Inngenious B&B Web Site Promotion

Bed and Breakfast Marketing Advice: Honesty Really is Best

Guest author Kathleen Panek opened the Gillum House Bed & Breakfast in their home in Shinnston, WV in 1996. She has served as

  • Shinnston's Tourist Information Center
  • Regional Director of Mountain State Association of Bed & Breakfasts (MABB)
  • Marketing Chair and Legislative Chair of MABB specializing in Tourism Advertising Grants, print ads, and appeared on television and at trade shows for the Association.

Kathleen currently is a trainer offering Aspiring Innkeeper Seminars in West Virginia and Louisiana. Her workshops are always well received.

In May 2006, Kathleen received the 2006 West Virginia Home-Based Business Champion of the Year award from the Small Business Association.

By Kathleen Panek
Gillum House Bed & Breakfast
Shinnston, West Virginia

In marketing your bed & breakfast, the most important thing is to be honest. You can tell all the wonderful features of your inn and talk about the wonderful food, but if you neglect to be honest about anything that is less than wonderful, you will find yourself as a B & B of one time guests.

Word does get around about B&Bs. Friends tell friends about a wonderful place, BUT people will tell everyone about a disappointment.

For 10 years, I had 3 guestrooms with a shared bath. I made sure every piece of advertising, every review, and every article stated clearly – 3 guestrooms with shared bath.

When taking a reservation I would always verify they were aware that it was 3 with shared, immediately launching into my patter about how we knew it was a disappointment to many, but no streakers were allowed (Chuckle #1). That we had terry robes in the closets for the guests to use. And since it was a shared bath, we also had emergency facilities in each guestroom – there was a chamber pot under every bed! (Chuckle #2) I also told them about our occupied sign so no one would be startled by a knock on the door if they were enthroned and contemplating their navel – it was a business card on a string that would be tossed over the door. I then would start talking about the full breakfast we served and often times, would get the reservation even though the person was a bit iffy about the bathroom. I had told them exactly what to expect.

I never wanted to have an “unhappy camper”.

If there is a feature about your inn that is not the most desirable, but it is all you have to work with, make sure it is known before taking the reservation. It eliminates the unhappy guest wanting a discount or refund – in fact, it eliminates the unhappy guest.

Oh, by the way, while we still had the 3 with shared bath, we had 9 honeymoons and many, many anniversaries and many return guests. We were honest about what we had to offer and we made their stay so great that they wanted to come back. - Kathleen Panek


Kathleen's experience and marketing advice applies directly to websites too. If you have a shared bath, be sure to say that clearly. If it is a modest bath with just the essentials, don't throw in the word "luxurious" just because your competition does. The problem with stooping to the level of your competition is that once they fail or get a bad reputation, you are still hunched over with a reputation problem yourself.

There is a fine line between over-hyping and under-hyping what you have to offer. This is also why good photos can be an asset. Good photos draw people in, but they also help assure potential guests that what they see is what they get. If the words say luxurious and the photos tell a different story, you'll likely scare potential guests off.

Hope this helps. - Steve Wirt