Monthly Archives: January 2020

Fantastic Fill in the Blanks Social Media

the words "Fantastic Fill-in-the-Blanks on Social Media" with drawings of laptops and mobile phones

 

Fantastic fill in the blanks social media can definitely attract more traffic to your website.  People love to use their imagination and share it with others online.

Do you remember Mad Libs? Those books filled with one-page stories filled with blanks that invited you to insert your own keywords? They were  invented in 1953 by Leonard Stern and Roger Price, who published the first Mad Libs book themselves in 1958.  It turns out that  these guys were ahead of their time in recognizing the power of the ‘blank’.

 

Promote Activities and Places

Fill in the blanks social media can prompt people to think about activities they would like to do and places they would love to visit.  For example, Disney posted, “If I could spend a day with a Disney character, I would choose _______.”

Promote Events and Contests

Use the post tactic in conjunction with a specific event, such as a holiday.

Fill in the blank contests are great as they have the potential to actually get people thinking. The contest consists of a sentence of paragraph, and your fans are asked to add their own unique perspective by, obviously, filling in the blanks.

Promote Creativity

This is a great way to encourage creative responses as well as to promote engagement with your posts and tweets.  The blanks are essentially ‘platforms’ for people to share their creativity.

  • My favorite way to relax after a long hard day is to _______.
  • _______ always makes me feel inspired.
  • The best afternoon snack of all time is _______.
  • My favorite board game is _______.

Promote Engagement

These types of posts often garner fun and short comments, which then encourage your audience to react and interact.  Share a great photo and a good fill-in-the-blank sentence to inspire your audience to engage with you and your brand.

Fill-in-the-blank posts feel incomplete until they’re engaged with. People love filling in blanks, and the most effective fill-in-the-blank posts are the ones that let fans share their ideas.

a tweet "I'm ready for Spring so I can _________" @bandbblogging with close up of yellow flower with water droplets

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Make It Relevant

Make fill-in-the-blank posts and tweets relevant to your fans and the space you’re working in to see the best results.

Use fill-in-the-blank posts as a two-pronged engagement tactic: interact with your online community and get to know them better for future marketing campaigns.

More Examples

Fill-in-the-blanks are similar to questions.  They are simple and create engagement.  Some samples of these are:

  • My favorite social media site is _______________.
  • I’ve lived in ___________cities in my life.
  • I laugh every time I think about ______.

Be Very Careful

Have fun with these, but one piece of advice is to be careful that you don’t leave the blank too open ended for a potentially bad response. Be careful what you make a fill in the blank because people can turn it ugly.  That is what happened when the German grocery chain posted this:

“I became an ALDI-lover when I tasted _______ for the first time.”

Make It Simple

Tweet out a straightforward question that’s easy to answer.  When questions are short and simple, it’s easy for followers to respond because they don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about their answer or trying to fit a longer reply to fit the Twitter character limit (or shorter if you want to include a hashtag).

Get Your Followers To Think

Fill-in-the-blanks social media gets your followers thinking and you challenge to them to show their creative side. The key to making fill-in-the-blank tweets work for your company is to relate them to your followers’ interests.  Then you will have success!

 

Why Passion Can Make You Irresistible To Guests

the passion economy book cover next to a success welcome sign

Passion can make or break any business. Author Adam Davidson wrote the book, The Passion Economy: The New Rules for Thriving in the 21st Century.

He argues that where we have both passion and ability should determine our pursuits. When we find something we love to do and that we do well, then we need to find the people (or guests) who most want that.

Value and Price

We need to create value that can’t easily be copied. The passion economy is about the quality we offer (which cannot be mass produced).

Moreover, he asserts that the price we charge should match the value we provide. Our products and services should be so special to guests that there is no obvious reference point with which they can compare.

First, Davidson advises that we imagine doubling our prices/rate. Second, we should think about what we would need to do (in order to deserve twice as much). We must understand what we offer that provides the most value.

Value pricing requires selling to the right people (the right guests). As you develop a reputation among your target customer base, more guests will reach out to you.

Your Story

You can (and should) tell the story of why you do what you do. Davidson claims that passion is story and that your story should be told in every detail of your business. Focus on the core value you create.

By definition, a passion business stands out from the competition. For that uniqueness, you can charge a higher price. Telling your story can be an inspiration to others.

