Monthly Archives: February 2019

How To Magnetically Market To Attract The Right Guests

Wooden desk and chair in front of window with view of mountains

 

Magnetically market to attract the right B&B guests? That terminology comes from Dan S. Kennedy’s book “Magnetic Marketing: How to Attract a Flood of New Customers That Pay, Stay, and Refer.” Kennedy has some actionable advice that can be applied to hospitality.

 

According to Dan, priority number one is that you must know WHO you want to attract (to be your guest). What specifically will you do that’s different than your competition (other accommodations)? Kennedy recommends that you craft a compelling, emotional message that reaches their hopes and dreams.

Write it in THEIR language. Use words and phrases that resonate with them. How does your ideal guest think and talk? What do they hope and dream? You must establish credibility, authority, and trust to attract them to stay as guests.

Do you know where your WHO goes online? Kennedy advises for you to be where they are and not where they are not. Makes sense, right? Well, I think to many people commit to marketing without having a strategy for why they market where they market.

When you sell exactly what they want to buy, it draws in those who fit those wants. Dan urges us to know their needs inside and out and to meet them where they live with what they have been looking for.

You must get the right MESSAGE (a truly compelling reason why they should stay with you) via the right MEDIA (the best places to reach your audience) to the right MARKET (to those most likely to respond) and it all starts with knowing your WHO. Your offer must match precisely with the right people.

Kennedy encourages you to ask yourself WHO you want to host as guests over and again. The deeper needs you may be meeting are their need for: peace, connection with others, relaxation, making memories, feeling important, and so on. Be able to answer the question of WHY guests should want to stay with you despite numerous other options?

Kennedy briefly mentions the hospitality industry (along with advice for other major industries) when he suggests that hoteliers (innkeepers) can bundle a package of goods, services, and experiences together and call it a clever (and memorable) name to promote it as a one-of-a-kind buying opportunity that is both compelling and irresistible.

“Your Ultimate Weekend of Food & Fun for Only $XXX!”

  • 10% savings on a regular 2-night room rate (not applicable to other discounts)
  • Free gourmet dinner for 2 on both nights (can be gift certificates to local restaurants)
  • Complimentary bottle of champagne when you arrive (or sparkling cider)
  • Complimentary limo service from and to the airport (or a limo ride for an event)
  • 18 holes of golf for 2 plus cart (include something that applies to your area)
  • Movie tickets for 2 plus popcorn to boot (or something else instead)
  • Limited availability, reserve your spot before… (time frame depends on offer)

Kennedy also talks about the important of having a lead generation offer (information you offer for free in exchange for their name and email address). This allows you to regularly email them unless they unsubscribe from your list. The offer lets people identify themselves as having an interest. Examples of lead generation offers that potential guests would enjoy:

  • Free guide to your local attractions
  • Free guide to your local restaurants
  • Free travel tips

Once they “opt into” your email list, Kennedy directs us to send a monthly e-newsletter out. The content can include:

  • Briefly reaffirm the uniqueness of your hospitality and accommodations
  • Include puzzles, brainteasers, local trivia, recipes, cartoons, etc.
  • Talk about what has been happening at your inn and in your local area
  • Always include a call to action! Tell them what you would like them to do and urge them to book now before it’s too late… (for whatever the reason or event).

According to Kennedy, front end marketing is to reach out to attract new guests and back end marketing is encouraging guests to return and refer you to other people. “We really depend upon guests like you for referrals…”

In your email campaign, Kennedy states that you must have repetition if you want impact and response. A series of emails (appropriately spaced out) each with legitimately valuable content (about you, your area, your packages, testimonials from your guests, etc.), and a call to action every time.

If you note guest birthdays or anniversaries, you can even send an email or a postcard in advance of the dates reminding them to return. Perhaps throw in an incentive like a free bottle of wine or a free upgrade to a more expensive room. The bottom line is to stay on guests’ radar as the place where they want to stay and return again and again.

 

Why You’ll Love Signs by Danthonia Designs

6 Danthonia Design signs

 

Does your Bed and Breakfast need a sign? Today Danthonia Design’s 40 plus designers, artists and artisans use office and work areas of over 60,000 sq/ft to create signage of all sizes for clients across Australia and internationally. Many of their beautiful hand-carved signs belong to bed and breakfast owners.

In addition to their Aussie market – they ship between 100-200 signs per month to the USA. The Aussie dollar is lower than the US dollar and Australia / United States have a free trade agreement – this means that US clients get a good value for their money.

Handcrafted hotel signs, B&B signs and restaurant signs are easily recognizable and impress each guest upon arrival. Any successful hospitality business needs to make that good first impression. Danthonia creates award winning signs for the hospitality industry. Effective inn and restaurant signage convert passers-by into regular patrons. Hand carved bed and breakfast signs can become local landmarks.

