The Smart Innkeepers Guide to Making Social Media Content Planning Manageable

Calendar Planner Planning Organizer Note ConceptAbout 4 years ago I had written a blog post about Planning Ahead for Your Bed and Breakfast Promotions and this ties into the new calendar I’ve put together (below) and your content scheduling, or you can adapt or just use one format or another. Here is the online spreadsheet from that post (don’t forget you can download it and it does have multiple tabs). Tips on downloading or copying if needed near the bottom of the post.

At the beginning of this year with Covid hitting and B&Bs being closed or having a limited business, the big question was what to post, so I had designed this campaign with posting ideas https://betterwaytostay.com/campaign/. And the idea can still be used at any time.

I’ve had several questions from friends and other B&Bs if I was going to do the annual National and other Days of interest list that I do once a year compiled from a bunch of sources around the web. Since I had just finished next year’s calendar I am happy to share, but I also added some other tips (in the additional documents in the post) that might make posting and figuring out when to post for specials and other events (like Holidays) a bit clearer and hopefully easier. 

It’s much easier to take about an hour at the beginning of the year, if not before, and develop at least a rough outline for your content calendar for the year and add to it (or subtract) as needed. Here are some content calendar ideas that I hope will help you start to develop a content calendar. The National Days is just a starter and I know every marketer under the sun pushes it, but it is admittedly a great “starting” point. I spent about 4 hours collating National, International Days and other Days of interest including as many food ones as I could find. This might be useful for restaurants as well looking for a few ideas to post. If you know of any I missed please let me know and I’ll add them in.

National and More Days for B&Bs (with some specific days as prompts)

National and More Days for B&Bs (no selections/prompts) 

Calendar Example for a B&B. This is an example of a property going through the list and leaving the ones they might be interested in using for potential posts or blog or video posts. It doesn’t mean a property will do them, it just means a property found something interesting in the list, something that speaks to them (military family), a love of fun (Soylent Green Day or UFO Day for those with a sense of humor and love of Sci-fi), particular food days that resonate with things the B&B serves for breakfast, etc. Note this list is 11 pages pared down from 17.

Calendar Example for B&Bs with Specials. This is an example of preplanning your yearly calendar for posts and promotions that can be used stand-alone or in conjunction with the spreadsheet mentioned at the beginning of the blog. I only did the first couple of months but hopefully, you can get a good idea of how to go about adding information both for notes for yourself and scheduling posts for any ongoing specials or holidays you want to promote. 

This is a PDF fillable calendar. (please download to fill) that you can fill in and print off or just print off and write in ideas (note please save it as a separate document or it may not save any inputted text). I would suggest making a checkmark next to the ones you’ve done, plus making any notes about engagement, likes, shares, and comments, these will help direct you in the following years if you want to do similar posts or promotions. 

Content Calendar Sample Format. If you prefer a calendar type format instead of a spreadsheet or word document for figuring out your posting schedule you can use a format like this. There is no wrong way to do this, you find the format that works the best (and easiest) for you and go from there.

Blank Calendar-Sample Tracking. (I like to track likes, comments and shares on a seperate sheet, but you can also handwrite if that works for you (see below example). It helps if you note what you started with for each channel and ended with for each channel. Facebook January 1-352 Likes, January 31-386 Likes, etc. this will help you track progress and you can review quarterly to see whether what you are doing is actually working or not.

Content Calendar with Handwritten Notes *note circles mean a link to the inn’s website main or sub-page or blog post on the website.

Something some B&Bs don’t do is link to their website or a specific page on their website in posts at least once a week. If you are wondering about conversions and clicks from social media (and why you are not getting many or any) it’s something you need to look at.

I was talking to an innkeeper earlier this week and she was complaining that while her posts on Facebook were getting a lot of engagement, she had not gotten a single click through from Facebook in more than 3 months according to her Google Analytics. Not one of her over 100 posts had a link to the website in the post body itself. People tend to forget once someone has liked a page, the only link (unless you remind them in the posts that show up in their Facebook personal feed) to your website is back “on” the business page itself. People will not double click to search for the link. 

This is How to make a copy or download a document (for reference if you want to use anything mentioned here offline or copied digitally)

I’d also recommend checking out You Need This 2021 Marketing Calendar [Free Templates] and his spreadsheet of helpful links and dates which does have things like the NHL Winter Classic, PGA Tournament of Champions, and the Grammy’s dates if these are things that you want to tie into your marketing but does not have the majority of the food dates that mine does. My calendar has most of the same information plus food but is missing sports and TV related events.

