How to create brochures for your bed and breakfast business

brochure - 40 Bay Street - owning a bed and breakfastThe other day I got the following question via e-mail:

“We are developing our new brochure and just wanted to know what your personal feelings were about not including pictures of all our bedrooms in the brochure.  Instead we would suggest for further information/photos to go to our website.  What are your thoughts on this?”

I’m sorry to say that B&B owner was more than likely a little frustrated with my response; because it wasn’t a response – it was a series of questions that need to be answered prior to designing any piece of marketing material – especially an expensive print item like a brochure or rack card.

Let’s first define the difference between these items:

  • A rack card is a two-sided document
  • A brochure is larger and is typically created to be folded

Besides a rack card or brochure, carefully consider if a post card or well-designed two sided business card might also work.

One of my favourite sayings is “Form follows function”.  Therefore, you need to start at the very beginning and ask yourself:


1.  What is the purpose of this material?

My primary purpose for having a piece of print material is to generate walk-in traffic for when I have vacancies.  Other ways you might use print material like this is to:

  • accompany gift certificates in the mail
  • attach to a guest receipt as a reminder of your B&B
  • hand out when someone comes to the door and make inquiries about your bed and breakfast
  • promote your property in other venues

2.  Where will it be used?

My print materials will be distributed locally to attractions, restaurants and shops where visitors to the area typically go.  Since this is the case, I need to size my material to fit into the most common type of brochure holder that is being used locally.

3. Who is your target audience?

My primary audience is visitors to the area that don’t have or are uncomfortable using mobile technology.  My secondary audience is the people who work as the various venues, so that I stay top of mind and can be easy to make a referral too.

4 What action do you want people to take once they have seen this piece?

  • The ideal action is to have people come to the B&B so I can show them the rooms before I have to give a price.
  • Secondary is having a referral source call me to see if I have a vacancy and then have them send the person over
  • Third is a phone call from the potential guest so that I have an opportunity to sell the value of my B&B prior to stating the rate

5.  How will you measure its effectiveness?

  • I ask people who walk-in how they found me – if they mention my print material I make note of it (you can also check the garbage pail in the room – you will often find your piece – as well as several of your competitors in there!)
  • I keep track of the phone calls and whether it was a potential guest or someone working at a local business
  • I also keep track of how many brochures I place where and when – it provides me with some idea of the volume of traffic that location gets and what types of information people are seeking when they go there.  (In the beginning, I used to put a sticker on each brochure with a number signifying a specific placement location; over the years I don’t need to do that anymore because I have a good feel for where my business comes from.)

Now that I have a much better idea of whom and how it is going to be used, I have a much better idea of what information I need to include.

I start with three valuable pieces of information that I know resonate with my guests:

  • My USP (unique selling point) – waterfront location near the attractions, restaurants and shopping
  • What my target audience wants and is willing to pay for – en-suite baths, air-conditioning and WiFi
  • How to contact me – name, address, phone number(s), web site

This provides me with some key ideas about what the content has to be – i .e. ways to convey my location, that I have en-suite baths, air-conditioning and WiFI.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, what professional, print-quality photos do I have that I should use?

  • I have a shot from the harbour showing the B&B, plus I have several interior shots that show the waterfront from the window of those rooms.
  • Getting photographs of bathrooms is very difficult – however a specific vignette of a feature of a bathroom will work
  • I don’t have pictures that portray the air-conditioning and WiFi, so that will be included in the text
  • Food is always good to include – however, remember not everyone likes really “fancy” food – especially for breakfast, so I need to choose the picture carefully

Now is the point where I start considering the information that I want them to know:

  • There is no smoking; I don’t take pets or children under the age of 11
  • I am very proud of my Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor – most people don’t really understand what it means, but it adds validity to my claims of a great place to stay
  • I want them to know we pay as much attention to the breakfast and that we can accommodate special diets

Any good piece of marketing materials provides more than one method of getting your message across, so I know that the most important selling points of my property need to be included in as many different ways as possible so they can’t be overlooked.

  • My tag-line will include that I am located on the waterfront
  • Pictures chosen will provide “proof” of the waterfront location, a sample of a bedroom and bathroom feature, and something perceived by the majority of people as a “breakfast dish”
  • Text will include references to the location, en-suite baths and breakfast
  • Icons will deal with the Trip Advisor reference and the no smoking, kids or pets
  • Because of my central location and the size of Parry Sound, I have excluded a map.

Since the inception of the internet, the value of print material has diminished greatly.  I know that very few people that pick up my print materials actually keep it; therefore I want to provide a quality piece of material, but at a limited price. With carefully considering my content, I know I can convey my message using the smallest option available – a rack card.

To find out who the perfect guests for your bed and breakfast business are, check out the exercise found in “3 Questions Everyone Who Wants to Own a Bed and Breakfast Asks – or Should”.


    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Hi Alice:
      There are a number of templates available on the web, but unless a bed and breakfast owner has great marketing skills, I always recommend that they use a professional who can save them time (and money) in the long run. If you are running your B&B as a business, then it should be treated as one, and marketing is the best investment there is. You can have the most wonderful mattresses or beautiful breakfasts, but if people don’t know about them, then you won’t be generating revenue.

  1. Jeremiah Mollel

    I am in Tanzania and i have my small business a small guest house with 10 rooms and i want to make a flyers also i want to advitize it .please gow do you assist me in that.

    1. Susan Poole Post author


      Once you have gathered the information that I outlined in the blog post, the best thing is to take the information and pictures you have to a graphic designer who can do the layout and arrange for printing for your brochure.


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