Author Archives: Kristi Dement

How to Keep Guest Conversations Interesting

neon ASK sign, banquet tables and chairs

Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Changes by Frank Sesno has a chapter on entertaining questions called “The Inspired Host.”

For innkeepers who host events such as dinners and private parties, knowing entertaining questions to ask allows you to engage your audience and keep guest conversations interesting.

The objective always revolves around creating an experience that all your guests will enjoy and remember. You can steer the conversation to draw in guests and energize the room. Create a mood that connects people in stimulating and surprising ways.

First, the author advises, you must know your audience by asking:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What do they know?
  • What don’t they know?
  • What do they care about?
  • What will they find interesting and funny and why?

Starting with an exchange that is spontaneous and a little unexpected often breaks the ice and sets the tone for a more relaxed and more genuine experience.

Then begin with a few topics that interest everyone. Mix it up with a few lighter, open-ended questions. Listen closely. Ask for different levels of experience and awareness. Ask for examples and encourage stories.

Pick questions that intrigue and interest everyone and are relevant to the event or occasion. Draw from a menu of topics and questions to create flow and engage different people on different levels.

Set the mood through signals, prompts, words, and timing. Trigger emotions through the subjects you pick and the questions you ask.

Try the one-word association game to open the conversation more and perhaps get a few laughs. Figure out what you want to talk about and map out questions and anticipated responses. You can excite the imagination, or you can prompt reflection.

Your questions should invite participation at whatever level your guests feel comfortable. Frame your questions in a way that is approachable and real. Be willing to change directions when someone observes an altogether different slice of life.

Good hosts are always on, always listening, and always interested in their guests and the conversation around them. The role of hosts is to draw out other people and make them interesting, funny, or noteworthy. Ask guests to contribute new ideas or share interesting experiences.

Make your questions open-ended (they cannot be answered with a yes or no response) as well as friendly. Avoid controversial topics like politics, money, and religion.

To make sure everyone responds, try throwing out a question with the challenge that everyone must respond in just one sentence.

  • “What’s the one thing you want everyone to know about you?”
  • “If you could transport yourself anywhere in the world right now, go to any country just to eat dinner, where would you go and what would you eat?”

By applying a little “conversation leadership” to get guests interacting with each other, you can create an environment that is inclusive, interesting, and dynamic.

According to Author Frank Sesno, good hosts use questions to have fun, make people laugh, or dive into the ridiculous. He encourages hosts to produce an experience their guests will enjoy and remember.

The more hosts understand the people in the room, the better you can steer the discussion. Hosts should ask questions, but don’t answer them. Be principally interested in drawing out others.

The objective of hosting is to direct the conversation, not dominate it. Direct questions so that everyone gets a chance to talk, but also recognize that some people prefer to listen. Alternate topics and moods to keep the conversation moving, varies, and interesting.

Hosting dinner parties and other private events are excellent opportunities for asking and answering entertaining questions, to getting to know one another, and to having a good time while examining life along the way. I hope this inspires more innkeepers to host events which involve guests in conversation with each other.

Why Time Should Be Important To You

time management book next to different colored clocks

 

Time should be important to you. According to the 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse, successful people think about their values, priorities, and consistent habits. We all have 1,440 minutes in each day. How effectively are we using them?

 

Highly successful people rank time was the most important item they have. It’s the one true equalizer. You can never lose time and get it back again. Time is your most valuable and scarcest resource. Innkeepers have a lot of demands on their time as well as guests to please.

You must know what to focus on and how you are going to get it done. Understand what is most important to you and what activities will provide you with the greatest leverage to getting there. What do your guests appreciate the most?

Identify your most important tasks (MIT) and do those before you do anything else. If you truly want to get it done, you must schedule time for it. Work from your calendar, not your to-do list. Master the practice of letting go of other things. Accept the fact that there will always be more to do and more that can be done. A dilemma not unique to innkeepers. Your guests also have pressures in their lives. They may be coming to you for much needed rest and relaxation!

Always carry a notebook to write down your ideas. When billionaire Richard Branson did not have his notebook with him, he wrote his idea down in his passport. Think of how many times you had a great idea, but since you didn’t write it down when you thought of it, you later forgot what it was! The notebook can be little in size, so it is convenient to put in your pocket and have with you at all times.

Email is a great way for other people to put their priorities in your life. If you send less email, you will receive less email. Use the subject line to indicate the action required. Keep emails short to respect other people’s time (as well as your own). Innkeepers can provide links to information that is on their website so emails to guests are shorter. Consider having a “frequently asked questions” section for guests to read on your website.

