Take Control of Your B&B Marketing in 2024 - #1 Marketing a B&B 2024Jan 05, 2024
Happy New Year! It's been quite a wet start to 2024 here in Shropshire and across the UK. Fortunately, we don't experience flooding, although our neighbors have come close a couple of times in the past two decades. We're expecting a few drier and cooler days ahead, so we'll get some relief, and water levels are finally starting to recede.
if you prefer to listen rather than read, head over to the B&B Academy Podcast - Listen HERE on the the website or search for "Bed and Breakfast Academy Podcast' on Apple, Google or Spotify Podcasts.
New Year Resolutions
I've never been one for New Year's Resolutions. January is my birthday month, and the idea of giving up things I enjoy at the same time as my birthday has never appealed to me! Actually, giving up the things I enjoy doesn't appeal to me at any time of the year.
Years ago, when I was active on Twitter, I followed someone who created a list of 52 new experiences and things she wanted to do in the New Year. I loved the idea of adding things that bring joy instead of depriving myself of enjoyment.
Take More Control of Marketing your B&B
I was thinking about how I could apply this concept in creating some new content for B&B Academy.
I've spoken to many B&B owners, and I know that many of you would like to have more control over your B&B marketing and increase direct bookings instead of relying solely on online travel agencies like bookingdotcom. However, marketing their B&B is something that many people don't enjoy.
It can be overwhelming to know where to start and finding enough time to dedicate to it. Another issue is that some people see marketing as showing off, spammy, and somehow distasteful. I understand that some marketing techniques out there can feel that way, making you uncomfortable. As a result, marketing your business becomes something you don't enjoy, and you end up not doing it.
But there is another way. I have always aimed to focus on an authentic style of marketing. It is possible to market your business in an authentic way that people actually enjoy! When you start receiving positive feedback about your marketing efforts, it can become something you enjoy doing. And when you enjoy doing something, you're motivated to do more of it, creating a lovely virtuous circle.
Balancing Online Travel Agencies and Direct Bookings
When it comes to online travel agencies (OTAs), it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing approach. I'm not suggesting that you stop using them and handle all your marketing yourself starting today. OTAs are a great way to introduce customers to your business, especially when you're just starting out.
However, you can use your own marketing efforts alongside OTAs to start encouraging more direct bookings. Over time, you'll begin to see an increase in direct bookings, reduce reliance on OTAs, and maybe even reach the ultimate goal of turning them off completely. There are B&Bs out there that don't use OTAs at all - mine was one of them.
Introducing 52 Ways to Take Control of Your Marketing
My idea for 2024 is to introduce you to 52 ways to take control of your marketing. These will be small, bite-sized pieces that you can work on in about an hour per week.
Once, during a talk at a tourism conference in the early days of social media, an audience member asked me, quite angrily, "How much time do I waste at my computer each day?" I was taken aback, but I responded, "How much time do you waste talking to guests, cooking breakfast, cleaning the rooms, and shopping for supplies each day?" It's as if it's okay to spend five hours a day cleaning, but spending an hour a week or a day in front of a computer to market your business somehow doesn't feel right.
Marketing is just one of the tasks involved in running a business. If you want to market your business and reduce your reliance on online travel agencies, you need to make time for it.
Approaching Marketing with an Open Mind
Over the next year, I'll introduce ideas that you may like and some that you may not. But what I ask is that you approach everything with an open mind.
As humans, we all have a negativity bias. This bias is like our brain's built-in alarm system. It makes us pay more attention to negative things than positive ones. Back in caveman days, noticing potential threats (negatives) helped us survive. So even today, our brains are wired to focus on the bad stuff more. It's like a mental survival strategy that stuck around!
So whenever someone introduces a new technique or idea, we often start looking at the negatives. We say things like, "This won't work for us" or "I already know this." And if you’ve taken one of my courses, or been following my blog posts or listening to my podcast for a while, you’ll have heard some of these ideas in the past. Maybe you thought they wouldn’t work for you or just put them off and forgot about them.
Instead of these thoughts (and these phrases come courtesy of life coach Marie Forleo), I ask you to replace them. Instead of "This won't work for me," think "How can this work for me?" And instead of "I already know this," think "What can I learn from this?"
