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Contact South West Web Marketing 10 Repeat Booking Tips For Your Bed and Breakfast

10 Repeat Booking Tips for Bed and Breakfast Marketing

1 First impressions count.

What can you do to make guests feel they are welcome and special the moment they arrive?

Make them feel expected and welcome from the moment they set sight upon your property.

Create an electronic copy of your House Directory. Guests rarely have time to read this fully once they arrive: they are too busy trying to holiday! E-mail it to guests a week before they arrive. It raises a guest’s excitement – and reassures them that they won’t have problems finding their way around a strange house.

Put in a section written for children if this is relevant – they will love it and become a part of your future sales team. It will also benefit you, reducing late night calls from guests unable to find/work something because they haven’t read the directory when they arrived, and then never got round to it. Being able to work things properly also means less wear and tear on electrical goods and central heating systems.

Re-send the map or directions e-mail a few days before their departure. About 30% of guests seem to mislay it, and it looks as if you really are caring for them. If you’re really on the ball, you can add in details of any road works they are likely to encounter and suggest an alternative route.

If you want to really impress - maybe Aerial Photography of your accommodation or attraction! Imagine your visitors being able to see aerial views of your business and the surrounding areas.

Leave suitable internal / external lights on if guests are likely to arrive after dark. No one likes fumbling around for light switches in the dark in a strange house. Use solar powered lights for steps and garden paths. As well as looking pretty, they to highlight the way to the main entrance – not always obvious in the dark.

Do the gardening – especially around the area that guests will use when arriving. What kind of impression are guests getting if their first impression is influenced by weeds and dead plants as they walk up the drive?
If you can’t be there to greet them, leave a nice handwritten note on your headed or very nice quality notepaper somewhere prominent.

Provide a welcome pack. After a long drive, a nice cake, wine, chocolates, tea etc. look like manna from heaven. Things like this also reduce the likelihood of complaints.

2 Be honest and accurate

Being open and honest from the very beginning establishes the foundations of your future relationship with the guests – and their relationship with the property. You’re selling something that you want people to enjoy. You are also creating an aspiration it is your responsibility to fulfill.

Do photos on your website (and on your listings on other marketing sites) portray your property accurately?
We are all underwhelmed by out of date notice boards. So, regularly take a look at your website to make sure the information is correct, up-to-date and all the links work (in case other people may have re-built their sites). Provide what your guests expect you to, and only promise what you know you can deliver.

If your photos are 3 years old and everything isn't quite as new and shiny as it once was, it is better to update them than to provide misleading information to your guests.

Ideally, the first impression created when your guests arrive should exceed the expectation that has been building up during their journey. If you don’t do this, the first impression created is that you’re not entirely honest – a perception that will make them less likely to return. Also – expect more complaints while your guests are in residence as guests try to make your property look and feel like they thought it would when they booked.

If guests turn to the person who made the booking and congratulate them on their choice – you’re well on the way to another repeat booking. If your cottage is what your marketing says it is (and a little more), your reputation will soar.

3 Say thanks for coming

People like to go places where they are made to feel special.

Make it clear that you’ve (or your cottage) enjoyed their presence. If you can’t do it in person, don’t worry. We (or in this case, you), can always e-mail guests on the day after their departure to thank them and also use it as an opportunity to collect feedback. It's nice for guests to come home to a positive e-mail.

If you can, do it in person. Popping in to see them the night before they depart with a bag of sweets for the journey home can work wonders –and also enable you to get some good feedback. Talking to them about what they did and what they enjoyed will give you useful information to use when e-mailing them later in the year with reasons to return.

Make sure your housekeeper is briefed to make a happy fuss of them if she (he) arrives before your guests depart.

When writing, make sure you use their names. It’s always good if you can throw in a reference to the children as well.  For example, “Tell Sally that the horses in the field are missing her and send their love”.

If they’ve left a nice testimonial, as well as saying thanks, ask permission to use it (people like to see their words in print!).

4 Make it clear they will always be welcome back

A booking need not finish when your guests leave the house. As well as saying thank you to guests, you can also:

Thank them for the generous comments they left in the Visitors’ Book and tell them how much we all look forward to seeing them again. Say you hope they had a good journey home. If they say they didn’t, you can even suggest an alternative route known only to locals for 'next time they come’. Invite feedback  - what could make their holiday even better next time?  If you can act on their suggestions – we write to tell them and, if appropriate, enclose a photo showing whatever you have done. That way they’ll think you’ve done it for them!

Don’t forget to pay special attention to those who write ‘We’ll be back’ in the Visitors’ Book. They can go on your Christmas card list.

If you don’t invite them back: In the vacuum created by your silence they’ll find somewhere else to go instead.

5 Incentives and the best way to offer them.. don’t beg

Offer them a repeat booking discount – you can vary this. For example:

* 10% if they call within the next month to make another booking.
* 5% if they book at least 2 months ahead.

