Secrets to Successful Handling of Buy-One-Night-Get-Second-Night-Free Reservations
Innkeepers have been successfully dealing with customers of the BOGO program for more than 15 years now and have thus worked with the following partners:
American Express, Amtrack, MinuteMaid, Lipton Tea, Glen Ellen Wine, Taster's Choice, Shredded Wheat, Hallmark Cards, Hallmark Channel, Wells Fargo and many other large corporations who have partnered with us to promote the bed and breakfast industry.
Here are innkeepers' recommendations:
Never Let Go Of a Caller
When a call or email comes in from someone wanting to use the BOGO hang onto that customer. Don't just say no if they want to come on Saturday night mid-summer when you aren't available. Just say, oh we would so much like to have you visit, can you come the following Monday?" "Let me send you our newsletter in case you can come mid September or in the fall." or "The Classic Car event is fully booked, but did you know we have a wonderful car museum here open all year?" etc. Or if you can come another time, I'll be sure to secure two dessert vouchers for you for ..."
Treat Certificate Customers as You Would Any Guest
By honoring "Buy-One-Night-Get-One-Night-Free" certificates you are making an investment for the future for your business. Therefore, be certain that guests don’t feel slighted because they are using this offer. People who use the "Buy-One-Night-Get-One-Night-Free" certificates have invested time and thought into trying something new, a stay at a B&B with the hope of a good and happy welcome from the innkeepers. And when guests choose your inn from the many others included in the program, they really want to come and enjoy your hospitality. If you ever find yourself feeling less than welcoming it is a useful sign that you might not want to continue in the program or that you are not charging enough.
You can choose any dates - for instance November and January Mon-Wed. Or go the other way and choose "Anytime based on availability", or call 24 hours ahead for availability. Some innkeepers set aside a certain number of rooms for "Buy-One-Night-Get-One-Night-Free" – as airlines do with discounted fares. However, to be successful you will want to be flexible. If it appears that the inn is going to fill up early, the number of rooms set aside can be reduced. And vice-versa, if reservations are slow the number of rooms available can expand. When an inquiry comes at the last minute, it may be better to book them rather than let the room stay empty. For this scenario, try to use a color marker on the reservation book to indicate if a Buy-One-Night-Get-One-Night-Free guest has been booked. When the number of designated rooms accepted for that day or week is reached, then, depending on conditions, you can decide to add discounted rooms or to not accept any additional discount reservations for that day or week. If the inn is filling up fast and pressure is on to rent the set aside discount rooms to non-discount customers, then you easily can reduce the number of discount rooms available. You can decide that you will honor 10 nights in May etc.
To sign up: Click on the innkeeper tab on www.iloveinns.com and log into the innkeeper control panel. At the bottom left under BOGO click on Application Form. If you are already a member click on the view and update application tab to update your particiation dates.
Think in Terms of Yield
An empty room yields $0.00 – nothing! Actually less than nothing, because it costs you just to keep the empty room available. You have invested much in your inn. Therefore your best payoff comes when it produces the maximum yield. To find out how much it is yielding now, divide total annual revenues by the total number of room nights available in one year. This is your annual yield-per-room. Hoteliers will look for ways to reduce the number of zero nights by offering incentives to customers. The is an ideal way to increase the annual yield-per-room.
Offer Your Best Rooms
During off-peak times average room rates can be increased by encouraging your certificate customers to take the most expensive rooms, unless these are the first to book for you. Two things happen here. (A) cash flow is increased by the higher yield produced by the more expensive room. (B) The customer feels like they were given first-class treatment and will tell everyone they know about this absolutely "great inn". Innkeepers report that these guests meet the same profile as guests without certificates. We have found that many couples use the savings simply to book the best room you have and get to spend two nights there instead of one and that they choose their inn for this reason.
Upgrade On Occasion
If you have plenty of rooms and few guests coming in, an upgrade may be just the magic needed to make the customer feel like they are given special care, thus selling them on your amazing inn and hospitality encourages them to return and to tell their friends about you.
2 Ways to Manage Guest Calls
Here is another reservation situation. The customer finds out you have rooms available and then tells you they have a "Buy-One-Night-Get-One-Night-Free" certificate. If you know that these rooms could and will be sold at full price, how would you respond? In other words, “Subject to Availability” kicks in. If you have designated a certain number of rooms for the program and they are filled, then it is easier for the customer to accept. You may tell him all your Buy-One-Night-Get-One-Night-Free rooms have been filled for that day or week.
One innkeeper says, “Our Free Night quota has already been met for that time, perhaps you could come next Monday?...next month?” Many, many innkeepers are also able to entice the guest to pay full price this time and save the certificate for their off peak travel. Others engage the callers so deeply they OFTEN find a way to stay on the other end of their trip or come back another time if they can't work it out this time..
We have received countless notes from happy guests telling us how greatly they enjoyed their stays and from happy innkeepers who have reported new guests who have returned and sent others. Two innkeepers actually reported they were able to purchase a second property because of this program. The inns that have profited the most from t recognize the true value of their investment by honoring the Buy-One-Night-Get-One-Night-Free certificate holders with good will and cheer.
"I just had to write and let I Love Inns know how great your Buy-One-Night-Get-One-Night Program is to attract visitors to my Bed and Breakfast, and my community. It brought in 51 bookings during our slow season which also had considerable impact on our small business area and restaurants. Some people came just once and re-booked for the summer and others came back two and three times in winter. There were no negatives to the program and the returns were more than positive. Thank you for all the great marketing ideas and your continued efforts to support the B&Bs and Inns across North America." Danielle Paterson
“We participate in the Buy-One-Night-Get-the-Second-Night Free program and plan to continue to do so. One of our major sources of new customers are people who come to stay based on the recommendation of friends and family who have used the BOGO certificate. And these people keep coming and coming and telling their own circles of friends." Dan Bond, The Towers
"Of all the associations I am a member of you are the most out front and progressive of them all. I guess this is why I have been a member since 1995ish…..this is my 21st year! Bravo to you!!!!" The Lockhart Bed and Breakfast Inn
"I would like to put forth a giant THANK YOU! to your organization for the continuing efforts on behalf of the B&B industry. Over the years, your Buy-one-night-get-the-second-night-free coupons have worked amazingly well for us, and have been cause for repeat business - which is the majority of our guests." Fensalden Inn
"I just want to congratulate you on your many years (30) of wonderful service to this lodging industry. I have really appreciated your creative ways of marketing our business." Viroqua Heritage Inn B&B's,
"Wow! I say it again. You guys are great! BY FAR the most effective and helpful of all the organizations. THANKS!!!!" Nancy Henderson, Sunset Hill House
"If each person who visits here tells some one else how wonderful we are (and we are) the BOGO is well worth it." Kathleen Panek, Gillum House Bed & Breakfast