How to Write a Social Media Strategic Plan for Bed and Breakfasts

For many businesses, including B&Bs, writing a strategic plan for their business is not high on their priority list, but it should be! Writing a strategic plan for social media in this digital age is now an absolute must!

If you plan to be competitive in today’s world, it’s something that you should take the time to do (about 2 hours initially to really fill it out completely). Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be done all at once, break it into manageable sections and put a date on when you will finish it, and stick to it!

Using social media for your marketing without a plan and goals in mind, is like taking a open can of paint and throwing it at a wall, where ever the paint sticks, it sticks, instead of carefully and methodically painting it, and making sure the wall ends up perfectly painted.

If you were painting your house to put it up for sale, you would want to make sure all the holes were filled, the trim touched up and the cornices had every nook and cranny in perfect shape, vs showing the house that looks like a train ran through it. Oddly enough there are a lot of businesses out there that their social media is similar to a train wreck, don’t make yours one.

Once you have your strategic plan finished, stick to it and benchmark it, every three months. Without benchmarking you can’t really see if something is REALLY working or not. Be realistic when benchmarking, telling yourself you tried something, when it wasn’t really planned out, or really used, is not helping your business. There is no pass fail with this, but it effects the end game, and the end result of bringing more business to your inn and better branding and SEO for your website and other online media. The only one it’s not doing a favor to, is you, yourself, the innkeeper.

Both your website and email marketing are tied into this plan because they are both integral parts of your online marketing, and they tie into your social media marketing as well.

__________________________Bed and Breakfast Social Media Strategic Plan
_______________________Bed and Breakfast, located in ______________________

 

Initial assessment: (anything in Red is an example but could be applicable)

Online Tools:

Website URL:___________________________

 

Developed? __________ In Use? __________

 

Effective? __________Needs Work? __________

 

Facebook URL:___________________________

 

Developed? __________ In Use? __________

 

Effective? __________Needs Work? __________

 

Blog URL:___________________________ (if different from integrated blog in website)

 

Developed? __________ In Use? __________

 

Effective? __________Needs Work? __________

 

Twitter URL:___________________________

 

Developed? __________ In Use? __________

 

Effective? __________Needs Work? __________

 

Pinterest URL:___________________________

 

Developed? __________ In Use? __________

 

Effective? __________Needs Work? __________

 

Youtube URL:___________________________

 

Developed? __________ In Use? __________

 

Effective? __________Needs Work? __________

 

Instagram URL:___________________________

 

Developed? __________ In Use? __________

 

Effective? __________Needs Work? __________

Other Media URL:___________________________ (Periscope, Podcasting, Meerkat, etc.)

 

Developed? __________ In Use? __________

 

Effective? __________Needs Work? __________

 

Media Kit

You never know when you’ll need to send information to the media. (information is also useful to have as a press page on your website or blog). Plus it’s very good for SEO.

 

Developed? __________ In Use? __________

 

Effective? __________Needs Work? __________

 

Newsletter to guests/potential guests

 

Developed? __________ In Use? __________

 

Effective? __________Needs Work? __________

 

Goals-What you want to accomplish
A1. Organizational Goals: What is your B&B’s one to three main social media goals for the next 12 to 18 months?
+
A2. Marketing Goals: What is your B&B’s one to three social media marketing goals (how you’ll use marketing to reach those organizational goals)?

Organizational goals for ____________________________Bed and Breakfast

Examples:

-Forge partnerships with local businesses online to help cross promote each other and encourage tourism to your area.

-Build awareness for  ____________________________Bed and Breakfast using Facebook, Youtube and Blogging.

-Improve public image online of our B&B (i.e. doily inn, fussy, old victorian, Grandma’s house, etc.) vs Modern hotels and Airbnbs.

 

Marketing goals ____________________________Bed and Breakfast
Examples:

-Set up account for our Bed and Breakfast using Facebook, Youtube and Blogging.

-Start a email newsletter.

-Redesign key parts of website incorporating specific calls to action to visit special offers/packages on your B&B Website.

B. Calls to Action—What you want your guests/potential guests to do?
Examples:

When someone reads our newsletter, they should book a room AND/OR click through to more specials and offers on our website AND/OR buy a gift certicate AND/OR…………………

When someone likes us on Facebook, you would also like them to subscribe to your newsletter

When they open our reservation confirmation email you would like them to like and follow the B&B on Facebook

 

Part Two a.: Your Guests-Target Audiences & Segments online
•Who are they?
•How can you segment them, so you can reach them most effectively? How does each group break out into one to three segments (that share things like who books what kind of room rates, pet friendly travelers, etc.)?
 

Examples:
Target audience Guests/Potential Guests

-Couples, ages 35-65

-Couples, ages 65+

-Business travelers, singles, ages 30-62

-Couples with families, ages 30-45 with children between 8-15

 

Target audience Guests/Potential Guests  (with variables):

-Couples, ages 35-65, hikers, bikers, skiers (outdoors) etc.

-Couples, ages 65+, retired, antiques, music, etc.

