Always deal with negative comment – firmly but politely.
Thanks to websites like Tripadvisor and the addition of ‘guest reviews’ to online booking sites, customers can now read more information about your bed and breakfast than ever before.
In many cases, this is a positive thing – happy guests are free marketing, after all – but what can you do when you receive a negative review on the internet? There it is, out in the world, for everyone to see. Will a bad review sink you bed and breakfast? The answer is no – but bad management of that review most certainly could.
Here are three ways to manage your online reputation and turn disgruntled customers into something positive.
1. Always respond
Ignoring this won’t make it go away – it’ll be there for everyone to see. Even if you think dealing with an unreasonable review warrants ‘not justifying it with an answer’, you’ll be wrong. Future customers will see it and, instead, they will assume everything it says is true. Or they’ll think you don’t care. Either way, it reflects badly on your bed and breakfast.
Don’t underestimate the power off one angry on voice on the internet either. Thanks to social media like Facebook and Twitter, suddenly something small can become very big and be shared, reviewed and commented on by a huge online community.
2. Always admit mistakes
Sometimes it’s hard not to be offended by a difficult guest, especially when they’re being rather economical with the facts and the truth. But trying to adamantly deny what happened makes your B&B look as plaintive as the reviewer. If they’re right about one aspect, say so. It will make your reply worth more.
Make sure you reasonably – and not defensively – point out the facts and apologize for any misunderstandings before trying to correct something. Above all – even if you’re simply responding in kind to what’s already been said – always avoid personal attacks.
3. Always promise to be better
Remember the old rule in the service industry – the customer is always right. You might not agree with the personal opinion, but you must show that you have understood the grievance and have learnt something from it. This is the final straw for convincing a future customer that your bed and breakfast can be trusted.
Such a huge percentage of holiday makers search and book their accommodation online that the internet has become the most essential marketing tool for bed and breakfasts. But there are also so many billions of websites – and accommodation options – out there that making the right customers and browsers find you can be a challenge.
Effectively marketing you bed and breakfast online can be broken down into three key points:
- Write good, inspiring content
- Have good, quality photographs
- Include all important information
In Part One, we’ll show you how to write good, inspiring content on your website or a listing website that will turn browsers into reservations!
Step 1 What Makes Your Property Special?
The first thing that customers will ask themselves when they look at your bed and breakfast is “why should I stay here?” so it’s essential that you ask yourself the same thing. You don’t have to be a 5 star boutique B&B with sea views to have something special – whatever or wherever your bed and breakfast, there are selling points. You just have to find them! Here are five ways to find your ‘unique’ qualities.
1. Ethos and hosts: Think about the service your B&B offers. It is a home away from home where guests can come and go as they please, or is the focus strongly on attentive, personal hospitality? Both these qualities will attract guests – just from a different market. As a bed and breakfast owner, you can also be a unique commodity! Do you have expert local knowledge because you’ve lived here all your life? Do you have contacts in the tourist office or at a restaurant? Let your customers know!
2. Location: There’s always a positive to find in your location. If you’re right in town, it’s the proximity of your bed and breakfast to amenities and sight seeing. If you’re in the countryside, it’s the views, peace and quiet and walking opportunities. Always emphasize the good things.
3. Style and facilities: What’s special about your house itself? Is it a historic building, with character and original features? Or is it modern and built with comfort in mind? Even things you think are too small to mention can be important to guests, so make sure you list all the conveniences you can offer, from a hairdryer and shower gel in the bathroom to coffee top ups at breakfast.
4. Target market: Thinking about who will stay at your bed and breakfast is a huge part of marketing. What is your property good for? Budget travellers and value for money? Family breaks or romantic getaways? Once you have chosen two or three specific kinds of customers, you can write your content for them. Don’t be shy about it – include a huge box on your website that says ‘perfect for walking holidays’ inside to grab their attention!
5. Breakfast: One of the main advantages a bed and breakfast has for customers of hotels is breakfast in the morning. A home cooked Full English will beat an expensive buffet of cereals and congealed scrambled egg any day – so emphasize this! Include a breakfast menu on your website, along with any special features like homemade jams or eggs from a local farm, and you’re on to a winning formula.
Step 2 Turn Facts into Content
Here’s an example of a good description of a property:
At this award-winning eco B&B, feasts of organic food, outdoorsy activities and lazy evenings by the log fire are the order of the day. (From Glenribbeen Lodge)
And a bad one:
We are a bed and breakfast offering B&B accommodation in London. Get BREAKFAST!!! EVERYONE WELCOME!!! Come and stay with us please!
The first description is very informative but also atmospheric – it lets guests know what they can expect from a stay at this B&B, as well as highlighting five important features – award-winning (target market), eco-friendly (ethos), organic food (breakfast), outdoor activities (location) and log fires (style). The second, however, is not specific enough – there is no information which makes it special and it won’t make the majority of readers keep going.
Here are three ways to use your facts well as content:
- Busy people want to see information at a glance on the internet. Long paragraphs of beautifully written prose won’t sell your bed and breakfast to customers – short sentence, bullet points, numbered lists and boxes with key words are all easy ways to get your message across.
- Make sure your content sounds professional, too. It’s easy to check grammar and spelling in a word processing program, but you’d be surprised how many bed and breakfasts leave in terrible spelling errors!
- Too many capitals and bolds can also be distracting – you shouldn’t need to highlight certain words on the page, everything you have written should be interesting and informative!
Step 3 Avoid The Traps
There are some cliches which it’s easy to fall into when trying to describe your bed and breakfast – especially if marketing and writing aren’t your strongest points, or you just feel a bit uncomfortable having to ‘sell’ yourself and your home. Here are some of the top things to avoid:
- Don’t repeat the same words or fact over and over again – it’ll sound desperate, not emphatic
- Don’t state the obvious like ‘for business and pleasure’ – most bed and breakfasts welcome tourists and business travellers, it’s only worth mentioning if you have specific facilities such as desks and WiFi in every room or conference amenities
- Don’t use ‘very’, ‘truly’ and ‘perfect’ unless you can really back it up – one person’s perfect is another’s nightmare!
