Frequently I get contacted by bed and breakfast owners who have run into problems because they didn’t think through their plans before they started their B&B. The good news is that you can turn things around by rolling up your sleeves and investing in your bed & breakfast.
I have created my list of warning signs from the common questions both potential and current bed and breakfast owners ask me…are you asking yourself the same thing?
How do I deal with difficult guests?
The most successful B&B owners are ones who have identified the people they want as their guests – who their “niche” or target market is. Once you have developed a profile, I bet if you showed it to friends they would tell you that you are describing yourself! These are people you are most comfortable with – you can instinctively connect with them and most important – you LIKE them! This is what gives you the personal fulfillment you are looking for in a B&B and helps you to figure out what they want!
When I have difficulties with a guest, the first thing I often do is sit down and ask myself “Does this guest fit my “perfect guest” profile?” Chances are the answer is no – but the good news is that they are generally only here for a night or two, so I just need to suck it up and make sure I work in some extra stress relieving activities for myself.
And sometimes, you just have to recognize that there are “bad apples” everywhere in the world, and should this particular person try to reserve with you in the future, you need to learn how to politely say no.
How do I handle people who want a “deal” on my rates?
Most B&B owners have lots of pretty pictures of their property on their web site, extol the virtues of their rooms and breakfasts and count on reviews of former guests to tell people what a great B&B you have.
If you are really clear about whom your perfect guest is, then you know what they want and the questions they need answered. When you have this information, you can then be very clear on the value you offer people at your bed and breakfast and feel comfortable sticking to your price.
Money is tight these days, and everyone is on the look-out for a deal. Unfortunately for bed and breakfast owners, groups like Expedia, PriceLine and TravelZoo promote the idea that if you wait until the last minute, you can get a really good deal. If you are already uncertain about your value, it is much easier to cave into pressure to lower your rates.
How do I get more people to come and stay at my bed and breakfast?
Whether you are starting a bed and breakfast or already own one, if people don’t know you are open for business and providing what they want at a price they are willing to pay, you won’t get people coming to stay.
There are a variety of ways to get that word out, and tools can range from being free to costing thousands of dollars. However, the biggest challenge is making sure that your tools are located where the people you want as your guest are looking and answers the questions they have about what you are have to offer.
In order to make sure you are investing in the right tools and that they are returning enough money on your investment, prior to starting you need to create a marketing plan. Given the rapid changes in on-line technology these days, if you can only invest in one tool, I strongly recommend you start with a professional web site that has a mobile component to it, and is built on a platform you can learn to update at various times of the year.
How do I know if I can raise my room rates?
Once you have established who your “ideal guest” is, what they want and have some idea of what they are willing to pay, you need to dig a little deeper. Are you providing that guest with everything they want? Can you entice them by adding little touches that don’t cost you much, but increase the value of a stay in their mind?
Also, check out your competition. What are they charging? What ideas can you “borrow”?
The good news about raising your rates is that you can always lower them again if you price yourself out of the market. That’s why it is important to have a web site that you can change yourself, and remove your rates from your print materials.
How do I make more money?
Like any business that wants to make money, if you want to own a bed and breakfast that generates revenue, then you need to invest in your business. So the first thing is to figure out how much money you want to make, and how much you have to invest into achieving that goal. I usually recommend people who are serious plan on 10% of the new revenue goal in the first year and then approximately 5% in the second year.
Once that is done, you need to learn how to work ON the business, not just in it. Working in it means the day-to-day activities that keep your bed and breakfast functioning. Working ON the business means the types of activities that bring results to the business overall. You will find that changing your focus is the second big step.
Next, you need to develop a written plan to help you determine what to invest in.
- Invest in yourself. Find out what skills you need to enable you to work ON your business. For instance, what are the latest trends in web sites? There are lots of free internet workshops you can sign up for to learn more. Is there a conference or local association meeting you can attend to learn more? Spend time on LinkedIn on the various groups related to bed and breakfasts.
- Create a cohesive marketing plan for your business. To begin, evaluate the results from your current efforts. Get help on understanding the tools available to help B&B owners promote their businesses. Set goals for the different types of tools and prioritize your marketing budget to spend on the tools that will provide you with the biggest bang for your buck as soon as possible. Learn how to evaluate your investment and then monitor the results so you can make corrections if required.
- Can you decrease your existing costs? Get in there and understand where you are currently spending your money. Is there a way you can decrease the money you are spending on certain items without damaging the quality? Are you buying things for the B&B that you want and think your guests would think are nice – versus something you need for the business?
- Find out the main reason people come to your area. Is there a group of people who currently are underserviced that you could tweak your ideal guest profile to include? In my area, people travelling with pets, children or have physical challenges are underserviced.
You’ve heard the saying “You’ve got to spend money to make money”. Investing in yourself and your bed and breakfast business allows you to create marketing tools specifically placed to reach your ideal guest, make more money and be able to articulate the value your price offers to potential guests.