Marketing Help, Please

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10/08/2013

As some of you know, I am a new B&B in southwestern Ohio. I opened for business April 1, but so far have had very few inquiry calls and only one confirmed booking coming up in June. My rates are competitive with other B&Bs in the area, I have a good website, I belong to the local chamber of commerce and am on their website, I'm on the visitors and convention bureau website, Trip Advisor, and I have a business Facebook page where I post what is going on in the area. I have a pile of nice rack cards that I have distributed locally and I have recently donated a complimentary weekend stay to our local PBS station's fundraising auction. I am wondering if any of you could offer suggestions as to how to better get my name out there and get my phone ringing. We live in an area that is packed with things to do and there is a large amusement park nearby. Maybe after school is out for the summer things will pick up more. Any suggestions of things that have worked well for you in the past?

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Kate

 

jmj
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Hi Kate- have a really good friend that just moved 15 minutes from you. Told her to get over there with her hubby and have a romantic getaway for two- seems the move to Ohio from Colorado wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and they need some R&R! You're place seems to fit the bill.

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jm - Thanks a million! I can imagine a move from Colorado to anywhere else would be a jolt! I'll do my best to make them comfortable. Even if they just come to town I would take them out to lunch and show them around. My pleasure.

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You need to put rates on your room pages, most people won't bother contacting you if they can't see how much it will cost immediately.  You don't have to put in the exact rate - put in a range:  for example one of my rooms says $180 to $245 which allows me to put the rate for each season into my system and I can adjust as I need to.  This at least shows the guest the range that they'll be looking at if they were to book so they can know you are reasonably priced.

I looked at your website and you mentioned that maybe guests will come after school gets out because of a local amusement park.  Your two rooms aren't very large and each only has a king or queen bed.  This isn't conducive to a family visiting so I would suggest you turn your attention to marketing to couples for a romantic weekend.  We have tons to do in our area and I list all of those things but I focus on couples because couples come year round whether attractions are closed or not.  Everyone has an anniversary and most go away to celebrate that.  I would therefore suggest you add in romantic touches such as "Sparkling Cider and Chocolate Truffles Awaiting Your Arrival After Dinner."  You can pickup truffles and store them in a cool dry place and cider is easily available at supermarkets.  For about $15 you can put these in their room when they go out to dinner with some flickering (battery operated) candles so they return to a romantic room.  You'll make some money charting $25-$30 and it's easy to do - guys love booking this because it's easy they don't have to do anything else.

Do you have any money to redecorate the rooms with new comforters and curtains?  Relatively inexpensive upgrade and can have wow effect.  And if you have any other chair you can pull in rather than the metal one it will look more comfortable.  Remember, you have to create an experience for the guests and sitting in a hard metal chair in their room isn't appealing.

I know this is hard to hear but you're going to have to spend some money to make this work.  We started brand new and didn't have great photos and lots of marketing money.  We struggled the first couple years but I had another job to survive.  It wasn't until I spent the money for professional photos $4K in our case for two days of shooting but you can do it for less than half that given your size and then I started pay per click campaigns.  Right after posting the new photos the phone started going crazy and we made that money back in a few weeks.  They really do help because PEOPLE DON'T READ - they look at photos and envision themselves there.

Don't spend too much time on Facebook - you have to pay now for your posts to be seen; I did a post the other day and have over 1000 people - it only was sent out to about 200.  So I do put stuff up occasionally but don't focus on that any more.  I recently paid $15 on FB to boost my post for the biggest local attraction with great photos I took there last year and got over 30 new likes and a booking so it can be worth it but be strategic.

Good luck - with so many properties as competition these days you need to be aggressively marketing to get a new place up and going.  

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Thank you for your time and input. The rooms are rather newly decorated, but maybe I need to look again. I can cover the metal chairs with fabric and cushions (or replace them with upholstered ones). I do have an antique wooden rocker in storage but thought the table and two chairs might be more practical. Maybe this Arbor Room needs to look more luxurious. The green (Wildflower Room) was just recently upgraded when I added a bathroom to it.

I'm not in the market to attract kids. There really isn't any room here at the inn for them, and aside from that amusement park, there isn't much for them to do in this town. I was hoping to attract people who want to enjoy the natural resources that are all so close to me. I do like the sparkling cider and chocolates add-on idea. I know I need to come up with some package deals, too. I have contacted my web designer and have asked to have the rates posted on the room pages.