-Business travelers, singles, ages 30-62, tech industry, food industry, medical industry

-Couples with families, ages 30-45 with children between 8-15, kid friendly activities/attractions

 

Set Goals for Progress for each marketing goal:

Examples:

Utilizing a Facebook page for the B&B

Goal: reach 1500 likes by the end of 2017 or an additional 300 likes by September      Done____________

Not Done________________________ Why Not?________________________

 

-Add Pinterest and Youtube tabs to the page by June     Done____________

Not Done________________________ Why Not?________________________

 

-Add Email sign-up tab to page by July      Done____________ 

Not Done________________________ Why Not?________________________

 

etc.

 

Notes: keep track of anything relevant, it does come in handy down the road.

 

Resources Available

Paid Staff (If you are the sole proprietor disregard, if you are a couple/partner or have staff this is important): How many hours are currently devoted to marketing___________________

How many additional hours can be earmarked towards additional marketing initiatives?

Name:_____________________________________Additional hours?____________________

Name:_____________________________________Additional hours?____________________

Name:_____________________________________Additional hours?____________________

 

Roles and Responsibilities/Who does what? And what does it encompass? (be specific)

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

What is your budget for social media marketing? This includes billable and unbillable time, your own time has value, put an associated $ amount to it.

Per Week__________________Per Month:_____________________Per Year:_________________

-This also includes having a designer or any outsourcing costs if you don’t if you can’t do yourself as well as any paid training needed to accomplish marketing goals.

 

Is there Training Needed?

For What:_______________________________________________________

For Who:____________________________________________

Anticipated time allotted for training_________________________________

Monetary Spend: $__________________

 

New Marketing Initiatives should be assessed at 3 and then 6 months to determine

progress and worthwhileness of time/money.
When doing an assessment, be realistic:

Examples:

-Starting a twitter account and posting 6 tweets in 2 months is not going to give you an accurate assessment of whether a social media channel works v.s. 200+ tweets in 2 months, plus proactively following people and having a few conversations with people does.

-Writing a press release and posting it on the B&B website and sending it to a couple of newspapers v.s. posting it to the website plus spending 20-30 minutes sending it to all the online press release venues, and to all the state, regional and national newspapers.

 

Benchmarking Marketing Goals (be specific and have times/dates associated with each finished goal)

A goal can be broken up into parts, but documenting each part and addressing whether it was done correctly is key.

 

Benchmark all goals every 30 days with a brief assessment, do an in depth assessment and review everything every 90 days.

 

Before you set and start on each goal, what is the aim of each of them?

Example:

Start a Youtube Account for the B&B:

-Increase SEO (search engine optimization) for the B&B’s website

-Increase awareness of the B&B to our target demographic market

-Send the video link to your local chamber and your lodging association for use for promotional use

 

At benchmark time sample assessment:

Start a Youtube Account for the B&B:

-Increase SEO (search engine optimization) for the B&Bs website

B&B’s Youtube channel is appearing high in search, from page 5 on Google search to page 2.

-Increase awareness of the B&B to our target demographic market

            Video now has 123 likes and Youtube channel has 7 followers.

-Send the video link to your local chamber and your lodging association for use for promotional use

Lodging Association has shared the video on Facebook and Google+, chamber of commerce has shared the video on Facebook and Google+, pinned it to Pinterest and sent it out in an email blast to other chamber members.

           

Who is the intended target of each goal? Where does your target market spend time?

Dog Friendly for example, a good place to post would be breed specific forums or advertise in pet related magazines. Upscale clientele like Luxury Car Facebook Pages as well as magazines like Roundel. Brides love Pinterest. Techies love Google+, Business people like twitter. Retirees may be targeted by Facebook, but Millennials by Instagram as an example.

 

Examples for Social Media of Benchmarking:

January 7th – Create an B&B Facebook page and make sure the Facebook page has all the applicable information filled out. Or evaluate your current Facebook page and make sure it’s optimized.

Done____________  Not Done________________________ Why Not?________________________

Who is assigned this task?______________________________________

What additionally can be done to enhance Facebook Marketing?

Examples:

-Add email signup tab

-Add Pinterest tab

-Share local area attraction and other local businesses posts

-Change cover photo once per week

-Use boosted posts once per week or twice per month, ad spend of $15 each

 

If Not Done: proposed revised date for finishing goal_________________________

At next benchmark date: Done____________  Not Done________________________

Why Not?________________________

Who is assigned this task?______________________________________ (if this person is you, this is a good reminder that you need to do it)

 

February 7th – Create a blog and make sure the blog has all the applicable information filled out. Or evaluate your blog and make sure it’s optimized.

Done____________  Not Done________________________ Why Not?________________________

Who is assigned this task?______________________________________

 

If Not Done: proposed revised date for finishing goal_________________________

At next benchmark date: Done____________  Not Done________________________

Why Not?________________________

Who is assigned this task?______________________________________

 

Or set numerical goals.

