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December/January 2006

Branding and Promoting Your Inn

Vendor Spotlight: Branding and Promoting Your Inn
“A stay at your inn is a special occasion your guests want to remember”
By David Scyoc of dnj specialties

A stay at your inn is a special opportunity for your guests to experience an extraordinary getaway, far different from what they would receive at a local chain hotel. Travelers decide to stay at your inn because the words “bed & breakfast” create expectations of warm and gracious hospitality. Using branded mugs, aprons, key chains, and more, you’ll increase the probability that guests will remember your B&B. By giving guests a gift customized with your logo, you can guarantee that they won’t forget your hospitality for years to come. The cost of such a gift is a small investment considering the goodwill created, as well as the opportunity for word-of-mouth advertising.

Word-of-mouth advertising is triggered when a customer experiences something beyond what was expected. For example, create a special anniversary package. Along with the room, you provide a bottle of champagne or sparkling cider, two wine glasses and a corkscrew, both printed with your logo. Your guests take these gifts home when they leave your inn. When the anniversary couple uses their new wine glasses while having dinner with friends, they may tell them about the wonderful weekend they had at your inn; these friends may even reserve your special package for their next anniversary. For less than a $20 investment, you have purchased word-of-mouth advertising that will have far-reaching benefits for years to come.

Get them to remember your name.
Running an inn is a 24/7 proposition; sometimes you work so hard running your B&B that there’s not enough time to promote it. Your inn takes up so much of your waking hours that you can’t imagine that your guests will not remember your B&B’s name. Nevertheless, if you listen to your guests’ breakfast table conversation, you’ll often hear guests describing B&Bs they have enjoyed. Ask for the name of the B&B, and most guests will draw a blank. Don’t let that happen to you!

Branding all appropriate items with your inn’s logo will improve the odds that your guests will remember your name. Do you and your staff wear garments with your logo on them? Do you have items such as ink pens and note pads in the rooms? What about cocktail napkins with your logo, for coffee, tea or wine service? Do you use logo’d mugs at breakfast, and/or for early morning coffee and evening tea?

Increase repeat and referral business.
People are funny; they don’t see improvements at your inn that cost thousands of dollars and weeks of work, but they will notice one tiny detail that pushes the right button to make their stay with you a long-time memory. We stayed a beachside inn that provided logo’d plastic bags for taking home our wet bathing suits after spending the day at the beach. To us, this thoughtful incidental item helped us to remember our stay—and the inn’s name--in a positive light.

Here are some ways innkeepers have used logo products:

  • Run of the River, Leavenworth, WA
    Innkeeper Monte Turner ordered 432 (three gross) of camper mugs in 2005. He puts two mugs in each room alongside the coffee maker, including the ingredients for a mug of hot chocolate. He puts a card in the mugs with a list of things to enjoy while at the inn; No. 1 is having a cup of hot chocolate. Monte says the guests use the mugs, get attached to them, and then purchase a set to take home. He sells the mugs in his gift shop for $7.50 each; his cost is $3.90 includin
    g freight. He nets $518.40 per order, a profit of more than $1,500 last year. He has created a special memory for his guests, and they buy his mugs and provide positive word-of-mouth advertising for him.
  • Queen Victoria Inn, Cape May, NJ 
    Former innkeep
    er Joan Wells first ordered from us at the PAII Conference in Chicago in 2002. Between April and December of 2002, she ordered 432 mugs. When she called in early 2003 to reorder her fourth gross, I asked, “What are you doing, giving these away?” She said yes; upon departure, each guest gets a mug with the Queen Victoria’s logo and contact information. This creates great word-of-mouth advertising for less than $4 for two mugs; guests feel special because they were given a gift and a keepsake of their stay. Mug colors and styles are changed periodically so their many returning guests always get something new.
  • Murphin Ridge Inn, OH
     Innkeeper Darryl McKenney phoned recently to reorder coffee mugs and wine glasses. He suggested that innkeepers use these items when they serve their guests at breakfast or other times. The Murphin Ridge started using the branded items in their restaurant and found that customers who were not staying at the inn purchased the mugs and wine glasses as souvenirs and gifts. This has doubled the amount of items they are selling at the inn.

Logo items become advertisements for your inn, and you are selling your guests memories of their stay with you. Ask yourself these questions:

  • When a prospective guest looks at your inn, what is the image they see?
  • What do you offer that is different from a local chain hotel or another inn?
  • What separates you from your competition?
  • Have you considered providing bath robes, quality soaps, laundry bags and other personalized products in the rooms that will keep your logo image and brand in your guests’ view?

In addition, here are some hints to help you use your logo’d items for the maximum benefit:

  • Make available one or two items that guests will want to purchase.
  • Have staff members wear logo shirts, and keep some on hand for sale. When your guests purchase them, it is an endorsement of the good experience they had at your inn.
  • Use your logos on shirts, robes, aprons, caps, ink pens, notepads, key tags, umbrellas, coasters, napkins, laundry bags, mugs, stemware, corkscrews, Christmas ornaments, etc.
  • Remember this: “Use what you sell, and sell what you use.”


Gift Shop Pros and Cons

An inn gift shop is an ideal spot for selling your branded items. Before opening, consider the pros and cons. Advantages include increased income, expanded branding, and a draw for new and returning guests. On the other hand, remember you’ll need to find space, invest in inventory, and keep track of income and expenses. Here are some great suggestions from innkeeper Debbie Reynolds of the Rocky Mountain Lodge & Cabins.

  • Select the items you’ll carry. T-shirts, mugs, robes, hats, candies, bath amenities, and locally made crafts and edibles are all good ideas. Offer samples, especially for foods, lotions, etc.
  • Determine how much space you’ll need. Display gifts at eye level; don’t clutter the area with too many items crammed together. A gift shop doesn’t require a separate room. Many innkeepers run successful gift corners from a cupboard or bookcase.
  • Start small. Stock just a few items until you learn which sell best. Order wholesale using your sales tax license.
  • Get a current and valid state sales tax license. You’ll need to pay the sales tax you collect on a regular basis.
  • Build in a profit. The general rule of thumb is to double your cost, then add 50 percent. Use common sense – what would you pay for that item? Consider a smaller markup on items that advertise your inn (like coffee mugs) than ones that don’t (like locally made jewelry). You may have to adjust prices initially until you find a good balance.


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