Hi, it's Karen here. I'm the founder and owner of Bed and Breakfast Academy, helping aspiring and existing B& B owners to create a B& B lifestyle you'll love living. And to attract guests who become loyal fans and repeat customers. If you're new to this podcast, hello, I've been running B& B Academy since 2006.
And I also ran my own B& B Hopton House here in Shropshire for 17 years. I have trained many hundreds of B& B owners over the years. Pre COVID I ran classroom training courses, but now I deliver all of my training online, apart from the occasional tourism marketing course, which I run locally. The great advantage of training online is that you can do the training at your own pace and I'm able to deliver much more consistent content.
I have an online course on how to set up, run and market BNB as well as a mini workshop on the first steps of running a The mini [00:01:00] workshop is ideal if you're still thinking about whether running a B& B is right for you,
or if you want to learn about the first steps you need to take if you're setting up or buying a bed and breakfast. And that comes with a few nice bonuses as well. Head over website which is b and bacademy. co. uk, where you'll find both the courses on the menu bar at the top, as well as a blog with hundreds of blog posts about setting up, running, marketing a bed and breakfast.
This week is tip number four for taking charge of your BNB marketing in 2024, a little series I'm running over the year. I'm aiming to deliver 52 ideas for you in how to market your BNB in just a short time each week. I'm very passionate in believing that just taking those tiny steps on a consistent basis, will Will help you take more control of your marketing and hopefully generate you more direct income, which means [00:02:00] you'll pay less commission to the OTAs in the long run.
It's a rather glorious day here in Shropshire, which makes a change. It's been a bit blegh, uh, but it's lovely day today and Saffy the dog as Seems to be her habit now, is joining me under the desk and sucking on her blanket.
Apologies for any noises, it's not my tummy rumbling or worse. And, um, I'm just finishing up my first coffee of the day, and the log burner is on, and I'm looking at my glorious view, so it's all, oh, a wonderful working environment. So, where are we? Back to the podcast and blog. So in the last three podcasts and blogs I guided you through creating a smile file, then I introduced you to content buckets as a way of categorizing your marketing content, and last week I talked you through how to use those frequently asked questions that guests or [00:03:00] prospective guests are always asking to help you effectively marketing your business.
Market your B& B and find more content. You can go back and read those blog posts, or you can check them out on the podcast, so that will be podcast and 21, which you can find on Spotify. Apple Podcasts are also on my website. I understand that Google Podcasts is going to be no more very soon if it hasn't already gone, and that's going over to YouTube Music.
So I'm not sure whether it'll be there yet, but we shall, I shall check that out.
Today I'm going to talk you through the importance of your BB website. If you've already got a website, please stick with me here.
I had three websites for my B& B over the years, and it was really overdue a fourth by the time I, , shut up shop. Actually, one of the reasons I decided to shut the B& B was to allow me more time to focus on my training, especially as I've moved over to the [00:04:00] online training. I had one day when I was running a webinar.
And I'd arrange it nice and early in the day. I had guests arriving, and check in time was four. And of course, it was one of those days when they turned up at two, and it was right in the middle of the webinar. So I had to sort of say to the webinar attendees, Sorry, sorry, I've got to go down and sort these guests out.
And I wasn't able to spend quite as long with the guests as I normally do when they check in. But, you know, that's one of the reasons I decided to focus more on the training than the B& B. So Even if you don't need a brand new website, it's really important to review your website regularly and to ensure that it is reflecting your BNB accurately and also the Needs, the evolving needs of your B& B guests.
A few years ago now I was asked to give a presentation about marketing a B& B at a conference of B& B owners. It was right at the beginning of the social media age. It was with Twitter and I was loving using Twitter and find it really [00:05:00] useful for my B& B. But it wasn't until I was practicing the finished presentation that I realized I'd said nothing about having a B& B website.
Having worked in IT for years, when I set up my own B& B, I sort of thought that it went without saying that I would have a website for my business. However, at the conference, nearly 70 percent of the business owners did not have their own website. And they relied solely on business from the B& B book, the B& B book owners were running the conference, or the tourist office for sending them guests.
These days, the way we market bed and breakfasts have changed dramatically. And I would imagine it's rare for a B& B business not to have a website, but there are still a few businesses, I'm thinking sort of around the Airbnb maybe, that rely entirely on Booking. com or Airbnb for their traffic, but I'd also recommend having a website as [00:06:00] well.
I've heard so many people over the years. Say that even if they are looking for a B& B on an OTA, if they find one they like the look of, they'll also try and find that business's website to find out more about the website, get more, uh, more about the business, get more details and potentially book direct.
I think the message is getting out there slowly to people that booking direct is, is potentially going to save them some money. Let's hope so anyway. So even if I'm preaching to the converted here and you already have a website for your business, it's definitely worth reviewing it every few years to see if it's still up to date and reflects your business.
