Branding and Promoting Your Inn
Branding and Promoting Your Inn
“A stay at your inn is a special occasion your guests want to remember”
By David Scyoc of
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!
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:
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
in his gift shop for $7.50 each; his cost is $3.90 including
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
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
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
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
- 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.”
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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Inns for Sale
our B&B in your Inns for Sale section in January and started getting
inquiries a week later. In February, a couple came from Florida to visit us in
Cat Spring, Texas. We made a deal, and they begin officially on April 5 as the new owners. What you are doing
really works." Sunny and John Snyder.
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