If you find any of the information above useful, we always appreciate a follow/like on our Facebook page (we don’t post a ton there as I personally prefer being able to chat with people but I am on FB pretty much all day during the week and your welcome to message me anytime) but would appreciate a page like and happy to reciprocate if you let us know your business page link, or you can connect on Linkedin or Twitter or just come say hello .

If you know someone that can use some social media help and would like to be able to learn it and manage it themselves (that’s what we do, we teach it) instead of paying an external company to manage it, please give me a call (860-326-0721) or email me, we are happy to help. Cheers and Happy Holidays. Please stay safe out there!

Chocolate Chip Bourbon Cake

Chocolate Chip Bourbon CakeThis recipe is a long treasured one, developed by master pastry chef Linde Beale at a restaurant in Kingston, NY that I worked at as one of my very first jobs in the restaurant business.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups good quality chocolate chips, dark chocolate is preferred but milk works as well
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tea. Double acting baking powder
3/4 lb. (1 1/2 cup) butter
1 tea. pure vanilla
1/2 tea. Mace
1 lb, plus one cup light brown sugar (3 1/4 cups firmly packed)
5 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup bourbon

Method:
Grease and flour a Bundt pan. This recipe can also be baked in loaf pans
Sift the flour with the baking powder and set aside
With an electric mixer (paddle), cream the butter, vanilla and mace
On low speed, slowly add in the sugar and increase the speed slightly.
Incorporate the eggs one at a time into the butter sugar mix
Add in the milk and bourbon
Sift in the flour mix (this is a double sift, sifting prior and than sifting in again)
Mix until incorporated
Add in the chocolate chips and briefly mix just until incorporated.
Add batter to the pan and bake for an hour and 25 minutes at 350 or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let the baked cake sit for about 10 minutes and then remove onto a sheet pan. The glaze for this needs to be added while the cake is still warm.

Glaze
1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup bourbon
Dissolve sugar over low heat, brush over warm cake until mix is completely gone. Let cool.

This cake can be stored for several days unrefrigerated. If you refrigerate it the consistency of it changes drastically and becomes much firmer and the bourbon flavor more pronounced. (preferred). It also freezes very well.

I love this cake served with some bourbon and honey flavored whipped cream. Snacked on at Midnight is also a favorite 🙂

Virtual Tradeshow Prep Checklist

Virtual Booth Tradeshow Prep (prior to the virtual show)

So I was scheduled to do a SCORE workshop yesterday which got rescheduled to next week due to an unplanned power outage (Mother Nature had it in for me 🙂 There is still an opportunity to attend now next week, How to Up Your Marketing Game at Tradeshows and Events, July 21, 2020, 2:00 pm EDT-What goes into a good trade show booth and display? Business to Business Expos and other Trade or Event Gatherings are great places to market your business, whether you are a service provider or a business with products to sell. Learn what goes into making a good trade show booth, both in person or virtual. Register HERE if you are interested in attending, it’s free and it’s on Zoom!

Virtual Trade Show ImageI had made up this checklist a while back as I’ve had a lot of people ask for advice and direction venturing into the new realm of doing virtual tradeshows. While there seems to be a ton of information out there about running and hosting a virtual tradeshow, I could not find much direction in terms of being a vendor and having a virtual tradeshow booth.

So I put together some thoughts based on doing webinars, Zoom meetings, participating in 4 virtual trade show events and attending since March over 100 virtual tradeshows as an attendee. Being an attendee was very helpful because I got to see some of the online glitches and errors that booth hosts could probably have avoided with a bit more prep in advance.

If you happen to come across any good articles on organizing and running a trade show booth and/or you’ve run or participated in one and have some additional suggestions or things you’ve come across, please leave them in the comments and I’ll add them (with Kudos and a track back to the submitter if you leave a helpful non-salesy comment (i.e. not buy my stuff as sales pitch).