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Yes you need to attract couples. Don't play up the fact that you are near Kings Island. People will want to bring kids. Put something on your site ie: we are a Couples getaway. Feature romance packages etc. Things to get couples to look not families.

I know we put you through the wringer when you first showed up here. But putting in that extra private bath will pay off. Maybe reconsider decor just a bit and things may take off. Don't worry about Facebook.  Doing a blog will be good for you. There is so much of interest around you..remember I used to live near there Smiling  Check out JB's blog and follow her lead...things will start to happen. It may just take a bit.  Make yourself stand out from the others. Do something special. Things they don't do.  Talk to all the merchants in town. Drop off some rackcards or business cards. I don't remember if you said you were local already or just moved there. 

You might even do some sort of "shoppers special" or "antiquers special" etc. etc. Check with the ladies at the fabric store..maybe they will work with you to do something.  MARKET MARKET MARKET..you have the location...go for it!

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Posting rate, changing rates, posting packages are things you should be able to do yourself. These are the kinds of things that can change on the fly and it is not a difficult thing to do. Even if your site is in HTML (my old one was), you can learn to do things with it by doing a copy/paste to a WORD blank page (make 2 copies so you still have the original) and make the changes on one and then copy/paste your changes into the program (your web site coding). If something does not work, you can always go back and replace with the original until you find out what was wrong. That is how I learned to make the changes on my original site. Noe I just make the changes (thankfully) although there are still things that are beyond my pay-grade that I beg for help with. Practice will give confidence.

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Don't forget InnRewards.com, especially if you are using ReservationKey.

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OnTheShore's picture
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There are a couple of general business directory sites that you could list on (free) that might not generate much direct traffic but should help with "link love"

Manta.com (I think google likes this one especially)

Hotfrog.com (we actually got an inquiry through this one that resulted in a booking!)

MerchantCircle.com

Besides TripAdvisor, you could also get listed on Yelp.com and InsiderPages.com

Google+ or at least Google's "Places For Business" (this will get you on the map, so to speak)

Generally, search for your business name, your address, and your phone number, using Google, Bing, and Yahoo (and any other search engines you can find) to see what other places you are already listed, and where-ever possible "claim" these listings and make sure they are correct, up-to-date, and consistent.

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Thanks for sharing it Kate!

The ABOUT US isn't about us... Change the title to history of the house or something if you aren't going to share ABOUT US.

Room rates on the guest room page AND photos

Curiosity makes me ask what is "Adjustable air conditioning"? On your guest room page USE ADJECTIVES! These lines sound like a dorm room check in form: 

            A guest refrigerator with water and ice is located in the second floor hallway. Carbonated beverages are available upon request.

None of these reasons are overtly off putting in any way, just suggestions. The site is nice, needs photos of the rooms of course. Right now all I see are photos of bed cover pillows. 

Have you looked at the availability of OTHER B&B's similar in size and location to your own? Just remember they are established, I know you aren't thinking "If I build it they will come" without all the blood sweat and tears that goes into marketing it right?

If you want to come up better in searches, start blogging. Use your URL and B&B name on every post, as well as city/town area. Blogging is free and you can highlight things to do in your area. For example, you could share the "Top 14 reasons to visit in 2014" and that list may get picked up by media, or google alone to be beneficial. See this THREAD for more on this topic. 

PS The reason we ask for the website is that it is NOT about specials or packages. The website is the storefront and it begins there. It can make or break your business. We are here for you!

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seashanty's picture
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  welcome

  I see on your website you are linking to area places of things to do ... are they linking back to you as places to stay?  They should

  I just took a quick look at your rooms page.  I really like to see more pictures of the rooms, and what the breakfast area looks like.  I'd add more pictures.

 really wishing you best of luck.

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Make the title pages on your site say more than Rooms at_________ House. I am out there so go to my site www.gillumhouse.com and look at the names on the tabs above the web address - the Page Names. These names pull in searches. I am B & B in West Virginia, etc - each one - including the rooms - has a different title. Put a  BOOK NOW in the menu titles. I looked at it quickly - as a potential guest will and almost missed your Book Now/Availability button. These are MY quickie thoughts. Will look deeper later - up to my ears for the next few days.

The others will give better advice on web site - I happen to be the techie numbnutz of the crowd.

