Small businesses in the Hospitality Industry, such as Guesthouses and B&B’s, do not have the rollout budgets of Hotels and can get lost in the myriad of other establishments in the vast world of the Internet, like a lonely star in the galaxy. So what to do? With none or such a small budget, how do I get my business noticed?
These difficult times and the seasonal nature of any Guesthouse and B&B (Hotels too for that matter) is enough concern for any entrepreneur, and forces them to become extremely creative when it comes to promoting their business.
The traditional ways of marketing products, like placing advertisements in printed magazines and newspapers is not top of the list for companies with a small budget; their small ad would get lost in the multitude of others, or the circulation is too small, or advertising in a daily newspaper is too costly, etc. so, today, we are going to have a look at some creative and different ways we can promote our establishments, for free or with very little outlay.
- Free Classifieds: There are numerous businesses online these days offering free classified adverts. If you type “free classifieds” in Google search or another Search Engine, you will see them pop up for your local area and abroad. Although, I have to admit that after a few days, or even less sometimes, your advert drops down a page or more as other posts get added to the category in which you placed yours. However, they do still get noticed – and the more places your company name appears, the more credible your business. On some sites like Gumtree, you can opt to pay a small fee to keep your listing prominent for a limited time.
- Free Listings: Guesthouses and B&B’s are represented on many web portals offering booking services. (Google keywords like “accommodation”, “B&B”, or “Guesthouse” and your area or country and see how many come up). Some of these request a yearly fee but don’t take a commission on any bookings. Others offer free listings but take a commission on confirmed reservations, although they handle the bookings for you. When you are on a tight budget it is useful to take this option as you only pay when you actually have a reservation. There are also websites offering a free listing, with no commission, providing that you display their logo on your website.
- Articles: You can submit articles – NOT adverts, (most platforms would not accept a blatent promotional piece on your company alone – unless of course it had won an award and had been featured in an editorial somewhere else, whereby one could post this). Articles can be submitted to many online magazines, e-zines and blogs online. Choose a website pertaining to Tourism, such as Tripadvisor.
- Newsletters & Blogs: Create a monthly Newsletter to email to your existing clients, telling them about the up and coming events in your area, interesting news, new wines or other information you can research on the Internet or your city Tourist Office. You could create a blog doing the same thing. You can get a free blog on Blogger or on WordPress (which I use and can highly recommend), where you can share this information with millions of potential viewers by clicking on the Twitter, Facebook, Google, Reddit, Linkedin, Stumbleupon and other sites share buttons and ‘pinging’ your posts. By doing this you expand your reach to a far wider audience for your blog and this also brings a lot more traffic to your company website too as a result when you start to build a following.
- Create a Special: Everyone is looking for where they can save money. To advertise a special offer is a good way of attracting customers. Companies like Groupon or City Slickers (in South Africa) promote these specials for you, or else you can put a signboard outside your own establishment, free online adverts, email your existing clientele informing them of your discounts and update this information on all the portals where you are already listed.
- Create a Package: What is unique about your position? Is it close to tourist attractions, or are there services offered nearby for adventure, golf, bird watching, etc? You could create a package where you offer the accommodation, one or more of these activities and a meal at a Restaurant, (which you can negotiate with the owner in return for bringing the custom) or a meal prepared by your Guesthouse if you have a chef . You can also offer a specific holiday with a difference if you have, or know a person with a particular skill, and able to impart like teaching guests to dance or cook or paint or surf etc.
- Social Networking: We meet people we never would have through places like Twitter and Linked-in and it is well worth the effort of joining and extending your presence online. Facebook of course is indispensable in business these days and it is recommended to create a business page as well as your own personal one. People you went to school with and haven’t seen since may very well be visiting your area and choose to support your business instead of going somewhere else. Word of Mouth is the best advertising any business can get and is absolutely gratis!
- Adwords: Google offer an advertising service where you set the amount you pay per click according to your advertising campaign budget. You’ll find this at the top of the Google home page or if you type the word “Adwords” keyword into your search.
- Facebook paid adverts: You can also pay for an advert to run on the sidebar on Facebook. This reaches a very large audience and is well worth the money. Statistics show that companies have a recorded a 23% increase in sales in the first month of taking out such an advertisement.
I am sure there are many other ways – one just has to get creative, think out of the box and do some research for what’s available, but the objective is to save as much money as possible to keep afloat until the summer months or when the economy improves.