Billionaire Warren Buffet said that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything. Every ‘yes’ is a ‘no’ to something else. Say no to everything that does not support your goals. We should always be accommodating to guests, but that does not necessarily mean we offer ten different packages. Choose the ones that are the most popular and profitable.

80% of your results come from just 20% of your actions. This is known as the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule. Look for time saving methods. Do the most important things exceptionally well. For all other tasks, “good enough” will do or hire them out to another person. This is NOT to say we cut corners in providing hospitality, but we should be as efficient as possible. Perfection is impossible.

  • How valuable is this task?
  • Am I the only one who can do this?
  • How can the same outcome be achieved with a faster process?

Focus your time only on the things that use your unique strengths and passions. Invest the first sixty minutes of each day to rituals that strengthen your mind, body, and spirit. If a task can be completed in less than five minutes, do it immediately. Of course, we cannot anticipate all the issues (including guest complaints and maintenance problems) that we inevitably will face each day, but we can be strategic in how we handle them.

Productivity is about energy and focus, not time. We must be mindful and live with intention. Focus on the things that bring you further to your goals each and every day. Remember we all have 1,440 minutes in a day. That is why time should be important to you.

There Has to Be a Better Way

Moonshot! multiple doors gray doors with one red door

 

There has to be a better way. According to John Sculley, former CEO of Pepsi and Apple, in his book Moonshot!: Game-Changing Strategies to Build a Billion-Dollar Business, adaptive innovators deliver an incredible customer experience on a quality level never experienced before.

 

The power of customer ratings, customer recommendations, and customer complaints cannot be overstated. In addition, consumers also have continuous contact with their friends on various social media sites like Facebook.

Sculley recommends that business owners have a passionate commitment because present day opportunities are boundless. Napoleon Hill said, “Our only limitations are those we set up in our own minds.” We are all capable of so much more.

Sculley advocates for people to be flexible and be willing to look at alternative ways of doing things. For example, those receiving Green Leader awards in the hospitality industry are those who find ways to conserve more and waste less in order to be more environmentally friendly for the greater good of the earth.

Asking the right questions is much more valuable than having knowledge (knowing the right answers). Really listening to the suggestions of your guests is also key. If you hear or read the same guest comments over and over, there may be some truth to what they are stating.

Every “moonshot” begins with a noble cause, a higher calling, a mission that can make a real difference in people’s lives. It is important to know why you do what you do. According to author Simon Sinek, communicating what your organization believes in allows you to connect with your ideal audience.

“There has to be a better way” is the philosophy that Mr. John Sculley lives by. There is always a more effective or efficient solution to the way things are currently being done.

The opportunity to innovate always starts with customer experience. Exceptional customer service with the idea that “there has to be a better way” leads to adaptive innovation at it best.

Getting customers (your guests) to buy the products and services is only the beginning of the relationship. The transaction, Sculley states, is not the destination, but the launching point of a long journey. Personal service is pivotal to the success of many businesses.

Sculley argues, “If you want customers to remember you with profound regard, then you must go out and study their needs and desires with intensity.” Do you have your guests fill out any surveys to give you feedback? What other things could you do to learn more about delivering high guest satisfaction?

Success often hinges on asking the right questions and nowhere is that truer than in creating an exceptional customer experience. Sculley quotes famous Chef and Restauranteur Wolfgang Puck, “We’re not in the food service business, we’re in the hospitality business. It’s all about giving the customer an unforgettable experience.” Deliver a positive, memorable, and matchless customer experience.

The future belongs to those who see possibilities BEFORE they become obvious. Sculley said that before Uber existed, people wondered how to get better taxi service. Entrepreneur Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Business owners need to have an intense curiosity and ask questions. Am I actually open-minded to what my competition may be doing? Is the market ready for what I’m trying to do?

Sculley says that you don’t really understand something until you understand it more than one way. Having multiple ways to think about a problem and process information is also important. Look at other industries and imagine a similar scenario playing out in your competitive world.

The hospitality industry was disrupted by AirBnB. They thought outside of the box to come up with their idea. I am certainly not in favor of the corners cut by AirBnB, but what could you do to help positively change the hospitality industry as we know it?

Monitor negative comments and suggestions with intense attention. There is no substitute for talking with guests one-on-one. Companies and business owners that can adapt will be the big winners.

John Sculley encourages people to be curious, be optimistic, be inspired by what’s possible, but also focused on what’s probable. Develop a context for good ideas so they may actually become valuable. Learn in layers, keep a notebook with you for ideas, and never be afraid to borrow a good idea as long as you attribute the source.