  • Familiarize yourself with the online virtual tradeshow format as far ahead in advance as the information is available to you.
  • Google the format as well, find out if others have had trouble with the system prior so you are prepared in advance.
  • Schedule a test run call with your booth co-hosts before your live event. (at least one call, if the booth co-host is having difficulties or seems very uncomfortable, make sure you schedule at least a second one closer to the event as well) (If applicable or the options are given do it on the platform, having a test run prior on Zoom or other online meeting if the platform is not yet available is suggested to at least do a run through in advance.)
  • Add any polls ahead of time (choice of one choice, or multiple choice polls) ask the co-presenters in advance if they are going to run polls, and coordinate when during the booth virtual they will be run. Polls may not be available with all software (If applicable or the options are given) or if they are only available day of, prepare them in advance.
  • Gather any online handouts and links ahead of time and pre-load them in or have them easily accessible to reference in a Google doc or other format.
  • Clear your browser cache out prior (for reference: https://www.pcmag.com/how-to/how-to-clear-your-cache-on-any-browser or https://kb.iu.edu/d/ahic)
  • Bring up any links you will referencing “live”, Proof the links in advance, nothing is more embarrassing then finding typos or wrong outdated information while you are doing a demo for booth attendees.
  • Don’t depend on the internet, so if displaying things on web pages “live”, it is better to do screenshots and pull up the net “live” if there is time near the end of the session with an attendee or group of attendees. Or at least take screenshots and have a powerpoint ready to go for any displays or examples if the rest of the web is not cooperating.
  • Prior to the booth session, turn off or unplug any phones including cell phones, neighboring computers you might get feedback from, and make sure your “space” to going to be quiet. Free the rooms from potentially barking dogs, kids, spouses, significant others and other distractions. Don’t have anything in the oven that can potentially set the smoke alarm off even if you have someone in the house, you can’t rely on them to take care of it.
  • Start early before you go live to give yourself time to get logged into everything and quickly fix any issues or restart/reload any windows/applications, check video/sound, etc.) At least 15 minutes prior to the booth session, ½ hour is much better, make sure any booth co-hosts login in AT LEAST 15 minutes prior if not before, recommend ½ hour pre-login as well for yourself. Logging in right before the booth session starts, one almost always runs into a technical glitch.
  • Make sure you have your introductions ready for yourself and any booth co-hosts and have rehearsed walking through it. Check for name pronunciations prior to the webinar if needed.
  • Until you go  “live” it may seem safe to discuss anything under the sun, but refrain from discussing anything confidential or personal, glitches do happen and you don’t know what is actually logged in the backend of a system you may be in.
  • Have some general Q&A questions done up ahead of time to spark discussion and inspire booth visitors/attendees to ask questions. This is also helpful if you don’t have a huge attendance or people just can’t think of things to ask.
  • Be connected to the Internet via Ethernet/Hardwired connection. Wireless connections will work, but your audio and video quality will suffer, and you may have playback issues if you are recording.
  • If you plan to use music, videos, or images, remember to use only what you have permission to use. YouTube can and will remove all sound from a video with copyrighted music even if it’s in taped format if you are recording the session and have plans to use any part of it afterward for marketing.
  • Have at least several glasses of room temperature water handy and remind your booth co-hosts to as well.
  • Turn off any program or device that will compete for your bandwidth. This includes things like Google Drive and Dropbox that automatically update.
  • Make sure any popups, ie. Anti-virus reminders, Windows updates are not going to pop up during your presentation, remind any booth co-hosts as well if they are screen sharing.
  • Make sure Windows or OX is up to date prior to starting, preferably the day before. Having a computer decide to update or reboot mid-session can be a drastic interruption especially if you are the sole booth host.
  • When screen sharing be aware that depending on the virtual tradeshow software used, generally everything can be seen, including bottom taskbars and if you are using the internet, bookmarks as well as open tabs on a browser. Remind the booth co-hosts of this as well.
  • Recommend having two computers if you are the booth host, one to be the host, the other to be logged in as an attendee (make sure and mute the sound from this one). This helps for two reasons, one there is sometimes a small time lag, and if you are speaking you want to make sure any slides or anything online you are speaking to are consistent with what the other booth visitors/attendees are seeing. 
  • Be prepared for interruptions, door bells ringing, dogs barking, kids etc. If you have booth co-hosts, have a key word or phrase ready to let them know they need run point/take over for a few minutes until an issue is dealt with if needed.
  • Be prepared for things NOT to work, the booth co-hosts can’t get on, they don’t have audio or visual, etc. 
  • Practice using the camera on your computer, phone or laptop. You can do this at any time prior to the booth session.
  • Plan your lighting so that your face is well lit.  Avoid sitting with your back to a window or other source of light and be aware that some overhead lighting can also make it difficult to see you clearly. Eye glasses tend to have a glare and if you tilt the back of the ear pieces up and the nose piece slight down it can reduce direct glare.
  • Position yourself so that your upper body is visible, not just your face. This will allow you to be more expressive when speaking and people can see hand gestures and movements.
  • If you are using a phone or tablet, ensure that it is placed on a stable surface.
  • Ideally, position the camera so that it is at eye level when you are looking forward. This makes for better “eye contact” with the viewers. If you are using a laptop, consider putting it on top of some books or other platform so it brings the webcam up to eye level.
  • When speaking, make “eye contact” by looking directly at the camera lens.  This can feel uncomfortable at first and takes practice, but it makes a significant difference to the effectiveness of your online communication.
  • Wear a headset if possible, it cuts down on external noise and audio and mics are easier to hear and have a better sound quality then having someone call in on their phone.
  • Virtual backgrounds are fun but also suck up bandwidth, consider having some sort of backdrop especially if the room you are in is “busy”, Even a bed sheet hung up works well. If your business has a pop up display for in person tradeshows this can also be used as a partial background. Table coverings with branded logos make an excellent background if they are available (for use in in person tradeshows)
  • Remember to use the “mute” feature when you are not speaking to eliminate background sounds, and be aware of where it is at all times in case you have an unexpected distraction/interruption.
  • Wear muted and solid colors, patterns/stripes/busy patterns are very distracting. No hats, suggested jewelry is small and not shiny (shiny jewelry reflects computer light and can be distracting if it flashes when you move, not just earrings but watches, and large rings as well)
  • Be cognizant of your facial expressions on camera, touching your hair and face is common but can also be a distraction to the booth visitors/attendees. If you use hand movements while you talk to describe something, be aware that your gestures need to be seen in the frame of the camera.