As I said, during my years of running my own Bed and Breakfast, I had three websites for it and it was overdue a new one and B& B Academy, this, I'm onto my third website for B& B Academy now. Technology changes, customer needs change, so it's always worth reviewing. So today [00:07:00] I'm going to look at what makes a good website.
I would say the main objective of all of your marketing, your emails, your social media, your in person marketing, is to whet the appetite of potential guests and drive them back to your website, to visit your website and to book. And that's why a website is so important to get right. And the main purpose of a bed and breakfast website is once You, those visitors visiting it, those, uh, people online looking at your website, is to turn them into guests in the book.
And this can be achieved by demonstrating the whole experience of staying at your B& B, showcasing your unique selling points, such as its unique character, the style of the rooms, your local attractions. The sorts of breakfasts you serve, your amenities, also having clear online booking [00:08:00] options which make it easy for guests to make reservations.
It's much more than just saying we've got three bedrooms with two double beds and two singles and we cook two sausages for breakfast. It's about trying to convey that whole experience of staying with you. Now before I talk more about what makes a good website, it is important to address how your website is being found if it is There's little point having a fabulous B& B website if no one actually visits it.
I used to say on the classroom course it's like having 2, 000 leaflets printed for your B& B and then just leaving them in a drawer, not giving them to anybody. And I am that person. I was guilty when I first set up of having 2, 000 leaflets. It was in the early days of the internet and you certainly couldn't get stuff printed online.
So I [00:09:00] went, I had my leaflets designed quite expensively by a graphic designer and then I took the files to a local printer and the minimum print run was 2000 and I probably gave about 75 out before. Everything changed at my B& B and the leaflets are out of date. So, actually I do think it's important to have some sort of printed marketing material with your website on and some details, your, your content details.
But these days you can easily do that yourself. Or you can, you could get a graphic designer or you could do it yourself on, uh, programs like Canva. I love Canva, I use it an awful lot, and then you can get these things quite easily printed in short batches, so you know, a hundred cards or a hundred flyers, so you're never going to be in this situation I was in of having thousands that are sitting there now out of date in a drawer somewhere in your office.
So, , away from [00:10:00] flyers and back to websites, so how do you know who is, is visiting your website?
It's important to review website statistics regularly to understand how customers are finding your website and what they are interested in and then on with this information is going to help you make changes and enhancements and create content that your website visitors will be interested in. If all of your visitors are interested in your Seville orange marmalade recipe, which they are on my website at the moment, I'm getting, I'm getting over a hundred and twenty visits a day to my website at the moment, just visiting my Seville orange marmalade website recipe.
So if you find that Something like recipes is working really well for you, then you could say, right, it's working well, we'll do more of these. And I did actually have someone come and stay once, she booked a five [00:11:00] night stay as a result of finding my lemon drizzle cake recipe online. I'd created the lemon drizzle cake recipe.
I'd used Mary Berry's original recipe and I've tinkered with it and messed with it and added things and baked it in a different way. And I'd put the recipe on my website and I'd also pinned it to Pinterest and the Pinterest pin went a bit viral and sent a significant amount of traffic to my website.
And I had a woman contact me and she said, I found your website through your lemon drizzle cake. I'd never heard of Shropshire before, and I decided that, um, I really like the look of your B& B in Shropshire, so she booked a five night stay. So that lemon drizzle cake recipe was well worth the time it took me to write it and create a pin for it.
And I have another great example, actually. I had, , an American woman from New York contact me to say she'd been looking for a recipe for for American ginger scones, we'd had them when we visited the States and I thought it would be a great [00:12:00] recipe to put on my menu and it was very popular with guests.
And she actually had found the ginger scones recipe, , on my website and her daughter wanted to visit. , the UK, so she came and visited with her daughter and then came back, um, ten years later with her husband. So, you know, recipes do work.
So, that's some of the type of content you could be creating. I am getting ahead of myself now, so let's get back to website statistics. I think I'd much rather talk about lemon juice, okay, than website statistics but here we go. So Google Analytics 4 is a free web analytics service which is offered by Google and it tracks visits to your website.
And there are many different ways of using it. It's quite complicated but at a basic level. It tracks the number of users visiting your website, where they come from, both geographically, where they come from in the world, or where they come from in the country, and what other websites, such as social media, lead them to your site, [00:13:00] and which website pages they visit, how long they spend on your website, and more.
Just a note that Google moved from its old Google Analytics, Universal Analytics it was called, to Google Analytics 4, which you'll also see abbreviated as GA4, in July 2023. If you still haven't made the switch to GA4, you'll no longer be seeing website statistics. If that is the case, then speak to your web designer about swapping over.