Mid April– Get 50 new pins and/or repins on Pinterest

Done____________  Not Done________________________ Why Not?________________________

Who is assigned this task?______________________________________

 

If Not Done: proposed revised date for finishing goal_________________________

At next benchmark date: Done____________  Not Done________________________

Why Not?________________________

Who is assigned this task?______________________________________

 

Mid May – Get 100 new followers on Twitter

Done____________  Not Done________________________ Why Not?________________________

Who is assigned this task?______________________________________

 

If Not Done: proposed revised date for finishing goal_________________________

At next benchmark date: Done____________  Not Done________________________

Why Not?________________________

Who is assigned this task?______________________________________

 

Mid June  – Get 50 new fans/likes on Facebook

Done____________  Not Done________________________ Why Not?________________________

Who is assigned this task?______________________________________

 

If Not Done: proposed revised date for finishing goal_________________________

At next benchmark date: Done____________  Not Done________________________

Why Not?________________________

Who is assigned this task?______________________________________

If you have finished your strategic plan, and have some questions or would like someone’s external input on it, I would be happy to take a look at it, free of charge, and give you some suggestions. Please shoot me an email. Cheers!

Realistically social media marketing for an inn can be done in less than a hour per week. Here are a couple of documents that may help with this goal a bit more:

Bed and Breakfast Strategic Marketing Plan (the above in MS word)

Suggested Weekly Marketing Schedule for a B&B

Social Media Calendar hour per week schedule

Social Media Calendar hour and half per week schedule

 

Posted in B&B, Blogging, Facebook, Hospitality News, How tos, Lodging, marketing, Observations, SEO, Social Media | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Going beyond the basics

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, the most utilized add on package, and staple for romantic packages at a B&B. Here are a few tips and tricks (and variations) for getting those strawberries lathered in chocolate absolutely perfect.

A few variations on top of the plain dipped strawberry, best dipped or rolled when the chocolate has been applied for about 10-15 seconds but not yet “set”:

  • Fine chopped toasted nuts, pecans, almonds (peeled and unpeeled) walnuts, pistachios, cashews and peanuts. Salted nuts actually taste better then unsalted on a chocolate dipped strawberry.
  • Fine chopped spiced nuts, smoked paprika spiced walnuts are incredible for example.
  • A sprinkling of course sea salt, there are also variations, pink sea salt, smoked sea salt, etc.
  • Course sugar mixed with cinnamon
  • Demerara sugar
  • Crushed Oreos
  • Crushed Candy Canes
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Cocoa Powder (after chocolate is totally set)
  • Edible Metallic dust (available online and in stores like Michaels)
  • Edible Glitter
  • Colored sanding sugar
  • Sprinkles/Jimmies, mini sugar stars and sugar pearls, available in just about every color
  • Themed ones for the Holidays using Sprinkles/Jimmies, Orange for Halloween, Red for Valentine’s Day, Red, Green and Gold or Silver for Christmas, White and Gold for New Years.
  • There are also food decorating pens that can be used to draw designs on the chocolate dipped berries.

A few variations on top of the chocolate dipped strawberry itself:

  • Ganache filled strawberries. Hollow the berries out first, dip with a toothpick or soft tongs, let chocolate set and pipe in ganache.
  • Liquor, or fruit, or flavor infused syrup injected strawberry. Dip strawberries first and then inject.
  • Mousse filled strawberries. Follow the same procedure as ganache filled.
  • Dried fruit like papaya, mango, dried banana chips dipped in chocolate. Dried banana chips dipped in chopped pecans are fabulous.
  • Other berries, raspberries and blueberries are lovely alternated on toothpicks and dipped, end the tip with a fat blueberry to prevent slippage.

A few dipping tricks:

  • White candy melts are easier to use, then melting and tempering chocolate as well as much easier to manage then white chocolate if used for a further garnish on top of dark or milk chocolate.
  • Make sure your strawberries are room temperate before dipping, the chocolate will set better.
  • After you dip your berry into the melted chocolate as far as you can, give it a little shake to shake off extra chocolate and cover any missed spots. Then tip the berry upside down to cover more of the berry closer to the leaves, as well as tucking under the “tail” of the chocolate.
  • Use wax paper or very fine screening after dipping strawberries and letting them set.
  • Chocolate will start to pull away from a strawberry after more then 24 hours, so try not to do them too far ahead of time.
  • If you must refrigerate your chocolate dipped strawberries (not recommended if you can avoid, moisture from the refrigerator can cause a sheen or white coloration on the chocolate.) Store in an airtight dry container with several paper towels folded in the corners.
  • While Farmer’s Markets have the tastiest strawberries, there is so much residual sugar in them they don’t hold up as well to being dipped in chocolate, and mold more quickly then store bought.
  • The best temperature in which to dip strawberries is going to vary by brand and by fat content. The best way to gauge whether your chocolate is “perfect” for dipping is insert a teaspoon into the mix, if it coats it evenly, and doesn’t clot or drip off the bowl of the spoon to fast, you are at the perfect temperate for dipping.
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Questions for Interviewing an Innkeeper

interview

A common question I get asked is, “We need to hire an innkeeper or assistant innkeeper, is there a list of frequently asked questions that we can use for interviewing people?”

This is a general list of questions. We would suggest that you use the ones you think are necessarily, and applicable to your own Inn/B&B and modify questions to suit your needs.

