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October 2007

The New Math: Reviews = Reservations

Web 1.0: About a dozen years ago, savvy innkeepers realized that the way to market their properties was through the Internet. They launched their own websites and marketed them through directories like BedandBreakfast.com. The Internet leveled the playing field, so that innkeepers could promote their properties without huge ad budgets or waiting years for guidebooks to be published. “Early adopter” innkeepers had a well-established presence on the Internet while big hotel operators assumed that their call centers and agency networks would continue to generate reservations. “Late adopter” innkeepers tended to resist all things computer, slow to comprehend the link between a potential guest’s computer and their 19th century inn. Savvy or not, all these Web 1.0 sites were basically electronic brochures. Content was provided by suppliers and read by potential guests. Information traveled a one-way street.

Web 2.0: Fast forward to 2007 and Web 2.0. Innkeepers report getting 80%-90% of their reservations via the Internet; not surprisingly, it’s nearly impossible to function as an innkeeper without computer skills. Web 2.0 is a two-way street, where content from suppliers is complemented or even replaced by content from consumers. A PhoCusWright study indicates that $4 out of every $10 spent online is being spent on travel, and in 2007 there will be $198 billion dollars spent online. Reviews (also known as Consumer Generated Content, or CGC) have a huge effect on how those billions are spent. About a third of American travelers who research trips online read reviews written by fellow travelers, according to Forrester Research. Of those who book lodging online, a third have changed plans based on other travelers' comments. A new survey by online market researchers Compete, Inc., shows that 56% of respondents consider "consumer-generated content" to be credible, vs. 36% who trust descriptions created by a hotel or other travel supplier. The study also found that CGC already influences $10 billion a year in online travel bookings; more than 66% of travelers surveyed said they consider this content more credible than reviews from either professionals or suppliers.

Bottom line? Reviews are the best marketing tool for innkeepers since the inception of the Internet.

Fortunately, the personal nature of the B&B experience makes it relatively easy to encourage guests to post reviews; below are the recommendations from some of the winners of the Best of BedandBreakfast.com Awards. Over half of BedandBreakfast.com members have at least one review posted, but that leaves a significant number that have none at all. Our statistics are showing that properties with reviews are getting two to three times more traffic than comparable properties without reviews.

Reviews can also boost your web presence on Google, as is illustrated below or by clicking here.


Tools to help you get reviews: BedandBreakfast.com members can log in to their Home Base, click Reviews then click Links, Awards and Review Reminders. There you’ll find complete information on adding badges to your website, ordering free business cards and postage-paid reply cards from us, and even sample emails to send your guests. Contact Support@BedandBreakfast.com or call 800-GO-B-AND-B for assistance. Also accessible from the Reviews section of your Home Base are two helpful articles, When bad reviews happen to good inns and Proactively prevent complaints.
 

Review badges  
Business card-sized review reminder
Postage-paid review postcard


Words from our Winners: Here’s some great advice from some of the winners of the Best of BedandBreakfast.com Awards:

  1. Ask enthusiastic guests to post reviews.
  2. Ask guests if they enjoyed their stay, and how the experience could be improved.
  3. Remember that many will promise to write a review, but few will actually do so; so ask often.
  4. Distribute business cards or postcards while guests are at your inn. Be sure to add your inn’s name!
  5. Follow-up with a thank you email linking to your review page on BedandBreakfast.com.

