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Using Negative Reviews to Market Your B&B - #5 Marketing Your B&B

marketing a bed and breakfast Feb 05, 2024

Welcome back to this 52 weeks to taking control of your B&B marketing series!

Today, in Tip #5, I’m going to talk to you about how you can use a negative review about your B&B to market your business.

I am aiming to deliver 52 ideas for you on how to market your Bed and Breakfast in just a short time each week. Just taking those tiny steps to take more control of your own marketing and hopefully generate more direct income.

In the last tip, which was no. 4 I talked about how to use your website effectively to market your bed and breakfast.

If you prefer to listen to the Podcast, where I go into a bit more detail with examples, you can listen here or do a search for Bed and Breakfast Academy on Apple, or Spotify Podcasts. 

Before I go on, the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that you didn’t hear from me last week. As predicted at the beginning of the year, life got in the way big time and I ran out of both time and motivation. 

I had virtually written the whole blog post when life interrupted. I returned to finish it on Friday and realised I’d failed to save it, so several hours worth of writing had disappeared. At that point I ran out of motivation, turned off the laptop and headed for a long bath with my Kindle. But I’m back now!

I’ve had a couple of great comments about the online course over the weekend “Love your course by the way. Thanks for all of the Great Knowledge”

“I have enrolled on your online course, it’s brilliant. Just so appreciate your seminars. They are getting more inspired by the minute”

Personally, I love the online course because, unlike the classroom course, you can dive into it at any time that suits you. There’s no waiting for availability on a date that suits you, no having the time and expense of travelling to Shropshire or worrying because you have to cancel because life gets in the way!

You can find out more about the online course here >> Bed and Breakfast Training Course

If you're not quite ready to commit to tee full online course just yet, you can check out the First Steps to Owning a B&B workshop

Back to this week’s marketing tip.

How to Use a Negative Review About Your B&B to Promote Your Business

I appreciate suggesting that you might see a negative review as a marketing opportunity may be a stretch for some of you to consider, but bear with me.

I have written about how to respond to a review before. That blog post and podcast goes into a bit more details about to handle the review and take some of the emotion out of it - you can read / listen here >> How to Respond to a Negative Review

Types of Review

There are different types of reviews and not all of them feel fair. 

I once received a 2 out of 5 review from a guest because he’d needed to be in Shrewsbury, 26 miles away, rather than South Shropshire and he hadn’t researched the location of my B&B carefully enough.

And a 3 out of 5 review from guests, who on leaving the B&B had said they’d loved their stay, but went on to leave a review saying they hadn’t liked the rubber duck in the bathroom!

Then there are those that are just offering feedback, such as the one I received saying there weren’t enough pegs in the room to hang coats on.

Or those where something has gone wrong - e.g. a local pub with rooms having no hot water in the morning for guests to take a shower.

It’s natural to feel defensive, angry or frustrated. But it's really important that you don’t respond with these feelings.


How a Guest Researches Your Business

When a potential guest researches your business on a review site such as TripAdvisor, or they look at your reviews on an OTA like BOOKINGDOTCOM, they will probably look at  a few of your glowing reviews, but more than likely they will then click that filter button through to any negative reviews you’ve received.

Believe me, I’ve spoken to many people who say this is exactly what they do when they’re looking for a B&B.

They are looking to read what the reviewer has said about your business, to see if it’s potentially something that will put them off staying, but they are also looking to see how the business owner has responded.

And actually, if the potential guest is put off staying because it’s something that you can do nothing about, then the reviewer has just done you a favour.

For example, “We didn’t like the fact that the B&B was dog friendly and that dogs were allowed in the dining room”

This is going to put off people who don't want to stay at a dog friendly B&B and don’t like dogs in the dining room. But fear not because there are more than enough potential guests who want to come away with their dog and for he/she/them to be allowed into breakfast with them!

You can’t create a bed and breakfast that appeals to everyone, and if a review puts off someone who is not enjoying staying with you, then I call that a result! The reviewer has done your marketing for you.

What Your Response Says About Your Business

The way you respond to a negative review can significantly influence potential B&B guests in several ways:

Customer Service 

Potential guests will get a feel for your level of customer service based on how you address negative feedback. Being prompt, polite, and understanding will reflect positively on your business, showing you value guest satisfaction and want to resolve issues.

How You Resolve Problems

Your reply shows your ability to handle any problems effectively. Guests want to know that if they experience any problems or issues when they’re staying with you, that these will be addressed promptly and professionally. A constructive response that offers solutions or clarifications about your business shows that you have good problem-solving skills.

