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Seven ways to boost your B&B

b&b

1. Identify your unique selling proposition

It's vital to set yourself apart from the competition and decide what makes your B&B unique.

Perhaps you have a particularly huge lobby. If you make sure you're well stocked on a daily basis with the latest newspapers and perhaps install a few computers - certainly at least get yourself a WiFi connection - then you'll be well equipped to stock the business segment of the market.

Or say you're a seafront B&B, a USP strengthened by harnessing the local food, which probably means having fresh fish on the menu.

2. Know your typical customer

As with any business it's important to identify your target market. Sometimes there's a fine line to tread when focusing overmuch on a narrow segment, especially if you target tourists and the tourism season is relatively brief, and spreading yourself thin and trying to be everything to everyone.

Consider who your typical customer is and have this person in mind when you're setting up, marketing and operating your B&B. For example, a younger audience will appreciate music in the bar, retirees a more tranquil setting.

It's difficult to overemphasise the importance of a smiling, friendly face upon arrival and departure

The demographics of your target market will reflect and inform the interior decor too.

If you've gambled and bought a struggling business, perhaps the previous owners were targeting the wrong people, in which case you need to do your market research to identify an underserved market. Then you must adjust the decor, prices, etc to tap into this segment.

3.    First impressions

It's difficult to overemphasise the importance of a smiling, friendly face upon arrival and departure, so never let a bad mood reveal itself to the customer and be sure to hire only amiable staff. It really can make the difference between getting word-of-mouth referrals and positive online customer reviews or not.

First - and indeed last - impressions are fundamental in the hospitality sector, so make every guest feel welcome. Make a good impression and your customers will return, or indeed recommend you to a friend.

Some guest may have had a long journey, so why not offer them a drink on their arrival. Perhaps even on the house - a single freebie can help bring in referred custom.

Small things can make the difference. Ambient lighting, fresh flowers in the lobby, and so on. This type of attention to detail will make the world of difference.

4. Be flexible

You need structure and time frames such as check out times, breakfast serving times, and some B&Bs may even have a curfew.

However, don't be too rigid. If a guest requests to check out slightly later for a valid reason, try and accommodate this request. Guests leaving an hour late will hardly damage your revenues, but it will strengthen your reputation with the guest and any acquaintances they happen to tell.

5. Customer feedback

Social media and customer review sites such as TripAdvisor are having a strong impact on the hospitality industry. In days gone by unhappy customers might send in a complaint letter to the B&B or the local press; now they can inflict real damage to your reputation by detailing their unpleasant experience online.

Don't dismiss any complaints as moaning from people with unrealistic expectations. Even if it's a single complaint among a sea of praise, it's still worth considering if you can improve performance to prevent similar complaints in future.

On the flip side, positive reviews obviously generate custom for you. Not everyone with leave a review of course, but the stronger their feelings, whether positive or negative, the more compelled they'll be to register their impressions of your B&B or guest house.

Make customers aware of review sites such as TripAdvisor - unless of course they seem displeased with their boardings, in which case it's better to find out in person. You might even give them a discount if their complaints are well founded.

6. Develop an online presence

A huge percentage of reservations are now made online, and while many will be booked through independent booking sites, it's nevertheless invaluable to have your own website expounding the virtues of your offering, complete with professionally done photos, a list of your rates, menu if you serve food, and a booking system.

Try and give your website personality. Explain the history of the B&B and the origins of the building. Describe the surrounding area and its attractions and sights.

Harness social media like Facebook and Twitter, perhaps keeping a blog.

While you will most likely outsource construction of your website, you should understand how to update and manage it yourself, so you can add last-minute promotions and change room rates without always resorting to a web developer.

7. Be passionate

Ultimately, you must be passionate about running a B&B. Create a rapport with your guests and build up relationships with other businesses in the area.

Restaurants and cafes will want you to recommend them to guests, but make sure you get something in return, ie, referrals to your B&B!

A B&B, in contrast to a hotel, is smaller and should have an almost homely feel. A friendly, enthusiastic, house-proud owner, then, is a must, to keep the place looking inviting and the atmosphere convivial and pleasant.

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