Bringing in Business in the Winter

21 replies [Last post]
Offline
Joined:
04/22/2019

I am a new owner of a B & B in the town of Limerick Maine.  I am currently on Airbnb and booking.com with no luck in bringing in new guests for the Cold Winter Months.

Any suggestions on any other low cost methods of reaching out to new people?  I do post regularly on Facebook, but looking for idea's, I am just getting my feet wet and expenses are out of control and need guests coming in.

Valerie

ChrisandShelley's picture
Offline
Joined:
04/13/2014

Morticia has the scoop: Advanced Deposits. We take deposits for all of our year advanced bookings in January. We enjoy the break in January, so we're not marketing for anything that month.

In February, we put on our own workshops, concerts and dances to attract people. We've had a crafters' weekend, Valentine's weekend with dinner, Ukulele Workshop, and some other things to draw people in. Each event is affordable as we give rate discounts.

Even if you don't have a separate banquet hall, you can get someone to have a paint workshop, crafting weekend, scrapbooking, music workshop, or something easy in your dining room. Our first year, we didn't have the banquet hall, so we had our classes in our dining room. Everyone enjoyed it very much.

__________________

Christopher and Shelley Smith, Innkeepers
The Wildflower Bed & Breakfast, Mountain View, AR

 

Morticia's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/22/2008

It's interesting you get people in for events you put on. Are they local? IE - within a half hour to an hour away?

We've never been able to figure out how to get people in for an event. How to get the critical mass needed to make everyone feel like they came to the right place, so to speak.

I talked with a shop owner here in town who has a second location about 45 minutes away in a medium-size town. When she hosts an event in the other town, she has a waiting list. Here she doesn't get anyone signing up at all.

This is a person who markets the heck out of her shops. She chats up everyone. Her take on it was people don't come here to 'do crafts.' (We do have one big craft-making weekend, but that was already a critical mass when we got them to move the weekend here.)

 

__________________

Never judge a person's story by the chapter you walked in on.

 

ChrisandShelley's picture
Offline
Joined:
04/13/2014

We get a few local folks, but we extend a discount to out-of-towners who stay with us, both on the rate and the workshop fees. We do get an occasional guest who lives in a short range. Our music workshops will have the class during the day, then a jam or concert at night. So even if they are local, they will want to stay overnight to get the most of our their experience. Even our crafter's weekend, we will usually have something planned in the evening.

A big thing that we do is our email marketing. We use Mail Chimp and put everyone's email addresses in there that stay with us. So everyone gets a newsletter at some point. We don't send out a whole lot, but I want to change that next year. At least monthly, but preferably every other week. It seems that email marketing is making a come back. We've been relatively successful with our email marketing. I just need to do it more. That's the best way to get people who have already had a great experience at our BnB to come back for something interesting in our off season.

 

Morticia's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/22/2008

Advance deposits! Forgot about those. We take deposits all winter for the summer season. Save back about 20% of those for cancellations, but generally speaking, 80% of the guests who have paid a deposit show up. Make sure there is a cancellation fee.

Also, the snowed-in idea is a good one. We have guests who look forward to the idea they don't have to do anything but sit by the fire! 

And, another good one - keep those posters (or postcards) of the big events in town. I have 4 of them I keep in rotation. One for our holiday event, one for the fall fest, one for girlfriends getaway, and one for something else. I change the date on the poster to show next year and guests are looking at these all thru breakfast.

Lee2014's picture
Online
Joined:
12/11/2014

  "Winter's coming!  You are going to get snowed in...why not here?!?"  Then make them long to be snowed in at your place!

__________________

Have a great day!

 

Lee2014's picture
Online
Joined:
12/11/2014

  When we first took over the management of the family inn, we told every guest that we're now open during the winter and told them all about the Dec fest in town etc.  The local places send us free rides, tickets etc so we can experience it and recommend them to our guests.  Jump for those free deals or past the tickets to your favorite guests.  Write a review of your time, it brings you business when they are busy.  We kept the postcard that a local attraction sent us during the winter and hung it in the foyer for the guests to see during the summer.  It said, "You seen it all during the summer but have you seen it in the winter?!?" with a beautiful picture of the place deck to the hilt in Christmas decor.  The ooohhhs from the guests turned into booked rooms that winter.  That postcard is now seven years old but still brings in winter bookings for us.  Since this inn is in a tourist trap we causally remark about how you can skip the lines and traffic etc in the winter when people complain.  Make your guests feel like they are missing out by not being there to experience the winter.  We found that having a couple rooms booked on the weekend only, paid our bills during the winter even though we were not full.  We also take reservations for next year when people leave.  In January we send out an email to everyone and they confirm that they still want it by sending us a check for the deposit.  The end of January whoever hasn't responded, their room gets unblocked and they are notified of the change.  This is how we manage during the winter months.  We also take some time off to relax and do projects, you will need it.  A resort south of Florida has an all expense paid deal including plane tickets in Dec/Jan.  A life saver for my extended family over the years.