 

  • “When I put my thank-you notes on our early morning coffee trays, I often add the business card-sized reminders or the review postcard. I tell our guests that if they'd like to review us online, BedandBreakfast.com pulls one reviewer's name each week for a BIG cash prize. After guests check out, I send email or hard copy thank-you notes, and remind guests how they can send a review to BedandBreakfast.com. Our guests like us and will do anything we ask … innkeepers just need to ask. In my first life as a banker, we were taught to ‘ask for the business.’ I see this as an extension of that banking lesson. I think reviews make for better inns. Even criticism can be a gift.” Sue and Ron Westenhaver, The Inn at Harbour Ridge, Osage Beach, MO
     
  • “The key words are opportunity and pro-action. Our best success has been to use the BedandBreakfast.com cards. The chance to win a free gift certificate can be a powerful incentive. ‘How did you enjoy your stay?’ is the opener, and when they rave, we thank them and say, ‘Why not reward yourself with a $250 gift certificate? Here are the details.’ We agree that guests who have had a ‘bad’ experience will never tell you face to face. But you can tell by body language and their response to your question whether they had a great time or just a fair one. We go after the ‘fair time’ experiences (thankfully very few) and try to turn them around before they leave. By the way, the ‘opportunity window’ is the night or afternoon before departure, not at check-out the next day. Be absolutely sure to write, label or stamp the name of your inn on the back of the card. Many guests just don't remember the name of the place they stayed and you need to help them out. Our philosophy: Human nature and pressing life challenges result in a high percentage of guests who will never write a review. Only the ones with a major gripe do so without a reminder. But a select few are so enthusiastic about their experience (again, you can tell by their response), that they are willing to tell all their friends; the concept of a bonus or winning something seems to be just enough fuel to keep their engine running until they get home. A card that you personally handed to them makes the ‘assignment’ easy.” Joe & Bebe Rabhan, Avenue Inn Bed and Breakfast, New Orleans, LA
     
  • “If you love your guests, they will love you back and will say ‘I want to tell the world about you.’ Then I say, ‘Write a review on BedandBreakfast.com and you will!’ Other times, when I feel that guests are very happy with their experience here, I suggest that they write a review, and surprisingly they, often do.” June Leonard, Halcyon Farm Bed & Breakfast, Amsterdam, NY
     
  • “Before guests leave the table after Sunday breakfast, I tell them a little about the inn and ask them to let us know if there was anything we could have done to make their visit more enjoyable. Then I talk about the increasing importance of reviews within the industry. As soon as I mention TripAdvisor and BedandBreakfast.com, heads start to nod in recognition. I mention that I will be sending them a link to these sites, asking them to post reviews. Two days later, I send the thank you emails with the links, and encourage them once more to post a review. We count ourselves lucky if we get 10% of our guests to post a review. Everyone promises to post a review, but out of sight, out of mind. Fortunately, there are those good souls who do post reviews.” Tom & Anita Potts, South Court Inn, Luray, VA
     
  • “When the guests check out we talk to them about their stay and ask if there was anything that we could improve on for that room. Then we ask them in person and via follow-up email to post a review on BedandBreakfast.com. We appreciate all comments from our guests; we love the good ones, but even the bad ones make us step back and re-evaluate what went wrong or whether the guests were impossible to please. There is always room for improvement!” Mitzi McGhee, The Empress of Little Rock, Little Rock, AR
     
  • “For us, it has always been about connecting. The beauty of a B&B is that it's smaller and more intimate than a hotel. Many of our guests are first-time inngoers, amazed at the personal attention and service they receive. When they're checking out and telling us what a wonderful time they've had, we simply ask them if they'd be willing to do us a big favor. Most folks love to help. So we ask them to post a review, and--here's the key--we tell them we'll email them the link. Writing things on a business card is nice, but it's easy for that card to get lost or packed away when the guest gets back home. A short thank-you note in their email box, reiterating our conversation and including the links, works wonders. It's important to note that only one out of every 20 or so people actually posts a review. We think of this as part of our "tour"-- every guest gets a tour of the house when they arrive, and every happy guest gets a "tour" of our review request procedure when they check out!” Russ Herschelmann, Napa Old World Inn, Napa, CA
     
  • “If you want reviews, ask! Provide the most open and accommodating service, and ask again. About 90% will not leave a review, but the 10% who do adds up. If you don't ask, don't expect anyone to write a review, unless they are really unhappy.” Jeremy Archer, Sugar Hill Harlem Inn, Manhattan, NY
     