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I'm not sure how much liberty I have at changing the look of my website. The design company I use is based in Utah. I bought a package deal and this is the format they use for the design I chose. I do have the ability to go in and make adjustments to the text and I can request that they add/change photos, but as for the overall design of the site, I think I have to leave things the way they are. Thank you for your suggestions, however, and I will look into the possiblility of making some changes.

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Page Titles are text. If you cannot make changes, I hate to say it but you got snookered. I know it is not easy to hear as you start out but perhaps it is still salvageable. You should have ID and password to your site. Do you own it - are you the owner of the domain name? Re bathroom photos (or any other room) you do not need to have the entire room in one photo. I took mine - the group shredded them, I went back and took more, less shred, took more and got the OK. I really need to take more this year - the dolls are GONE!!

IF there is anything that can be done - as in the right questions to ask of your web people - you came to the right place. Help is here, it is just up to you to use it or not.

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Why did they not use Wordpress??? Strange in this day. And your site is not responsive either. Have you looked at it on a smart phone or tablet.

It looks nice but the fading background is so dark in text area, it makes it a bit hard to read. Can they make it lighter shade. I could barely read it on my tablet.

Would love to see more room photos as well as bathroom. People want to see what they are getting.

Why did they not make your email address active? You should be able to click on it and send you a message. Not user friendly.

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Just a note about Wordpress. This is becoming the standard because designers find it so easy, not necessarily because it is the best choice. There is a lot to be said about HTML5, CSS, optimization, and how that works with Wordpress. Not really knowin'- just sayin'

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I used a professional bed and breakfast website designer. I liked the look of their sample pages.  I have not tried to look at it on a tablet but I can bring it up on my iPhone and enlarge it to read it. I chose the colors of the site. Sad  I think the email is active. I have recieved several emails directly from the site. I could add some photos of the bathrooms but they are small and difficult to photograph well. I will think on that.

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Yes you can resize it in your smartphone, but that does not make it responsive. Responsive means it adjusts to fit on its own.  The colors are fine but just seems a bit dark to me. My eyes had a hard time reading the text towards the right side of the page due to the darker shading otherwise it's good.

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Some things I got...

Website seems clean and easy to follow

MORE AND BETTER PICS... it made such a difference when we have upgraded our pics.. it is an ongoing effort.

Consider changing ABOUT US to something like HISTORY

Separate the room descriptions and add more photos on that page.

SEO to get on the front page of organic search for Waynesville Ohio Bed and Breakfast or whatever key word is the most relevant to the market you attract.

By the way... The Chamber website is AWFUL.. if you have any sway there, use it. It loaded so slow like something from the last century.

By the way 2.... Your house and the approach to it look lovely. What about a few more pics in the rotation to pull them in to that

 

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I see that you don't have a google+ business page. Here is a link to a youtube video that will help you create first your personal page, then your business page. This is VERY important to google and costs nothing.

I would suggest you start a blog. Once you have your G+ set up, create a free google blog. Once you get it going, have your webmaster make the url of the blog:   blog.nameofyourinn.com   When set up this way, google weighs each page of your blog as if it's a page of your website. The more information on your website, the more weight google with give it.

It looks like google maps has no idea who you are. Hopefully once you create your G+ business page it will get you onto google maps.

 

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We created a goog+ business page.  It was odd.  If I pulled up our downtown, I could see several restaurants and business names already showing on the map, but no matter what I did, I couldn't get us on there. But it wasn't until I got someone to leave a goog review that we actually showed up on the map.  Not sure if that's the only way, but that's what worked for us.

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The option for a blog was included with my design package. I chose not to go that route and do the business FB page instead. I just didn't feel there was that much to talk about in trying to keep up a blog. I felt that with FB I can reach a wider audience and promote area events and attractions. I will definitely look into Google+. I was not aware of that, so thanks very much for the tip.

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id sign up for this site (its free) lots of really good blogging ideas< Linda is doing a new one every day for 30 days at the moment - http://www.fullybookedinn.com/

Also the more you blog you get used to picking up ideas and also depending they will do the work for you ie new food and drink festival 10 miles from me - asked if they have a press release or photo's I can use to promote their event - few quick tweeks and its an article.

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KatesCottage161 wrote:

The option for a blog was included with my design package. I chose not to go that route and do the business FB page instead. I just didn't feel there was that much to talk about in trying to keep up a blog. I felt that with FB I can reach NOT a wider audience and promote area events and attractions. I will definitely look into Google+. I was not aware of that, so thanks very much for the tip.

