Direct Bookings Explained
Understanding all the elements you need to drive successful direct bookings
CMS for your B&B
CMS stands for Content Management System which will most likely be the website builder you use. Popular examples include WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace. There are a number of options available for this.
- You can hire an agency or freelancer to build it for you. Ideal if you don’t have the time, interest or technical knowledge to build your own site
- Do it yourself (from scratch). Websites such as Wix and Squarespace are easy to use and can build a great looking website. They often have templates you can use to make it easier.
- Do it yourself (templates). WordPress is a leading CMS and uses web design templates, called themes, that can be purchased for little money. Once purchased, you can modify the template and set up your own website
*Bed and Breakfast Coach, Yvonne Halling, said you should structure your website so that it not only attracts visitors, but leads them to the ‘book now’ button. She also said your online booking system should be a third party embedded on your website, linked to your payment provider (also a third party) so that you can take deposits and charge balances.
Photography – marketing your B&B
Images play a huge role in the booking process. Here’s some things to think about:
- Create images that sum up the key experiences at your property
- Have a look at other properties online and keep note of the types of images you are attracted to on their websites
- Avoid using misleading images (e.g. making rooms look smaller/larger)
- Whilst mobile phone cameras are a lot better now than they used to be, think carefully before you produce your own. It won’t hurt to hire a professional.
- Once you have a great selection of images, produce different versions (e.g. landscape, portrait, high res, low res). This will save time if you’re planning on marketing your property on a number of sites that may have different image requirements.
Getting the right Domain Name for your B&B
This is an important element of running a business and managing your online presence. It’s also a good idea to purchase two domain names, ensuring they contain key words or phrases related to your business.
For example, your primary domain name could be www.seashellsbeachhousecamber.co.uk and then you can create a secondary URL which is shorter and easier to remember for any offline marketing, such as www.seashells.co.uk.
- If possible, buy a “.co.uk” domain instead of .com / .net / .co / .uk
- Keep it simple and avoid strange spellings
Content marketing for your B&B
Other than the obvious, (making sure there is a link to your booking system on your website), there’s a lot of other ‘stuff’ you can put online to encourage people to book.
- Blog: Keep your audience and potential guests up to date. Did you have any special events take place or any upcoming events? Did you try out a new recipe? Have you installed something new?
- News: A news section will be handy for guests, especially if there are any changes affecting their stay. You can keep people updated on hygiene policies (e.g. COVID regulations), any changes to check-in and check-out times, any problems with suppliers and changes to your menu etc.
- Photos: Share your own professional images, or ones from your guests to show a first hand experience of people enjoying their stay
- Reviews: Share reviews and comments from guests so people can hear it ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’.
Picking the right Booking Engine for your B&B
A booking engine is vital for direct bookings. Remember, if you are taking bookings directly through your own site, you are competing with the likes of AirBnB, Booking.com and more, where guests can book easily and instantly.
Many website builders will have integrated booking engines that you can embed on your website.
But you can also set up an online form that will email you a booking request, allowing you to do it manually.
Promoting your B&B
There are many ways you can promote your business, both online and offline. Offline options could include promoting your business in magazines or specific interest publications.
Online options could be anything from directories to social media to pay per click ads.
Social media is a very popular form of advertisement and can help you to gain interest and followers:
- Set up your accounts on your preferred platforms and create a strategy, thinking about what you will post (pictures, videos, reels, lives, blogs etc.), when you will post and how often you will post
- Use hashtags (you can use a maximum of 30 per post on Instagram). People can search for hashtags and your post will pop up.
- Tag locations and any partnerships
- *Bed and Breakfast Coach, Yvonne Halling, said that you should use social media to build the “know, like and trust” factor of your business. This means promoting yourself as the face/voice of your business, driving visitors to your website through regular posting of educational, entertaining and engaging content.
National and local media organisations are always looking for stories and you can reach out to them if you think you have something to share:
- Write a ‘pitch’ explaining your story. (Maybe you received an award, or installed a new pool, or recently became a net-zero business) Make sure the pitch is simple, interesting and accompanied by great photos
- Do some research to find out which media organisation will be the best one to send it to. If it’s a local story, contact your local newspaper, if it’s relevant for a regional or national newspaper, get in touch with a larger organisation.
- Send your pitch to the appropriate person. Most websites will have a page of contacts which you can use to get in touch with press people. Remember, there’s nothing stopping you from reaching out on social media!
- Online news stories can be a great way to link people through to your website, so even if your story doesn’t get printed, online is great too!
Other ways to promote your business include:
- Email newsletters
- Tourism and hospitality awards
- Google Business Profile
Fulfilment of your bookings at your B&B
All of the above is very helpful in driving direct bookings, but you need to make it easy for people to seal the deal and book your property.