Being Open and Honest

An open and honest response will go down well with potential guests. They’ll  appreciate that you take ownership of mistakes and look for improvement. Being authentic can help to build trust right from the start, in a world of SPAM, SCAMS and Phishing, where building trust with a potential customer is vital.

Communication Style

The tone and language you use can show your professionalism and personality. A respectful and courteous tone and clear communication,will show you in a good light. But if you are more of a casual person with a sense of humour, you could adapt your tone appropriately. Just be careful to never make fun of previous  guests or their reviews. Unless you really are going for the Basil fawlty approach to customer service.

Think about how you want a B&B owner to treat you if something went wrong with your stay!

Commitment to Improvement

Potential guests look for signs that you're listening to feedback, and of continuous improvement and dedication to enhancing the guest experience. Guests will appreciate that you ask for and act on feedback. It shows a commitment to your business.

How to Structure Your Reply

I’ve used the example of a guest who leaves a review, complaining because there were no pubs in walking distance.

I know this is a frustrating one for many B&B owners, myself included. The guests would wax lyrical about what a beautiful, perfect location we had, then give us a low score for location because there were no pubs within walking distance. I even had a repeat guest who had stayed with us for 10 years do exactly this!

But they are doing you a favour by putting off guests for whom a pub to walk to is important.

STEP 1 - Acknowledge and Apologise 

Start by acknowledging the guest's experience and express genuine apologies for any inconvenience caused. This shows empathy and a commitment to resolving issues.

In the case where you feel the feedback is unfair and you disagree with the review, it’s still important to acknowledge their feedback. Showing courtesy shows you’re committed to guest satisfaction.

For some reason, the guest’s expectation of their stay has not been met, even if it’s out of your control - cue the guest who didn’t like the fact that we were 26 miles from Shrewsbury. You’re acknowledging their expectation has not been met.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a review for Hopton House B&B, and we’re glad that overall you enjoyed your stay.

We’re sorry that you were disappointed that we have no pubs within walking distance.

STEP 2 - Highlight Your Positive Attributes

After addressing the specific concern, highlight the positive aspects of your bed and breakfast. You want to keep your response as concise as possible - one of the biggest mistakes I see B&B owners do in responding is to write pages and pages of response.  If they’ve mentioned some positives in their review, maybe pick one of these out to highlight.

Or, if it’s possible, mention an upside to whatever it is they are complaining about.


Our B&B is in a beautiful rural location, with stunning views of the surrounding countryside, walks from the house and is very peaceful with no busy roads.

STEP 3 - Educate and Clarify

If the issue arose due to a policy you have or something that is just out of your control, take the opportunity to tell your future guests about the rationale behind it. Explain the reasoning in a friendly and informative manner, showing understanding and being open and honest with them


Unfortunately this also means we have no pubs that you can walk to.

We do have a section on our website detailing the postcode, phone number and distance  to our nearest favourite pubs, and this information is also included in the welcome email you receive before arrival.

STEP 4- Offer Solutions or Alternatives

Where possible, offer solutions or alternatives that could mitigate similar issues in the future. This demonstrates your proactive approach to customer satisfaction and reinforces your commitment to providing a great experience.


We do offer a variety of supper platters that are very popular with our guests who don’t want to travel out in the evening. You can pre-order this and it will be waiting for either in your room fridge.

Whilst we’re not licensed, we do supply wine and beer glasses and a corkscrew, and you are welcome to bring your own wine or beer to enjoy, either with a platter or after your return from eating at the pub.

On our FAQs page you’ll also find numbers for local taxi companies. Please note you will need to book these in advance of your stay.

STEP 5- Encourage Further Discussion

Invite the guest to get in touch to discuss their concerns further. This personal touch can create a sense of connection and may lead them to change or remove their review.

I don’t suggest openly offering refunds or discounts in your public response, as this may encourage other people to complain or leave a bad review to get money off. 

If the guest does get in touch directly after they see your response, if you feel it’s appropriate you could offer a refund or a discount. But that should never be conditional on them removing or changing their review. If they do, then that’s great but don’t ask!

In some countries, there are ethical and potentially legal implications for incentivising guests to leave a positive review only, so I personally wouldn’t!


If you feel there is more we could have done to communicate the lack of pubs within walking distance, or to make your stay more enjoyable, please do get in touch. We want to ensure that all our guests are happy that we are the right B&B for their stay in Shropshire, and have all the information they need before booking.

Remember, maintaining a positive and constructive tone throughout your response is key to turning a negative situation into a positive one. Keep your message clear, concise, and courteous, reflecting the professionalism and warmth of your bed and breakfast.

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