Their on-line sign-designer tools allow bed and breakfast owners to customize your own sign. Try out different colors, change the artwork or font, and order when it looks just right for you! Although each Danthonia sign is individually handcrafted, they have developed a team approach that allows a 21 day delivery for most US orders. For a rush fee they can deliver in 15 days.

Over the last years articles by or about Danthonia, their hand crafting techniques, their people and their award-winning sign designs have appeared in the following publications:

  • SignCraft Magazine – USA
  • Sign Business Magazine – USA
  • Signs of the Times – USA
  • Sign Gallery Series – USA
  • US Sign Council Calendar – USA
  • Visual Impact – Australia
  • Image Magazine – Australia
  • Outback Magazine – Australia

Bed and Breakfast Blogging thinks that Danthonia Designs is a great place to go for high-quality, durable, gorgeous hand-crafted signs for your bed and breakfast inns. They are sure to impress your guests who drive by and those who see your sign on your website.

 

What You Need To Know About Virtual Concierge

Virtual Concierge Service logo and founder Dana Young

 

 

I interviewed Dana Young, Founder of Virtual Concierge Services, to learn more about how the technology works and how it benefits bed and breakfast owners and innkeepers.

 

  • How about you share with us a little about your background and how you entered the hospitality industry?

I’m an engineer by training and over the course of my career I’ve focused on technology and software. About 12 years ago we bought an old lodge on the shores of a lake in north central Washington. Built in 1933 as a summer getaway for a local lumber baron, it had never been updated other than some Linoleum and Formica put down in the 60s. To fund renovations, we began renting the place out to families for summer vacations at the lake. I knew nothing about hospitality at the time, but dove into the community to learn best practices, like those you share in your blog.

With my background in technology, I constantly look for ways to differentiate our property with new tech. That’s what led me to the application of voice assistants to hospitality. Since then we’ve added talent in both software development and business operations, built a strong relationship with Amazon and continued to enhance the Virtual Concierge platform.

 

  • Will you tell us about the growth of smart speakers with voice assistants?

In 2016, only 1% of US adults had access to a smart speaker. In 2 years, that number went up by 20x. By next year, 75% of households will have one. A study by Edison Research revealed that 42% of smart speaker owners now say these devices are “essential” to their daily lives.

 

  • Will you elaborate on the benefits of interactive Virtual Concierge for hospitality providers (including guest communication)?

The benefits are largely around the guest experience. The Virtual Concierge platform provides hosts the ability to define a custom virtual concierge on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Content can be individually tailored to each property.  This platform is built on a flexible natural language understanding model, allowing guests to ask questions in many ways. Guests can say things like, “We’d like some restaurant recommendations”, or “What’s the wifi password?”, and get immediate answers. But these aren’t answers like you get from Google. They are personal recommendations from the innkeeper, and specific details about the property. In addition to providing quick answers in a way that guests enjoy, it also helps offload the burden of fielding these questions by the host’s staff.

 

  • What instructions and recommendations can innkeepers provide ahead of check in through this technology?

The principle way of engaging with the Virtual Concierge during a guest’s stay will be through a smart speaker device like an Amazon Echo or Google Home. In addition though, guests can get access to the Virtual Concierge as they prepare for their trip. The host provides them with a passcode, and the guest can then use Google Assistant on their phone to access all the property’s custom content.

 

  • How can it help with lights, temperature, security, entertainment system, and other smart home features?

Voice technology is a way to simplify interactions with smart homes. Sometimes this tech can be daunting. It is wonderful to be able to simply say, “Hey Google, turn the heat up”.

 

  • Will you let us know some of the features having to do with music, ambient sleep sounds, and group games?

These are all great examples of use cases for a smart speaker in a hospitality setting. Music is a feature used by almost everyone. Ambient sleep sounds are a wonderful way to help guests sleep in unfamiliar surroundings. There are dozens of options available, from the sound of a thunderstorm, to crickets chirping or just pure white noise. Many group games are available on these voice assistant devices as well. For example, Name That Tune, or a variety of trivia games are very popular. Some of the best times I’ve had on vacation were playing games with the family, and voice games are a new way to spend time together. The hidden value for innkeepers is that there are no small pieces to get lost or stuck in the vacuum cleaner!

 

  • What can it do with regards to “routines” that can be set up?

A great example of Routines that you can set up is a ‘good night’ routine. If guests say the phrase, “Alexa, good night,” the virtual assistant will proceed to turn off all the lights, lock the doors, and shut off the downstairs heating system.

Routines can be initiated with either a trigger phrase, or you can assign a specific time for the routine to run. Routines can control smart home devices, as well as including elements like news, traffic and weather. You can also make it so that music begins to play as part of a Routine, or play a podcast.

Another interesting capability as it applies to hospitality is that a routine can also including having Alexa speak something of your choosing. An example that ties together a full guest experience is a morning Routine for guests. Alexa could start the coffee maker, turn on the lights, read the day’s weather forecast for your area, and then offer concierge services to help plan activities for the day. For example, “If you would like to hear the owner’s recommendations for places in the area and things to do, just say Alexa, use the concierge service. Have a great day!”

 

  • I know this is becoming more popular for rental properties to have, but why is this something bed and breakfast innkeepers should consider for their own properties (when many innkeepers are available to answer questions from their guests)?

There are times when an innkeeper may not be available, but probably a bigger reason is that some people actually prefer not having to trouble their host with questions. As people begin to get accustomed to Googling information, they expect technology to be able to help them. With the Virtual Concierge, innkeepers can have it both ways – engage with guests that seek them out for answers, and enable others to get the same answers using technology.

 

  • Is there any research that shows a greater increase in guest return rates (and guest referrals) when you compare lodging that does and does not have this technology?

Probably the best examples we’ve seen are where guests leave glowing reviews, and specifically mention their delight in having the Virtual Concierge available to them, together with other features from the voice assistant. As we know, positive reviews are critical to the success of independent hospitality providers.

 

  • What do you say to innkeepers who do not consider themselves to be “tech savvy” and are hesitant about using this?

This kind of tech used to be too complex and costly for the average user.  But Amazon and Google have done a fantastic job of making voice technology easy to use and accessible to everyone. I’ve heard from self-proclaimed “technology dinosaurs” that they have successfully set up the Virtual Concierge, and I’ve received a lot of happy emails about the way it functions. This space is evolving very quickly. Both smart home and digital assistant technology has hit the mass market, and while it is good today, we will see even better reliability and functionality over time. The important thing is to get started, and not be left behind.

 

  • What are the options available, and costs involved, for innkeepers?

From a hardware perspective, devices like the Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini are available at less than $50. On the software side, the Virtual Concierge is available in 2 options: VCS Standard and VCS Pro (Pro is only available with Amazon Alexa). VCS Standard is $5/month, and VCS Pro is $10/month with discounts for larger deployments.

The Pro version has everything that Standard has, but it also includes centralized management and monitoring of all Amazon Echo devices. It also includes calendar integration, so that when a guest checks out, the device will be reset, clearing any alarms, timers or notifications that may have been enabled. With the Pro version, guests will soon be able to say “Alexa, add my account” which will then enable them to play their own music, audio books, and so on.

 

  • How can innkeepers contact you?

More information about Virtual Concierge is available at their website

Innkeepers can email Dana directly at (dana@virtualconciergeservice.com) and they can

Connect with Dana Young on LinkedIn

 

Thank you, Dana, for sharing this valuable information with us. 

 

 

Did You See Bed and Breakfast the Movie?

Bed and Breakfast The Movie cover

 

Bed and Breakfast the Movie (available on Amazon Prime at the time of this writing) had mixed reviews when it was released in 2015. However, I wanted to watch it from the perspective of observing what to do (and what not to do) when you are a hospitality provider.

 

Both Dean Cain’s character (Jake) inherits a bed and breakfast, but wait so did Brazilian Ana (played by Juliana Paes). Bill Engvall plays Jake’s brother (a police officer that likes to drink beer when he is off the clock). This is a romantic comedy. While the plot line is not realistic, I did observe some things:

  • While the sign changes three times in the movie, it is an important reminder of how essential is to have a visible sign to welcome guests.
  • The maid takes the picture of Jake and makes the valid point that guests need to see that they can trust you (the innkeeper) if you are asking them to come to your house (however not all inns share pictures of the innkeepers).
  • The Certificate by the California State Commission gets put up a couple and made straight a few times, a reminder that innkeepers should proudly display their licenses as well as awards and honors.
  • There was a mess everywhere since they were not supposed to open for week (somehow an ad showed an earlier date) this demonstrates the importance of being on top of your advertising and promotions (it is good to have a press kit).
  • The maid could not cook (it is a necessity for at least one person on staff to be skilled in cooking) and the maid snooped into Ana’s luggage (a major violation of guest privacy) to discover that Ana was not who she said she was.
  • When a guest pointed out that there was “a hole in the floor where the toilet should be” Jake tells them to take a wine tour (at his expense) and when they return everything will be fixed (the inn would never be authorized to open unless inspection standards were met) but that was quick thinking on his part (which innkeepers often have to do but not for missing a toilet).
  • When asked how it “got in such awful shape”, Jake admitted, “It was left for a long time and obviously I’m still fixing it.” There are situations when an inn is open for business as it is being restored, but there could be a better way to word that improvements are still going on.
  • The couple that was on their honeymoon was making loud noises which annoyed the other guests (at breakfast time Jake suggested that they eat breakfast in bed to avoid their public display of affection).
  • It was only several days later that their landline phone worked (it was not realistic that calls were not being received on Jake’s cell phone). Yet guests were coming because of the wine festival in town.
  • Jake’s legal dispute with Ana was mediated by a retired judge who was meditating when they arrived and he led the meeting (from his cramped trailer home) more like a couples therapy session. No lawyers were present which would not have been the case in real life.
  • When Jake learns that the most famous reviewer in the state of California is staying with them, he and Ana work together to see if “his dream would have worked” and they throw a very successful couples dinner party.
  • They picked fresh produce from their garden and Jake found two bottles of fine wine. Towards the end of the evening, they asked the reviewer (played by actor Eric Roberts) what he thought.
  • The reviewer said, “You put together the perfect blend of both the exotic (being the most risky or risque) and the familia (being the most comfortable). Keep it up and you’re bound to go far. And to think if there would have been a room anywhere else, I might have missed the best meal of my life. I guess that’s what you call serendipity.” (It was not realistic for the “best reviewer in the state” to not have a place to stay.)
  • Being from Brazil, Ana did not know what the word serendipity meant (nor how to pronounce it correctly), and Jake explained that it is when something pleasant happens unexpectedly. It is known as a “happy accident.”

I won’t spoil the ending for you (in case you want to watch the movie). If you have seen the movie (or you do end up watching it), please feel free to share your comments about it.

Core Values and Why They Are Important

checkerboard with heart pieces and two green coffee mugs on table

 

Core values “represent the character of your organization,” according to strategy coach Michael Synk, author of “Rock and Sand: A Practical Insight to Business Growth.” Establishing core values benefits the employee (to know what is expected) and the guest (to know what they can count on).

 

Since every place of accommodations is different, it follows that the core values of each hospitality business will not be the same. That is how it should be. Each inn has its own personality and priorities. There are some common themes around core values set in the hospitality industry, including:

  • Above and beyond
  • Accessibility
  • Accuracy
  • Adaptability
  • Alertness
  • Appreciation
  • Attention to detail
  • Availability
  • Awareness
  • Balance
  • Beauty
  • Being the best
  • Brilliance
  • Calm
  • Capable
  • Caring
  • Character
  • Cheerful
  • Cleanliness
  • Collaboration
  • Commitment
  • Communication
  • Community
  • Compassion
  • Competence
  • Composure
  • Concern for others
  • Confidentiality
  • Connection
  • Consistency
  • Continuous improvement
  • Cooperation
  • Courage
  • Courtesy
  • Creativity
  • Customer focus
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Dedication
  • Dependability
  • Discretion
  • Diversity
  • Eagerness
  • Efficiency
  • Elegance
  • Empathy
  • Encouragement
  • Enthusiasm
  • Exceeding expectations
  • Excellence
  • Experience
  • Fairness
  • Flexibility
  • Foresight
  • Fun
  • Generosity
  • Good will
  • Gratitude
  • Happiness
  • Health
  • High standards
  • Honesty
  • Hospitality
  • Humility
  • Humor
  • Inclusive
  • Imagination
  • Individuality
  • Innovative
  • Inspiration
  • Integrity
  • Inviting
  • Joy
  • Kindness
  • Leadership
  • Listening
  • Loyalty
  • Mindful
  • Neatness
  • Nurturing
  • Open-minded
  • Optimism
  • Order
  • Originality
  • Passion
  • Patience
  • Performance
  • Perseverance
  • Persistence
  • Positive
  • Privacy
  • Punctuality
  • Quality
  • Relationships
  • Relaxation
  • Reliability
  • Resourcefulness
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Responsiveness
  • Rest
  • Safety
  • Sanitary
  • Satisfaction
  • Security
  • Sensitivity
  • Serenity
  • Service
  • Simplicity
  • Sincerity
  • Stewardship
  • Surprise
  • Support
  • Sustainability
  • Talent
  • Teamwork
  • Thankful
  • Thoughtful
  • Timeliness
  • Tolerance
  • Transparency
  • Trustworthy
  • Understanding
  • Uniqueness
  • Value
  • Variety
  • Vision
  • Warmth
  • Watchfulness
  • Welcoming
  • Wisdom

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • “What do I want my inn to be known for?”
  • “What do my guests value?”
  • “What compliments do I receive the most from guests?”
  • “How can I stand out from other accommodations?”
  • “How do I want guests to feel during their stay?”

It is important to list your core values on your website and blog as well as share in your social media and e-newsletters. Be sure to list if you have won any hospitality awards or are members of prestigious groups like Select Registry or Historic Hotels of America. Let your core values serve as a way to distinguish your inn from your competition.

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography