blow dry and manicure. You can have a nice relaxing lunch, while the 4-footed member of the family gets all smartened up

Pet Sitting: Does your dog needs some time away from its humans? First class doggie day care, boarding and training is available at Lakes Region Pet Resort http://www.lakesregionpetresort.com/ White Mountain College for Pets http://www.ebonykennel.com/. Day care & boarding is available at Karriad Kennels http://karriadkennel.com. ***Please book services well in advance.

Veterinarians: Plymouth Animal Hospital (603 536 1213) has a terrific team of medical professionals who can be contacted seven days a week, 24 hours per day. You can also visit the Winnipesaukee Veterinary Emergency Center http://www.winnipesaukeeveter.com

Pet Friendly Directories (go with the free ones only as a recommendation)by keyword  

*** are recommended Pet friendly lodging

http://www.bringfido.com/ (comes up high in the search engines but website is not user friendly)

http://www.petswelcome.com/  ***

http://www.pet-friendly-hotels.net/

https://www.dogfriendly.com/ ***

http://www.tripswithpets.com/ http://www.gopetfriendly.com/***

Pet friendly bed and breakfasts

http://www.bringfido.com/lodging/bandbs/

http://bandb.petswelcome.com/

Pet friendly hotels

http://www.pet-friendly-hotels.net/

http://www.bringfido.com/

Pet friendly places to stay

http://www.bringfido.com/

http://www.petswelcome.com/

https://www.dogfriendly.com/

Pet friendly B&Bs

http://www.bringfido.com/lodging/bandbs/

http://bandb.petswelcome.com/

Posted in B&B, Customer Service, Hospitality News, How tos, Inns, marketing, Observations | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

How Innkeepers can Leverage Youtube’s Photo Slideshow Option

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Early last year (date to the best of my knowledge) Youtube rolled out the ability to upload photos and turn them into a video/slideshow.

I think video is incredibly important for innkeepers, but may be cost prohibitive for many and the slideshow option, if you have some great pictures to showcase, is an easy and affordable alternative.

To elaborate on video a bit. Professional video for an inn tour is extremely important, I’ve seem too many home made videos done by B&Bs that unfortunately are somewhat cringeworthy, and from a guest perspective is not very enticing, so I would recommend if your going to do a inn tour, have it done right by a professional. On the flip side of that, videos including vine video, used for the capture of area things to do and see, are very appealing when done “in house” so to speak. With the availability of flipcams and smart phones, taking two minutes to do a short video of the sailboats on the nearby lake makes great Youtube fodder.

The photo slideshow offers everything (and a bit more) then the video feature. The ability to add a description, up to 5000 characters in length, keywords, music (that they provide) and some nice effects you can apply to the video/slideshow similar to a Powerpoint presentation. I haven’t found the limit on how many photos you can add, but you would of course want to be cognizant of how long the video would run.

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To get to the option, go to your Youtube dashboard and then “Upload”. Still photos can be uploaded or they can be drawn from your Google+ profiles. They can then be rearranged into the order you want them in. Once the photos have been “processed” though you can’t rearrange them again, so think ahead on what you want to appear in what order.

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A note when getting to the change effects page. If you go the change slide effects or transitions, wait for about 5 seconds before changing each option, it tends to glitch and then you have to start from scratch. Music can be added at this point as well as text overlays, both of which can be added after the fact as well once the slideshow has “processed”.

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If you want to delete or add photos that appear as options, you need to be logged into your Google account and then visit https://picasaweb.google.com/home/.

The video can be public, private or viewed only by having the link/unique url.

I would recommend innkeepers explore this option, it’s extremely easy to use and Youtube videos can be used as content in a variety of places. Posted to Facebook, Google+, Linkedin and Twitter, embedded into your website and blog and Pinned to Pinterest. Facebook also has the option of having a Youtube tab (my favorite application for this is http://woobox.com) which brings in all your Youtube videos and a featured one (that you can change).  Plus Youtube is awesome for search engine optimization, so make sure you put a detailed description on your videos and add tags.

Posted in B&B, Facebook, How tos, Inns, Lodging, marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The BBB Customer Review Option, Innkeepers Need to Keep It On Their Radar.

