There are some things everyone does to promote their B&B: joins the Chamber of Commerce, prints a brochure, hangs a sign out front. But there are plenty of other things to do that will generate interest and increase reservations at the same time.
- Create a video or slideshow and display it on your home page. Video allows your site visitors to get a bigger view of what it’s really like to stay at your B&B. Take some panoramic shots of the surrounding landscape, take photos of all corners of the guest rooms and zip them together, maybe even interview a few guests who just loved staying with you. Find some fun–but not inappropriate, and not copyrighted–music to go with it. Upload it to YouTube or embed the video on your website and make sure your guests can find it. Nothing says great experience like showing off that great experience before they get there.
- Create an email campaign. Even if you don’t take reservations online, you probably use email to communicate with your guests and to do business. Why not leverage that medium to stay connected with your past guests and to connect with your future ones? Sign up with an online email marketing service (I use iContact; sign up for my newsletter here) and use it to notify your guests about things like new rates (give them a chance to book at the old prices), changes to rooms, the B&B or the grounds, winter/weekend/holiday/just because specials, or even just to thank them for their stay. Of course, you’ll need to ask them if they’d like to be on your list (adding them to the list without asking them is akin to spamming them), but once they say “Sure, sign me up!” you can start sharing your exciting B&B news.
- Start a podcast. This one is indeed a little different, especially for a B&B. But maybe not ineffective. Create a 10-minute podcast filled with the reasons a B&B is better than a hotel, or than tent camping, or than sleeping in the car. Talk to your guests (even better if you get them on the recording) about the reasons they loved staying with you. Or, create a series of podcasts about life in Alaska: talk about the moose that wandered up the driveway yesterday, about the black bear family that lives in the woods out back, or the trophy king salmon you pulled in on your last trip to the Kenai. Get creative. As long as it’s in good taste and relates to your B&B, it’s probably going to be interesting to your guests, both past and future.
- Encourage referrals. Ask your guests to tell their friends about you. Make sure your B&B is on TripAdvisor and ask your guests to rate their experience with you. Use testimonials on your website. Offer your guests 10% off on their next stay if they refer you to one of their friends. Get to know the other B&B operators in your area and form a mini-network that refers within its ranks. If you refer to others, they’ll be more likely to refer to you.
- Go the extra mile and get people to take notice. Nothing gets people talking than when they feel like they’ve gotten a lot for a little. The best way to be talked about? Create an experience for your guests that they can’t help but mention, and that others in your community can’t help but notice. People love it when something stands out–make sure you stand out for the right reasons and are a pillar of the community, and you’ll be noticed.
Hopefully these ideas get you thinking about other unconventional things you could be doing to create some buzz around your B&B. What else have you got in mind?