Offline
Joined:
02/15/2017

Build lodging packages around local events and partner (for advertising, etc...) with those organizations who offer them. We also just started offering Murder/Mystery Weekends for groups of 6-10. (usually the pre-packaged games require a min. of 6 people to play and have additional characters for the extra people - and innkeepers who host the event, plus there is usually the cost of a catered dinner that we have brought in. Unless you are open to cooking it for people) Many are holiday themed for to coordinate with the winter months! Makes for a fun group weekend when you have to be indoors!

ChrisandShelley's picture
Offline
Joined:
04/13/2014

One of the other BnB's here in town does the murder mystery thing and it is a huge success for them.

Offline
Joined:
04/22/2019

I would REALLY like to pick your brain about the Murder/Mystery Weekends, I have been talking about that for a week and am not really sure how to get started on that.  Because I am in a VERY RURAL area of Maine, not much other than Fishiing going on here in the Winter, something like that would bring people in and maybe some SPA Weekend packages.  I do not need much to keep my bills paid in the winter, but I could use at least 8-10 nights rented.  

Offline
Joined:
02/15/2017

Sent you a message with some of the details about our events!

gillumhouse's picture
Online
Joined:
05/22/2008

When you visit these shops, businesses take a basket or plate of fresh baked muffins or cookies with you.  You could do up a plate with wrap & ribbon for each visit or just offer samples of whatever you would bake and serve. Samples do not hurt - will put you above the oh, someone was here in their minds.

Offline
Joined:
09/26/2011

We too are in a very low population area and are very quiet November through April.  Can you serve dinners or teas to the general public?   Our license allows this and it does supplement in quiet times.  I don't push this in high summer.   

A theme dinner at a per head charge that makes the work worthwhile could be an option that can be shared on social media, especially with a 10 sec video to show off a photogenic menu item.  

Agree with Mort on taking your brochures to area coffee shops, general stores, museums, funeral homes, chambers of commerce or tourism offices and event coordinators.  Give a face to the 'new kid in town'

Are you doing anything differently from the previous owners?  Has the local press covered your new ownership?

Have you held an open house for the locals since your acquisition of the property?  

 

Offline
Joined:
04/22/2019

I am 1 month in, so i have yet to create a brochure, I do need to do that, and the previous owner had none.  This is such a rural town, I really do not have coffee shops other than Dunkin Donuts nor do we have restaurants ( other than a "family" pub down the street).   The Press has not covered the change of ownership, a few local folks have stopped by to welcome me, but not many yet...but then again it has only been 5 weeks and I have been up to my elbows in repairs and things like that to fix up.  I am sure i can do a catered dinner and tea should not be a problem.  

What am I doing differently than the previous owners?  Trying to make money.  The previous owners had prices dirt cheap, gave things away, and had NO cancellation policy that people are having hard time with.  I am trying to make a living at this, but basically free room and board and no cancellation fee's are hard to beat.  

I plan on having an open house soon, like I said, I literally just got here..I will put that on my list and ask some of my fellow Maple Sugar venders for input.  

JimBoone's picture
Offline
Joined:
12/18/2014

Old timer now, but my first March I didn't gross enough to pay the February power bill, starting out can be tough, but hopefully it improves with time and experience. 

Brochure: I have one and a business card, nice to have that brochure in the Chamber office or a visitors center on the highway, but these days I think working my website produces more for less money. If your previous folks had a website, good, if not a new one will take a bit of time to become noticed by the search engines. I believe in do-it-yourself, costs far less and faster to change and update, need help, reach out, another forum member got me started.

Guests: Are there hotels/motels/other Bnbs in town? Who do they sell to, where do their guests come from, how much do they charge and how are their polices set? If there are guests in town we only need to be better than the competition to get our share of the business, if no one is visiting the area, that can be a bigger job.

Pricing: We all need to make money and pay our bills, yet every location is different, my advice, make changes slowly, any time I made rash changes it hurt me for a period of time. When we started nearly 30 years ago I'd say we were the nicer "dump" in town, most business was overflow when the town was busy, today we battle with a couple of new chain hotels for the top spot on TA, but it takes time.