- Don’t use informal and meaningless adjectives like pretty, pleasant and tasteful – be more specific about why you would describe your B&B that way
Last week we got you started on marketing your bed and breakfast online with tips for writing great content on your website so you can sell your B&B to the right readers on the internet.
Today, we’re going to talk about important information and why this is essential for marketing your B&B successfully! The first step is to think about what you need to know before you book a holiday. Would you be comfortable making a reservation without knowing the cancellation policy first? Of course not!
#1 Keep it clear
As we already mentioned in part one, keeping information clear and easily visible on your website is essential to turning browsers into buyers. Important information should be structured so that there is:
- A clear link from the home page
- At-a-glance information, not a complicated paragraph
#2 State your policies
All bed and breakfasts have different policies regarding things like pets, children, drinking and smoking in their house. Some owners think that stating, for example, that you don’t allow children will create a negative impression – but its much better to make it clear from the start than end up with disappointed guests on your doorstep!
Don’t forget about that target market, too – if you don’t allow children, this could make your bed and breakfast more attractive to couples looking for a quiet or romantic weekend away.
#3 What is important information?
You must keep in mind what guests think of as important, as well as yourself! It might be great to describe every inch of a room or every dish on your breakfast menu, but sometimes the facts need to be easier to access. Here’s a checklist for what to include so that your guests are well informed – and satisfied – customers.
- Cancellation terms
- Check in and check out times
- Contact details for you and the property
- Driving directions
- Nearest train, bus and airport
- Parking facilities
- Policies – pets, children, drinking, smoking
- Accepted forms of payment
- Bathroom types
- Internet access and cost
Image: Thanks to Dudley Carr on Flickr.com
The final piece in the puzzle of marketing your bed and breakfast online is images. Photographs can be the most eye catching part of your website or listing – so if they’re not done right, they stand out in the wrong way and can actually put off customers. Ask yourself a simple question – would you buy something or book it with no idea what it looks like?
Here are the crucial things which images add to your online profile:
- A first impression – what impression are you giving? That this is a quality B&B or dark and a little scruffy?
- Care and attention – how much effort you put into photos reflects your dedication to customers.
- The real thing – customers don’t have to use their imagination and they won’t be disappointed when they arrive.
- You and your B&B – this is what you have chosen to represent you and your marketing skills.
- A wide angle lens is key to capturing a good architectural photo
- Use a tripod for steady, clear shots
- If you don’t have a tripod, use a ledge or chair instead
- Always turn on the lights in a room to avoid dark pictures
- Need more help? Read how to take good bed and breakfast photos here.
What to Avoid
- People shots. Customers want to see what your bed and breakfast has to offer, not other customers enjoying themselves.
- Unflattering angles. A picture tells a thousands words – make sure they’re positive ones.
- Mess or clutter. Always take a picture just after cleaning and tidying for a new customers when the room is at its best.
- Believing less is more. One room might not be as big – but if you miss this one out, you’ll have disappointed customers arriving.
- Outdated pictures. Does the room still look like the photograph? If not, take a new one!
- Using the first shot. Take plenty and choose the best one instead.
Image: Thanks to naixn on Flickr.com
So you’ve read all about how to get your website started… now there’s just one thing left: make it amazing! BnB Edition shares five simple marketing tips to turn those online browsers into your next customers.
Images: The Bigger – The Better!
Uploading images of your property is an essential, but choosing the right pictures can really make a difference to your sales. They must:
- be up to date
- be high resolution (600 x 800)
- be ideal size (400 x 300 pixels)
- taken with a good quality camera and in good light
- show all aspects of the property, including bedrooms and public spaces
Many B&Bs use only small or poor quality pictures in their marketing and we can’t stress enough how important it is for customers to see better images! Put yourself in a guest’s shoes – would you book this property without a good look first?
Video: Add a Virtual Tour
Even better than images…. video! In the digital age, customers expect to be able to research their holiday thoroughly! A simple video showing a panorama of the property will show off the best bits much better than still images, and you really don’t have to be a movie director to put this together nowadays. Simple software like Sony’s Vaio Movie Story (which can be downloaded for free) helps you make one film out of several snippets and then it’s a quick step to get a YouTube account and upload the video there. Then, just add a URL for the video to your website.
Email: Contact Us
When you’re setting up your website, its essential for potential customers to have a way to contact you. The most popular way today (especially if these customers are browsing at work!) is by email, so you must include an email address which you check regularly. If you use WordPress to design your website, you can take it a step further and have a ‘contact’ link at the top of the page, which will have an automatically generated enquiry form. This helps prevent any customer emails being lost in your spam folders and keeps all enquiries together.
Customer Service: Use Your Personality
Many guests choose to stay at B&Bs for the hospitality and service, so capitalise on this with an “about us” section. Add your names, expertise and photos to give customers an insight into what to expect on their vacation. It’s also great if you can bring your personality (and that of the property) to life with the tone of the content and the colors of the website design.
Design: Stay Simple
Layout can be crucial to the success of a website. Although it’s great that you want to include as much information as possible, remember what can be seen by visitors the first time they click on the website and, especially, what they can see without scrolling down lower! At the top of the page, you should have at-a-glance information to show exactly what you offer, such as number of rooms, location and contact information. Once you’ve caught their attention, you can add more details for them to click on and explore.
Images: Thanks to Sarah G.. on Flickr.com
With thanks to BandB Edition; http://www.enjoybedandbreakfast.com