Be committed to finding a better way and never give up in finding it. Prepare, like athletes with hours of practice, and question why things are done in a certain way. Put the customer at the center of your business.

Mr. John Sculley ends his book telling his readers that survival is driven by adaptation and that change is happening faster than ever. Zero in on your most challenging customer problems. Be obsessed with continually creating exceptional customer experiences. Be perpetually governed by the principle that “there has to be a better way.”

 

How To Increase Your Bookings

palm trees by the ocean

 

Do you know how to increase your bookings? This blog post will share insights from the book, The Tourist Magnet Formula: Transform Your Hotel Into a Fully-Booked Tourist Attraction Using Modern, Practical Digital Marketing Tools by Andrei Tiu.

 

Understand Your Values and Communicate Your Brand

  • Look at what guests mention in their reviews
  • Know what marketing messages you want to communicate
  • Analyze your guests’ perception and the way you actually want to be perceived
  • See how the two perspectives match
  • Identify where there are gaps or differences

Assess Your Communication Activity

  • Note followers, engagement, and posting consistency on all social media
  • Look at email open (% of people who opened the email) and click-through rates (% of people who clicked on specific links in your email)
  • Examine partnerships with any travel booking sites and travel agencies
  • Make a list of any media attention and publicity you receive
  • Determine what drives the most traffic, engagement, bookings, and effective social media results
  • How well is your marketing message being conveyed to your customers?

Ask the Right Questions

  • What is your ideal vision for your hospitality business?
  • Do guests associate your business/association with certain values?
  • If so, are they the ones you wanted them to be?
  • Identify the best ways to enhance your unique offerings and attract your ideal guests
  • What insight can you draw from your guest feedback?
  • How would you like for your guests to refer to their experiences from now on?

Design Your Objectives the SMART Way

  • Specific, simple, and significant: What exactly do you want to achieve? Why is the goal important? What resources will you need?
  • Measurable and meaningful: How much? How many? How will you know when you achieve your goals?
  • Achievable and attainable: How realistic are your goals? How will you achieve them considering other constraints that may interfere?
  • Relevant and realistic: Will it get you closer to your “dream business scenario”? Is it the right time to put in the energy?
  • Time bound, time sensible, and time limited: When do you need to achieve your goals? What can you do today, this week, this month, and this year that will get you closer?

Know Which Areas You Would Like to Improve, By How Much, and In What Time Frame

  • Bookings/reservations
  • Branding (customer perceptions)
  • Growth (more guests or association members)
  • Marketing (including email marketing and social media)
  • Revenue

Define Your Marketing Strategy

  • Know where you are
  • Know where you want to go
  • Have deadlines for measuring and achieving success
  • Know your target audience (your ideal guests)
  • Establish how you will reach them
  • Gain clarity over your desired branding

Define Your Target Audience

  • Have an “ideal customer persona” (description of your ideal guests)
  • Then segment groups of people that will fit under that criteria
  • The language used for each segment should be different and match as closely as possible to their type of language and attitudes
  • Deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time using the right language and right channel

Define Your Marketing Channels Mix

  • Decide which actions to take first to maximize your impact
  • Try to be active on at least 4 or 5 social media channels (where your audience is)
  • Determine how you want to position your inn/association
  • Understand your unique features and how they are important to your guests to communicate them effectively
  • Identify your brand values to differentiate yourself from your competition
  • Consider new products and services valuable to your ideal customers

Check For These Website Factors

  • Clean and easy to navigate (does it visually make sense?)
  • Descriptions (how well does your content appeal to potential guests?)
  • Loading time (the slower the website, the faster they leave)
  • Local area (do you feature local attractions and events?)
  • Mobile optimization (does it adapt to different devices?)
  • Partners (do you promote any partnerships with local businesses?)
  • Pictures (are they attractive and professional?)
  • Reviews (do you include the comments of previous guests?)
  • Social Media (do you have links to each of your ACTIVE social media networks?)
  • Usability (how user friendly is it?)
  • Video (do you have video content to give guests a more personal look?)

