I was asking about Easy InnKeeping's and GraceSoft's company history, so I could incorporate a bit of it into the blog, and hit paydirt. Gideon Stanley, Grace Software's CEO wrote articles for several monthly publications, and while some parts of these articles may be a bit dated, the information in the articles is still useful.
By Gideon Stanley (originally published in Arrington’s Bed & Breakfast Journal, January 2003; original links from article have been disabled, see more current information at the end of the article.)
So you’ve thought of every way possible to make your inn and rooms more attractive. You’ve been advertising last minute specials and weekend getaways. In this economy, properties know that it will take a bit more ingenuity to keep heads in their beds! When you’ve learned and implemented all the basic marketing strategies – what next?
Possibilities are never ending. In this month’s article – I’m going to explore a few less conventional, but very effective affiliate marketing tactics. You may have implemented similar marketing plans by offering weekend packages that include services and/or products from your locale. Don’t limit yourself to partnering with vendors next door or down the street. Since many B&Bs have an internet presence – what about your neighbors on the World Wide Web?
Partner with Your Online Neighbors
In this week’s Budget Travel issue – Vicki Harbin writes about the latest incentive for booking a room at Candlewood Suite Hotel. In return for booking a 3-night stay, they are offering a $50 Amazon.com gift certificate. “Candlewood last offered this promotion with Amazon last fall, and now it’s back.” This promotion must have had success the first time they ran it! Think about the possibilities of offering incentives to book a more expensive room, or extend a stay.
Give Away Incentives! (Not Your Rooms)
Do you have any items at your property that your guests just love? Whether it’s a certain kind of coffee, soap, or towels – you could offer a gift certificate for one of these items as an incentive to book the rooms or reservations you need to sell. Are these items available for purchase on a web site? Perhaps you could arrange some cross marketing as well. If your B&B is a popular romantic getaway, go to http://affiliate.1800flowers.com and sign up to become a referral for flower deliveries or http://www.wine.com/affiliate to sell fine wines. If you’re already reselling these items from your B&B, why not do it from your website too? You can create a “wine recommendation” page, and offer links to purchase your favorites! These are only a couple of possibilities. Whatever your area of expertise, share your advice and receive commissions for the sales that result!
Become An Online (Re-)Seller
Whether selling your own unique gift items, or reselling items that relate directly to your inn and locale – don’t be shy to sell more than rooms on your website! Let’s say there’s a great book about the history of quilt making available for sale on Amazon.com. If you offer a direct link for buying this book on your website, Amazon.com will pay you for any “clicks” from your web site to theirs! If you are re-selling other items, such as robes, towels, and other specialty items – you may be able to reap other benefits from providing leads to those vendors. If they are items your guests want – and they remind them of YOUR property and website – you can’t lose on any of these deals. To try out Amazon.com’s affiliate marketing program visit http://www.associates.amazon.com and learn how to earn up to 15% per referral.
Other Online Partners
Not every online “partnership” results in direct sales. Linking with map and weather sites adds value to and B&B web site by providing pertinent travel information to your guests. You can post up-to-date weather information by signing up for the free “Weather on your Site” program. If you don’t offer weather on your web site, you can sign up for this program at http://oap2.weather.com/oap/. You can also obtain map images from www.mapquest.com. After entering address, city, and state – you will see a map displayed. By clicking on “Save Map” you will create your own map page that can be linked to your web site. MapQuest will maintain this page as long as your map is accessed at least once every 90 days.
Link to Local News
Does one of your regional newspapers or radio stations have an active web site? Oftentimes banners on these sites are much less expensive than a “radio spot.” If your property is one that receives a lot of “weekend getaway” visits from the surrounding locale – web sites for regional/local news organizations are great places to advertise. You could go even further and form a partnership between your B&B organization and the news organization site. Your B&B could offer a link to local news and events, and in exchange offer a local B&B listing to the news site.
Current links (as of Jan 31, 2012):