If you, um, if you manage your website yourself, then head over to Google for instructions on switching. put off doing that for ages, and I think I did it about two days before the switch, and it turned out to be really easy to do. Don't be put off by the tech, there are instructions there online to help you, and YouTube is normally your friend.
One of the things that Google Analytics 4 tells you is how guests are getting to your website. So it will show you which sites are [00:14:00] referring, um, visitors to your website. And, but there are many ways that a prospective customer could find your website. So let's take an example of a B& B in Mid Wales.
They could type in B& B Mid Wales into a search engine such as Google. Or they could be searching for things to do in Mid Wales such as five walks in Mid Wales and they may come across a blog post you've written with the same title. I used to have a blog post which was five walks in South Shropshire and it was actually the the number one ranked post if you typed in walks in Shropshire it was the first post that came up.
So people were finding my B& B and my website through, that blog. They could be entering your website domain, so e. g. midwalesbmb. co. uk directly into Google because they found it on a business card or a flyer. [00:15:00] They could be searching for the name of your B& B. Having found it on an online travel agency, it might have been recommended by a friend, a local business, another B& B that was full, they may have visited before, a B& B book.
So they just may be searching on your name. They could be linking through from social media, so really important on all your social media to make sure you've got your website address there. They could have clicked on a link from a B& B directory or a local business. Features, local accommodation that people can stay at, or they could have clicked on a link in your email signature.
So, one of the things to think about, um, as well as your website is, is looking at ways of getting your website out there. Are you making the most of all the ways that you could be? That you could be sharing your website address. Now
let's look at the overall look and feel of a B& B website. As I said, a B& B website needs to accurately reflect the [00:16:00] whole experience of staying at the B& B. You know, bad reviews. Uh, something nasty on to provide a guest dissatisfaction is quite often a result of the difference between their expectations for their stay and what the actual experience is.
I commissioned my second website for the B& B when we upgraded it in 2008, upgraded the B& B. , we were assessed by Visit Britain at the time and we went from, um, four star silver to a five star gold because we'd made quite a few positive changes and the second website was a much better reflection of the quality and service that I was offering.
Photographs are obviously very important but so are the colors and the font you choose. And the copy you write. The wrong font and color can make a website look quite out of date. [00:17:00] If you aren't involving a graphic designer in your website design, then there are plenty of resources out there with advice.
You know, take a look at Pinterest, Canva, or a website like Coolors. co. Coolors is spelt C O O L O R S. co. And that's, um, shows you color palettes that work well together. Or you could do a Google search on, um, font pairings that work well. Another source of inspiration is other websites, other B& B websites, other hotel websites.
But remember, it's okay to be inspired, um, but never, never copy someone else's website. Hello, Saffron. What's wrong, sweetheart? But I have to, I have to stroke Safi's bottom at the same time as talking. So, is your website easy to use? You want your website to be as easy for the customer to use as possible.[00:18:00]
They shouldn't have to spend time looking for information that's important to them when they are making the all important booking decision and choosing to stay with you rather than the B& B next door. So look back at that frequently asked question file we created last week and check that the answers to all of those questions that guests ask you on a regular basis are quick and easy to find.
You know, you might even consider having an FAQ page on the website. Um, I do have a blog post on how to use Frequently Asked Questions for Effective Marketing. That was last week's, so take a look at that on the blog at bnbacademy. co. uk.
Whilst it's important to have all of the information that customers will need before they book, it's also important that you don't overwhelm them with information, you know, think carefully about the structure of your website, don't have [00:19:00] too many main pages, be quite concise in presenting, you know, the main information up front and then you can, you can have additional pages with more information, um, as, as guests want to delve deeper and find out more.
Make sure your Book Now button is clearly visible at the top of every page. Don't make guests have to search around for it. And also make it easy for guests to find your contact details if they need to email, call, or message you with any further questions.
So I've talked a bit about blogs already, but I do believe that having a blog on your website is really one of the most effective marketing tools for your B& B. I've talked about people coming because they found my lemon drizzle cake recipe, they found my walks post, my ginger scone recipe. It really was the main way that I attracted, um, guests to my B& B.
And blogging is important for a B& B for [00:20:00] several reasons. It helps you engage with the potential guests. A blog allows a B& B to connect with potential guests on a deeper level, maybe on a more personal level. It provides a platform to share sort of unique stories, events, you know, experiences that make up the B& B and make it special.
And it's really a great way of showing what it's like to stay at your B& B. I once had a guest tell me that she wouldn't normally choose to stay at five star B& Bs as she was worried that they would be too stuffy and formal for her. But reading my blog helped her to realise that whilst a stay would have a touch of luxury, it would also be relaxed and enjoyable.