Actually Facebook won't be reaching many at all,

If you have looked into it you will see the algorithms have changed and you need to pay to promote an article or photo to have something view able by people.

If you were coming on board even a year ago, you would be disappointed in this change back THEN on FB.

If someone wants to click over to FB from your website and see your photos or timeline and info they surely can, but don't think you will be sharing all this great stuff wit your fans. It is not what will happen now. It is no longer free marketing.

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Hi Kate,

I know you're probably feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the info we're giving you. Hang in there. Since you have a start up b&b, there are many, many things to do to get noticed.

FB and blog are not an either/or concept. They both have value and need to be done. Google doesn't care about FB. Whatever you do on FB, generally just stays on FB. Google definitely cares about blogging. At this point you need to do everything in your power to get google to notice you!

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Okay, got it. Thanks, everyone. I could do a blog, but I surely don't know what I would say there. I used to have a personal blog for my showing my artwork. I shared my paintings with other artists for critiquing and for just sharing. We created a little community and chatted about our work. It took up a lot of time and I lost interest in that and let it go about a year ago. I truly have no idea what I would say on a bed and breakfast blog. Unlike many of you, I do not have a private living space in my B&B. The business is my home and I really don't want to show photos of my personal living space to the general public. Therefore, I only show the guest rooms and the exterior of my house and gardens on FB. And I would never show photos of my guests on social media. Sigh. I'm finding it difficult to live in today's age where nothing is private. I appreciate all the helpful information you have provided and I will give it all much consideration. Thanks, again, Kate

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We live in 2 rooms - space that VERY few get to see. IF we get a guest who is an artist DH has been known to invite into his "inner sanctum" - I close the French door that goes into out bedroom FIRST!  My office that is usually a disaster area is even worse at the moment. DH is relegated to a wheelchair so 2 office chairs that are usually in his "studio" are in my office AND since it is band rehearsal season my bari sax case is taking up space AND until Thursday morning, I also have a dog crate we are getting 2 "grandchildren" accustomed to for their flight to Finland. Even in "normal" circumstances I do not want photos of my Library seen.  Sunday our son pleased his Father mightily by putting the wheels on the BSA Gold Star racing bike frame that resides between the drawing board and the TV with a path to our bedroom. He even made a stand for it since there is no center stand not any other kind.

Martin with BSA

You really do NEED to have at least one room that is YOURS - no one permitted other than you or your family. A place to hide in. A place to punch pillows and do a whispered primal scream among other things.

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I actually shared an idea of what to blog. For example. Just a suggestion.

for the record, most of us live IN our businesses. That is the def of a B&B.

don't give up or get overwhelmed, there is a lot of good advice here. Smiling 

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You don't have to blog, however, if you get the google plus page setup, it will help a lot as far as google is concerned.

So, you want to be found? You blog about what people are searching for. That amusement park, lakes, hiking, shopping, places to eat, state and national parks.

And all of it is connected to your website. You always include your inn name and your town in every blog post.

Someone finds the blog, they find your site.

I'm annoyed that I cannot setup google plus. The links are missing from my page and their help pages don't help. I know it's a major loss to my site to not be able to do this.

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You just started 7 weeks ago.  Honestly, I don't think you'll see traffic pick up until you get some great reviews under your belt.  Lately, all my reservations are saying that they looked at our TA reviews before deciding.  Make sure you ask every person that stays with you to help you build your business by leaving a TA review.

You are currently #1 on TA for B&Bs in your area!  You need to shout that to the world.  That's something to be proud of and everyone needs to know.  No need to disclaim that you only have one review.   Can you put a sign/banner on your website that says that?  Also, mention that on your FB page - maybe change your "About" info so what people read when they hover over your name is the line reading "Rated #1 B&B in Waynesville, OH"

You have one fantastic TA review from 3 weeks ago - no management response though.  Make sure you do that, especially since you are starting out and it's your first one.  Show them that you appreciate their review and show others that you are responsive.

Your website is beautiful.  I don't see any issues there.  I'm wondering if the possibility of having a Potter's Field on the property isn't a turn-off for some (wouldn't bother me).

We did ALOT of schmoozing of the local businesses, attractions and the Chamber of Commerce when we first started out.  We would walk around downtown every weekend popping into stores, saying HI, buying little things.  Everyone knows us now and we get alot of referrals from them.  We take plates of cookies to the Chamber of Commerce ladies and regularly update them on our availability on busy weekends.  Network, Network, Network.  Join the local business association, join and become active at the Chamber (get on a committee).  