General Questions (and these all relate to dealing with the public)

  • Tell us about a time that you had to adapt to a difficult situation?
  • Have you ever had to deal with conflicting deadlines?
  • Why did you decide to pursue this career?
  • What was the most stressful situation you have faced?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years time?
  • What would you say are your strong points?
  • Give me an example that best describes your organizational skills?
  • What do you think you can bring to this position?
  • What attracted you to this position?
  • What do you think this position involves?
  • What irritates you about other people?
  • What do you think you like and dislike about the job we are discussing?
  • Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure at another position?
  • What kind of personality do you work best with and why?
  • How do you keep track of things you need to do?
  • Tell me of at least two reasons this job is a good match for your skills, strengths, experience and background?
  • What new skills have you learned or developed recently?
  • How do you keep track of things you need to do?
  • If offered the Bed and Breakfast Innkeeper position of ___________, how long do you plan to stay at the establishment?
  • Give me an example that best describes your organizational skills.
  • What is your strongest qualification for this job?
  • What do you think is most important when dealing with guests?
  • Describe the most difficult scheduling problem you have faced as an Innkeeper? (if they have done prior)
  • Describe the most difficult problem guest you have had to deal with as an innkeeper and how did you deal with it? (if they have done prior, have them give several examples.)

Specifics

  • What reservations software have you used before? (if any).
  • Do you know WordPress and how well? (for website updates if applicable) and if they say yes, ask them for a demo.
  • Do you have social media experience and on what platforms? (if applicable) and if they say yes, ask them for a demo.
  • What types of cooking skills do you bring to the table?
  • Are you familiar with, and able to do food costing? (the correct way).
  • Have you ever taken a ServSafe course (if yes) and/or are you currently certified?
  • Are you familiar with food inventories? (get specifics from them, how often have they done them, are they incorporating the pricing into the inventories, and adjusting recipes to reflect.)
  • Are you familiar with food allergies, gluten free and dairy free cooking and recipes, and how to cook them?
  • What is your skill level with MS Office? (if you use Publisher or advanced Excel, again you may want to ask them for a demo).
  • Are you familiar with the basics of SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?
  • Are you prepared to work 24/7?
  • Give them some examples of a problem guest and ask them how they would handle it. i.e: -Guests show up late at night at the inn and are drunk and disturbing other guests. -Guests threaten to post a bad review on Tripadvisor/Yelp  and want a refund or other Compensation.

Interviewing others is something most innkeepers, unless they came from a background in HR, or owned or ran another business previously to being an innkeeper, may not have much experience with, and asking the right questions is key to a successful interview, and finding the perfect person to fill the position you need.

I would recommend additionally, make sure you check those references, many employers ask for general references, but specifics of professional only references help separate the casual wanna-be innkeeper from the professional.

Find them on social media as well if they have it. While you are not allowed to ask for access, you can take a gander at what’s publicly posted.

Google their names as well. “Jane Doe” Flint, Michigan, as well as if they listed they worked at another inn, or hospitality business in management in the last 5 years, Googling their name plus the business may turn up additional information. “Jane Doe” Assistant Manager, Jane Doe Inn, Flint, Michigan.

If you are in doubt about a potential employee’s resume or background, please feel free to shoot me an email, I’d be happy to do a little research.

Posted in B&B, Hospitality News, How tos, Inns, Interviews, Lodging | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Innkeepers, Thinking of running a social media contest?

contest-two

Thinking of running a social media contest? Before you do make sure you check out contest guidelines, and make sure that what you want to do is legal in your state.

Each social media platform has different rules and regulations regarding contests and it’s very important to make sure that you follow them as well. Most of the platforms reserve the right to remove content that’s not following regulations, plus it’s very important to make sure you find out what rules and regulations you may have to follow by Federal law as it’s different state by state.

Some states may fine you. or you may face criminal charges if they find you are not following the laws.

The Three Types of Online Promotions:

Sweepstakes—Sweepstakes are prize giveaways where the winners are chosen predominately by chance. A sweepstakes prize can include anything from a coffee mug to an all‐expense‐paid trip to the Maine Coast.

Contests—Contests are promotions in which prizes are awarded primarily on the basis of skill or merit (for example, the best essay on an B&B stay or the winner of a weekend getaway). Entrants in a contest must be evaluated under objective, predetermined criteria by one or more judges who are qualified to apply such criteria.

Lotteries—Lotteries are random drawings for prizes wherein participants have to pay to play. A lottery has three elements: prize, chance, and consideration. Unlike sweepstakes and contests, lotteries are highly regulated and (with the exception of state‐run lotteries and authorized raffles) illegal. Further, each state has its own definition regarding what constitutes consideration. Usually, it is money, but it generally also includes anything of value given in exchange for the opportunity to enter and win, including the entrant’s expenditure of considerable time or effort.

As an example: Connecticut’s Sweepstakes laws are quite different from the State of Florida’s.

Connecticuts: http://www.ct.gov/dcp/cwp/view.asp?q=430834. Under state law, no person may advertise a sweepstakes if there are any conditions or restrictions placed on the person who wins the sweepstakes. The winner shall not be required to buy anything or pay a fee of any type. However, the winner may be required to complete publicity or liability releases or eligibility affidavits and assume liability for city, federal, state, or local taxes, and pay federal, state or local license or registration fees or other similar costs. A person advertising a sweepstakes in Connecticut shall disclose in immediate proximity to and in at least the same size and type face as the descriptions of each prize in the advertisements, the verifiable retail value of such prizes, the element of chance involved, the odds of winning such prize, and whether the receipt of the prize is restricted or qualified in any way.

