Is The Inn Crowd Ready For Digital Marketing?
Breakfast may always be ready, but is the bed & breakfast industry ready to leapfrog into the Technology Age with a high-tech, social media-driven company that eliminated its much-beloved print directories? Well, we’re about to find out.
A newly branded company called Bescover.com (a play on Rediscover Bed & Breakfasts) has Marie Lanier as a vice president. Her mother, Pamela, produced 30 years of B&B directories, the last of which was published several years ago. The CEO is Thomas Brown, who was part of the group that sold the UpTake Networks, a travel research site, to Groupon.
Together, they launched Bescover.com, which they call “the digital marketing partner” for the industry. It promises “an all-in-one marketing solution that leverages digital media, the internet and social media channels on behalf of innkeepers.” For just $34 a month (for any sized inn), subscribers receive a ready-made, single-page control center that promises to guide innkeepers through their daily marketing initiatives. The fee can be cancelled at any time, but the company promises to add new services on a regular basis at no additional cost.
Brown said that Bescover will place B&B’s on an even internet playing field with other lodging options. In many cases, B&B’s are simply not a presence on travel search or social media. Aside from a web site that lists more than 8,500 inns in more than 30 countries, the initial product includes:
- Mobile sites, with each innkeeper getting their own mobile web site. The sites enable even tech-challenged innkeepers to capture leads and market their properties. Innkeepers can
easily post photos and new information whenever they want. Bescover takes over from there and applies the changes to the inn’s Bescover web site and the Bescover mobile site at the same time.
- Traveler Radar -- a social media search tool that sends relevant traveler data to the appropriate innkeeper. Say a consumer tweets, looking for a romantic spot
within 30 miles of Washington, D.C.; the appropriate innkeeper will be fed that link.
- Reputation Tracker, monitoring tool for social media and the Web
Bescover executives say the average occupancy rate at B&B’s is 43.7%, far lower than at hotels, Despite the industry’s lack of technological expertise, it is a growing presence -- projected to grow by 20% through 2020.
However, less than half of B&B’s are available on major booking venues, and digital marketing is the top challenge city by innkeepers. Less than 40% of inns have Facebook presence, less than 20% have Twitter accounts; and less than 40% have a “modern” web presence.
Certainly, inns have had web sites and there are web sites for the industry, but Bescover says it has studied what does and doesn’t work for inn web sites to create sites that inn-goers will find intuitive and that create a natural funnel from all pages right into the booking process.
It’s easy to understand that directories are no longer viable. However, many innkeepers will be resistant -- fearful in their own way as traditional travel agents were with the advent of online travel agents. Many of those agents who adapted have thrived. The same will be the case with B&B’s -- especially since companies like Bescover are aiming to make it easy for them to adapt.
And there are probably other fragmented industries in travel might look to a company like Bescover.com as a role model, They will definitely be interested in how it all turns out.