Some additional questions to ask yourself prior to the virtual tradeshow:

  1. How are you going to capture information?
  2. How are you going to follow up?
  3. Is your virtual booth going to have demos (demonstrations) at set times or ongoing ones or is going to be a general Q&A or will there people on hand to break off for one on one discussions (if the platform allows).

Some additional Prep:

  • Have logos and photos available in different resolutions/sizes and formats in advance.
  • Check any links you will be submitting to use for advertising on the host/virtual show site, check for updates/typos and out of date information.
  • Have head shots prepared (not all virtual tradeshows offer this option but many do) and available in different resolutions/sizes to use as needed.

Some questions after the fact to ask yourself after the virtual tradeshow:

  • If the virtual tradeshow had a cost, did you make your money back or is there a good chance you will?
  • Was the time spent preparing and running the virtual booth worthwhile? This is not necessarily the same question as did you make or potentially make a profit from it.
  • What could you do better or differently if you did it again?

 

 

Resource Sites and Post Ideas for Bed and Breakfasts

Text on Paper says ResourceSo I think I’ve sent these links out including the post ideas several hundred times within the last few weeks so thought if anyone else might find them useful, have at it. 🙂

Resource Links for Social Media and other online tools I use quite a bit: 

Canva

Youtube

Pinterest

Instagram

Twitter

Facebook

Linkedin

Google Docs & Spreadsheets Tutorials

To reduce Image File Size

Remove Image Background 

CloudConvert File Converter 

Free PDF editor & form filler (use the free online version)

Stock Photo Information 

Model Releases (for adults and children) 

25 Blogging ideas for Inns and B&B’s (also useful for things to tweet about or blog about or use for other social media) plus more underneath crisis related as hard sell advertising is not recommended right now.

  • Recipes: recipes you use, recipes you’ve come across that sounded good that the inn is going to try at some point, recipes given to you by guests or friends (including other innkeepers).*caveat: No poaching of Google images, take the photos yourself or buy from a stock photo source or guests may have pictures to share with you (always credit them) Good images can be obtained for around a buck from stock photo sources. If the recipe is something you serve on a regular basis, highly recommended you take an actual photo or use stock that comes very very close to the real thing. I hope I don’t have to explain why ?
  • Recipe failures with a funny story.
  • Guest Comments.
  • Your Inn in the News.
  • Area attractions in the news.
  • A frequent and Loyal Guest in the News.
  • Specials and Packages at your inn. (wait until things are closer to opening up, but mention them as reminders)
  • Area Attractions with contact information about the attraction, a weblink, directions and why its interesting.
  • Area attractions reviews (including dining).*caveat: especially if its dining, make sure it’s a review that a recent guest or guests had and not your personal point of view, i.e. don’t piss off the locals that might refer you.
  • Trip Itineraries for Guests, make a custom Google map pined with locations (this is free by the way and easy to use)
  • Pictures of the inn: if it’s food give a title to it if it’s not accompanied by a recipe, if it’s a particular location in or around the inn, describe it.
  • Pictures of happy guests, with their permission and preferably in writing. Customizable Model Releases in MS word. (link below)
  • Area Events going on, you can also tie this into area restaurants having specialty diners or wine tastings.
  • A brief, “we get frequent questions “about” and put in answers.
  • What does your inn do to differentiate itself from the others.
  • You just found a new product you are using it and love, be it food or a new fabric softener, describe it and explain why you love it.
  • Funny guest stories. *caveat: make them funny and only funny, proof heavily to make sure they are not negative in any way. While a wife may go into the wrong room by mistake in the middle of the night may have very amusing consequences, it raises things like don’t they have locks on the doors? (even if you do and point out they didn’t lock them)  etc. etc.
  • Do some food specific reviews. You have a couple of apple orchards nearby. Do some write-ups on the apples, do some research on types of apples, link to sources.
  • Research and write about area birds that come to and hang around the inns, pictures are always a plus.
  • Research and do some write-ups about the area plants and trees in the area. You have a historic stand of black birches in the area, some history, background (and pictures) you grow opal basil in your inn garden, tie it into some recipes you use and write about the difference in taste and appearance between that and regular basil.
  • Ask for feedback, from blog readers and from prior guests. You just went from goose down pillows to memory foam pillows. Ask for some thoughts from people; don’t forget to include the link to this blog article when you do your next email blast.
  • A bio of yourselves and/or your staff.
  • A book review or commentary about a local author.
  • Suggestions for weather/time of year guests. i.e. August is prime season for ticks in New England, add tick repellent tips, wear white, use a good repellent (which we also keep extra of the at inn by the way) etc. etc. On hot muggy days our guests like to go to a cool shaded out of the way place to dip and bring a picnic (provided by the inn as an amenity of course).
  • Targeted things to do, coming with an elder relative, they might like…. Coming with young children, they might like….Bringing your dog, you and your pup might like……

Originally on: 25 Blogging Ideas for Inns and B&Bs (and other posting channels)

Some Additional ones from recent blog posts (Covid Crisis)

  • What you are doing or going to do in the community to help. 
  • Testimonials and reviews from past guests.
  • Recipes you make normally (with lots of pictures) tie some quotes from past reviews in there too.
  • If you are learning a new skill or more “about “something (highly recommended) write about it!
  • Tips on recipes substitutions and also cooking recipes or tips that people can do with limited ingredients.
  • Local news (and other news) of people reaching out and doing something nice for others. Everyone needs the positive right now.
  • Photos of things in the inn, not necessarily rooms, but closeups and write a story about them.
  • Photos of outside the inn, wide shots and closeups too, as Spring comes, flowers and other plants are going to be coming up and blooming, sharing beauty is always a positive. People need it and will continue to need it.
  • Test recipes (if you are going to or can play with new ones) ask for feedback on posts, what do people think? Or just post the link and add some text.
  • Do online cooking tutorials or demonstrations. Live stream it if you are up for it.
  • Other skills or other hobbies you can share online
  • If you have dogs or cats (or other animals) at your inn and you are not already using them for marketing, now is the time.
  • Talk about some of the things you have in the inn and WHY you like them and use them. 

Originally on Working towards future heads in beds and Restore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You for Innkeepers

And ALP (Association of Lodging Professionals) will have something hopefully useful to help Innkeepers, stay tuned for an announcement on Wednesday afternoon……..

Working towards future heads in beds

A followup post to Restore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You for Innkeepers.

I’ve had many innkeepers ask if I could give some additional ideas for what to post online on social media beyond the above idea, so here goes…

Well, let’s see, posting to get people to make a reservation for most inns and B&Bs is pretty much a given that it’s not going to help right now unfortunately 🙁

So….what is an innkeeper to do? Here we have a captive audience of people at home, many using social media quite a bit more than normal, what do we post…..

You can certainly post soft-sell posts, which reference your inn, people staying or coming to stay at your inn and upcoming events. But there is quite a bit more you could consider doing. The key is getting your name, your brand and your B&B in front of the eyes now.

  • What you are doing or going to do in the community to help. I know several B&Bs that have volunteered to help batch cook for soup kitchens. What can you or will you do to help. People love seeing people help the community and helping will come back in spades.
  • Testimonials and reviews from past guests.
  • Recipes you make normally (with lots of pictures) tie some quotes from past reviews in there too.
  • If you are learning a new skill or more “about “something (highly recommended) write about it!
  • Tips on recipes substitutions and also cooking recipes or tips that people can do with limited ingredients.

Local news (and other news) of people reaching out and doing something nice for others. Everyone needs the positive right now.

Example:
Image of Facebook post of a good deed

Photos of things in the inn, not necessarily rooms, but closeups and write a story about them.

Example:
Fern Image in a Frame with base of dried flowers next to it
This great fern print was given to us several years ago by an artist that stayed with us for several days, she had come to speak at our local Audubon about edible wild plants. We love the local Audubon which has some great ongoing programs for the public, so when you come to visit us next make sure you check it out! Sharon Audubon Center https://sharon.audubon.org/

  • Photos of outside the inn, wide shots and closeups too, as Spring comes, flowers and other plants are going to be coming up and blooming, sharing beauty is always a positive. People need it and will continue to need it.

Example:
Pansies in the Rain

  • Test recipes (if you are going to or can play with new ones) ask for feedback on posts, what do people think? Or just post the link and add some text.

Example:
Facebook Post

  • Do online cooking tutorials or demonstrations. Live stream it if you are up for it.

Example:
Screenshot of a Facebook Live video

  • Do you have other skills or other hobbies you can share online?

Example:
Facebook post of knitting

  • If you have dogs or cats (or other animals) at your inn and you are not already using them for marketing, now is the time.

Example:
Funny Dog Photo with Caption

  • Talk about some of the things you have in the inn and WHY you like them and use them. You use Molton Brown, do some posts about the products, give some history about it, tell people WHY you picked that line. You have a local painting company that you support, write some posts about them, help others and the return will come back when it’s time. (Don’t forget to take some pics from around the Inn)
    Molton Brown amenities

While I normally steer innkeepers away from being too personal in their posts, yes you want some personality to come through and be engaging, but not share TMI (Too much personal information, I had someone ask me yesterday what that meant), speaking from the heart is not going to hurt here. This is community time, not sales time.

I think one of the bright spots in all of this hardship and I am already starting to see it locally and across professions and groups, is more people coming together (while practicing social distancing which is ironic) and working together for common goals and the common good. I hope that when all of this is passed, that this continues.

What can you do to get ahead NOW?

  • Look through past posts on Facebook that were non-sales related or soft sale related and recycle them. Go ahead and mention it as a blast from the past post too if you would like.
  • Get ahead and write up posts for when this is over, print out some marketing calendars and pre-select when and what days and times you are going to post.

This will give you a basis for how many and what kind of posts to come up with.

This is something innkeepers should be doing anyway but practicing this now if you are not already doing it, gets you into the gear of when things are back to normal and then you will hopefully start doing it automatically.

If nothing else at least do the holidays, any big events that you are pretty sure are going to still be on, i.e. after August? September? And any posts for specials or offers you do every year.

  • So, if you do teas start getting ahead of pre-writing your posts and when we are back and busy again, you have them all set and maybe a little extra time to get ahead on future ones too at that point
  • Get photos together, date them and label them, date the posts and put them in order, in a folder or folders where you can find them again and if you use the Facebook Scheduling tool, go ahead and schedule them in.
  • Write up your posts in MS word, Notepad, Google docs or however you want to organize them, there is no bad or wrong way to do this.

Example:
Every year in the Lake Sunapee Area of New Hampshire, we have the Annual Craftsmen’s Fair. Usually, B&Bs and hotels and motels in the area are completely booked up. This year (if it happens, fingers crossed) it will be August 1st to the 9th, 2020. Hundreds of master craftsmen will showcase their one-of-a-kind arts and crafts at the Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury, NH.

This is the kind of event that most properties will post online about at least once if not more leading up to the event. So, to use this “as an example”.

The start date is August 1st. In a normal season an inn would start posting about this mid-summer and in this particular case (depending on how things are going) we will stick with this for this example. I as an innkeeper want to get ahead of the game, I either have photos from past Craftmans fairs AND/OR I can buy them from a stock photo company AND/OR I can reach out to some of the 100s of craftsmen who will be there and request permission to use some of their photos and make sure it’s noted that you will be giving them credit and a link back to their websites.

You don’t have to follow this order or format, this is just to give you an example of pre-writing up posts to get ahead.

First post: We are so looking forward to the annual Craftman’s Fair this year. Last year we had guests from all over Etc. Etc.
Art with feathers

Second post: write about one of the artists, or do multiple posts about the artists, make sure you link to their websites and social media if they have them, Etc. Etc.
Handmade jewelry

Third post, talk about something you bought for the inn last year from the fair (with photo or photos of same) Etc. Etc.
Handmade candle holders

Fourth post, By the way we fill up fast, make your reservation soon Etc. Etc.
Bed and Breakfast Suite

Fifth post, Every year we volunteer at the chamber booth, we love doing it because we meet so many people. Etc.
Chamber of Commerce outdoor booth

I find it easiest when you are ahead of this to split your posts into topics/themes and put them in different documents. I like to use Google Docs for this https://www.google.com/docs/about/ so you can create both folders for the documents and associated folders, but you can also have one central document (ie your marketing schedule) linking to multiple sub-documents.

Screenshot of a Google Doc

I also like to keep an online document in Google Sheets that link directly to websites or online tools that I use very frequently. Yes you can bookmark things, but I gave up when I had hundreds of things bookmarked and even putting bookmarks into folders was a pain because you had to remember which folder they were in. Using the Google docs suite (hey it’s free) to help get organized can be very useful for doing your online marketing. It is pretty much just like MS Office but even a bit more simplified. 

Screenshot of a Google Sheets

I do not know which direction things will take us in, but learning more about social media, how to use the platforms, have a strategy can be useful for any type of business, so if you end up going from innkeeper to realtor or another profession at some point, these are all useful transferable skills. In Restore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You for Innkeepers. I added quite a few links to other posts with resources, so if you are looking for something specific you may find it there and if you can’t find it please let me know and I will track something down for you.

Go forth and get ahead so you can get some heads in beds when the time comes. New Hampshire my home state just issued a stay at home order, so at least maybe I’ll get to catch up on some more blogs myself 🙂

And on a very personal note: I would pretty please ask, if people catch grammatical errors on anything I put out, please be kind enough to let me know by email or direct message instead of posting something in a forum. I do run these through grammarly and if time I ask someone else to proof them. I am dyslexic which quite frankly is non of most people’s damn business but getting snarky comments about a phrase “not being grammatically correct” tends to get me down especially when I am trying to help and working a bazillion hours overtime. ☹

Restore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You for Innkeepers

Stone Bench by a lakeRestore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You = READY

I was talking to one of my innkeeper friends this morning and she said, “It’s funny, we are very depressed because no bookings and everyone has canceled on us for the next few months, not sure how we are going to make it”, but on the bright side, and that I could relate having worked in restaurants for 20 years, this is the first time in 4 years they have had a weekend off.

We ended up talking for a while early this morning and she asked if I could come up with a list of suggestions, not just marketing, but some marketing direction as well as other thoughts, of some things innkeepers could do to be proactive in this very unexpected downtime. 

So here goes…….

Are you READY?

In popular Prepper jargon, we have reached S.H.T.F. status (S.H.T.F: Sh*t hits the fan (alternate: stuff hits the fan)) for the innkeeping industry. 

I would prefer to think of this as W.A.A.I.T.T. (We are all in this together and “wait” as in this to shall pass). 

Well, what to do in downtime? Back in 2012, I had written, Why it pays to sleep around for bed and breakfast owners,  I bring this up because I had wanted to do a follow-up article late last year about a place I had stayed at that was top notch but having the owners/innkeepers/management stay in each room would have taken it up even one more notch. 

Needless to say, it’s one of several hundred blog posts started and life (as an innkeeper you can relate) and work got in the way of writing it fully. But every property can up their game a bit.

Now: Step One, Take a vacation in your own inn, but use it to fix things, observe things, make them better…..

While your inn is either closed to the public or does not have reservations I would challenge innkeepers to pack their bags for a two-night minimum stay including incidentals, i.e. your big bottle of shampoo and can of shaving cream, go ahead and pack it so you are not using the in-room amenities, but also because it’s not like TSA is going to nab you for bringing anything over 3.4 oz. ?

Pack as if you were going on vacation and also as if you were going on a business trip, cell phones, cords, laptops, the works.

With one prerequisite, you need a notepad in the loo and a notepad in the main bedroom and any other rooms (example a suite with sitting area) with writing utensils, and no it’s not in case you run out of toilet paper. ?

Unpack or get comfortable just like you would if going to stay at another B&B. Then observe, REALLY observe. See those small ding marks on the baseboards? You’ve cleaned and dusted them a million times and noticed them but not “really” noticed them, fix it now. 

This is what the notepaper is for, make notes if you can’t fix something right at that very moment and make sure you get back to it and do it this time.

In the bathroom is there room for your makeup case and your partner’s knickknacks on the sink and or shelf? Is the lighting really “that” good? 

When you take a shower, can you reach the towel rack easily and is there a place to hang it to dry that works?

I’ve lost track of places that have hooks galore in the bathroom but oddly enough there seems to be some sort of magnetic polarity between the hook and towel as they never seem to want to stick together…… Make notes, now is the time to move that rack, etc.

Breakfast time. Go make breakfast as if you would for guests, then go BE the guest, sit at every seat and every table and eat and observe.

If you have a purse, bring it, is there a place to put it or can you hang it on a chair? If you are going to go out right after, bring your coat, is there room between chair and next chair to put it comfortably? And observe, observe, observe. 

This reminds me of a friend who had an inn up here in NH, she had glowing reviews but very occasionally an odd one, not bad just a little odd. We did the dining room flow test (i.e. how people move around and spatial distance between tables and chairs to walk as well as check sightlines, one table of two had a viewpoint from a guest’s perspective right into the little bathroom that adjoined the dining room. What do you see? Test every chair and every point of view.

Wait…..before you take a bite of the food you made, whip out your cell phone and take a slew of photos, be one of those obnoxious Instagrammers.

And make a note, is the lighting good enough for decent photos? If not, what can you do to fix? Bonus, now you have extra photos for marketing……..Food Photography Tips for Bed and Breakfasts might be helpful if you want to up the visual game a bit.

Now go clean up…….or don’t, remember you ARE supposed to be on vacation so do it later. Make it a working vacation. Go take a walk around your neighborhood. I don’t know how many innkeepers I’ve talked to that either have never actually walked to what is around them for a several mile radius or they go out and they walk, but just to walk, i.e. go out and get exercise, but don’t actually take a lot of notice of what is around them.

Take your phone with a full charge and go and take A LOT of pictures, make some notes, actually see and observe the lovely things locally to you that you probably never noticed before. The hidden springhouse covered by wisteria, the small park bench hidden behind the bushes. That great little antique shop (now closed because of the crisis but will reopen) but you never knew or noticed because they don’t have a presence online. Take MORE pictures and don’t forget to wave to your neighbors and share a smile.

Go back to the inn, rinse, repeat for a few days.

Now do a deep clean of the room, wash all linens and suggest bagging them in plastic until the next usage. Document document, document the cleaning of the room so when we get through this and reopen, A. you are all set to go and B. You have proof (take some pictures too) that the room has been deep cleaned and sanitized and that you, the innkeeper were the last person to stay in it.

Now go on vacation in another room, rinse, repeat.

And do some of these other things while you have some downtime in between having weekends off for the first time since you became an innkeeper. I say that tongue in cheek, but I reference what my friend the innkeeper said to me at the start of this post….

 

  • Work on a cookbook.

 

  • Do some videos, do A LOT of videos, small 1-2 minute clips, virtual tours are good, do a video walkthrough of your inn with commentary or some videos of the area, with commentary. Learn how to leverage Youtube. A great resource for learning Youtube is Youtube Creator Academy, it’s free and it’s super helpful. 

 

  • Test some new recipes out, take LOTS of pictures. If you don’t have the ingredients or don’t want to use up food, hey you have to eat anyway, but if you don’t want to experiment now, go research some new ones to try when you are back up and with guests again.

I love to find new recipes or at least in my case, some ideas from:

And many more, both Taste Cooking and Epicurious have great email newsletters with recipe suggestions.

  • Create a marketing plan for the rest of the year and start compiling content and pictures. We hopefully will be over this by midsummer or hopefully sooner, what holiday can you target and get pre-prepared for right now?  

One of the biggest complaints I hear from innkeepers when talking about planning their marketing and social media, is “we don’t have time”. You do now, take advantage of it!

How to Write a Social Media Strategic Plan for Bed and Breakfasts and Planning Ahead for Your Bed and Breakfast Promotions might be helpful.

 

  • While restaurants and other businesses may be closed or operating in a limited capacity, now is the time to make those good relationships and network, pick up the phone, learn a new skill and try video conferencing. Making those valuable connections and do some deals so that when everything picks back up, your inn and the businesses you and your guests engage with are all ready to rumble.

 

  • Do a deep clean of the inn, and I know some innkeepers are not able to find cleaning supplies, do some outreach to a local restaurant who may be closed or operating in a limited way, do they have some cleaning supplier (or even food if needed) they want to barter or sell?

 

  • Put a plan in place for if this happens again or something like it. While it’s too late to get business interruption insurance, for example, investigate who offers it and rates and be prepared. 

 

 

  • Take some time and educate yourself so you can better help your business and be more informed and less likely to be snowed by an unscrupulous company Google Analytics Academy for instance is free.

 

And most of all, while we are all supposed to be practicing social distancing, it doesn’t mean you have to practice social isolation. Reconnect with some old friends online, make some new. Start some virtual networking meetings. An innkeeper told me they are now doing virtual tea parties as well as virtual happy hours, sounds like fun to me!