Top 3 Mistakes Aspiring Bed and Breakfast Owners Make Before Starting Their B&B – #2

Mistake #2 – Not understanding your potential guests

There are three common mistakes that have long-term impacts on the success of a bed and breakfast that people make before starting:

Mistake #1 – Not understanding the marketplace boils down to whether there is a need for more accommodation in your area, and the timing of the marketing that is done for your area.

As I mentioned in the previous post, when I started my B&B, I had established that there was a need for more rooms; however, what I didn’t understand how the impact of seasonal promotion would affect my year-round business.  This carried over to today’s topic – my lack of understanding of who my potential guests would be.

Understanding your potential guests

Peak season in Parry Sound is late spring, summer and early fall.  The lack of marketing during the off-season means this area is not top of mind with potential guests during off-peak times.

Not believing that, I convinced myself there was enough to do by taking a calendar and writing down everything that occurred during the months of November through April.  My list included hunting, ice fishing, hockey tournaments, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ATVing.  Beyond making sure there were things to do, I didn’t explore WHO those people were.

If I had of done more research, this is what I would have discovered:

  • Hunters are generally men who travel in a group and stay at a hunt camp
  • Ice-fishers tend to be men who either fish on their own or in pairs and are local residents or have seasonal homes in the area
  • Hockey tournaments involve families who tend to stay in hotels with the rest of the team
  • Cross-country skiers most likely are local residents or have seasonal homes in the area
  • Snowmobilers typically travel in groups
  • Most people who ATV tend to be residents or have seasonal homes in the area

As you can see, most of these people do not stay at a bed and breakfast when they are in the Parry Sound area. Further, I had nothing in common with most of these people; therefore, I wasn’t clear on what they would need from me as an accommodator.

Understanding what these guests want

In my first year, I advertised on the local snowmobile map and in the cross-country skiing newsletter. Then I sat back and waited…and waited…and waited.  I got the odd booking, but quickly realized that I wasn’t equipped to provide the types of amenities some of these groups require.

The best example I can give is for snowmobilers:

  • They are looking for somewhere they can pull their sleds up to the door so they can keep an eye on them – my parking is behind the house and is only accessible via paved roads
  • Snowmobiles require gas and oil and there are no gas stations in the immediate vicinity
  • They want dinner and drinks, which I didn’t serve
  • They need somewhere to store and dry their outer clothing, which smells strongly of gas – I only had unheated sun porches available to do that.

Therefore, I quickly learned that not only was my bed and breakfast not suitable for snowmobilers,but  because it was a sport I had no interest in, I wasn’t particularly interested in incurring the added expense and work required that this type of guest was seeking.

My lack of really thinking about my guests also showed up during my peak season.  I bought most of my original bedding in the early spring, and got some really great buys.  However, that was on duvets, comforters and heavy blankets.  In peak season (when the majority of my guests come), most people prefer cotton blankets and light quilts.

I did manage to get one big thing right though – like myself, people who are attracted to water-related activities want to be by the water.  I am located on the waterfront, and right by the majority of water-related tourist attractions.  This gave me a large edge over almost all the other accommodators in town – and a thorough understanding of my high season guests.

As you can see from the information I had to learn the hard way, one of the most important things to do is to understand who you want as your guest.  That way you will understand exactly what they are looking for in a bed and breakfast amenities and you can save time and money by focusing just on what they need.  It gets very expensive trying to be all things to all people!

Step 3 of “Design Your Dream B&B System” focuses on how to determine what and when people will come to your area; then takes it one step further to examine exactly what those people want in the way of accommodations and how much they will pay for it – whether you want to use your current home, or to find the perfect property for a bed and breakfast.

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