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B&B Marketer of the Year Award

“All for One, and One for All”

Innkeepers who follow this approach emphasize the importance of promoting their town or area. Wendy Porterfield, who has run the Washington House Inn in Cedarburg, Wisconsin for more than 30 years, explains that “Our objective with any of our marketing campaigns is to introduce new visitors to the entire area and especially our town of Cedarburg. . . . We have an ‘all for one, and one for all’ attitude about our wonderful destination.”

Dianne Debelak of The Homespun Country Inn in Nappanee, Indiana echoes those sentiments. “I think when you all work together to promote your community, everybody wins,” Debelak says. This outlook cultivates good feelings as it drives more business: Debelak notes that many stores in Nappanee refer new guests who come to shop, but then decide to stay the night.

Where Do Visitors Want to Go in Your Area?

Innkeepers often know the local attractions better than anyone, whether that means the restaurants with the best food or the country highways with the best scenery. Where should your guests rent a boat, or fishing tackle, or scuba gear? Who are the best hunting guides, or ski instructors? Where are the best antique shops?

While you’re at it, which other businesses draw potential guests to your area? Do the people at those businesses know about your inn? If not, make a point of meeting them.

That’s exactly what Roy Forsberg of the Wolf Cove Inn in Maine did to build his local network — “lots of one-on-one marketing by driving to and shaking hands with owners of local businesses who bring visitors to the area.” That effort has already created many word-of-mouth referrals for his inn, even though Forsberg has been an innkeeper only a couple of years.

Local Outreach Ideas that You Could Try

After listing dozens of local marketing tactics they have tried, Dianna and Ed Muraski of the Centaur Health Resort and Spa in California joke that “We’re both appalled at all of the things we do to promote our business. I guess that’s why we are full every weekend from April to October.”

Innkeepers like the Muraskis are always looking for ways to get the word out among local businesses. Specific organizations to consider include:

  • Chamber of Commerce — Along with civic and business groups such as Rotary.
  • Charities — The Muraskis have raised awareness by donating stays at their inn to local environmental and children’s charities.
  • Colleges and universities — Chris Spaeth of Cornerstone Bed and Breakfast in Philadelphia has successfully targeted parents of students at nearby Drexel and Penn.
  • Factories and corporations — Especially those who regularly bring in out-of-town staff or need to hold off-site meetings.
  • Festivals, fairs, and exhibitions — Whether a bluegrass festival, a Ren Faire, or an antique car show.
  • Other B&Bs — Through their Chamber of Commerce, the Muraskis have connected with other innkeepers; they all refer business to one another when their own B&Bs are full.
  • Outdoor guides and rentals — For anything from deep-sea fishing to snowmobiling.
  • Property owners’ associations — Forsberg held an open house so his neighbors (who refer lots of visiting family and friends) could see his newly renovated inn.
  • Summer camps — Forsberg has created great buzz among campers’ parents by having his inn mentioned in brochures for the lakeside camps in his part of Maine.
  • Wineries and craft breweries — Guided tours of these facilities can be especially popular among your “foodie” guests.

Whether it’s a fishing guide, a charity, or a summer camp, try to consider every local outfit that brings people to your area who might need a nice place to stay . . . and then go make friends with them. As Dianne Debelak says, “I cannot stress it enough to work with your local businesses to promote one another. Networking is a powerful advertising tool.”

What are you doing to network with local businesses? Join the conversation on Google +


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