By: Think Akamai  09-12-2011

PROBLEM:  A year ago, Honey and Boone Sweet opened up a Bed and Breakfast in Kona, and business is doing reasonably well so far.  Their advertising campaign, which consists of word of mouth, a small ad in the Yellow Pages, and intermittent newspaper ads, is bringing in enough clientele to cover expenses plus a little more.  Boone currently works at a full-time job while Honey manages the B&B.  The Sweets would like to increase their bookings enough so that Boone can reduce his hours at work and perhaps eventually quit.   

At last year’s B&B owners conference, many of their peers touted the effectiveness of having their own website.  Boone and Honey are contemplating doing the same, but they really don’t know anything about setting up a web site or what all their options are.  They do know that their funds are limited right now, and any marketing they do will need to be cost effective.  SOLUTION:  A safe way to break ground on the internet is to use a building-block approach.  The staff at Akamai Information Management can assist the Sweets with establishing a simple show-and-tell type of web site.  This would mean displaying photos and descriptions of the B&B’s guest rooms, dining and living areas, grounds, and amenities, as well as local attractions, etc., with a price list, map and directions, and a phone number and e-mail link.  The site’s effectiveness can be measured via the number of e-mails they receive from the web page, as well as using a counter to track the number of hits to their site.  Another valuable feedback tool might be a special on-line offer such as a small discount or free gift with room reservation.     

Based on their success at this level, the Sweets may decide to invest a little more and add a page that shows room availability and rates, as well as a secure on-line reservation system.  This type of database-driven web site would be integrated with their current reservations and accounting systems, automating tasks and freeing Honey up to take care of other aspects of the business.  At this stage, more precise management reporting can be done, as revenues generated directly from the web site can be evaluated.
Other options/marketing devices that can be implemented include, but are not limited to:
  1. Links to complementary businesses (i.e. kayak rental, golf, whale watching cruises, tours, restaurants, etc.) with whom the Sweets have agreed to do cross marketing;
  2. Feedback pages where clients can rate their facility, give testimonials, and communicate what they’d like to see in the future;
  3. Virtual tours of their facility and surrounding attractions;
  4. Free membership, with members receiving benefits such as coupons, newsletters containing helpful tips in an area of expertise (i.e. travel tips), and e-mail notifying them of new or similar products/services that they may be interested in. 
The more interaction the Sweets can establish with their customers, the better they will be able to assess and improve their website effectiveness.  And, with this building-block approach, investment into web marketing becomes incremental, with each cycle bringing greater sophistication and interaction with their existing and potential customers.

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