Vermont: http://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/section/13/051/02143b Notwithstanding the provisions of this chapter, a person may organize, execute, or participate in a contest or game of chance, including a sweepstakes, provided that persons who enter the contest or game of chance are not required to venture money or other valuable things. The cost of mailing an entry shall not be considered a venture of money or other valuable things. This section shall not be construed to prohibit a person from organizing, executing, or participating in a contest that is not a contest of chance. (Added 1989, No. 7; amended 2013, No. 9, § 2, eff. April 26, 2013.) Both of these states have short and sweet legislature, but compare them to Florida’s (which I won’t reprint here as it’s too long, but take a look at for comparison’s sake.

Florida: http://www.leg.state.fl.us (search for sweepstakes) You may have heard that of one of the inns that was running a “Write an Essay to Win the Inn” in the Northeast was investigated and while it since was cleared of any wrong doing, it made a huge impact in the news, and still comes up high on the first page of search for the inn (and will for many many years to come). While this is not social media, it is something to aware of if B&Bs want to run contests on the radio, TV and in print, be aware of the rules and regulations of your state.

We would also suggest checking out the FTC’s (Federal Trade Commission) commonly asked questions https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking because it does address such concerns as disclosures and endorsements.

Social Media Platform Contest Guidelines:

Recommended Facebook Contest Apps: (Some are free, some are paid)

Contest Ideas You Can Run on Your B&B’s Facebook Business Page, & on some of the other social media platforms.

Like to Win: Like the B&B page to be entered to win

Comment to Enter: While this has a downside, i.e. it’s not getting the commenter to like the page, comments are seen by friends and have a greater reach.

Like the B&B page and comment to enter is the best combination.

Trivia! Answer Correctly to Win

Photo Comment and/or submission contest NOTE: per the Facebook promotion guidelines, it does say that the Facebook release and rules/ terms must be included or linked to in the contest post. At bottom of this first example is a sample rules and disclaimer text. Example: It’s GIVEAWAY time! Click “LIKE” for your chance to win one of our Inn’s gift certificates (or recipe book). Example: Winners will be randomly selected at 4 p.m. CST this Friday and their names will be posted on our Facebook Page! Example: Rules/Disclaimer: This promotion is open to those 18 and above in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. Void where prohibited. By “Liking” you enter and agree that this promotion is in no way associated with, administered by, or endorsed by Facebook; and acknowledge a complete release of Facebook by your participation.

Comment to Win: Example: Comment below and complete with “Jane Doe’s B&B has the best breakfast “…………………..” to enter. 1 winner will be randomly selected at 4 p.m. CST this Friday from all comments as winner of a Free Romance Package at our B&B. We’ll post the winner on our Facebook Page! Trivia: Answer correctly to win! What is the name of our newest B&B addition? (hint we featured them on this month’s blog post) –this does double duty as it gets them to go to your B&Bs website, provide the link but not the direct link, and than find your blog. Simply comment below for your chance to win a $25 off certificate for use towards a weekend getaway! 1 Winner will be picked from correct entries and announced at 1 p.m. PST on Monday! Answer correctly to win! How many signature recipes do we have online?

–again double duty, forces them to go to your B&B website and search. Comment below with your answer! 2 Winners will be picked from correct entries and announced at 1 p.m. PST on Monday!

Photo Contests: Example: Enter our Timeline Photo Contest! Enter a photo in the comment area below that shows us your favorite meal for breakfast. Deadline to enter is this Friday at 11:59 p.m. EST! Our team of 3 judges will review all photos and announce a winner next Monday at 9 a.m. EST. Winner receives a $50 Gift Certificate for our B&B. Post a comment with a Photo of you at our B&B for a chance to win a 30% off a future stay!

AND>>>>>>

See you in St. Charles! I’ll be speaking at the PAII conference at the end of next month. If you have never attended a PAII (Professional Association of Innkeepers International) conference, make this your first one! And a whole day devoted to aspiring innkeepers! Check out more information at http://www.innkeepingshow.com

 

Posted in B&B, Facebook, Hospitality News, How tos, Lodging, marketing, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ideas for Bed and Breakfasts using Video and Live Streaming

One of the most common questions I have been getting recently is what kinds of things can B&Bs use for both video projects, and for content for live streaming video.

Video is HOT and I don’t expect it to be a passing fad. It’s terrific for Search Engine Optimization, wonderful because its a winner for guest engagement, and the content itself is both evergreen (ie the content stays around long term), and it can be shared and hosted on a variety of channels you own and are connected with: your website, your blog, on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tripadvisor, Yelp, Google+, Linkedin, many of the directories B&Bs list on and more.

Take #11 as an example: Mini Video tours of local points of interest, the local beach or harbor, a historic site, the local ice cream shop or bandstand that has music in the summer.

img_6560

Fountain in Salisbury, CT by the side of the Salisbury Town Hall

This fountain for example has some of the best drinking water around Litchfield county. When I lived in the area and was on a local sports team, our bus used to stop on our way from and to field hockey meets. My Grandparents who lived in the neighboring town of Lakeville had a good well, but swore by the water here and used to come down once a week and fill up gallon jugs. The site itself has a lot of history, it’s next to the town hall which was originally built around 1750, and was burned down by arson in 1985 (which has an interesting story behind it by itself alone) and than rebuilt in 1986, and the town hall has behind it one of the oldest cemeteries in New England that has some unique features.