My goal is to match the large fancy chains on quality and beat them on price and personality, but it takes time. I don't know your prices, costs or competition, only you can make those decisions, however my experience was that if I upgraded and changed prices upward I chased away my guests and then it took me a few years to develop a following of new guests who found the new price a good value, slow and steady wins

__________________

Jim & Maxine

 

Morticia's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/22/2008

Good point about the website! In searching the OP's town the only B&B that shows up shows up as for sale. Building a website is important. BTW, if you use the Google Search Console you can immediately 'push' the new content instead of waiting for G to crawl your site.

TheBeachHouse's picture
Offline
Joined:
06/24/2013

vkblondie wrote:

I am 1 month in, so i have yet to create a brochure, I do need to do that, and the previous owner had none.  This is such a rural town, I really do not have coffee shops other than Dunkin Donuts nor do we have restaurants ( other than a "family" pub down the street).   The Press has not covered the change of ownership, a few local folks have stopped by to welcome me, but not many yet...but then again it has only been 5 weeks and I have been up to my elbows in repairs and things like that to fix up.  I am sure i can do a catered dinner and tea should not be a problem.  

What am I doing differently than the previous owners?  Trying to make money.  The previous owners had prices dirt cheap, gave things away, and had NO cancellation policy that people are having hard time with.  I am trying to make a living at this, but basically free room and board and no cancellation fee's are hard to beat.  

I plan on having an open house soon, like I said, I literally just got here..I will put that on my list and ask some of my fellow Maple Sugar venders for input.  

make sure you send press releases about the change in ownership.   Have a ribbon cutting ceremony.  A grand reopening.   An open house.  

__________________

TBH

 

Morticia's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/22/2008

Other free stuff - Instagram and Pinterest. Follow all the locals on IG and they will follow you. (I started Pinterest and then got sick so I haven't really even looked at it in months, but it can work for you.)

Morticia's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/22/2008

In house things to try: elopements, book club meetings, baby showers. You might not get overnights from those last two immediately, but if you allow locals in the house they *may* refer to you.

Any winter carnivals near you? On the lake maybe? Can you entice guests who might be going to the winter festival of lights that is Dec 6-7 all along the coast? (York Harbor has something, Ogunquit, Kennebunk has the Prelude, etc.) In Jan a lot of places have something going on for MLK weekend. Feb get the Valentine's crowd and shoppers for Presidents Day.

Are you near Sanford? Check the VA hospital if they need housing for vets who need to stay over for tests. Or doctors or nurses traveling. Also in Sanford is a great quilt shop, maybe they host classes or you can host quilting classes if they can help organize with you.

You might want to join Maine Innkeepers, now known as Hospitality Maine. Also get your info on the state website and Maine Tourism. Try getting locals in with packages: spa weekends, if you have a spa nearby, dining options, stuff like that.

It's not impossible to get people in, but you have to look around for what events are taking place and talk to the coordinators.

Also try local hospitals and colleges. They often have visiting nurses or teachers who need longer term accommodations.

That said, we close mostly from Jan thru Mar. We're open a couple of weeks in Feb for all the festivals in town. We got tired of hustling for the $$$ with the hotels in town that drop down to $59/night.

Offline
Joined:
04/22/2019

Limerick is about 30 min away from Sanford and Biddeford, 50 min from Portland and Kittery and about 40 min from Saco/Old Orchard and Kennebunk.  I will check into the winter festivals and start posting on Facebook and getting an Instagram page up as well. 

Quilters - Great Idea, this is the Craft Central, I just got roped into a Craft Trail where the previous owner allowed crafters to sell crafts here ( for free) and I allowed this since she already advertised for it, but I blew through 100 gallons of Fuel because of the cold weather and the door basically open all day for 3 days running.  It was fun, but it cost me money hopefully the exposure for the future will offset my expenses.  

I will check with the near by Hospitals and offer a discounted rate for doctors and nurses who want to stay ( great idea). 

I am thinking, i might be closing down also next year December - February if things do not pick up.  the previous owners had no booking history either so i cannot even look back on it.  Spring through Fall it is packed here and lots to do in this area, but the winter...not so much..

gillumhouse's picture
Online
Joined:
05/22/2008

Is there a funeral home in town. I have a bereavement rate. Too cheap but going up. It HAS brought in a few nights.

Offline
Joined:
04/22/2019

Not in this town, but I am SURE in surrounding towns and this is an idea I am going to get on ASAP for death happens year round!! GREAT Idea.

 

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.