It’s not just what you offer – it is how and when you offer it. Make it personal – as if it is a special favour to them – “We enjoyed your presence so much we’d like to offer you a discount if you come back.” That way it’s not seen as something you give to everyone. Just send them a postcard or an e-mail with a personal message… it’s easy!

Why give money off for weeks you know you could rent at full price?

Well, if you can fill all your peak weeks by early January through repeat bookings, you’ve got a nice amount of time to invest in getting bookings at more difficult times. There’s another reason for getting bookings in well ahead of time. The Sheep factor: Lots of bookings on calendars is very persuasive and encourages more bookings at other times. People assume your place must be good if everyone else is booking it!

Don’t forget to use opportunities to tempt them back at different times of the year. Is there a festival they might enjoy or would they like to go on a list for last minute short breaks?

6 A complaint is an opportunity

Some complaints are genuine. Things can go wrong, stop working or just break through no fault of yours. Guests accept this. What they don’t accept is a lack of interest in your part in sorting out the problem. However, if you respond to it straight away, it’ll give guests confidence in you. They’ll know that if anything should go wrong it will always be sorted straight away with a smile.

For all cottages keep a list of emergency fixers that know that particular cottage: plumbers, electricians offering a 24-hour instant response facility. If you get a call get straight on the phone and have someone coming to fix the place within minutes.

People will come to you if they know that when anything goes wrong, you will put it right, and drop by with a box of chocolates or wine afterwards. What’s more, they will tell their friends about how good you were rather than moan about the problem!

7 Use Social Media

Allow guests to upload photos of them having a good time at your place. A good way to keep in touch. Be careful about hard selling. People won’t follow you, or check your Facebook page if all you’re offering is an endless diet of special offers.  Post photos of the first primroses, the bluebell woods, the new curtains, the garden in high summer etc. Invite photos from guests that show them having a good time in local attractions or on the beach etc. Ask questions or seek feedback, “We’re thinking of…

Don’t try to do everything. Social media works if you regularly update your page. So, if you’re busy, just have a blog. If you choose to have a blog, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter accounts (as we do)  – then, like us, you’re going to be very busy every day keeping them fresh!

8 Respond to postings on Social Media

An important part of any social media relationship is to reply to any comments left by visitors to your pages. Reply to postings. Re-tweet Twitter messages.

Don’t pick fights – nobody wins. Ignore trolls (people who post abusive messages) – they thrive off responses.
Including a question in your response can help to extend the thread – and you get some useful information.
Look for opportunities to direct them to your website and your other social media sites which you keep up to date.

Without having to do any hard selling, hopefully the conversation will end in another booking. Create a perception of yourself as a caring, trustworthy, knowledgeable and helpful owner, and people will apply these attributes to your cottage.

9 The personal touch

As well as a hand written card from you to greet guests, other ideas to consider are:

* Fresh flowers (your note can say “These are for you”.) Great if you can pick them from the garden. Go for fragrance if possible – first impressions!
* A bottle of wine and don’t forget the clean glasses – and make sure they are not plastic.
* Spelling a personalised welcome message in fridge magnets to greet young children in the party. (Get them on your side and they’ll be persuading their parents they want to come back.)
* If its winter and you know what time your guests are due to arrive, at least make sure the heating is timed to come on in time to warm the place up. Experiencing a wave of warmth as you cross the threshold is wonderfully reassuring.
* If you have a wood burner or an open fire, have a fire laid or, ideally, alight.

10 Loo rolls, light bulbs and the cobweb brush

All toilet rolls should be brand new when guests arrive. A half-used loo roll reminds guests that someone else has been there before you. Take half-used ones home (or let your cleaner have them). This is also something you should remember when taking photographs of your bathrooms and that the room is clean.

The most common causes of a request for a refund that we receive are: light bulbs not working and the presence of cobwebs. Cottages breed cobwebs. Keep a good, long-handled cobweb brush in your cottage and include a cobweb sweep within your cleaning routine and ensure a bulb check is part of your cleaning routine.

For guests visiting you in spring, impress them with a floral display of spring flowers – snowdrops, daffodils, primroses, bluebells etc. That way, whenever they think of spring, they’ll think of your property. Hopefully the desire to see your spring flowers again will be overwhelming!

Wonky handles: nothing says ‘You’ve just booked a tired clapped out cottage’ to guest’s more than encountering wonky handles on cupboards and doors. People may not complain about them, but they’ll certainly create a subliminal impression which will take effect when considering whether to return to you or one of your competitors. They are quite simple to fix, so keep them all ship shape.

All this helps to create a good first impression. You can either spend time preventing a complaint or dealing with it! We go for the one that offers the better outcome.

Want some more Tourism Marketing tips? Give us a call to discuss 07957 214474