A one to two minute either taped or live video with commentary would give guests and potential guests some personal insight and also a touch of history of the area. Pretty much anything out there can be used for video content. Think a little outside the box!

  1. Live guest commentary and/or testimonials
  2. Room tours (each room a separate tour)
  3. Full Interior Inn Tours
  4. Exterior Inn Tours
  5. In the Kitchen: making a signature recipe, trying a new recipe (make sure that’s referenced a few times, demonstrating a tip you found that works, i.e. the best way to remove sticky waffles from a waffle maker.
  6. Highlight things in your inn: you have historic ___________in each room, you grow___________ in your garden and it’s served to your guests for breakfast………
  7. Video clips from local events: live music (concentrate on the performers not the crowds), festivals, parades, farmers markets, the local air show, a crafts demonstration, glass blowing…
  8. Mini interviews with local business owners: include craftspeople and other artisans, like a mini clip of a local potter throwing a pot for example, or a local quilt shop owner who gets yarn from the local llama farm.
  9. Who you are?: A little person history on you the innkeeper(s), how you got into innkeeping, what you did before you were an innkeeper, how you found your inn, what made you fall in love with your inn…
  10. Do a time lapse video (most can be done with smartphones which have a time lapse setting), have some fun with these, a recipe from start to finish, a parade that goes by, birds at bird feeders, snow melting off a roof, the river/stream going by, a local train. Use your imagination.
  11. Mini Video tours of local points of interest, the local beach or harbor, a historic site, the local ice cream shop or bandstand that has music in the summer.
  12. If you host weddings or other types of meetings, do a mini video tour of the highlights and point out features with commentary.
  13. Mini itinerary tours, the local main street has a bunch of antique shops: walk the street, go into the stores and say hi to the owners/proprietors. (you may want to give them a heads up first so A. you can let them know you are helping to promote them, and the area, and also so they can be on their best behavior).
  14. If you have events, ask permission to tape and use. Wedding attendees expect to be photographed, but any other events make sure you have permission from everyone, in writing is preferable.
  15. Bust some myths about innkeepers, Show a day-in-the-life.
  16. Tell a story: every innkeeper has funny stories or touching stories, the day the oven decided to not work and had a full house, a couple that proposed on the front porch, the family of ducks that comes back every year and has ducklings that get into your garden.
  17. Thank you videos: a great meal at a local restaurant, a local florist who did a great job for a wedding, a local carpenter, etc. (while the clips may not be directly promoting the B&B, it shows a more personal side, plus the recipient of the video will love it and share=bonus marketing)
  18. Before and After videos: B&Bs seem to be always changing and renovating something, a room redo, an addition to the inn, a new flower bed or landscape addition.
  19. Q and A’s: you can use this to highlight some of your specials and packages, or answer most frequently asked questions about your inn.
  20. Favorite products or foods and why you love them, you get cheese from a local vendor, why is it the best cheese, the creamiest, what do your guests say about it…….

 

Posted in B&B, How tos, Inns, Lodging, marketing, Social Media, Story | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Planning Ahead for Your Bed and Breakfast Promotions

Specials and Packages

This is a question I get frequently, and it came up recently when an inn asked for specific times to advertise specials and packages. I recalled having written an article about this awhile back and went in search of it. This post (after the photo) originally appeared last year on http://www.freetobook.com.

In addition I am adding the calendar that I use for inn promotions, this is not a set in stone calendar, as it needs to be customized for your inn, your specials and packages, and where you are in the world. An inn in Southern California may not be impacted like the Northeast does with Leaf peepers/foliage season for example. Please visit the calendar here and please feel free to download it if you can make use of it!

In tab 2 is a suggested schedule for holidays. You may need to wait a moment for the tabs at the bottom to appear. Tab 3 has a mini calendar for each event with an example, remember to add larger or well advertised local events to that section if you use this. You may want to combine all of the calendars together, this is a basic outline.

If a desk calendar or dayrunner type calendar, or calendar on your phone works better for you, than use it, there is no way that’s a bad way, the important part is scheduling it and making sure you stick to the schedule and track it. Tracking while it seems time-consuming, once you’ve gotten into the habit takes only a few minutes and is VERY worth it long-term to track bookings, revenue, brand exposure and historical data.

Keep in mind putting in the days of the week and the weather will also give you better tracking data long-term and help you plan. Valentine’s Day happening on a Wednesday one year, may get less bookings than it happening on a weekend for example. Or a rain out on Memorial Day weekend.

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The time to start planning ahead for your promotions throughout the year, is best done in slow season when you actually have a little down time, a little space to actually think and work on your marketing for the upcoming year.

Developing a social media and content calendar in advance, is key to getting promotions out in a stress free and timely manner, so you have the best chance for a journalist to pickup an event or special for a story, and to make sure you work any kinks out of the special or offer in advance.