Your Niche

Your passion can be your bed and breakfast niche. This passion can be based on activities and interests that you do for pleasure and that you’re talented at doing.

You can teach classes, host retreats, or offer guest packages that involve your both your interests and talents. The potential guests who share your unique passions, will be drawn to your place of hospitality.

Possibilities

By no means would I ever attempt to come up with an exhaustive list of hobbies that be incorporated into your hospitality business. However, I do want to share some ideas, as a starting point:

  • Acting
  • Adventure
  • Art
  • Astronomy
  • Baking
  • Bird watching
  • Biking
  • Boating
  • Calligraphy
  • Card making
  • Cooking
  • Fashion
  • Fishing
  • Flower arranging
  • Furniture building
  • Games
  • Gardening
  • Geo caching
  • Golfing
  • Hiking
  • Historic tours
  • Jewelry making
  • Karate
  • Karaoke
  • Movies
  • Photography
  • Reading
  • Scrap booking
  • Soap making
  • Quilting
  • Wine making
  • Wood turning
  • Writing
  • Yoga

Of course, innkeepers need not go it alone. Bringing in outside experts (as long as there is large enough interest and you can afford to compensate them) is always an option.

Passion Adds To Your Appeal

Guests who share the same passions, interests, and hobbies will start to come to you IF they know about you. This is why having the right marketing is essential to your hospitality business.

Blogging, email marketing, and social media marketing should align to spread the word. Consider adding a web page to introduce your new classes, retreats, or guest packages.

Your passion will attract those guests who enjoy similar activities and pastimes. This goes a long way in becoming irresistible to your target audience.

 

Why Blogging Can Boost Your Bottom Line

blog cloud post cloud boost your bottom line

 

Blogging can boost your bottom line. Wondering how to blog great content for your ideal guests? First, you must know who your are trying to attract. Second, you must know what content your audience wants. Third, you must consistently share that content.

 


Profile Your Audience

Create a clear picture of who is reading your blog. If you are just getting started, develop a picture of who you want to be your readers. Describe the characteristics of your audience:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geographic location
  • Lifestyle
  • Occupation
  • Education level
  • Marital status
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Income range

Share Great Content Frequently

Clearly show your readers the type of content they’ll find on your website. You can write about it on your website, in blog posts, and on social media. Make sure you satisfy your readers’ immediate interests, but leave them wanting to read more. Read your posts aloud before publishing them. Always pay attention to spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Use bullet points for easy scanning.

Attract Your Readers

Start by having a catchy blog title. I recommend using the Headline Analyzer tool by Co-Schedule. Use keywords that might turn up in a search query. However, be careful not to mislead your readers with a title that doesn’t fit what your content is really about. Share multimedia (including images and video). Blog about trending topics. See Twitter for “Trending Hashtags.” Also, check Google Trends for more ideas. Share pictures of your food and recipes for guest favorites.

Serve Your Readers

Share with them detailed information about your local area including its activities, attractions, and events. Share content that appeals to your target audience. For example, if you host romantic couples, blog about the most romantic restaurants in your local area.

Give your readers what they need (blog how to articles). Also, give them what they want (useful advice as well as timeless tips and tricks). Create content worth referencing. For example, share useful information for traveling guests.

Track Your Results

Using Google Analytics, you can track the number of visitors who read your blog. Pay attention to which posts get the most views. Note the content that attracts the best response from your readers. Content also can boost your bottom line.

Compare Your Blog to Your Competition

Look at other hospitality providers to see what content they offer. Specifically, look at their search engine rankings and the amount of comments they receive.

Before you do that, understand what you blog about, the topics you cover, and your most frequent keywords. Then use those descriptive keywords (+ the word blog) to locate blogs that have similar content.

Factors to Evaluate Your Competition

  • Writing style (casual, formal, humorous)
  • The frequency of their blog posting
  • How much content their share each time
  • When they publish and share blog posts
  • What outside links do they have
  • Their use of multimedia (photos, audio, video)
  • Which blog posts get a lot of comments
  • Topics of blog posts that get very few comments

In Summary

Profile your audience to know who you want as your blog readers. Stay on their radar by sharing valuable content frequently. Attract and serve your readers. Track your results and compare to your blog competition by evaluating them on several factors. Finally, know that when you regularly share content you are becoming even more visible in the search engines. This can boost your bottom line.

