Understanding Your Customers: Why People DON’T Stay at B&Bs
A few posts ago I talked about B&B customers’ psychology. I chose to focus on some of the factors that attract people to B&B’s. This week I want to look at why some people might choose conventional hotels instead.
If you’re not online, you’re missing out on a lot of potential business. Big hotel chains like Travelodge or Fairmont would go under without the business they get online. You need to take the same approach.
It’s not as difficult as you might think. Find a web solution that’s designed with small inns and B&B’s specifically in mind. It takes just a few hours to set up a basic website, and very little maintenance after that.
The sooner you create your online presence the better. Sites with a longer history of updates and hits have a better chance of showing up at the top of search results.
Poor web design
It’s not just enough to be online. You need to be online in the right way. It takes most website visitors a few seconds to decide if a B&B is good or bad. (tweet this) Often it just takes a glance at the B&B’s homepage.
Use attractive photos, descriptive language, and social media. Make your page easy to navigate. Like any business, a professional image makes a successful brand. The more put-together your web presence looks, the more you’ll come across as a great place to stay.
Make sure you feature your strong points first. Think about what past guests have commented on as your best qualities. It could be food, comfort, unique views, or all of the above. These should be the first things your potential guests see when they look you up online.
Note: With Hotel Propeller you get a great website.
Some people choose major hotel chains over B&B’s because they always know what to expect. Because every B&B is unique and independently owned, they might also come with unwelcome surprises. Some first-time guests don’t feel it’s worth the risk.
Prove to B&B skeptics that you provide even more reliable quality than brand-name hotels. Let them know you can be trusted.
Word-of-mouth recommendations and online reviews are your best friend. Feature guest testimonials on your website. Encourage your most satisfied guests to add a review to TripAdvisor. Facebook and Twitter are a great place to send out these friendly reminders.
For effective use of reviews, take a look at the Westside Guesthouse website. This B&B features over 20 guest ratings right on the front page. Their past customers have vouched for them repeatedly, letting others know it’s a great place to make a booking.
Lack of context
Chain hotels are usually situated in a generic, more mainstream destination. Big hotel owners choose deliberately where to set up to attract the most guests.
Smaller inns and B&B’s, on the other hand, are more happenstance. This means they’re in more unique areas with a rich background.
Take the beautiful Albergo alla Campana, for example, located in the centre of a small, historical town just outside of Venice. This family-owned hotel uses their website to feature stunning images of nearby art, architecture and culture.
The Milestone Inn’s ‘Things to Do’ page is another perfect example of setting the local context. Just by reading this list, you’ll be tempted to book a room and explore the Woodbury, Connecticut area!
People want to know what’s different about your B&B. Show them! (tweet this)
Show them all there is to do any see nearby and why they should choose you.
The privacy question
Some people still associate B&B’s with lack of privacy. The small, intimate setting may seem intimidating. Some may picture awkward scenarios where guests are forced to socialize with each other at breakfast.
While meeting new people is ideal for some guests. Others are looking for a more secluded getaway. After all, B&B’s should provide an escape from everyday life. In both cases, privacy always matters.
Make sure you communicate your versatility as a warm and social, yet private, place to stay. Be available to answer questions, but give guests their space. Set up quiet spots for your guests to read, dine, or just relax without interruption.
You can also get the privacy message across online. Add photos of small, intimate tables along with your central dining area. Feature more private spaces like a separate deck or quiet garden area. Potential guests like to know they have both options.
Get to know the negative side of your potential guests’ psychology. This way you can work on avoiding common turn-offs to expand your appeal!
What objections have you heard from prospects? Share your insight with others in the comments.
Photos by Travels.com and Trip Advisor
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As a veteran innkeeper at The Claiborne House B&B of Virginia for 10 years here are my comments Brian, and I address the other innkeepers who may be reading your article:
I think the article is topsy turvy. I agree marketing/web presence is key, but it is the stereotypes of B&B’s that draws the most resistance.
Having said that, as a B&B owner/goer, I have to agree with many of the stereotypes. I too have stayed at many B&B’s and found the owners to be overbearing much of the time. Please read on so I can explain:
As much as folks DEMAND the whole song and dance from the hosts, there is a huge contingency that wants privacy and to be left alone. It is up to the innkeeper to be a mind-reader when it comes to this. Of course there are some obv clues, but we may not see these until later on…
1) Is the couple holding hands at the table or sitting side by side? or are they across and looking at you and conversing, ie asking questions?
2) Are they hanging out in the common areas, or in their room, alone?
Just a couple things that are red flags, ie clues for the innkeeper to pick up on.
Now having shared the alone issue, us having kids and no escape ever, Tony and I have gone to B&Bs to be sat down and forced listen to the owners at breakfast. Showing absolutely zero interest in hopes they will just leave us alone.
–This was pre owning a B&B (ad after owning a b&B when we did not want any chit chat at all, and went incognito, the hosts did not “talk shop” with us, but treated us as all their other guests). We wanted privacy and alone time. We choose B&B’s as part of our profession, to see other B&B’s and experience them…now we choose cruising.
A few more reasons I can think of (many innstances these are real reasons):
>There is a stigma that B&B’s are only for romantic getaways
>There is a stigma of being watched, and having all these rules
>There is a stigma of lack of flexibility, ie breakfast times, breakfast foods, etc
>There is a stigma of shared baths
>There is a stigma of being in granny’s house
>There is a stigma of lack of privacy
>There is a stigma of no TV
>There is of lack of information on the area and things to do
Now I ask you, instead of defending YOUR B&B, what have YOU FOUND when you stayed at a B&B? It is always good to examine ourselves with these type articles, thanks Brian!
Thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback! These are very good points.
I can relate to having to be a “mind-reader” sometimes. I deal with a similar challenge when working with clients. It’s up to me to figure out exactly what they want, and taylor the service/product accordingly.
Since I come from the perspective of a guest, after my wife and I have decided we’re seeking a B&B getaway, my first point of concern/hesitation is usually about quality or “will it meet our expectations?”. Since we’ve never been to this particular B&B before, the only info we have to go on are the website photos, guest reviews, etc. So I’m looking to get as much of this info to make an informed decision before booking.
There are probably lots of beautiful and comfortable B&Bs that we passed over, simply because we couldn’t determine beforehand that they’d meet our expectations (their website was lacking info/photos, we couldn’t find any helpful reviews, etc.).
Hope this helps 🙂
I think you can have the best website in the world with awesome photos and customer reviews,but I think if you don’t have a well put together video you are missing out on many customers. This is why on my blog http://www.anybedandbreakfast.com most of the bed and breakfasts listed have a video included.