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Back in November it was released that the BBB (Better Business Bureau) was going to roll out a customer review system http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/11/better-business-bureau-customer-reviews.html.

I was waiting to write about this one until I had a bit more information. This morning while scoping out places to stay for a friend visiting the Boston area, a lodging’s BBB customer review popped up in Google search. So I thought it might be time to revisit.

It appears from looking at some of the reviews out there that the customer review ability has been around on select businesses in certain areas going back to 2011, I gather this was part of their “beta testing”.

While it looks like the customer review option is not yet out to everyone, it appears to be being rolled out by area. Newport, RI for example looks like it has the customer review option enabled for all businesses located in the area. (I didn’t look at all categories so it’s an assumption based on looking at about a dozen options) and Boston, MA as well. I don’t recall seeing this option several months ago, so I am going to guess it’s a recent option. Not all large areas have this enabled yet, Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA does not, but Bangor, ME and surrounding areas does for example.

This isn’t anything for B&Bs and other lodging to panic about, but it’s definitely something to keep on their radar, as I know several lodging people in ME, MA and RI who do have the option enabled on their BBB business listings, and they may not be aware of it. If the reviews are showing up in web search results, even more of a reason to keep an eye on.

I had a chat discussion last November with a customer service rep from the BBB and this is what I managed to glean from it:

The article from Small Biz Trends mentions that all reviews are verified. The BBB rep told me that the business is notified and has to verify that the customer/guest was an actual customer/guest.

She also said that a business could respond to the review and that the business did not have to be a paid member of the BBB to do so.

There is more to this, the BBB agent kind of danced around questions, so I still have some unanswered questions about the whole process.

This is a transcript of the conversation, as you can see we went around in circles for a bit. But supposedly it tracks IP addresses (similar to Yelp and Tripadvisor.) I bolded and underlined the text that I think might be of interest to lodging.  And yes I am Hale, old nickname from CIA.

Robin: Hello Hale Turner. How may I help you?

Hale Turner: Am reading http://smallbiztrend…s-bureau-customer-reviews.html am wondering how you are verifing the reviews

Robin: We verify all email addresses, and reach out to the business as well

Hale Turner: how are you verifying the reviewers though

Robin:  what way do you mean

Hale Turner: how do you know the reviewers are real people?

Robin: Thats why we reach out to the business for there input.

Hale Turner: so http://www.bbb.org/b…vers-ma-95061/Customer-Reviews for example, all the people who wrote reviews the business is verifying they are real people??

Robin: Correct

Hale Turner: and they would know how???

Robin: because they would have information if they have had any marketplace interaction

Hale Turner: and so if someone wrote a negative review and the company says its a competitor or former disgruntely employee how would they prove that it was so or not

and a company could technically make up a customer or two and say they were customers and have positive reviews written, how do you verify that?

Robin:  BBB does not handle any employee or employer issues, there is also verification of URLs so a business can not file there own review

Hale Turner: verification of urls or IP addresses?

Robin: Both

Hale Turner: ok, ““If a consumer cannot prove he or she is a real customer, we will not publish the review … it’s as simple as that.”” so a business can simply deny that who ever wrote a review is a customer, no? and can a business respond to a review?

Robin: Yes they do

Hale Turner: how do they go about doing that, do they have to be a paid member?

Robin: No

Hale Turner: so the earlier question, a business can deny a reviewer was a customer?

Robin: Correct

Hale Turner: and also “The BBB does not handle any employee or employer issues,” so if someone has a dispute about a review, related to an am employee issue how is that expected to be handled?

Robin: You can call me at 508-652-4868

Hale Turner: So in answer, call the BBB to dispute?

I am just doing information gathering for this, I don’t have any BBB issues to resolve

Robin: Ok

Hale Turner: so call to dispute?

Robin: call if you need any more help

Hale Turner: can you answer that one please though?

hello?

Robin: if its regarding a employee that works for the business we would have to review what the nature is.

Hale Turner: and a business would do that by calling their local BBB correct?

Robin: At this point you would need to call our office with any more queastions

Hale Turner: you for some help but its a shame you can’t answer that question without my having to call

Robin: what was the last question if you have an issue with someone that works for a certian business

Hale Turner: if a competitor posted a review, how do you go about disproving it, that one?

