[00:00:00] Hi, it's Karen here. I'm the owner and founder of Bed and Breakfast Academy. I provide training and ongoing support to aspiring and existing bed and breakfast owners, helping you to create a B& B lifestyle that you'll love living with guests who become repeat fans. It's been a while, I know, I recorded the last podcast back in the middle of the summer and now I'm sitting here on a rather rainy November day.
We had a log burner installed in my office early in the year, so I have that roaring away and I'm very cosy.
The word office is in quotes. I'm just doing little air quotes here. As the room is also what has become rather grandly known as the morning room. It is the old guest dining room and during lockdown we used to sit in it in the morning, moving to the lounge for some movie watching and a change of scenery in the [00:01:00] evening.
So it's not quite as grand as it sounds. Just in case you were imagining me sitting in a huge country house with lots of different named downstairs rooms including the library. So, what has happened since the last time I podcasted?
In the very recent past, about 30 minutes ago, I have just done an online step workout with the B Mobile team who do strength training and cardio for the over 55s. I know I find it far too easy at this time of year to go into door mouse mode. curling up in front of the fire with the dogs, the knitting, a good book and a movie.
So I set myself a challenge of doing 30 minutes exercise a day in November, and then foolishly publicly announced it to a Facebook group of over 1700 B Mobile exercisers and invited them to join me in an accountability challenge. I immediately regretted it straight afterwards, but I [00:02:00] am, I am glad I've done it.
As a queen of procrastination, I find that accountability is the one thing that is guaranteed to keep me going. So making my plans public.
That's the very recent past, but in the last few months, I'm very excited to say that the Out of Eden team reached out to me to collaborate with them in providing B& B related content for their blog, and also writing my own blog posts featuring their products, and I'm going to be doing that, working with them until the end of 2024.
Out of Eden are a family owned. UK based leading independent supplier to the hospitality industry with everything a B& B, an Airbnb, self catering or small hotel needs from shower caps to kitchenware to bedding and they even do beds. I first found out About them, very luckily, just before I opened my own B& B, and I used their products for 17 years, [00:03:00] and I always recommend them to course attendees, so I am very pleased to be working with a company that I loved using myself and that I trust so much.
You can find them at outofeden. co. uk. Back in August, I was invited onto a podcast hosted by Laurie Adams called Fire Up at 55. Laurie is based in Chicago and we had a great time chatting about our experience in business as old women. So what am I going to talk about in this week's podcast? As we're coming into the slower season here in the Northern Hemisphere, when many B& Bs are starting to quiet down or shut down altogether, I thought I'd talk through how to prepare your B& B for the quiet season.
I have written a more detailed blog post about this, so pop over to my blog, bnbacademy. co. uk forward slash blog and you should find it there, or you will find it there. Or do a Google search for [00:04:00] how to prepare for the quiet season at a B& B and I hope it's going to pop up. So here are just some of the, the main points.
Before I go into the podcast in more detail, I just wanted to draw your attention to the risk of, uh, Legionnaire's disease. If your B& Bs aren't being used for a period of time, there is a risk of standing water accumulating. And standing water presents a real risk of Legionella bacteria accumulating. And it's particularly high risk in showers as the bacteria are dispersed in airborne water droplets.
So the spray created by the shower is a perfect delivery mechanism.
Anyone using a contaminated shower risks breathing in the bacteria and developing the potentially fatal Legionnaire's disease as the bug takes hold in the lungs. We did have a local hotel where a lady very unfortunately died as a result of [00:05:00] contracting it. So it is, it is out there and it's important to know about it.
There are some very simple steps you can take to minimize the risk of Legionnaire's disease at your B& B and I've written a blog posts about that. So again, head over to my blog, ATB academy.co.uk, and there is a search function on there. So if you search for Legionnaire's disease, you'll find out all the information.
Back to the podcast. I think the very first action to take in the quiet season is to take some time out for yourself. I know a lot of B& B owners in my community find it really tempting when their B& B shuts or is a bit quieter to immediately jump into decorating or other tasks around the B& B. But it is really important to give yourself a break.
Pack yourself on the back for all the hard work you've done over the busy season and relax. Some people feel guilty about taking time off over the winter, but remember that most people who are doing a nine to five job get two days off a week, plus [00:06:00] holidays and sick leave, and you may well have been working seven days a week.
This was never a problem of mine. I found it very easy to go into semi winter hibernation, as I said, with lots of country walks, long baths, and afternoons and evenings spent in front of that fire with the knitting and the movie. You may prefer to take the time to get out more, explore the local area, or go on holiday.
However you choose to relax, Don't feel guilty about it and don't feel guilty about taking some well deserved time for yourself.
So there are some steps you need to take to get your B& B rooms ready for the quiet season. I won't go through them step by step here, they're all on the blog if you want to have a more detailed look at that.
But , take time to prepare your room to minimise the amount of maintenance that they're going to need and potentially save you some money. So turning off power to room fridges, leaving the fridge door open, [00:07:00] stripping beds and leaving the beds to air, turning off water and heating the rooms if it's appropriate.
In the bathroom... You'll want to be taking out any stuff that's dirty, or you don't want to leave, uh, over the winter. And make sure you're running water through the taps and showers on a regular weekly basis because of that Legionnaire's disease, which I talked about. There are more actions you'll need to take, but pop along and read the blog on Legionnaires.
If you have, suppliers who deliver regularly to you, you might want to contact them, you know, laundry suppliers, for example, and change what they're sending you over the months to make sure you don't end up with a huge amount of stock or paying for things when you don't need to.