Use Social Media Wisely

  • Blog regularly and share on social media
  • Convey your brand personality
  • Encourage your guests to follow your social media and mention you
  • Follow accounts with 1,000+ followers
  • Hashtags to get discovered easier
  • Interact with your audience
  • Links to articles and recipes
  • Planned posts and consistent activity
  • Post pictures
  • Real-time updates
  • Share descriptions
  • Show what makes your accommodations unique
  • Strong call to action
  • Time of day your audience is most active
  • Titles that include keywords your public uses
  • Upload videos
  • Use language your audience uses

Build Your Online Reputation

  • 3rd party opinions and guest recommendations tend to be far more trusted
  • Ask for guest reviews in the best possible way
  • Automate email to follow up with guests
  • Encourage corporate travelers
  • Influencer marketing (post guest reviews from notable people)
  • Partner with local information and travel centers
  • Show your intention to keep in touch further

Reach Your Dreams

When you successfully implement these factors in your marketing, you will increase your bookings. Need more clarity? Contact Kristi from Bed and Breakfast Blogging for a free 15-minute phone conversation.

 

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

 

How to Stand Out In a Crowded, Distracted World

"Brand Now" Book by Author Nick Westergaard

 

Standing out in a crowded, distracted world is the topic of author Nick Westergaard’s book Brand Now. He argues that a brand that stands for something stands out. By standing out, you appeal to our hearts and minds of your customers. Westergaard asserts that your brand should be inspiring to others.

 

The author asks a series of questions throughout the book, to get readers to really understand their brand and how to communicate it to their audience.

  • What do you do and for whom (your brand promise)?
  • What is your audience struggling with?
  • What do your ideal customers care about?
  • What matters to them?
  • How do you make their lives better?
  • What’s your reason for doing what you do?
  • Do you have a distinct brand voice?
  • What aspects most show your brand’s personality?
  • What actor or actress would play your brand?
  • If your brand were a movie, what would be the genre and the plot?
  • What do you want your customers to do?
  • How can you create a better brand experience?
  • What kind of content can your brand create that no one else can?
  • What is your compelling story?

Mr. Westergaard shares the following brand tips with his readers:

  • People are looking for meaning now more than ever so understand who your brand is and what you must do.
  • Understand your brand and spark (why you’re here) and your promise (what you do and for whom).
  • Stories are patterns your brand can use for communicating who you are and what you stand for.
  • Create content that conveys meaning and tells your story as boldly as possible.
  • Reach out to your community and encourage user-generated content.
  • Make sure your brand is coherent (that every message is saying the same thing and amplifying your meaning).

Wondering how to apply this to your business? Take the time to thoughtfully answer those questions as they apply to you and your inn. If you have a compelling story, add that in the “About Us” section of your website. Share guest testimonials (that affirm that your brand provides what it says it does) on your website and in social media.

You’re welcome to read some of our related blog posts:

Are you looking for more clarity about your hospitality business? Are you wanting to know more about how you can be standing out to your guests? Kristi Dement of Bed and Breakfast Blogging offers an initial free consultation. Contact her today!

 

 

6 High Performance Habits Every Innkeeper Should Have

High Performance Habits book next to author Brendon Burchard

Bestselling author, speaker, and performance coach, Brendon Burchard, wrote about six high performance habits. High performance happens because of what you deliberately think and do on a routine basis in order to excel and serve at higher levels. Burchard also asks questions to get us to think more deeply about implementing each performance habit.

 

Seek clarity on who you want to be, how you want to interact with others, and what will bring you the greatest meaning. Get very clear on what you want and how to go get it. Develop a habit of asking questions, looking within, and observing your behaviors to assess whether you are on track. Consistently think about who you want to be and how to become that. List future projects that will lead you to a bigger dream. Have a vision for yourself for the future.

  • 3 words that describe my best self are…
  • 3 words that could define how I want to treat people are…
  • 5 skills I’m trying to develop most in my life are…
  • 3 simple ways I can add value to those around me this week are…
  • Something that I can do or create that will bring more meaning in life is…

Generate energy so that you can maintain focus, effort, and well-being. Be better rested, eat healthier, and exercise more to have enough energy to do what you need to do. The goal of meditation is to release both physical and mental tension. You’re in charge of how you feel. Consciously direct your thoughts and behaviors to generating positive emotion. Start doing what you already know you should be doing to optimize your health.

  • A way I could remind myself to release that tension throughout the day is…
  • If I felt more energy each day, I would be more likely to…
  • 3 questions I could ask myself every morning to prompt positive emotions for the rest of the day could be…
  • A new routine I could begin for replaying the positive emotions of my days is…
  • A weekly schedule that I could use to get healthier and actually stick to would be…

Raise the necessity for exceptional performance. Necessity demands you take action. High performers care more about excellence and thus put more effort into their activities than others do. High performers sense of duty to a higher vision, mission, or calling propels them through the hardships of achievement. High performance only happens when there are real deadlines. Affirming the why gives you added motivation. High performers spend more time with positive people than with negative people.