 

Change Can Be Easy With These Simple Steps

 

Change can be easy. That’s right. It’s possible. At least according to the world’s leading expert on habit formation. BJ Fogg’s book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything show us all how to have happier, healthier lives by starting small.

 

3 Things Required in Order To Design Successful Habits:

  • Stop judging ourselves
  • Take our aspirations and break them down into tiny behaviors
  • Embrace mistakes as discoveries and use them to move forward

First, we all can be too hard on ourselves. Usually we are our own worst critic. Fogg recommends that once we identify our aspirations, that we determine the little steps to making them happen. Inevitably, there will be mistakes. Making mistakes means that we’re moving towards our goals. The important thing is acting on our dreams!

3 Things That Create Lasting Change:

  • Have an epiphany
  • Change our environment
  • Alter our habits in tiny ways

Just what is an epiphany? According to the dictionary, it is “a sudden, intuitive perception or insight into reality, or the real meaning of something”. This new understanding “can come from something simple or commonplace”. However, we can’t make ourselves experience an epiphany.

Alternatively, we can change our environment. For example, maybe the people closest to us do not have the best influence on us. However, we cannot always walk away from our environments. Unfortunately, innkeepers will host some guests that are not as friendly or likable as others.

With BJ Fogg’s tiny habits method, he recommends that we focus on small actions. These are things we can do in less than 30 seconds. According to the author, “the only consistent, sustainable way to grow is to start small.” By taking this approach, he affirms that change can be easy.

The Anatomy of Tiny Habits:

  • Anchor moment: an existing routine or event that happens and that reminds us to do the new tiny behavior
  • Behavior: a simple version of the new tiny habit we want to do immediately after the anchor moment
  • Celebration: instantly celebrate to create positive emotions (such as saying aloud, “Good Job!”)

Determine the routines that we do from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed. It is by pairing the new habit with an established habit that we are more likely to consistently act.

The behavior is the new habit that we do right after the anchor moment (the existing routine). For example, innkeepers can pair the action of tactfully responding to online reviews when they get their mail each day.

Celebrating these new steps will encourage us to continue doing the new habit. Moreover, feeling positive emotions, reinforces our desire to consistently do the new habit.

Most importantly, author BJ Fogg says that we can change our lives by changing our behaviors. Furthermore, that only three variables drive those behaviors.

Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Prompt

For instance, the more motivated we are to do the behavior, the more likely we will do it. Conversely, the harder a behavior is to do, the less likely we are to do it. Thus, the amount we have of one affects the amount you need of the other. In other words, more motivation requires less ability. Alternatively, less ability requires more motivation. Moreover, no behavior occurs without a prompt.

Golden Behavior:

  • The behavior is effective in realizing our aspiration (impact)
  • Desire to do this behavior (motivation)
  • We can do this behavior (ability)

The key is to choose a behavior that helps us make an improvement we desire (impact). It is vital for us to want this behavior (motivation). Lastly, we must be able to do the activity (ability). Of course, it is pointless to choose something that we will never be able to do. We must be aware of our own limitations (including height, strength, speed, knowledge, etc.).

Steps in Behavior Design:

  • Get clear on our aspirations: be as specific as possible
  • Explore behavior options: many different behaviors can lead to our goals
  • Match with specific behaviors: choose effective behaviors that we can do
  • Start tiny: we can always go bigger once our new habit becomes consistent
  • Find a good prompt: determine an appropriate pairing of behaviors
  • Celebrate your successes: create positive emotions for reinforcement

In addition, BJ Fogg reminds us that every day we do the behavior, we build a bit of strength, flexibility, and skill. Thus, change can be easy over time. Therefore, we can make lasting change.

Ability Factors:

  • Time: Do we have enough time to do the behavior?
  • Money: Do we have enough money to do the behavior?
  • Physical effort: Are we physically capable of doing this behavior?
  • Mental effort: Does the behavior require a lot of creative or mental energy?
  • Routine: Does the behavior fit in our current routine or does it require us to make adjustments?

Thus, our time, resources, physical strength, mental stamina, and the ease of which we adjust to our routines, all play a role in determining our ability to implement these new habits.

2 Important Questions:

  • Discovery question: What is making the behavior hard for us to do?
  • Break through question: How can we make this behavior easier to do?

If we are facing challenges, author BJ Fogg recommends we ask these two questions. We need to reflect on what is making the behavior difficult for us. Furthermore, we should think what would make it easier to implement this new desired habit.