  • “I keep the BedandBreakfast.com postcards at my check-in desk. I give the guests a card and ask them to please fill it out. Since the cards have postage on them, it is easy for them. When I forget to mention the cards, I take one to the room when I clean and prop it on the table.” Chloe Tuttle, Big Mill B&B, Williamston, NC
     
  • “I put business cards on the nightstands in each guestroom; about 80%-90% of the guests take them home. In one of my recent quarterly email newsletters, I included a link to our listing on BedandBreakfast.com and wrote about the opportunity for guests to review us. I told them that it gives us a chance to be named one of the best B&Bs in the USA, and I mentioned the gift certificate drawing. Almost instantly we started seeing reviews pop up. We also put the review button on the bottom of our homepage.” Carol Steffey, Garden Gate Get-A-Way Bed & Breakfast, Millersburg, OH
     
  • "It is easy to ask your guests to post reviews if you are confident in the services you provide, and understand that not everyone will respond. About one in 10 leaves a review, but it's worth the little effort it takes. To encourage reviews, we bought business card paper stock, then printed them with the information from BedandBreakfast.com about winning a $250 Gift Certificate if you submitted a review, and added our name and the URL of our review page on BedandBreakfast.com. We place the cards in guest rooms and have them available in our check-in area." Shannon McKeeth, Bingham Hall Bed and Breakfast, New Ulm, MN
     
  • “We send a personalized thank-you email with a link to our BedandBreakfast.com guest review page; we indicate that we are thankful for their business and hope they will return soon. For those without an email address, we enclose the business card supplied by BedandBreakfast.com in the envelope we give them with their invoice. The best way to get guests to post a review is to make sure that they have had the BEST B&B experience you can possibly offer them, so they will be pleased to post a review about their stay. It starts at the front door and really never ends!” Barry & Sandy Miller, Terra Nova House B&B, Grove City, PA
     
  • “We send an email to all guests about four days after they leave us, thanking them for staying with us, and asking them to post reviews, with a link in the email to do so. We also encourage guests to do this when they are checking out, but having the link in the follow-up email has increased the number of reviews significantly.” Peter & Susan MacLaren, West Hill House Bed and Breakfast, Warren, VT
     
  • “We prefer to use the small business-size review cards that can be given to guests when they leave the inn. You have to personally ‘hit’ the clients with a review request as they leave. If we get a good review (which we thankfully seem to!) we try and fathom who posted it and follow up with a personal thank-you email.” Dora, David and Stanley, Woodstocker Inn, Woodstock, VT
     
  • "We leave a note in our room books with information on where to post reviews if guests were pleased with their stay. We usually include a reminder in our newsletter if a deadline is approaching." Rhonda Hicks, Mountain Thyme Bed & Breakfast Inn, Jessieville, AR
     
  • "When a guest mentions that they saw good reviews about our B&B, I sometimes ask them if they would also like to share their experience on one of these websites. The cards that give guests a chance to win a free night at a B&B are very persuasive.” Amy Bobrick, The Bobcat Inn, Santa Fe, NM


Remember, reviews are the best marketing tool for innkeepers since the inception of the Internet. They will help you get more reservations and will help your inn to become the best it can be.

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Click here to see upcoming Intensives and more information.
 

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What’s better than three month’s free membership? How about six months? Or a whole year? Refer fellow innkeepers to BedandBreakfast.com, and if they join at the Silver level or above, your membership will be extended by three months for each B&B that signs up. If four B&Bs sign up, your membership is free for a year!  For details, log in to your Home Base and click Referral Program under Free Member Benefits, or call 800-GO-B-AND-B (800-462-2632).
 

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The BedandBreakfast.com Gift Card Reseller Program is here! Click here for details. If you'd like to receive a free reseller kit, contact us at 800-462-2632 or Support@BedandBreakfast.com.
 

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