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Innkeeping and Internet Marketing Guide

Case Study: How Greg went from losing money on advertising to expansion:

We had a client come to us in early 2007 and his case was the best example to date of what not to do with your marketing.

Greg was heavily invested in his marketing when he came to us. He put more and more money into advertising he thought was profitable. He did everything from listing in to using Google Pay-per-click to drive more people to his advertised listings.

The problem was, Greg didn't have a website. And when you pay to have potential guest look at a listing without a web site, they get really confused... but that was just his first mistake.

When Greg's advertising wasn't increasing bookings, he made a common mistake – he spent more time and money on trying to make his advertising work.

It's not a bad idea to spend more time on advertising, but you need to go about it the right way. Instead of learning how to market effectively, or how to appeal to more of his existing customers, Greg actually spent less time taking care of his guests and his Inn, and spent more time trying to get his Inn listed with more advertising and travel agencies. 

When he finally came to us, he was out of ideas and very confused. How come the advertising that worked a few years ago has nearly stopped working? Why weren't people noticing his listings, despite the fact that he put hundreds of hours of work into wording them just right to attract guests to stay at his Inn?

One simple look at his advertising on-line would answer those questions. On the Internet, people talk about you, because the interactive nature of modern websites allows people to leave comments, and boy, they were saying some pretty nasty things about Greg's Inn. He wasn't a horrible innkeeper, but people are much more likely to go on-line just to talk about how much they hated your stay when they have a really bad time, as opposed to having a good time.

Greg had pretty bad maintenance on his heaters and coolers, which isn't a good thing when you live in Minnesota. His cleaning crew was doing a poor job. Even worse, a lot of the comments Greg read off the Internet he didn't even know about, and he certainly didn't know that people were talking about him.

Since Greg didn't have a website, when he advertised his listings, and that counted against him. People who saw his listings didn't click on his website like they usually do automatically, but because he didn't have one they would do a search hoping to find some information and would find his poor reviews. Suddenly, it made perfect sense why the money he was spending on advertising was making him very little or no profit.

When Greg stopped paying so much money on advertising and instead put that money into his Inn and a web site, things started to turn around. We showed him how to get good reviews on his Internet listings by taking care of your guests to the point where they love you and are happy to comment on-line. We showed him which marketing was working and which wasn't.  Greg now has a great website that nicely showcases his Inn and allowed customers to make reservations on-line.  This resulted in fewer phone calls during the day and more time to work on his Inn.

By the end of 2007, Greg's future was secure again. His guests liked the Inn so much he was seeing quite a few return visits. He now lives in a positive, enjoyable environment, and only puts about one third of the work he used to into his marketing, because his fans do a lot of the work for him. He now has more free time to do what he wants, because he can afford more employees to look after the Inn.

How to increase your marketing profits by up to 50% or more WITHOUT taking the RISK.

Economic hardship is being felt across the industry and during these times, you're stuck in a catch 22. It's a bad time to take risks, but it's now that you need make changes, and you can't afford to take risks that won't pay off. And that's where I have some good news for you...

The way people choose a place to stay is changing. On the Internet, people have more information available to them than ever before. People can read about other's experiences and see the scenery and exact location of your place with the click on a button. Clients expect a specific, detailed website and some good reviews.

The Internet consists of “pipes” - that is, websites like Google maps or that people can use to find you, and "content", the website that you show people.

The great thing about marketing on the Internet is that you don't need to take the same risks as you may have in the off-line world because your listings are easily track-able with ACCURATE DATA that you can use in making good marketing choices.

You can tell how many people saw your listing (depending on the listing), how many folks clicked on your ad to learn more, and how many who saw your website actually ended up staying with you. All this information gives you one distinct advantage - knowing what worked and what didn't - so you can rest easy with confidence in the marketing money you're spending.

If you aren't getting a response from something you do, like the starting paragraph on your website, you can quickly change it and see if your visitors are more interested. You can ask people who check in about how they made their decision to stay with you and keep track of the percent of people that came from the website, this data can be considerably easier to keep track of by offering on-line reservations. All this data can be measured using free analytics programs and statistics that turn this previous art form into a science.

It's a process of getting more bang for your buck over time, and this is why Innkeepers love Internet marketing. When you can track all of your data, you quickly decrease the risk taken, and you can use the profits to increase your marketing even more, whether that means spending more money on advertising or giving your guests a better experience, causing more to come back time and time again, tell their friends, and talk about you all over the Internet.

Just like in the real world, there are many exciting marketing pipes on the Internet. From maps to directories, you can now see how many people are noticing your Inn and how many stay of those end up booking a room.


How to measure your marketing scientifically

To do the following instructions, you will need to have Google Analytics or some other analytics software installed on your website. If you have a website already, you can install Analytics yourself by going to If you don't have a website, just make sure to get analytics when you buy one, or consider our website offer, as all our websites come with analytics installed.

When prospective customers arrive on your website, you should shout out your welcome to them. Get their attention with a large headline and a nice picture of your place or the area. Talk to them like you would anyone, and ask them to click on a link or to take some kind of clicking action.

In Google Analytics, set goto goals on the left panel and set a goal for each of your links. This can be a little complex, and Google will help you with it, but it can seem a little cryptic. There are more intuitive guides on-line for how to set goals in Google Analytics. If you buy a website from us, goals will come installed.

Once your goals are set up, Analytics will show you how many times each goal – which is really just a link – was clicked on. This tells you what percentage of visitors actually read your material and proceed to click on a link to learn more about your place, see your rooms, or make a reservation. For example, if 100 people came to your website, and 10 of them clicked on your “Reserve Now” button, that would be a 10% “conversion ratio” and you could then change things about the page to try to achieve a higher conversion ratio.

To test one conversion ratio against another, type in “split test statistical tool” or go to to get an accurate measure if one goal is really better than another goal. A lot of innkeepers make the mistake of thinking a 5% conversion ratio is better than a 4% ratio or likewise without considering the probability that they just got lucky the second time around. To achieve good copy for your website, you'll usually need over a thousand visits.

The way to measure accurately is to put in the number of visitors and then the number of people who actually clicked through the link. Some calculators require that you compare how many people actually clicked on the link (the first time vs. the second time) and what the conversion ratio was each time. In any event, you'll want to be at least 90% confident that the edit you do to your website is working better, so you'll want to use a tool like the one above to measure the differences in data, and you should wait until you've had at least one-hundred clicks before you're ready to make a change, and make sure you record the date of change and what the data was for the first material. Then, make the change and use analytics to only look at the new data until you get about 100 clicks, and then compare the two. You may have to let the second set of data build up even longer if there isn't enough of a difference!  

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