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In the highly individualistic culture of the Bed and Breakfast business, Tim and Amy Brady are fast becoming the “go to” couple for B and B owners and operators eager to gain access to the powers of social media marketing, and improving the guest experience in the process.
The 30-something, very cool couple are decidedly not what one thinks of when one thinks of innkeepers.
Amy is known to change the color of her long auburn hair on a whim or season, and Tim, a former NJ cop, speaks with breath-taking speed, describing himself as a bona fide “B and B geek” who toyed with computers as a kid.
Today he’s quickly becoming a poster boy for a new generation of innkeepers.
We sat in their intimate pub (the Bradys are true beer afficianados), part of their comfortable and roomy six-room inn, 40 Putney Road, in Brattelboro, Vermont, and listened as Tim discussed a recent Trip Advisor research project between the review giant and The Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII).
The surprise discovery? A whopping 95 percent of travelers never consider staying at a B and B when making travel plans.
Tim said that the main reason travelers are B and B averse, especially younger travelers, is that they don’t want to have to talk to strangers or eat breakfast with people they don’t know.
In other words the “new” traveler doesn’t seek the very intimate experience for which inns and B and B’s world-wide are celebrated.
“We know from the study,” Tim says, “that these travelers are afraid of the B and B experience… ” “Yes,” Amy interrupts, in the manner of couples everywhere. “They don’t want the innkeepers hovering over them, being sure their needs are met. They want more anonymity.”
The Bradys rose to the marketing challenge of “converting” the resort and hotel-stayers into B and B guests by employing a range of social media strategies.
First thing we did, Tim said, was to make a handful of non-promotional, fun videos an post them on YouTube and other video sharing sites.
Where it was once a “good idea” to make a video for your B and B, it’s now essential, he believes, and he’s smart enough to know that in the social media rule book, the videos can’t be overtly promotional. They have to be, and they are, friendly, natural, casual and non-professional, like the one on The Ghosts of Southern Vermont.
More importantly perhaps, the Bradys adhere to the classic social media principle that the guest experiences at an inn or hotel or B and B must begin well before the guest arrives.
“It’s great,” Tim says. “From the moment the guest begins the search process, through the booking process up ro when they arrive, we are in touch with them sharing updates, changes, news.”
By the time a guest arrives, everyone is on the same page; expectations have been managed and, Tim laughs over another glass of micro-brewed beer, “the guests arrive knowing more about us than we do ourselves!”
Tim and Amy break another rule of traditional hospitality strategies: They don’t encourage guests to write reviews on Trip Advisor or other review sites.
“Why should the dialogue, the conversation be between our guests and Trip Advisor?” Brady asks. “How does that help us or help our guests? People who stay with us know they can reach us directly with suggestions and criticisms on Facebook, email, texting… and they know we listen to them and incorporate what they have to say.”
Tim and Amy are energized by the challenge of reaching the 95 percent that have never considered a B and B stay. But they know the only way to reach them is to engage them in a robust conversation via social media, and to reassure them that not all B and B’s are frilly Victorian places with hovering innkeepers.
Certainly 40 Putney isn’t. It’s comfortable, well designed, not overstuffed and fully “Wi Fied.”
I did get a Tweet from them a few hours after we left. They thanked us for coming and regretted we only stayed the one night.
I’m sure we’ll be back. But then again, I’m a believer to begin with and love Twitter.
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