In the kitchen and store cupboard, make sure you're checking. Dates used by dates on food in the fridge and freezer and in cupboards and you're using any food that expires before you open again. [00:08:00] During lockdown I discovered chocolate cornflake and crispy cakes again which I used to use up the cornflakes and crispies that I had that were going to be out of date by the time the guests come back.
That was a great blast back to there. My childhood.
If you are planning to close your B& B for the winter months, of course you need to close off unavailable nights on your own booking system, but also make sure you've updated the online travel agencies such as Booking.
com. And, , consider creating a blog post explaining that you're closed for the winter and when you will be reopening.
The quieter months are a really great time to focus on your marketing, especially if you've let it slip during your busier times, so review your marketing plan, create a content plan. Plan for next year. I have a blog post for that considering offering gift vouchers for Christmas gifts and continue to post on social media and stay connected with guests and maybe, get [00:09:00] ahead of yourself and write and schedule blog posts and email newsletters for the new year.
If you do want to spend more time marketing over the quiet months, if you don't already have one, I really recommend you focus on getting your email list up and coming up with some strategies to help build your email list and get more customers on there. You own that email list. It's not owned by social media.
It's not owned by the online travel agencies. That's your list of customers. You know, I've used social media for years and I've loved using it. I still think it's a very effective way to market your business, and it can be an amazing way of reaching your customers and staying in touch with existing guests.
And , let's be honest, a good email takes time to write, you need to copy read it, you need to test it, it can take several hours. But those B& B emails can be much more powerful than [00:10:00] just a single post on social media.
You own your email list and you have control over who sees your emails. If you post on social media, generally your posts will only be seen by about 10 percent of your followers. Whereas, and that is being generous, to be honest. If you send an email, then that email gets sent to 100 percent of people on your list.
Spam filters aside.
And the phrase I like to use is you're building your house on someone else's land when you are just relying on social media or the OTAs. Now let's take Facebook for an example. Even if you have a large number of followers on your business page, Facebook will normally only show your posts to a very small percentage of those people.
If you break any of Facebook's rules for a business page, even if it's by accident, you could find your business page gets deleted without warning. Your personal [00:11:00] account could get hacked and as a result deleted by Facebook. And again, this could mean losing your business page. I know a local business who lost her Facebook group, which she relied on for her business and, you know, over 3, 000 followers.
And she just didn't have any backup. If something did go wrong with your social media, if you've been building up your email list, then at least you can contact people and explain what's happening. Emails can create a personal connection with your existing B& B guests. And remind them that you're there, remember not everybody is on social media.
And it's also a way of connecting with potential BNB guests who aren't quite ready to book yet. So not everybody who comes to your website or looks at your social media is ready to book. But if you have an email sign up form on your website and on your social media account, you've got a chance of getting them into your world and starting to
get them to know, like and trust you.. I used to pick up at [00:12:00] least two to three bookings, repeat bookings from every email I sent. That's two to three bookings that you're getting that aren't incurring a 15 percent or whatever you pay to booking. com
I would say if there's one thing to do with your marketing, I've gone on about this a bit, but I am quite passionate about it. Is, , get that email marketing list up and running if you don't already have one. And if you do already have one, you can... To probably spend your, your quiet time over the winter months actually maybe writing the newsletters.
You could write all your newsletters for the year. I recommend sending one about once a month. Write them all for the year, get them done, and then during the quiet season you've got it all ready to go and it's just going to be a matter of a few minutes to get them sent out.
There may be some DIY to do. Identify any tasks that need to be done, create a plan and prioritise them according to urgency and importance. [00:13:00] I think this time of year is also a great time to review how your B& B has gone and see if you need to implement any changes.
Consider what's worked really well. Where have your good reviews been? What hasn't worked so well? Have you had customers complaining about the same thing again and again? Are there things you'd like to do differently next year? Will you put your rates up?
Will you offer a new service? For example, platters. Uh, is it time to rethink your breakfast menu? It's also. the ideal time to go back over your reviews and honestly assess whether there are things you need to do differently in your B& B or stuff that you need to do even more of. It's also a great opportunity to snoop on your your competition, so local B& Bs who are attracting the same sorts of guests and find out what their customers have been saying about them in their reviews.
What have they done well? What could they do [00:14:00] differently? Are there any learning points that you could take? Uh, for the new year from that.
It's also the ideal time to look through your figures and decide if you need to be doing anything different in your B& B as a result. Consider looking at your occupancy stats, your turnover, your profit, repeat business, percentage of reviews received, how far in advance the guest book.
Have a look at that data. If you don't have that data already and think it might be useful, then, , start setting it up so you can collect it in the new year. And make sure you plan time off for the year. If you haven't done so already, look through your booking calendar and make sure you plan time off for some rest and relaxation for the year ahead.
Block out dates in the diary now. You can always release the dates for sale at a later date if you don't need the time off.
Who knew? There could be so much for preparing A, B, and B for the quiet season, whether that's shutting it down or just getting ready to welcome a few fewer guests.[00:15:00] I hope you found that useful. Thank you for listening. If you want to know more about running your own bed and breakfast, please head over to B& B Academy, where you're going to find over a hundred blog posts, some of which I've mentioned in this podcast, all about starting up running and marketing a B& B.
And you'll find details of my complete bed and breakfast course. And I've also got a short course there for just 30 which is first steps to starting up a B& B, which is the perfect course for you if you are undecided about whether running a B& B is actually for you or not.
Or if you have decided you want to run a B& B and you want to know what your first steps are before you go ahead and buy the online course. Thank you very much and I'll speak with you next time.