Robin: Again it would be us reaching out to the business and having feed back from them

Im sorry but any more questions you would need to call in.

You have been transferred to: Kristen.

Hale Turner: Hi Kristen, why did she transfer me to you if you’all want me to call with anymore questions, or can you answer them?

Kristen: I am not sure why , was she able to answer your question ?

Hale Turner: I had two questions that she could not or would not answer. One was if a review was written by a competitor how does a business dispute it and two same question but review written by a disgruntled former employee All I was asking was how does a biz dispute a review, a phone call to the BBB or is there some other action that a business has to take

Kristen: reviews are verified by url and ip address then we send the business a notification also which they can verify if you are a business disputing a review , you can contact bbb by phone or email

Hale Turner: thats all I needed an answer to, for some reason she would not confirm that a business needed to call. Thank you for your time.

My apologies for the whole thing, but thought it was interesting to not really get a straight answer at first. And as I said, I still have some unanswered questions. If the BBB happens to read this and would like to clarify anything that their customer service people did or did not I would be happy to include it. And to whomever Robin is at the BBB, I apologize for being kind a pain in the rear.

What I get out of this is that a business can dispute a review (something I wish Tripadvisor and Yelp would do better in a perfect world) whether this is actually doable or not I guess some intrepid soul would have to go ahead and contact some lodging facilities (of which there were more then a few with negative reviews) to see whether the BBB did in fact contact them that a negative review was posted, etc. etc. I am not doubting that they did, but it would be nice to find out from the businesses side how the actual process works from soup to nuts. Do they get a phone call first then a email? What kind of timeframe are we talking about, is there follow up? yada yada yada.

This is also of note, when a reviewer goes to write a review, a check mark has to be placed next to this in order for the review to process. (again items of note bolded and underlined).

I certify that this Customer Review is my genuine opinion of this business formed from my personal marketplace interaction with the business, and that I have no personal or business affiliation with this business, and have not been offered any incentive or payment originating from the business to write this review. By submitting this Customer Review, I am representing that it is a truthful account of my experience as a customer of with the business. I acknowledge my understanding that this Customer Review, along with my contact information, will also be sent to the business. I understand that customer reviews are not used in the calculation of the BBB Rating. I understand that if I file a complaint with BBB on this business that my customer review on this business will not be posted. I understand that I may only post a review about an interaction that occurred within the past 1,095 days (3 years). I also understand that my review will only be posted for 1,095 days (3 years). I understand that the text of my Customer Review will be publicly posted on the BBB website (BBB reserves the right to not post in accordance with BBB policy). Please do not include any personally identifiable information in describing your Customer Review. BBB does not accept anonymous reviews. BBB may edit your Customer Review to protect privacy rights and to remove inappropriate language.

As I said earlier, I don’t think lodging should have a cow about this, but definitely something to keep on the radar for the future. If any lodging facilities have had any experience dealing with this so far, would love some input.

Posted in B&B, Customer Service, Hospitality News, Observations, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Chamber membership worth it for Bed and Breakfasts?

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One answer, Yes and No. It depends on the Chamber of Commerce.

I get this question frequently, especially from people just opening up B&Bs for the first time. I just got this question again last night and decided to finally finish this post (which I think I started more than a year ago).

Prior to actually working at a Chamber, I’ve been involved with Chambers around the country, in VT, NH, MA, NY and CA for many years, as a Chamber member, as a member of a board, as a committee member and as a volunteer.

Working at a Chamber now, does not change my mind about my original statement or my opinion about Chambers in general. Working for a Chamber now gives a lot more perspective into how much a Chamber does, and how much (or little) many Chambers do (or not do).

Chamber membership strikes some as expensive, but compare it to the hundreds of dollars a year that B&Bs pay for online directory membership, it’s quite comparable (if you pick a good Chamber). And this goes for any professional association, it boils down to “what do you get out of it.”

Your hyper local Chamber (in your town) may not be the right choice, a neighboring Chamber or larger regional one might be the better fit instead.

Important Things to look for when evaluating a Chamber:

  • Online directory. Do they have one? What does it offer? What about website traffic to the site.
  • Events, Business After Hours, other networking events, committees you can get involved with.
  • Do they offer workshops or other learning opportunities?
  • Are they involved with any state lobbyists? While not something you would normally think of, but if your state is planning on raising the rooms and meals tax for example, you have someone to lobby on your behalf.
  • Do they have at least one full-time person working there, preferably more than one. One part-time staff/Executive Director does not have the time or the resources needed to have a Chamber run well, and to do your membership dues justice. I’ve seen this from the perspective of a Chamber Member looking in prior, I now see it from the additional perspective of a member and a Chamber employee.

And I’ll be blunt here, some things that a Chamber offers probably will not benefit B&Bs, most of them have Annual Dinners, Golf Tournaments and Sponsorships for events, of which a B&B cannot afford to participate in, and realistically may get no real value from.

The online directories have value. The networking events DO benefit a B&B, but you have to take advantage of some of them. I already hear, “But we don’t have time……….”. Folks would you like a little cheese with that Whine? Yes I’m being a little mean, but ANY other business has to network, why should B&Bs be exempt?

If you tell me you can’t spare one hour a month to go to at least one networking event, that lets local people and local businesses get to know you, so they can refer business to your door, then you are not even trying to market your business. Whether it be networking at a Chamber or any other association or group.

Ponder this: Social networking is terrific for advertising and marketing, but realistically, how many hyper local people and local businesses are you connected with online that KNOW you, and will refer you from on online source to book a room? I’m not saying don’t use social media, I’m saying think how many of those connections are local.

Good old-fashioned networking will never die, and B&Bs need to be involved, whether its at a local Chamber, a Toastmasters or other business related club, or the local Rotary as an example.

You get out of Chambers what you put into them, and a good chamber, if you volunteer or get involved, in addition to networking, thanks you, and they generally do it publicly. So your business name goes online, in emails, it goes in the newspapers, etc. More advertising in exchange for getting involved and getting your name out there!

I’ll give a brief example of the benefits of in person networking. In our Chamber we have 3 B&Bs and 2 Hotels (we are not a tourist area), a former Chamber I was on the board on, in NH, had over 20 B&Bs (a tourist area).

While working at the Chamber now, if I get a call for lodging, we have to refer all lodging members, but outside of the Chamber and in the context of my own business, I refer the lodging people I have met, because they have come to networking events that I was at as a typical business owner.

In all the other states I was a Chamber member in, I referred the B&Bs that I knew from networking events. People refer people they know.

And here’s an example straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak. A B&B I know in MA is a member of a regional chamber (not a hyper local), She goes to two networking meetings per month. She made a spreadsheet of how much business she got from the Chamber over the past year.

A brief rundown.

Chamber Membership per year. $290.00 plus $50.00 ea. for 2 employees = $390.00

She values her time at $90.00 per hour = $180.00

Last year she booked 3 small weddings ($4500.00), 42 room nights ($5460.00 @ $130.00 per night) and 2 small business meetings ($300.00) as a result of other Chamber member referrals. She has 6 rooms with a dining room (for business meetings) and nice outside space for small weddings. Gross Profit: $10260.00

Profit After Expenses: $6230.00

Chamber Dues+ROTI (Return on Time Investment) $570 expense    VS    $6320.00 Profit.

And that is not taking into account any bookings made from a direct referral from the Chamber or the Chamber online directory.

While many B&Bs may not have facilities to do weddings, small or otherwise, or want to host business meetings, the room night referral value alone is more than enough incentive even if your room rates are less than the example.

I would suggest you write it down and figure out how much you can make/should make/need to make out of your Chamber membership, you’ll find its a lot easier to track than referrals from B&B directories.

I would encourage B&Bs to evaluate a Chamber first and decide whether it’s going to be the right fit for you. A Chamber that doesn’t offer frequent networking events is probably not a great choice, but if they have a terrific high traffic website directory, you have to weigh whether it may be worth more than a B&B directory, of which while the traditional B&B directories seem to be declining in traffic, a good Chamber or Association site is not.

Not all Chambers are the same, evaluate honestly whether membership is going to be worthwhile, but don’t join and not take advantage of what they have to offer, and then say it’s not worth it if you don’t.

Go visit and meet the Chamber staff, let them put a face to the business name, and go to some of their events prior to joining, to evaluate them (and meet some new people and businesses!).

Many will let you come as a guest to networking events or Business After Hours. Check it out first.

Consider after joining, to host a Chamber Business After Hours at your inn, this gives you additional exposure through the Chamber advertising the event, plus people you’ve met (and will meet at the BAH) will get to see your inn, in person. People refer people they know.

Don’t join a Chamber and expect business to come waltzing in your door. Some business will come by Chamber direct referrals and website referrals, but if you really want to take advantage, NETWORK!

If you don’t feel comfortable networking, then learn how. People are not born networkers, they are made. Join Toastmasters, read some good networking books, start with a good basic one, How to Work a Room is a great one to start with. Ask a friend who knows and feels comfortable networking to help you out. Networking is a learned skill, you already network with guests and other innkeepers, kick it up a notch.

Posted in B&B, Customer Service, Hospitality News, How tos, Lodging, marketing | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

5 Digital Housekeeping MUST DOs in the New Year for Innkeepers

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#1 Antivirus: Make sure you have a good antivirus and malware program(s) installed and keep them up to date!

I won’t recommend an antivirus, because everyone has differing opinions on them, but I would recommend at least go with a known brand name, AND keep it up to date. A little more at http://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/antivirus-and-backing-up-my-biggest-challenges-when-it-comes-to-working-with-bandbs/.

#2 Domain name: Who owns your domain name? If it’s not you, it should be!

Your domain name is one of the most important facets of your business, but every year businesses lose their domain names due to a variety of reasons.

Make sure you own your own domain name, a domain name registered through another company (i.e a website designer or developer) means that they, not you, control it and it can be held hostage. It also means if they go out of business, get hit by a truck, decide to be a rat or don’t keep their own credit card information up to date, you are the one that gets screwed.

Make sure your credit card on file for your domain registrar is up to date and accurate. You have 60 days past when a domain is due for renewal before you lose it completely. Domains that have been around for more then 2 years generally have a domain buy set up on them. When a domain expires and is not renewed, it gets snapped up by a company who generally will demand anywhere from $2000 to $5000 to get it back. Paying the ransom demand does not always release the domain name.

Make sure your email address attached to the domain registration is accurate. Domain companies will always send out renewal email reminders in advance, but if your email isn’t accurate you won’t be reminded. You will never receive a domain name reminder by snail mail, those are always scams.

You can check your domain name information by going to http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp

#3 Backups: Keep multiple backups of important information and keep it updated. You never know when you are going to need it and by then it’s generally too late if you haven’t backed up.

Please see http://rockyhill.patch.com/groups/heather-turners-blog/p/bp–the-importance-of-backing-up-your-restaurant-and-aacacbb301  while the post is aimed primarily at restaurants, as businesses that serve the public and have kitchens the same tenants apply.

#4 Hosting: Who hosts your website? If it’s billed to you, do you have current login information and is your credit card on file up to date?

If it’s not you and through a website designer, who are THEY hosting with? Most website designers don’t have servers in-house, and generally buy either individually or as a reseller through a larger company. Know who this company is and how to get ahold of them, and what their support links online and phone numbers are. If your hosting goes down (and pretty much every hosting company has been down at some point last year, some for fairly extended periods of time, there is NO such thing as 100% uptime) do you know where to find out information about when it will be up again? (especially if you can’t get hold of your webdesigner at 8 pm on a Thursday night when you could potentially be getting bookings for the weekend.)

#5 Information Management: When was the last time you Googled or Binged your business? Or checked any directories you might be listed on, Paid (especially) or otherwise to make sure information is correct? Amenities added or deleted? Pictures to be updated? If your phone number or website is incorrect somewhere, how much business can you be potentially losing because of it?

And while this is technically a #6, it goes in the same vein as #5, check your social media links, from website to social media and from social media to website. About 30%+ of the links from either I come across on B&B sites on a weekly basis are not valid links. I see a boatload of them from Twitter and Facebook to websites missing .coms or just misspelled. People are not going to go searching for a correct link, they will just go elsewhere.

Innkeepers don’t have a lot of extra time, but any one of these things is a potential loss of revenue, so spend the time, it doesn’t take long to double check things and in the long run, your time will be worth the money saved.