  • The values that are important for me to live include…
  • The people who need me to be on my A game at this point in my life are…
  • 3 things I’d like to become extraordinary at doing are…
  • Some ways I can remind myself about these important goals and whys are…
  • To add to the number of high performers in my network, I should…

Increase productivity in your primary field of interest. Focus and create the outputs that matter most. Find your best allocation of time and stick to it the best you can. To become a high performer requires thinking more before acting. For every major goal you have, figure out the main five moves. There’s nothing in your life that you can’t improve through practicing progressive mastery.

  • The outputs that matter most to my career are…
  • The biggest goal or dream that I need to plan out right now is…
  • 5 moves that would help me progress swiftly toward accomplishing that dream are…
  • The timeline for each of my five moves will be…
  • 3 skills I could develop that would help me feel more confident or capable are…

Develop influence with those around you. Have the people skills it takes to get others to believe in you or support you. People only like to work with leaders who make them think bigger and grow more. If you believe that your peers view you as a successful, high performing person, naturally you believe yourself to be more influential. Great leaders ask lots of questions. To gain influence with others, teach them how to think about themselves, others, and the world; challenge them to develop their character, connections, and contributions; and role model the values you wish to see them embody.

  • Someone in my life I’d like to influence more is…
  • The way I would like to influence them is…
  • What would inspire this person to treat people better is…
  • If I were going to become an even better role model, the first things I would start doing are…
  • 10 years from now, if the 5 people closest to me were to describe me as a role model, I hope they would say…

Demonstrate courage by expressing your ideas, taking bold action, and standing up for yourself and others, even in the face of fear, uncertainty, threat, or changing conditions. Take risks and speak up for yourself and others. Define what being more courageous means to you, and start living that way. You are capable of remarkable things that you will never discover without taking action. Struggle must be seen as part of the process and a vitally important part of any worthwhile endeavor.

  • The way I choose to greet life’s inevitable hardships from today forward is…
  • If I were going to be more “me” in my everyday life, I would start to…
  • A courageous action I will take this week because someone I love needs me to take it is…
  • What could I do in my work that would require stepping out on a limb but would also truly change things for the better and help people?
  • What good thing could I walk away from to advance my life?

This is a very motivational book. The 6 habits are to seek clarity, generate energy, raise the necessity, increase productivity, develop influence, and develop courage. How could you apply these 6 high performance habits to your life as an innkeeper? You’re welcome to comment below.

 

How to Identify Your Unique Selling Proposition

roses and wine on night stand next to bed with view of pool through the window

 

 

Your unique selling proposition (USP) is what sets you apart from your competition. Bed and breakfast owners must ask themselves, “How are we different and why should guests choose our accommodations versus all others?”

 

Legendary marketer, bestselling author, sought after speaker, and business growth adviser, Dan Kennedy, advises businesses to answer 3 questions in his book “Magnetic Marketing: How to Attract A Flood of New Customers That Pay, Stay, and Refer“:

  • What specifically do you do that’s truly different than your competitors?
  • How do you uniquely benefit your target market?
  • Can you niche your target market in a way that nobody else can or will?

The goal is to identify what sets you apart and makes you different and that comes by understanding how you uniquely benefit your target market and deliver something in a way that no one else can or will. 

There are several different areas that can distinguish you from other hospitality businesses, including:

  • Accommodations: your property including guest rooms and baths
  • Amenities: your extra on-site luxuries that set you apart
  • Events: unique events you host like an annual charity ball
  • Food: your signature dishes that guests consistently rave about
  • Hospitality: the way you make your guests feel special
  • Location: including local attractions and events exclusive to your area
  • Niche: the segment of the population you attract and serve
  • Packages: unique offerings to guests often centered around a theme
  • Reputation: your achievements, what you’re known for, how others view you
  • Uniqueness: having no equal, unparalleled, incomparable for something
  • Value: your perceived importance or your worth to your guests

It may help to make a list of the compliments you have received from your guests (both spoken and written in reviews). If guests take the time to notice something and expression their appreciation for it, this could be something that makes up your unique selling proposition (USP).

When you know your USP, then you can promote that on your website, in your blog posts, on social media, in your press kit, in your videos, in your slogan, and so on. When you distinguish yourself from other accommodations, you are much more likely to attract guests. People crave experiences and when you can show that are the only place to offer X, Y, and Z, then your rooms will be booked.

 

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

 

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. 

 

 

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