It’s the classic conundrum, isn’t it? We know we need to market to raise awareness of our brand, or to simply be found by those searching for lodging in your area. But resources are very limited, so you need to get the maximum return on limited marketing resources.

Time and Money

Vacancy on the loop by C X 2 on flickr
But it isn’t only about limited financial resources. It is about time, too. You can hear the advice to do dozens of things to be sure you show up well in search engines – keep your content fresh, use the right keywords, update your titles, write weekly blog posts, etc., etc., etc.!

Then there is social media. You have a Facebook page and you post frequently and interact with guests (if anyone ever responds!). You have a Twitter account. And an Instagram account. You sometimes post there, too. You have a YouTube channel, but who knows how to post videos?

That’s not to mention all the usual B&B directories where you’ve paid to be listed.

Ordinary Results

Is it enough? What do your Google Analytics (or Intell-A-Keeper, or, or, or…) statistics show? They usually show that your number one source of bookings is Google, then TripAdvisor and/or some of the paid B&B directories. What else? Where is the result of all that effort? Where is your blog? Where is Social Media?

Typically they are almost invisible. I saw an innkeeper post (with great excitement!) on a forum in the past few weeks that they had finally received their very first booking from Facebook. This after years of being involved. So, let’s see, several years of effort yields a night or two booking. Is that the “maximum return on limited marketing resources” you were looking for?

Changing the Game

The game changer will surprise you. It’s not new. It’s not sexy. It’s not even social, in the typical social media sense of the word.

The game changer is email.

You heard me correctly. Email. Shortly after the first of the year, a fascinating article came out from McKinsey – the large management consulting firm. It talked about email and its impact on gaining new customers. This is exactly what some online marketing firms, such as Copyblogger, have been saying for a long time. Next to search engines, email is the top way to attract new customers online. Go ahead, take a look at the graph in that article. Near the top is organic search as a way to gain new customers. Next is email.

Where are Facebook and Twitter? At the very bottom. That’s right. Dead last. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be using them – they may have their place in your strategy – just don’t count on Facebook to be bringing you the maximum return on limited marketing resources that you were hoping for.

How to do it

Time being precious, how do you make the best use of time for maximum return?

  1. Choose a good mailing list service. You can choose a free one (we like MailChimp, but others, like YMLP, are also good). The service you use should have custom templates, tracking for opens and clicks, integration with Google Analytics, and allow for safe unsubscribe options.
  2. Select a good template – better still, create, or have your web designer create, a custom template that matches your website
  3. Get on a schedule – monthly emails seem to be about the right frequency – not often enough to be annoying, yet frequent enough to stay connected. You may prefer more frequent, but less is probably not enough.
  4. Create good content, and be consistent.
    • Start your email with a custom article, just for this audience. After all, if they can find the same thing elsewhere, why should they read this?
    • You’re already writing blog posts, so take advantage of them. Add a couple of blog posts – just the title and a paragraph or so, with a link to the actual blog posts to finish reading the article.
    • Add a recipe. You already knew that no article will get more clicks than a recipe, right? Put the recipe on your blog, then put a teaser to it in the email. The watch the click through rate.
  5. Put a signup form for your mailing list on your website and your blog. Put one in your confirmation email and in your follow-up/thank you email.
  6. Use the emails like the big companies. If you want to get sophisticated (and it is worth it), collect the click-through data from the provider for a few months, then separate the mailing list into groups. For those who routinely click on recipes – send them an extra seasonal recipe email. For those who click on specials, send an email about specials only to them.

If you keep your blog going weekly, and do one email newsletter a month, but with some of the blog posts included, you’ll see readership on your blog increase, and you’ll find that the reminders start bringing results in the form of bookings. The tagging on your links in your email will help you see that your emails are producing reservations.

Now that is getting a maximum return on limited marketing resources!


  • I want to thank you for the great article and add that one of the other things to do is add video. Video of your place, video in your newsletter. With technology rising, people want personal contact. And like you said, it’s about staying on top of that newsletter and the contact with your customers. Great article!

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