3 Approaches:

  • Increase our skills
  • Get tools and resources
  • Make the behavior tiny

First, to create a new habit, we need to find a behavior it should come after. In other words, this will be our anchor. Therefore, the author argues, change can be easy when we pair it with an existing habit.

Identify Our Anchors:

  • Match the physical location: same place
  • Meet the frequency: done the same amount of times
  • Match the theme/purpose: for a similar result

For example, it would make sense to pair an old habit that we do in the kitchen with a new habit we’d like to do in the kitchen. Secondly, to meet the frequency, if we brush our teeth 3 times a day and we want to read for 30 minutes a day, then we could read for 10 minutes after each time we brush our teeth. Thirdly, we can pair items done for the same purpose. For example, when we do laundry, we can line dry our sheets (which may be a new eco-friendly practice we want to make routine).

Why Celebrating Is Key:

  • Celebrating small wins gives our brains something to re-pattern our lives
  • Emotions create habits and make behavior more automatic
  • The feeling of success is a powerful catalyst for change

The author explains why celebrating the little victories along the way does wonders to make our new behaviors more automatic. Moreover, when we experience feelings of success, we are further motivated to make changes.

Skills of Change:

  • Behavior crafting: knowing how many new habits to do at once (focus on what interests us, embrace variety, and stay flexible)
  • Self-insight: knowing which new habits will have meaning to us (the new habit affirms a piece of the identity we want to cultivate, the new habit helps us approach an important aspiration, and/or the new habit has a big impact despite being tiny)
  • Process: knowing when to push ourselves beyond tiny and ramp up the difficulty of the habit

The more we practice our new habits while pairing them with existing habits, the easier it will become to do this consistently. It is essential that we desire to make these changes.

Behavior Change Masterplan:

  • Phase 1: focus on creating new habits
  • Part 2: focus on stopping the old habit
  • Phase 3: focus on swapping a new habit for an old one (if needed)

Once we successful create new habits, it will be easier to stop old habits. The author recommends that, if necessary, we replace a habit we want to stop with a habit we want to start.

Redesign Ability in Order to Stop Old Habit:

  • Increase the time required
  • Boost the money required
  • Increase the physical effort required
  • Raise mental effort required
  • Make the habit conflict with important routines

When we make it harder for us to continue the old habit, it is easier for us to stop it. Whether more time, more money, more physical or mental effort, or a schedule conflict, we literally can redesign our ability.

Scaling Back the Change:

  • Set a shorter time period for stopping the habit
  • Do an unwanted habit for a shorter duration
  • Fewer instances of the unwanted habit
  • Do the unwanted habit with less intensity

Alternatively, we can scale back bad habits by committing to stopping for a specific time (rather than forever). Second, we can reduce the amount of time we do the unwanted habit. Thirdly, we can have fewer occurrences of this unwanted habit. Lastly, we can do the unwanted habit with less intensity.

How Ability and Motivation Influence Habit Change:

  • Ability and new habit: make the new habit easier to do
  • Ability and old habit: make the old habit harder to do
  • Motivation and new habit: make the new habit more motivating
  • Motivation and old habit: make the old habit less motivating

First, the author explains why change leads to more change. As we build confidence and skills, we will become open to other types of changes. Moreover, author BJ Fogg encourages us to view our behavior as a puzzle to be solved. Similarly, the changes we make shape our work, family, friends, and community. Thus, step by step, change can be easy. In conclusion, it starts with tiny habits.

 

Take a Break and Hire Inn Sitters!

hire inn sitters

 

Are you running your bed and breakfast or is your B&B running you? There are moments when you cannot close your doors because your rooms are booked yet you need a break, have an innkeeping conference to attend, or a family emergency requires you to need to leave. Hire inn sitters, or interim innkeepers, to help solve your dilemma.

 

Interim Innkeepers

You want experienced professionals who may have been innkeepers in the past themselves.  Of course you will want to check their references, rates, and services which may vary depending upon the size of your bed and breakfast and the tasks you ask them to complete. They usually can give an approximate range of their fees before meeting in person with you.

Because every bed and breakfast is different, you will need to set aside training time so you can communicate how you run your B&B. Good inn sitters are willing to do things the way you ask for them to be done.  If you want them to cook your recipes, allow time to instruct them.  They will need to know the “inns” and outs of how you manage your B&B.