Give it some time, do the right things and it will come.  We had no repeat business from POs, but we are starting our Third year and our occupancy is finally off the charts!  

GOOD LUCK!

 

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GREAT ADVICE! Thank you so much for your help! I wondered if I was just "too new" and to be more patient. Our weather here has been really awful this spring too. Very rainy and cool. The rating I got on TA was from my friend who stayed here, but I see what you mean about responding to the comment. No one else knows that it was a friend. I thought the Potter's Field was an interesting feature but I suppose it could turn some off. It's not on my personal land, but somewhere in the vicinity. I will definately try to get that TA rating on both FB and my website. Thanks.

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A word of caution about what you say on a public forum about reviews

 

TheBeachHouse's picture
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Tell all your friends, reach out to everyone.  Talk to the restaurants and visiters' centers.

Send a press release to the local newspapers.   Get your name in the tourist guides.

Get an account with bo oking dot com.   We get probably half our bookings from them.   When someone goes to them first and searches your city, you will be on the list.  They charge commission, so if they don't send you guests, they don't get paid.

Every time you say goodbye to a guest, ask for a review on TA or google.  I'm hearing that people are staying with us becuase they are reading the TA reviews.

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TBH

 

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Thanks for your suggestions. Of course I have told all my friends - and strangers, too. I have not tried the tourist guides, but wouldn't that be part of the visitors and convention bureau? Not sure how to find those. Could my chamber help me with that?  I've not done booking.com. I will certainly look into that.  A friend mentioned Google Ad Words, where you pay by the click. Has anyone tried that sucessfully?

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KatesCottage161 wrote:

Thanks for your suggestions. Of course I have told all my friends - and strangers, too. I have not tried the tourist guides, but wouldn't that be part of the visitors and convention bureau? Not sure how to find those. Could my chamber help me with that?  I've not done booking.com. I will certainly look into that.  A friend mentioned Google Ad Words, where you pay by the click. Has anyone tried that sucessfully?

 

We are members of the COC, but until we paid for it, our name was not added to the list of accomadations in the area.   Look at the tourist books and contact the publishers to get your name added.

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Google Ad Words can be crazy expensive!  Yes, your chamber is there to help you grow your business.  Ask them for advice.  

Some of our Tourist Guides are privately published, funded by advertising and free to the public.  They were good referral source sin the beginning, but we're not getting anything from them anymore.  Not sure why.  

Do you have Google Analytics on your website?  You should - you need to know where the traffic is coming from, what key words they are using and what their activity is once on your site.  it's free, but your web designer has to add the coding to every page on your site.  It's worth the effort.

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I'm hearing that same thing about TA.  They will find us through an organic internet search and then go directly to TA to read what others have said.  It's become a huge free marketing tool for us!

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Where is your website ranking on google searches for your areas keyword searches? When you do a google search, make sure you are NOT signed into your google account and you have cleared your cache, otherwise you won't get a true search result.

Like Joey mentioned, we need to know your website before we can help. e-mail some of us (just click on our screen name) so we can know who you are.

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I see that I don't come up on a Google search for Warren Co., Ohio. I don't know exactly how to fix that. I have submitted an entire list of keywords to my website provider and have prodded them to be sure that I am linked to all the major search engines. They have assured me that I am.

Breakfast Diva's picture
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It's probably that your website is not built with adequate SEO (search engine optimization). It's the information ON/IN your website that helps increase your organic listings. You may be linked to all major search engines, but if those search engines don't see the important information on your website, then you'll be left in the dust.

Again, can't help until I/we know what your website is.

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Website is: www.thesinclairhousebnb.com

 

Kay Nein's picture
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She's already posted the website address.

Breakfast Diva's picture
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Kay Nein wrote:

She's already posted the website address.

oops, missed it...sorry. I'll take a look too.

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I started to post the web address in my original message, then thought against it. I don't mind sharing it at all. It is www.thesinclairhousebnb.com  I am less than 10 miles from Kings Island Amusement Park.

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Please share your website again, so we can take a gander from a guest pov.

(You prob already did and I forgot, sorry) We can see what sort of area you are in, and maybe some will have suggestions for you. Or email me if you don't want to post it out here again. 

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