If you are doing specials in conjunction with other area businesses, i.e. a discount at a local restaurant in conjunction with a stay, or free or ½ price tickets to a museum, for example, as part of your packages, it’s best to be able to make those connections, and iron down the details as far ahead in advance as possible.

When making joint package deals it’s very important to stress to the partnering business that they will be getting a lot of free publicity out of it. Working some numbers up, and letting them know where and how you will be promoting it, and them, is leverage for getting you a better deal on a partnership offer or discount.

If you are hoping to get your special or offer picked up by the news for inclusion in a newspaper or magazine, be cognizant of the fact that the lead time for both, is very different. A newspaper generally needs several weeks lead time to run an article. Monthly magazines generally need three to six months, sometimes more.

Realistically any unique specials or promotions should be up online on your website at least 6 months prior to the actual event. If you send press releases out about it, it should be sent out at least 4 months or more prior. Advertising them on social media should start being pushed out at last 3 months prior, 2 at the very latest.

If you have something that you know will book up and sell out in advance, advertise it on social media at least 4 months in advance, so that if you get the inevitable cancellation or two you have time to rebook it. Developing the social media calendar will help you keep on track for when you are scheduled to start promoting your specials.

Specific Holidays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are generally high traffic days for lodging packages, and many potential guests do like to plan ahead for those. You may want to consider starting to advertise these on your social media channels a little earlier than the rest of your other packages.

Posting your specials on social media should not be done more than once a week, each post should be unique, have an appropriate and inviting picture accompanying it (make sure you either own the photograph or image, have permission to use it or have purchased it from a legitimate stock photo source), and be written in a way that utilizes the soft sell approach.

As an example of the soft sell post: Father’s Day is coming up soon. What better way to thank your Dad for being there for you, and your family, than treating him to a weekend away from it all. “Our special Father’s Day Package includes a full day of golf at the historic Beach Head Golf Club, followed by a day on the water fishing for Bass on Lake Bestinach. For more information about this special Father’s Day package please visit http:thejanedoeinn.com/fathersdayspecial.”

V.S. the hard sell post: “Father’s Day Package, June 18-19, Package includes 18 holes of golf, cart included. River tour with Bass fishing instructor, $360 for the weekend D.O.. Exclusions apply. Book Now at 800-555-1212.”

Make sure to keep your social media calendars from previous years, and note when you have gotten the most traffic and bookings for each previous year on them.

You should also include anything of note that happens during the time your packages have happened. The Christmas of 2013 had a horrible snowstorm resulting in cancellations, Easter of 2011 had a travel ban, etc.

Long term this helps you better plan for next year, as well as being able to look back and see what previous years results were based on what you did for marketing as well as any external events that may have happened that were outside of your control.

Don’t forget to visit the calendar here and please feel free to download it if you can make use of it!

Posted in B&B, Events, How tos, marketing, Social Media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Innkeepers, what does your email autoresponder say about you?

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Over the years I’ve been the recipient of many B&B auto-responders, and have started collecting ones that are either very good or quite awful. Approximately 1 in every 10 B&Bs has an auto-responder on their email, and based on some of the responses, quite a few have forgotten they are even there.

In the day and age of people wanting an instantaneous reply to an email, auto-responders may seem like a good interim point of contact between an inn and a potential guest, BUT it needs to be crafted carefully, as well as viewed from the perspective of a potential guest making an inquiry.

Or if it’s a general email i.e. innkeeper@janedoeinn.com v.s. reservations@janedoeinn.com, be careful because the receiver of the email auto-responder may have already been a guest, and may not be a happy one, and is trying to contact you about it.

I’ll start with some examples I’ve collected that may come off as “not the best”. Keep in mind that email can be, and has been the cause of many misunderstandings, because there is no tonality in it. What you may think of as a short and sweet to the point auto-responder, may come across as brusque in tone to a potential guest. So here are some examples of good, the not so good and in some cases the hilarious. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. 🙂

Out of date auto-responders (and I’ve gotten dozens and dozens of these with various out of date and some very very out of date dates) “We are closed on vacation through August 14,  2014, we will return your email promptly when we return.” (I got this one last week and called the inn to let them know about it, you would have thought someone would have mentioned it by now, but also consider how much business they may have lost because of it…………scary!) Guests view: Well I guess we can cross that B&B of our list……..

If you have been on vacation, closed for renovations or away for any reason, make sure you check that auto-responder!

I’ll include making sure if you include specials (which IS a fantastic idea to put in) make sure you update them, I received one several months ago advertising a New Year’s Eve Special………for 2015.

An auto-responder in PINK Comic Sans Font. And no the colors of the inn are not pink, so they can’t use branding as an excuse..  Guests view: Not very business like………

“Thak you for your inquirey.  We will get back to you by phon or email a soon as possibe.” Guests view: Spellcheck much? (the sad part is I have seen A LOT of auto-responders with multiple misspellings. If you are going to use one, perhaps run it through MSWord spell check first, not all email programs, believe it or not, have spell check or it may not enabled) I personally would be totally lost without spellcheck, and while grammar errors do get through, at least it catches most spelling mistakes.