When you hire inn sitters that are trustworthy and have the experience and references that assure you they are capable, then you can leave your bed and breakfast knowing that it is in good hands.

Interview with Interim Innkeepers, Beth & Grant Robinson

Picture of Beth and Grant Robinson Hire Inn Sitters

 

I appreciate Beth & Grant Robinson of “Inn Reflection of You” for allowing me to interview them by phone while they were on the road driving from California to return home to Raleigh, North Carolina during the holidays. Please note that while I did not record our conversation, I did take thorough notes to be as accurate as possible when I wrote this blog post.

 

Q: Can you tell me about your success as owners & innkeepers of an award-winning B&B in California?

A: We not only owned but we created our Inn. We had it for 5 years. In 2015, our Inn was awarded TripAdvisor Travelers Choice naming our Inn among the Top 25 in the United States. This was based on the opinions and reviews of the TripAdvisor community.

Q: What did you do before that?

A: We both had stressful occupations. We knew we wanted to change to the hospitality industry. We thought about owning a lodging facility. After looking in Alaska, we found a property just outside Yosemite National Park in California. It is one of our favorite areas in the country.

Q: When and how did you make the transition to interim innkeeping?

A: In 2016, we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina to be near family. We provide interim innkeeping services for North Carolina as well as Virginia and South Carolina. We’ve had assignments in all three states with a concentration of Inns in Asheville, NC; Charlottesville, VA; and the Shenandoah region.

Q: Why did you name your interim innkeeping business “Inn Reflection of You”?

We try to keep the feel of the inn the same as if the innkeepers were there. Every inn has a different flavor and a different feel. All innkeepers are different. We do our best to honor that and be a reflection of them.

Q: What has been the feedback you’ve received from innkeepers when they return?

After our assignments as interim innkeepers, often the guests write 5-star reviews. One innkeeping couple in Asheville, NC refers to us as “The Dynamic Duo.” We create and cook gourmet breakfasts that meet the high standards of foodie towns such as Asheville and Charlottesville. Some inns request that we make their breakfasts and we love trying new recipes. Other times, they say you’re welcome to make breakfast the way you usually do. Often they ask us to do a combination of both.

Q: What are some of the reasons innkeepers look to interim innkeepers for help?

A: When you have an inn, it’s hard to get away for events like graduations, weddings, and to have fun. Sometimes there are emergencies and Innkeepers do not want to have to cancel guest reservations which may have been made a year in advance. Whether a planned event or emergency, rather than close down & lose the revenue, innkeepers hire us.

Q: What should B&B owners/innkeepers ask when they want to hire interim innkeepers?

First, they should find out if the innsitter has owned their own inn. If they have, they are more likely to conduct themselves as an Owner/Innkeeper. Second, ask the interim innkeeper if they are willing to come for a half day of training. Some inns have a binder full of information including the times when the lights go on and off, emergency contacts (like a plumber and an electrician), and instructions for doing things like laundry and breakfast. Of course, innkeepers can never cover everything that might happen, but they can be very thorough. Third, ask how long they have been innsitting. Also, make sure they are SERV-SAFE certified and comfortable accommodating a variety of dietary restrictions.

Q: What advice would you give to prospective interim innkeepers?

It is important to be accommodating and flexible. Be familiar with a variety of reservation systems. Provide references for innkeepers to call. Since the interim innkeeping industry is relatively new, a lot of innkeepers are not aware of this. A lot of clients have never heard of innsitting until they meet us. The best way to get business is to meet face to face with people. Don’t wait for people to call you. A lot of it depends upon word-of-mouth referrals and meeting people.

We belong to several professional associations including: Stay VA, North Carolina Bed and Breakfast Inns, South Carolina Bed and Breakfast Association, Interim Innkeepers Network, and since the Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals (AIHP) merged with the Professional Association of Independent Innkeepers (PAII), we are also members of the Association of Lodging Professionals (ALP).

Overwhelming Interest on Pinterest

I hope this article is helpful to both innkeepers and interim innkeepers. I believe this is a topic worthy of more coverage. I updated this blog post when I saw that in the last 30 days, my Pinterest pin that linked to this blog post received almost 7,000 views!

Do You Have a Story to Share?

If you have a story about an experience you had (whether you were the one to hire inn sitters or you were the interim innkeeper), you are welcome to contact me, Kristi Dement. I’d love to hear about it! I could share it in a future blog post.

Top Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography