As usual Facebook when they add (or delete) things, they tend not to let users know. This is one that I suspect not a lot of business owners know about as I’ve only seen it so far on two business pages.
If you are advertising additional safety measures that your business is doing to help keep people safe you may want to consider enabling this option. I suspect we may see additional changes in the next several weeks to a month as since I had done a SCORE workshop on the new business format there have been over a dozen small page changes since then.
In order to get the banner, go to “Edit Page Info” (on the left) or on the left alignment in the body of the business page and then scroll down towards the bottom (in the middle) and you will see various options. I’d recommend not just sending people to your home page unless you are actually advertising the information on your home page but instead directing people to specifically where on your website that information is listed so you don’t make people hunt.
COVID is an issue with lodging, whether you believe it is a real threat or not. Studies by industry experts have shown that a large majority of people traveling take it seriously and are concerned for the cleanliness and sanitation of a facility.
Recent news highlights that many hotels and homestays as well are not paying attention to standards even though they tout they are.
Where does this leave other legal lodging properties?
It leaves us with a golden opportunity to capture the market of people who are leery of traveling and are very concerned for their safety. While most B&Bs and other lodging properties are making a point somewhere on their websites of mentioning what they are doing to keep guests safe, Some are not. That needs to be fixed, especially if your property is implementing additional safety standards. Your potential guests won’t take the time to inquire, they will just go elsewhere.
I did want to point out some things I am seeing that can be improved and adjusted with many of the properties that ARE advertising what they are doing. One of the biggest pitfalls I am seeing is the use of pop-up boxes. Pop-up boxes are great, I love pop-ups, BUT not so great for advertising what you are doing for cleaning and safety standards if that is the ONLY place you are letting guests know about it. I am seeing a lot of properties have these boxes, but nowhere else on their site are they talking about the additional steps they are taking.
As a guest, I may (or may not) bother to read the popup, once it’s closed, it’s gone. What if I have questions? What if I did want to now read it but now can’t do so because I’ve closed the pop-up? I am not going to search and I probably won’t bother to inquire, I’ll go elsewhere. I’d add the pop-up boxes that go on for over a page, the ones with the fancy script that’s impossible to read and the text that’s font size 6 where even with a magnifying glass it’s hard to read as ones that are not helping to properly let guests know what your property is doing. 2 out of every 3 properties with pop-ups only have the information on the pop-up. I’ve been tracking this as I look at dozens of property websites a week.
As a guest, and in normal times I am one frequently, I want to know what a property is doing to keep me safe. If I had to travel now, I would definitely stay in a B&B, with the caveat that I can find easily what the property is doing to keep me (and other guests, and themselves) as safe as possible.
While I do agree we don’t want to go overboard, think of how a guest or potential guest views your site to potentially make a reservation (looking at your Google Analytics would help as well), they land on your home page (and may not scroll down below the fold if that is where you have your safety information listed). Where else if anywhere is your safety information listed? Is it a separate page? Do people know to go there, ie is it under the same drop-down tab as your rooms? Does it have a brief mention on your rooms pages or your policies page or your reservations platform? Have you posted about it on Facebook or other social media? How many times? If it was only once, how about mentioning it every few weeks? Have you taken advantage of Tripadvisors ability to let guests know what you are doing additionally? What about Yelp? What about your Google My Business listings?
If your property is taking the extra time and added expense to enhance your cleaning and safety standards, please let your guests know about it. They want reassurance and you can advertise that you care, but you need to let them know you do in ways they will actually see and remember.
Threat or Opportunity? I’d say a bit of both. People are scared. I’ll admit I am one of those people that has that nagging feeling in the back of my skull going, “pay attention, pay attention!” and I admit we are prepared to go for several weeks if under self (or otherwise) quarantine if need be. But we prepared for that in advance because we have been through situations like being out of power for more than a week in below zero temperatures several times among other life events. It only takes one life learning lesson to forever be ready for this.
Families and businesses need to think about these things, up here in New Hampshire, while we are less likely to have a major earthquake (it could happen) we could have floods, we could have forest fires if we have another severe dry season. A business needs to be prepared. I won’t parrot the hundreds of websites telling you what you should have to stock up on because Google is your best buddy for that, please don’t go and buy up all the toilet paper in the store, others need it to (bonus for innkeepers though you probably already have a pretty good backstock) but regardless of whether the virus scare affects your property or not, this is a good reminder that you should have those supplies in place anyway.
The virus scare if you think about it, isn’t any different from a major tornado, flood, hurricane or earthquake affecting a property. A bit better actually, any of those listed can result in a loss not just of business revenue but of a property itself. At least this is just lost revenue, your property could have washed away in a flood…… Not to make light of this but to put it into perspective.
I think lodging facilities have some opportunities here that they should take advantage of.
One is educating the public about how a B&B is also your home, you as owners/occupiers/innkeepers are good about sanitation over and above a hotel or motel or Airbnb anyway in a normal situation. I’d much rather stay at B&B normally anyway but especially right now rather than a hotel not just by choice but because I’m pretty sure it’s a heck of a lot more sanitary then your average hotel is at the moment.
Two, yes revenue may and probably will go down for the next few months as travelers are canceling vacations and business trips, but this presents a unique opportunity to capture eyeballs online. If I had to self-quarantine and I could not work at home for whatever reason, I will be in the category of what are most people going to be doing and spending time on if stuck at home or elsewhere? On Social Media of course.
The average innkeeper does not have a ton of time to leverage social media because they are working 24/7, think of this as mud season in New England, it’s the slow time of year when you can get caught up with things. Funny enough and lucky enough at least for New Englanders its almost mud season, so the timing could be a lot worse.
Use this opportunity to start pre-writing posts, take more pictures of your breakfast and your property and planning out some marketing for the rest of the year. When and I will stick with “when” everything is sorted out, people will want to get out and resume normal activities, including putting those vacation plans that got canceled back into consideration. Getting in front of their eyeballs when they are literally a captive audience is a great opportunity.
If you don’t know how to use a social media platform, Google is your friend, but so are the channels themselves, there are so many free resources out there to help a business owner better leverage themselves online. Take the opportunity to educate yourself a bit more instead of letting stress overwhelm you, as that doesn’t accomplish anything (aside from weakening your immune system) so one more reason to keep yourself occupied. Again not trying to make light of the situation but being realistic.
So what happens if it doesn’t blow over, what if we have a major pandemic? I don’t know, no one can know but isn’t it better to be proactive for when it does blow over rather than saying if it doesn’t?
There has been a lot of articles reiterating the same thing, wash your hands, sanitize, etc, yes please do all of those but not many articles out there as yet with actual good suggestions on how and what to do to weather this situation. Here are two recent ones of note that I would suggest a read through though because I think they had some good ideas for innkeepers to take note of:
How Can Hotels Survive the Coronavirus? Some good advice if your property is concerned: Six lessons emerge. All of her touchpoints are important but I think Be wary of broad-scale discountingand Don’t cut your marketing budget (and I’ll add to this, even if you are not spending money, the marketing budget is your own time, it’s ROTI, Return on Time Investment, boost that, not cut it) are two things to take special note of.
Does Your Property Have A Coronavirus Strategy? Is another suggested read. Of note here (and he also recommends staying away from the deep discounting) Mandate a “single voice policy” for all employees and departments (yourself) and Provide honest and up-to-date information regarding the situation in the hotel location/destination are both important for a property to note.
ALP has published several blog posts with resources and we will continue to keep it updated with new articles and resources as well.
What else can you do in the interim, I personally love the Beechmere Inn’s approach to this, educating their guests about what the facility is doing to help protect guests, but I also had a question raised by an innkeeper client of mine, “Well what happens if you still have a guest catch the virus (at your inn) or a guest infects others?” Will I get sued?” “Americans are so sue happy, what do you think?”. I’ll be honest I don’t know if someone came to stay at an inn and they were sick with any kind of issue and infected others the impetuous should be on them, but I am not a lawyer.
If you did everything you could to protect guests you did all you could. I’ll take a recent example of the first case diagnosed in New Hampshire for this. The person was told to stay home, he did not and went out and went to a private event and infected at least one if not more (news developing apparently) people, the facility this happened at is handling this well and being proactive. But that kind of thing is just stupidity at its finest and you can only do what you can do.
I don’t believe in fear-mongering and I don’t think it helps if innkeepers are posting all over the place about this, but I don’t think it hurts to help educate guests now and in the future about the safety of your facility, it can be done in a polite and in a no scare tactic way manner.
When life goes back to normal, people are probably still going to stay fairly local, so if you have not yet invested time into researching and targeting the staycation/localcation market, now is a good time to spiff up on that as well. Use this as an opportunity to get your property out there. Run a SWOT analysis on what your B&B can do to mitigate and potentially profit from this long term when we recover from this, and I’ll stick with the “when” not the “if”. In the famous words of Yoda (if he was a marketing guru) “Marketing Never Stop”.
And as an additional note (updated 3/11/2020) I take this very seriously, my own business along with many others besides just the hospitality industry is, and will continue to be, affected. Having several large projects put on hold for an indefinite period of time IS very concerning, but I am going to use this as an opportunity to learn and increase my knowledge of things that can help myself and my clients in the future. If we go down the rabbit hole of depression and inaction, when recovery time comes around, it makes it that much harder to rebound when it’s time.
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