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March 2005

Recipe for Effective Packaging

Marti Mayne

 

Sandy Soule

Take one lovely B&B, and blend in an area event or attraction.  Add two nights lodging, plenty of romance and tasty meals. Stir in all degrees of enthusiasm, and you’ve got a winning recipe for a package.  Forget the key ingredients, and you’ll get half-baked results. 

As an innkeeper, you know how to make the enticing breakfasts that are a key part of the B&B experience. You select your ingredients with care, follow favorite recipes, then present the delectable results, beautifully plated on a carefully laid table, so that the meal looks as good as it tastes.  The result?  Guests not only enjoy the moment, but savor the experience as a memorable part of their stay at your B&B.

Imagine, for a moment, that instead of following your usual approach, you piled the flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and fruit on the table, then said to your guests, “Enjoy your breakfast!”  What do you think the response would be?

Unfortunately, many innkeepers follow the second approach when it comes to packaging.  Instead of creating a tempting experience to attract both the media and future guests, they merely list the ingredients of the package, leaving others to complete the recipe.

What are the Goals?

Just as a breakfast of eggs and bacon has a different purpose than a five-course gourmet dinner, you’ll have different priorities when setting up your packages.  Four goals of packaging are to:

1.       Invite media attention

2.       Attract and extend overnight stays

3.       Enhance revenue and guest experiences

4.       Set you apart from the competition and add value

BedandBreakfast.com’s publicity program facilitates this process. We email Publicity Leads to alert you to upcoming media opportunities, and use your responses to write the press releases we send to the story-hungry media.  Successful responses offer the ideal recipe for a great package, while others fall short, missing key ingredients.  Let’s examine some of the important principles of packaging, to help you create enticing packages to lure both the media and guests to your inn.

Include the Basic Ingredients

Use activity-filled packages to increase your average length of stay from one night to several.  Packages add value to a stay at your B&B, setting you apart from hotels, motels, and even other area B&Bs.  Key ingredients to great packages are:

  • A two or three-night stay: Midweek is okay, but weekend packages bring the best returns. Extending a weekend stay to include a Thursday and/or Sunday night works well.

  • Breakfast each morning: You offer it anyway, so be sure to include it in your package descriptions as added value.

  • Dinner at your own or a local restaurant: A wonderful evening meal is a key part of a successful getaway.

  • Interesting activities: Take advantage of local workshops, special events, and nearby natural or manmade attractions.  Build a package around your hobbies – quilting, photography, cooking, gardening, golf, fishing, hiking, food, etc.  Or create a wonderful itinerary with a self-guided tour of local covered bridges, waterfalls, wineries, historic sites, etc. Inn-to-inn holiday, garden, and progressive teas also make great packages.

  • Include a gift: If your package includes a lighthouse tour, include a book about area lighthouses.  If it’s a cooking class, give guests an apron with your logo and your cookbook.

  • Price that works for you:  You don’t have to discount your package. Depending on the season, some innkeepers actually add a small charge to cover the time they’ve taken to create the package. Be sure that your expenses are covered adequately, and then price the package for the marketplace.   

  • Make it easy to fulfill:  Create “packages to go”, putting the maps, gifts, tickets and/or vouchers and other components of the package into a small basket. When get a reservation, your package components are  ready and waiting.

 

Pass the “So What?” Test

An invitation to stay at your B&B and view its lovely gardens does not a garden package make. The media will not see that as a story, and B&B travelers won’t see it as a unique opportunity. Sample packages that pique the interest of both the media and potential guests include:

  • Llama excursions to view rushing waterfalls.

  • The “Get Over Him” package with a voodoo doll and a pint of premium ice cream.

  • “Get out of the doghouse” package with chocolates, flowers, Champagne, massage, etc.

  • A Cinderella Tea, with entertainment by the actors of a local music theater company.

  • Grilling classes, followed by a dinner of just-grilled meats, plus a take-home gift of a side of beef from a farm-based inn.

 

Make It Easy for the Media

Succinct, complete responses will produce the best results for reporters on tight deadlines:  Let’s say you are asked about fall packages. Compare these responses:

  • Poor response: Maple Mansion is a great place to come in the fall.  There’s plenty of great shopping, fall foliage, and even a covered bridge.   Visit our website for details.
  • Good response:  Maple Mansion, in Smithville, NH, has the ideal package for seniors seeking a September Sojourn, including a two-night stay in a king-bedded room, breakfast for two each morning, a detailed map to enjoy a self-guided tour of local covered bridges, and plenty of coupons for the nearby outlets, all for $300 double occupancy, plus tax.  Info:  www.maplemansion.com, 888-321-1234.

 

When responding to each and every inquiry, include your name and complete signature file. For the media, indicate the availability of high-resolution print-quality photos, and an invitation to visit your inn, and stay as your guest, Last but not least, don’t forget to add complete package details to your website..   

 

Promote! Promote! Promote!

Step 1:  Feature your packages and specials on your website: Add your packages to your specials page, and place a prominent link on your home page. We suggest an eye-catching box with a nice photo to draw the eye, plus enticing copy to encourage the potential guest to click through for more information.

Step 2:  Feature your packages and specials on BedandBreakfast.com: Add your packages to the Specials Page on BedandBreakfast.com and all the other directories to which you subscribe.  To add your Special log in to your Home Base with your password & property ID, then click on Specials under Free Member Benefits, then click Add A New Special.

Step 3: Respond to BedandBreakfast.com Publicity Leads: Watch your emails for our periodic publicity leads, then respond with the specific information requested by the deadline stated.

Step 4: Use every tool available to communicate your packages to your guests:

  • Feature your packages in your newsletters and/or email communications to your guests.

  • Create flyers for guest rooms – don’t forget to cross-promote seasons.  An enticing fall package presented during a spring visit may encourage guests to book a return visit before departure.

  • Create eye-catching postcards with your packages and send to guests within a two- three hour drive of your inn.

  • Add your current special package to your email signature.

  • Use specials to upsell. Be sure to mention your romance package (wine/chocolates/roses) when you take a reservation on the phone or your website, and include it on every confirmation letter.

  • Send press releases to local and regional newspapers, television stations, radios and more.  Offer to serve as an expert for special-interest packages.  Allow ample time for long-lead publications.

 

Step 5: Remember that packaging is as much about branding as bookings. Sometimes a package will capture the media’s attention, putting your inn’s name in front of thousands of readers/viewers/listeners, yet not result in a significant number of reservations.  That’s OK.  The publicity value alone makes it worth the effort.

The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), state tourism offices, and regional CVB’s all agree: packaging is a travel trend that’s here to stay.  Many innkeepers find their package pages are visited more often than any other inside page of their website. 

Follow our recipe for successful packaging and cook up a year-long schedule for your inn, then promote them year-round.  Good luck!

 

 

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