On Monday I had a great interview with Tom Costello, and during the interview he brought up the gentlemen that he had interviewed previously, whose thoughts were that hoteliers (and this relates to any lodging) needs to be spending more time out and about, shaking hands, and “pressing flesh” is I think how he put it.
Coincidently, I was in a small town in CT seeing a client last week, and I happened to have a free moment after, and popped into the local book store. On the way through town I had noticed two Bed and Breakfasts on the way in (neither one of which I had ever heard of), and asked the store cashier (who ended up being the owner of the store) if she knew anything about them. “Not a thing,” she said, “we have never met them.”
That got me to thinking a bit. I’m a big believer in the power of in-person networking, social media is the cat’s meow, but not the end all and be all of marketing and branding.
How many innkeepers in towns small and large, have made a point of going out and introducing themselves to every business in the area? I would hope you’ve made contacts with local restaurants and area attractions, but what about the local boutique clothing store, the local jewelers and the kid’s learning center game shop? Do they know who you are?
When I lived up in New Hampshire, we had about 30 B&Bs in a 20 minute drive radius. I know for a fact that most local businesses had on their radar that there was B&Bs up there, but the vast majority knew absolutely nothing about them aside “maybe” from their names.
While the local Chamber of Commerce might know your inn, how much opportunity and exposure are you losing out on if not EVERYONE in business near or semi-near you, knows who you are, about your inn and most importantly, why they should send friends, family and business associates to stay with you.
I don’t have time you say. Make time!
You go to the grocery store or the bank at least once a week, you have errands to run which takes you hither and yon. Take five minutes to pop your head into a local shop or business and introduce yourself and hand out business cards. Cookies help too.
Think about how spending that extra 5 minutes only once a week could equal how much business long term?
With the economy still having problems, the staycation trend is continuing to stick around. If you are not leveraging local for your B&B, it’s free networking, then you are missing the boat. Take the five minutes, take the local challenge, who knows who you might meet, and who knows how much business you can get from it unless you try it.
I challenge B&Bs to make up a list of local businesses who may not yet know you, put them into an excel spreadsheet and tackle at least one per week. Carry it one step further and have an open house and invite area business over for a cup of coffee and some scones. Offer to do a brochure exchange with local businesses. People WILL refer people to you, but they have to know who you are first.
I would suggest some related reading: Leveraging your business cards for the hospitality industry and Forget Tripadvisor, don’t forget word of mouth for lodging.