Posted in B&B, How tos, Inns, Lodging, marketing, Observations, Social Media | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Updated List of Bed and Breakfast Marketing and Operations Resource Sites and Forums

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I am neither endorsing or recommending these resources but only listing them, as I have found they have provided useful and helpful, marketing and other operational advice to B&Bs and other lodging facilities.

If you have come across other blogs or sites that you think are particularly useful, please let me know and I will add them (with credit). I have not added blogs whose posts are purely promotional with the occasional “useful post” thrown in, nor have I included one company who’s business dealings I disagree with greatly (I add that because if you submit the site and I don’t post it, that would be why).

Bed and Breakfast Forums:

Innspiring Forums (these are public, so if you do jump in the conversation you may want to be cautious about what information you put in your personal profile, especially if you are discussing past/current guests.)

http://www.innspiring.com/

PAII forums (you do have to become a PAII member but especially for new/beginning innkeepers, the forums alone are worth the membership price)

http://www.innkeeping.org/forums/

Linkedin Groups

http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Bed-Breakfast-BLOGGERS-1786380

http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Innkeepers-107668

Google+ Groups

Bed and Breakfast People (open forum)*

https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/113676939343982081327

(Please see the note about the Innspiring forums, these are public as well)

Bed and Breakfast Owners Forum (B&B Owners Only) Private Forum*

https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/103240175601771879920

*If you are a B&B owner and have asked for entrance into the groups and I have not approved you, please put something on your Google+ profile that indicates who you are. I don’t approve profiles with just a name and no identifying information.

Article Directories:

Cornell, The Center for Hospitality Research

http://www.hotelschool.cornell.edu/research/chr/pubs/reports/

http://thehospitalityblog.ecornell.com/

Inn Marketing

http://www.innmarketing.com/articles.php

Lay My Hat (contributed by @latreille24)

http://www.laymyhat.com/forum/and http://www.laymyhat.com/newsletters/newsletterList.php

Sage Blossom Consulting

http://www.thebandblady.com/innfo.html

Bedandbreakfast.com: Innkeepers Resource Library

(unfortunately it seems like the PDFs in this link are still AWOL)

http://www.bedandbreakfast.com/Innkeepers/resourceLibrary.aspx

About.com B&Bs

Many (but not all) of the articles in here are written by innkeepers

http://bandb.about.com/

Bed and Breakfast Bloggers:

About the Inn

From Scott at the Brewster House B&B

http://www.abouttheinn.com

On twitter @AboutTheInn

Acorn Internet

http://blog.acorn-is.com/

On twitter @AcornInternet

Bed and Breakfast Academy

From Karen at Hopton House B&B

http://bedandbreakfastacademy.wordpress.com/

On twitter @HoptonHouseBnB

Forfeng’s Blog

http://chefforfeng.wordpress.com

On twitter @forfeng (yes that’s me )

The Innkeeping Blog (from PAII)

http://www.innkeepingblog.com/

On twitter @paiiceo

While these are primarily aimed at hotels, there is enough cross-over where the posts can be applicable to B&Bs as well and some of them Do work with B&Bs.

Hotel Bloggers:

Are Morch

http://aremorch.com/blog/

On twitter @AreMorch

Daniel Edward Craig 

http://reknown.com/

On twitter @dcraig

IvisitorGuide

http://ivisitorguide.blogspot.com/

On twitter @iVisitorGuide

Review Pro

http://www.reviewpro.com/blog

On twitter @reviewpro

Blue Magnet

http://www.bluemagnetinteractive.com/blog/

On twitter @Blue_Magnet

The B&B Team

http://bbteam.com/our-blog/

Xotels

http://www.xotels.com/en/blog

On twitter @xotels

VFM Leonardo

http://blog.vfmleonardo.com/

On twitter @VFMLeonardo

Hotel Managers Group Blog

http://hmghotelsblog.com/

On twitter @HMGHotels

Hraba Hospitality Consulting

http://www.hrabaconsulting.com/blog/

On twitter @HHotelConsult

Chocolate Pillow

http://chocolatepillow.com/

On twitter @choc_pillow

The Hospitality Blog

http://thehospitalityblog.com/

On twitter @ATHMarketing

Lodging Interactive

http://blog.lodginginteractive.com/

On twitter  @hotelmktg

Posted in B&B, Hospitality News, Inns, Lodging, marketing, Observations | Tagged , | 3 Comments