[00:00:00] Hi, it's Karen here. I'm the founder and owner of Bed and Breakfast Academy. I provide training and ongoing support to existing and aspiring B& B owners, helping them to create a B& B lifestyle they're going to love living with repeat guests who want to just keep returning. Happy New Year.
It's been quite a wet start to Shropshire and across the UK. Fortunately, we don't experience flooding, although our neighbours have come close a couple of times in the last 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.
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 really appealed to me. Actually, giving up things I enjoy doesn't appeal to me at any time of the [00:01:00] year, but there we go. Years ago, when I was still active on Twitter, 52 new experiences and things that she wanted to do.
in, in the new year rather than doing resolutions. I love the idea of adding things that bring health and joy instead of depriving myself of enjoyment. I was thinking about how I could apply this concept to B& B Academy. I've spoken with many, many B& B owners and aspiring B& B owners over the years, 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 Booking.
com or Airbnb. However, I also know that marketing your B& B is something that many of you don't enjoy. [00:02:00] It can be overwhelming to know where to start and finding enough time to dedicate it. Dedicate to it with everything else you have to do. Another issue is that some of you see marketing as showing off, spammy, and somehow distasteful.
I Understand that some marketing techniques out there can feel that way, making you feel uncomfortable. As a result, marketing your business becomes something you don't enjoy. And then you just 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 [00:03:00] a lovely, virtuous circle.
When it comes to online travel agencies, the OTAs. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing approach. I'm certainly not suggesting that you stop using them now and handle all of 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 the OTAs to start encouraging more direct bookings. Over time, you'll begin to see an increase in direct bookings, reduce reliance on the OTAs, and maybe even reach the ultimate goal of turning them off completely.
There are B& Bs out there who don't use the OTAs at all. Mine was one of them. My idea for 2024 is to introduce you to 52 ways to take control of your marketing. [00:04:00] These will be small bite sized pieces that you can work on in about an hour per week or more if you want to dedicate more time to it. Once during a talk at a tourism conference in the very, very early days of social media, When I was very enthusiastic about it all, an audience member asked me quite angrily, how much time do I waste my computer each day?
I was taken aback. I was still quite naive about the way some people would feel about social media in those days. It was a time when a lot of B& B owners didn't even have websites. I think at the conference, 70 percent of people. didn't actually have their own website at the time. But I responded back to this person, you know, how much time do you waste talking to guests?
How much time do you waste cooking breakfast? Cleaning the rooms? Shopping for supplies? It's as if it's okay to spend five hours a day cleaning, [00:05:00] but spending an hour a week. Or a day in front of a computer to market your business somehow doesn't feel quite right. Marketing is just one of the tasks involved in running your business.
And there are probably quite a few tasks that many of us don't enjoy. Doing your tax return when you're running a B& B, cleaning the toilet. I know a lot of you love cleaning, but. How many of you really enjoy cleaning someone else's toilet? If you want to market your business and reduce your reliance on online travel agencies, then you, you do need to make time for it.
So over the next year, I'll introduce some ideas that you may like and some that you may not. But what I do ask is if you do follow along with this, is that you approach everything with an open mind. As humans, we all have a negativity bias built in. This bias is, is like our [00:06:00] brain's, uh, 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, it's like a mental survival strategy that's stuck around when we don't need it so much these days. So whenever someone introduces a new technique or an idea, we often start looking at the negatives first.
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 been 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 at the time, or you've just put them off, or you've forgotten about them.[00:07:00]
Instead of these thoughts, and these phrases actually come courtesy of life coach Marie Forleo, I ask you to replace them. Instead of this won't work for me, how about how can this work for me? And instead of I already know this, think what can I learn from this? The other thought that comes up a lot may be a bit more of a stretch, but whenever you think I have to market my B& B, replace it with I get to market my B& B myself.
When I first started running my business, I was one of the very few with a website. But even then, if I wanted to make changes to it, I had to ask my web designer, which cost me more money. If I wanted to send an email, I needed to use Microsoft Excel. Microsoft Outlook can manage all the unsubscribes and legal stuff and all the formatting stuff [00:08:00] myself.
These days it's actually easier than ever to market the business yourself. You can update your blog whenever you want to, use the tools provided by email service providers like MailChimp to handle handle all of 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 with your branding. Tools like the organizer Notion can help you keep track of to do lists, guests info, maintenance schedules, and more. And then. Um, there's the controversial one. Some people love it. Some people hate it. But there is AI which can assist you in generating ideas and content.
All right, that's the motivational part out of the way. If you're still listening to me, yay. I hope you're going to find this information useful. My aim is [00:09:00] to post fairly regularly over the next year and provide you with those 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 habit of getting in the way, but I will do my best. I am gonna get you started, uh, with ID number one, which is 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. But if you don't wanna call it a smile file, you can always refer to it as a review file or marketing content file.
And there are two purposes for this. 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 Russell in the bushes was a saber toothed tiger. [00:10:00] 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 small 4 comes in. It's a file that contains all of the positive reviews you've ever received, comments people have left in your guestbook, or compliments that have given you face to face.
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. [00:11:00] Or you could use a Word document, Trello board, or even a Notion database.
The advantage of using an online tool like Google or Notion is 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 or waiting in the supermarket queue, just open your phone and read your smile file.
Or if a guest pays you a particular compliment over breakfast, as you're serving up breakfast, you can run back in the kitchen and quickly open your phone and add it to your smile file. The second use for the small file is a more practical one and it can be a hugely valuable resource to help you market your BNB.
One of the biggest challenges I see BNB 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 [00:12:00] media? And it's not just the content, it's also about finding the right words and the tone of voice to use.
I mentioned earlier that Some people see marketing as showing off, spammy, somehow distasteful,
but it is possible to market your business in an authentic way that doesn't come across like that. which was a challenging time for business marketing, trying to work out exactly what you should and shouldn't be doing, I had quite a few people asking me to continue posting as I always have.
They wanted to keep reading my posts because they enjoyed them. And it provided a bit of normality and stability in what was becoming a very difficult world at the time. With your Smartphone, 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 [00:13:00] focus your marketing efforts.
For example, if your guests are always talking about the breakfasts, Consider blog posts, newsletters, social media posts, highlighting your breakfasts, include recipes, photographs, how to videos, spotlights on specific ingredients, talk about local shops where you buy the ingredients. The other way to use a smile file is to find quotes you can use on social media or your website.
But I would use these a little sparingly on social media. The real purpose of the smile file is for you to be creating your own content that guests will enjoy. And finally, look at the type of language and words that guests are using and try to incorporate these into your marketing. So you're using the same sort of language as your potential guests would be.
That's it for now. I hope you found it useful and I look forward to bringing you the next idea very soon.[00:14:00] If you've enjoyed this podcast and please do head over to bnbacademy. co. uk forward slash blog, where you'll find hundreds of blog posts about how to start up, run and market a BNB and sign up for my email newsletter. When I notify you of new posts and podcasts,
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