The other thought may be more of a stretch, but whenever you think, "I have to market my B&B myself," replace it with "I get to market my B&B myself."
Marketing is Much Easier These Days!
You may not believe me on this one. But when I first started running my B&B, it was very difficult to do any marketing yourself!
I was one of the very few B&Bs with a website. But even then, if I wanted to make changes to it, I had to ask my web designer, which cost me! If I wanted to send an email, I needed to use Microsoft Outlook and manage all the unsubscribes & legal stuff myself.
These days, it's actually easier than ever to market your own business. You can update your blog whenever you want, use the tools provided by email service providers like Mailchimp to handle all the legal and administrative aspects of newsletters. You have social media platforms where you can potentially reach millions of people. Tools like Canva can help you with your branding. Tools like the organizer Notion can help you keep track of to-do lists, guest info, maintenance schedules, and more. And then there's AI, which can assist you in generating ideas and content.
Tip #1 The Smile File - Embrace Positivity and Create Authentic Content
Alright, that's the motivational part out of the way. If you're still here - yay!
I hope you’re going to find this information useful. My aim is to post regularly and provide you with 52 ideas to help you take control of your B&B marketing. I can't promise to post consistently every week. If 2023 has taught me anything, it's that life has a way of getting in the way. But I will do my best!
The Smile File: Countering Negativity and Harnessing Positivity
I’m going to get you started with the smile file…
I can already picture some of you rolling your eyes and saying, "Oh Karen, enough with the emojis and happy clappy stuff." If you don't want to call it a smile file, you can always refer to it as a review file or a marketing content file.
Recognising the Negativity Bias
Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, we are naturally wired to have a negativity bias. It served us well when we were trying to survive in the stone age, assuming that every rustle in the bushes was a saber-toothed tiger. However, this negativity bias becomes less useful when we receive negative reviews or constructive comments from guests.
Have you ever noticed how just one negative review can nag at you for ages? I used to engage in endless imaginary conversations with guests after receiving a negative comment, while forgetting about the hundreds of glowing reviews I had received.
This is where the smile file comes in. It's a file that contains all the positive reviews you have ever received, comments people have left in your guest book, or compliments they have given you face to face.
Focus on the Positive Feedback
Whenever you find yourself focusing on that one negative comment, take out the smile file and read through it. You can keep your smile file as a handwritten journal if you enjoy taking the time to write down all those reviews. Personally, I use a Google Doc because it's easy to copy and paste into. You could also use a Word document or a Notion database!
The advantage of using an online tool like Google Docs or Notion is that, as long as you have the app on your phone, you have access to your smile file wherever you and your phone are. So if you start ruminating over that negative comment while waiting in the supermarket queue, just open your phone and read your smile file!
Creating Content with Ideas from the Smile File
The second use for the Smile File is a more practical one, and it is a hugely valuable resource to help you market your B&B. One of the biggest challenges I see B&B owners facing when they start marketing is knowing what content to put out there. What should you include in your marketing emails, write in your blogs, or share on your social media? It's not just about the content; it's also about finding the right words and tone of voice to use.
Another issue people have is that they see marketing as showing off, spammy, and somehow distasteful. I acknowledge that some marketing techniques out there can feel exactly like that, making you uncomfortable. That's why I have always aimed to focus on an authentic style of marketing. It is possible to market your business in an authentic way that people enjoy!
With your smile file, you can start to get a clear picture of what your customers are talking about repeatedly. You can use that information to help you decide on your content and know where to focus your marketing efforts.
For example, if they are always talking about the breakfasts, consider blog posts, newsletters, and social media posts highlighting your breakfasts. Include recipes, photographs, how-to videos, spotlights on specific ingredients, local shops where you buy the ingredients.
The other way to use the smile file is to find quotes that you could use on social media or your website. Use these sparingly on social media though. And finally, look at the type of language and words that guests are using and try to incorporate these into your marketing.
Conclusion and Next Steps
That’s it for now. I hope you found it useful, and I look forward to bringing you the next idea very soon! Stay tuned as we explore more ways to take control of your B&B marketing and increase direct bookings.
Remember, marketing your business doesn't have to feel overwhelming or distasteful. Embrace authenticity, harness positivity, and enjoy the process of connecting with your potential guests.
If you have any questions or want to share your experiences,let me know!
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