Annual Review of Marketing and Performance

There are two things that I have noticed, time and time again, that innkeepers neglect, and both need to be reviewed at least annually, and the end/beginning of the year is the perfect time to look at them. The first is to evaluate the past year with respect to marketing efforts (using Google Analytics - or other software if you prefer), monthly performance compared to prior years, and performance of specific rooms. I have written blog posts on these over the years, so, rather than re-post them, they can be found at The second is the plan (yes PLAN!) your promotional activities. Many innkeepers seem to simply respond to calls for marketing by local groups, or do what their competitors do. Neither of these has your success as their goal! Local marketing groups want to bring traffic to the town (and they should!), but they typically do this by getting YOU to pay for it, either by subscription, or by discounting. Neither helps you make a profit! Copying the competition does nothing to set you apart! Granted, all properties will promote some of the same things (fall foliage, holidays, etc.), but that doesn't mean your offering has to be the same as the others! Plan ahead, so your packages and promotions are ready in advance, and don't be swayed by requests to participate in things that do not benefit you! Here is a very timely, and much needed post by Heather Rasmussen-Turner about scheduling and planning (!) your promotional activities - with a calendar to help you with scheduling (customize it for your purposes).

Knowing Your Guests: Who is your target market?

As you consider how to market your property, it should be almost a no-brainer to think about this: who is your guest? Almost, but not quite. But, if you don't have a picture of the "typical" guest, your marketing message may be aimed at a target market that is different from your "typical" guest. [caption id="attachment_889" align="alignright" width="240"] Rob Ellis on Flickr[/caption]Imagine, if you decide that your target market is young motorcylists, when, in fact it is retirees who drive luxury cars, you may put all your marketing efforts into attracting one group, while making your property less attractive to the group that has been the staple of your business. The result is likely to be that your business declines. That points up the importance of building your business by marketing to guests who stay with you, not an arbitrary group you think it would be fun to attract. Not that there is anything wrong with expanding your reach - just don't do it at the expense of your existing guests. Over the past few years Jay Karen, CEO of PAII (Professional Association of Innkeepers International), has stressed the need for lodging properties to market to younger people, on the theory that the older age-groups will not be around forever, and, as younger groups age, B&B's will become more attractive to them. Some properties have embraced this idea, adding lots of high-tech bells and whistles, redecorating their old Victorian house interiors as sleek, modern palaces of chrome and glass. Others have been wary of extensive change. One aspect of PAII's recommendation hasn't received much attention: that, while we certainly would love to see more young people staying at B&B's, many of the "younger generations" in our target market are, themselves, becoming an "older" generation - they are now in their…

Guests Come From Search, Young Guests Come from Mobile

Where do bed and breakfast guests come from? How do the find you? At the Mid-Atlantic Innkeeping Conference there were some great presentations. One of the special opportunities was to hear from the members of LocalU, a group of nationally recognized experts in local search - who present papers and seminars on local search opportunities. This one was geared toward B&B's and small lodging properties. Much of the valuable information has been presented in a blog post by Mike Blumenthal, one of the LocalU members, in the form of a survey of members of the public on how they find a bed and breakfast. Many of the results are not so much surprising, as validating. That is, many of us understand that our current guests are 45 years old or older, and that they are often less up-to-date in technology than younger people. We also understand that younger people are more likely to use mobile devices for things that older people would do on a laptop or desktop computer. The eye-openers come when this information is validated, and put into context, so we begin to see what the future would look like, and how we can begin now to make our preparations. The survey is on the LocalU blog, and is well worth reading.

Scam? Verifying Business Information

As small business owners, it seems we are constantly receiving calls verifying our business information. In the slower season it can be 4-6 calls per day, though it seems to slow down a bit in the busy season. Not long ago, a thread on an online innkeepers' forum discussed this issue, and it seemed appropriate to discuss it here, as well, for a broader audience. It is the nature of innkeepers to want to be helpful, so verifying business information seems helpful, painless and appropriate. The last thing we want to do is to be rude to a caller. In fact the majority of these calls seem legitimate (the very essence of the con, you might say), and most of the time we hear nothing more, so we assume they were indeed legitimate. Perhaps they were, but still they robbed us of time - sometimes of time that should have been spent assisting guests at our B&B, or doing the countless other marketing, administrative, maintenance, or other tasks the business requires. One recently stood out, as we did hear from them again, and it wasn't pleasant. We received the call in October, "verifying business information" to make sure it would benefit our Google Local listing. Gosh, that's the very thing most SEO experts tell us to do - verify our business information to help our placement on Google Local. We verified it, and then were asked to pay for an advertisement. We declined. Then came the hard sell. We declined more firmly, and that was the end. Or so we thought. In February we received a call from "an attorney" wanted to get payment on the outstanding invoice for $599. We explained that we hadn't ordered the advertisement, hadn't received the invoice, and were not going to pay it. He…

Year End Review: Cutting through the cobwebs

[Updated, December, 2014] In our previous posts, we've talked about organizing a year end review of your bookings and about the information that will help you identify guest booking trends and stronger or weaker performing rooms, providing an outline of the information you can track (or should start tracking) to prepare you for next year's review. In this concluding post we'll talk about a year end review of web analytics, specifically emphasizing paid listings. For the purposes of this post, we'll assume you have Google Analytics (or something similar - but we'll use GA for our examples and terminology) installed on your website. If not, you'll certainly want to have it installed soon, so you can track information for next year. [pullquote]Our Key Performance Indicators are Referrals and Bookings over time.[/pullquote]The primary things we want to look at (our Key Performance Indicators, or KPI's, if you will) are referral sources and bookings over time, and specifically bookings and participation in bookings from our paid listings. In plain English, how is our website doing at attracting traffic and converting it to bookings, and how are paid listings doing at getting us bookings. Referral Sources over Time For this piece of information, there are two things we want to examine. The first is quite simple - it is how did we do this past year, compared to the year before. To see this, in the Reporting section (top), we'll go to the left side menu, Acquisition -> All Referrals. Then go to the top right column where the date range is located, and put in the entire previous year (for 2014, that would be Jan 1, 2014 through Dec 31, 2014). Below that tick the box for Compare to Previous Period (or Previous Year) and click Apply. If you want to see…