“Our breakfasts and hospitality are unmatched in Luna Mills!  See the link on our website to TripAdvisor to read reviews by our guests.” Guests view: “Nice promo of their inn, BUT, I have to go back to their website and click on the link to Tripadvisor to read their reviews? How about I just want to make a reservation” OR “I have a question” OR “I had a bad experience at your inn and was emailing you about it, but thank you for reminding me you are on Tripadvisor, I am going to go there now and leave a review……”

“Greetings! Thank you for considering the Jane Doe Inn for your travel needs. We will contact you within a couple days regarding your reservation request.” Guests view: “I don’t want to be contacted within a couple of days, I want to be contacted now (or close to).”

Some examples of the somewhat “brusque”auto-reply: (and this was literally all the text they contained)

“Thanks for your inquiry. We will respond shortly.“

“Hello – Thanks for contacting The Jane Doe Inn!   This is an auto-reply.“

“This message is automatically sent in response to your email. Please do not reply.“

“I try to check email at least 2 times per day.  You should hear back from me at some point.“ (I loved the vagueness on that one)

“Please do not use this email as it is not read!  Please call the Inn or email to the address on our web site.” (that is the email on their website, and maybe provide a number to call?)

Guests view: “Um ok?…………………..”

Now read those back to yourself slowly out loud, do they sound very welcoming?

“Again, thank you for your interest in staying with us at the Jane Doe Lodge B&B in beautiful Luna, VT. Sincerely, Don and Rachel, Owners/Innkeepers” Guests view: “Again? And how did you know I was emailing you to a book a stay? Assume much? I was going to inquire if you had any breakfast items for people with gluten intolerance and then maybe I was interested in staying with you” OR “I had a complaint, I have NO interest in staying with you ever again!”

And while I don’t label this one as “bad” per say, it does take the cake as one of funniest.

“Thank you for contacting the Jane Doe Bed & Breakfast in Luna, Texas.  We are a small, owner-operated business, and though we try to check email as often as we can, sometimes many many hours can pass before we get the chance.  We could be cooking, cleaning toilets or making beds, running errands, attending to guests, in the bathroom, answering the phone, gardening or sleeping (this is our home too as well after all), so please leave a message if we don’t answer and we will return your call as soon as we see the flashing light on our phone.” Guests view: “Um, TMI much? Also flashing light on their phone? What is this the 80s?”

This is perhaps the worst culprit of auto-responders, the Spam approval filter request, mostly through Earthlink or Spamaware, and sometimes Yahoo. As a potential guest, current guest, already a guest, the last thing I want to have to spend time on, is having to take extra time to get “approved” so I can send an inn an email, I already took the time to email you, I don’t want to have to get approved and then re-email you AGAIN!  Guests view: “Booking somewhere else”

Also of note, people may not be aware of of what their outgoing email says who it’s from, when it is replying to someone.

i.e.

From: Stupid email [mailto:janedoeinn@janedoeinn.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2016 7:13 AM
To: Heather Turner
Subject: Re: Reservation Inquiry

I’ve gotten replies from inns with the return email name is “innkeep”,  “the inn”, “inn, “innkprs”,“Hotdiggity Dawg”, “no answer”, “My email”, “info”, “website email”, “me”,”barleycorn”, “hotticket”, “Stupid email”, “my stupid email”, “apple”, “apple email”, “my apple email”, “my yahoo email”, “my AOL email” and my personal favorite, “Handshake”. Handshake? Is that a name or something you do to your guests?

A few examples of some decent auto-responders:

“Thank you for your E-Mail to the Country Cottage of Luna. We will respond to your request personally as soon as possible. In the meantime if your request is regarding a reservation, or information on availability at our Inn, please call Tom or Jackie at 800-555-1212 for an immediate response. We look forward to seeing you on beautiful Luna Island.”

“Thank you for contacting the Jane Doe B&B.  We have received your email and will be getting back to you as soon as possible. We invite you to visit our website, http://www.janedoeinn.com where you can learn about the bed and breakfast, check room availability and make your room reservations online. If this is after office hours we will respond to your email first thing tomorrow morning. If this email is in regards to a current stay or an emergency, please contact us at 800-555-1212. Thank You! With regards, Innkeepers Sharon and Mark.”

“Thank you for your interest in the Jane Doe Inn. We appreciate your visit to our website and we will respond to your email request as soon as possible. However, a faster way to reach us if you need a quick response, is to call us on our cell phone at 800-555-1212. We’re never far away from it. Remember, it’s 800-555-1212. It’s the fastest way to book what you want! Thank you, Nathalie and Jim”

“Thank you for your interest in The Jane Doe Inn! Most questions regarding pricing and events are on our website at http://www.janedoeinn.com. If you need further assistance or would like to make reservations in person instead of off of our website, please call us at (800) 555-1212 for a prompt response.”

I recommend that if you use an auto-responder, if you feel the need to have one, use it as a marketing tool and read the auto-responder and read “into” how it can be taken from a guests or potential guests point of view. Add links to your direct reservations page, add some specials (if you have them and do keep them up to date), nice touches are adding local events (again keep them current) but make the auto-reply personalized and professional and it doesn’t hurt to add a hook:  Book online now at the Jane Doe B&B website and save 5% off your booking!

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