Your blog can also showcase local attractions. You can highlight attractions, activities, events, and these can be really helpful for guests planning their visit. And it shows you, the B& B owner, as a knowledgeable local guide, someone who's going to [00:21:00] be able to assist people with their stay. Especially in an area where we are in, like Shropshire, where people are, they're attracted to it, maybe, because they've seen some headline in the, in the newspaper.
, ABTA just declared Shropshire this year as one of the top ten marketing destinations to in the world to keep an eye on. So you can set yourself up as a knowledgeable local guide and help guests. I had several occasions I had guests book a couple of nights stay and then contact me and said, thank you for all the information you sent.
We've looked through your blog and we've discovered there's so much to do in your area. We'd like to extend our stay. So that's a great example of how a blog can help you get more nights. Really importantly, it's important your website is up to date, both from a search engine point of view and also from a customer point of view.
day of scams and phishing, you know, guests can be quite concerned about whether a website is [00:22:00] actually real. So seeing that a website's blog is updated regularly, it's got lots of local information, is going to give them more confidence in, in your website. And, as I said, it's important it's updated for search engine optimization, which is, you know, how the search engines find your website and show it to customers.
Your blog gives you something to share on social media. So you could put a post on social media about, great local walks in the area with, if you want to find out more, check our profile and go and look at our website as our blog.
And finally, you can also use it to showcase your amenities and services. So you might want to have a blog that's focused on, oh, I don't know, thinking off the top of my head here, your toiletries. So you may have got a new toiletry range so you might want to talk your guests through that and nice arty pictures of it and why the toiletry range is good.
Maybe it's good for the environment, vegan friendly, [00:23:00] whatever. Now blogging can be a bit time consuming and overwhelming. It's far easier just to take a photograph of your view and Put it onto Instagram and forget about it. But, um, I have written another blog post on how to use AI. So, ChatGBT to help you write your blog posts.
And you can find that over at bnbacademy. co. uk And I'll also pop that in the show notes for the podcast.
So, there's lots of things about a website and there's probably some more I miss. But I'll make sure, I'll cover those in future podcasts and blogs. But, um, I would say Another really important thing is to have an email sign up form.
I'll be talking more about email soon, but email marketing is a really important part of your bed and breakfast marketing strategy. Even if you do nothing else, you can use email marketing. To take customers who have come from say, booking. com, um, get them on your email list [00:24:00] and mark it to them and hopefully they'll book direct next time,
But it's not just about,
Converting existing customers into repeat customers. Not everyone who visits your website for the first time will be ready to book. They might just be doing lots of research. But by capturing their email address you'll be able to start building a relationship with them so that they remember you when they are ready to book.
Now, it's always important to use an email marketing software, such as MailChimp, to capture email addresses, as this will ensure that you're meeting all the legal requirements, such as requiring explicit consent. People have to opt in to your email list. You need to be clear on the kind of Emails you're sending, the sort of content you're going to put in there, the frequency of the emails, having an unsubscribe option is a legal requirement, ensuring customer data is [00:25:00] stored in compliance with applicable data protection laws.
There's a lot of stuff there and it can be quite scary but if you're using software like MailChimp, they've got all of that under control. They are making sure that you, your emails are being sent out in a compliant way and if you're If you are using their signup forms to capture guest email addresses, that is also being done in a way that's compliant with laws in, well, there's GDPR laws in the UK and Europe, but you've also got various different laws in the States as well.
So that will give you some peace of mind. Now I'm going to talk more about, um, this in, in a future episode. MailChimp does costs, there is a free version. A very minimum is a free version. It does cost, but when you thinking about paying for software, you do need to think about how you could be potentially saving costs in commissions.
Whenever I sent out a BNB [00:26:00] email, I would generate at least two or three bookings. Now, if you look at that in terms of how much commission that would save you on OTAs, it starts to add up financially. It's also, , a good idea to think about how you're going to incentivize people to join your bed and breakfast email signup list.
For example, offering exclusive discounts or packages to subscribers. You might offer them, um, an early check in or an upgrade or a free cake in the room if you don't already or perhaps a free downloadable guide to the area which you deliver to them once they've signed up. Okay I'm going to talk more about emails at a later date but I think I have talked for long enough it certainly feels like it.
Thank you for listening to me today and I look forward to speaking with you in the next podcast. Do head over to my website, b and b [00:27:00] academy.co.uk for many more blogs and also a growing library of podcast episodes. And as I said, you can find my main online BMP course there, how to set up run and Market B and B, and also that mini workshop I talked about, which is the first steps to running a bed and breakfast.
If you are listening to my podcast on Spotify or Apple. Please do go ahead and hit the subscribe button. The more people that subscribe, the more people get to hear my podcast. Thank you very much and enjoy the rest of your week or the weekend whenever you are listening to this.