Want to know what’s the most important business tool you’ll use for your B&B or small hotel over the next 5 years? Email. That’s right. Well you might think you’re reading an article left over from the 1990’s. Not so. We’ve been getting a lot of comments and questions in recent months about email and it’s proper use in a small business. It’s really quite elemental, so if you don’t get it (it = email) right, you’ll kill your online busines.
One of our collaborating expert authors wrote an excellent post recently at the Instant World Booking Blog: Email Do’s and Don’ts for your Business. For bed and breakfast managers, this is required reading. But, I feel the need to add a few comments of my own.
If you have a website for your bed and breakfast or small hotel, email is the lifeline of your online business (you do have a website don’t you? If not, please get one. It’s extraordinarily cheap). The first rule of using email is that prospective guests and business partners need to be able to reach you. Don’t make excessive use of spam filters or other devices you feel are going to protect you. The basic concept of email is that you want as much contact as possible. If you’re easily annoyed by unsolicited spam, get over it. It’s a fact of life, and neither you nor I are going to solve the big problems of the internet. So, if find yourself sacrificing legitimate guest reservation requests or business solutions by erecting electric fences around your inbox (e.g., excessive spam protection tools), or threatening legal action against every sender of an unsolicited email, then you’re in the wrong business. Remember, we’re in the hospitality business, and we need to remember the old time-tested theory that out of every 10 marketing contacts, there’s one that’s going to pay for the rest.
Here’s a tip to help weed out meaningful business emails from the junk mail. On your website, use a “mailto” anchor link to publish your email address. The html for this looks something like:
<a href=”mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=I want to enquire about a reservation”>email@example.com</a>
This will create a link that, when clicked, will open a new email window with “I want to enquire about a reservation” pre-populated in the subject line. Of course you would replace the email address in the code above with your own. If you don’t know how to edit HTML on your website, your webmaster can do this easily for you. Then, you create a filter in your email address to automatically highlight all incoming emails with the words “I want to enquire about a reservation” in the subject, or place them in a separate folder. This is an excellent means of quickly scanning important incoming emails from the spam, and in many ways is more effective than a spam filter, which may eat many of the “I want to enquire about a reservation” emails.
This is just one example of simple tricks that can make your own email system a more powerful tool than any junk email filter. But remember also, that your business email may be used for a whole array of functions that you may not be aware of. Unless you take the time to learn about how powerful your email is, don’t get frustrated or even annoyed when you receive email you didn’t ask for. Receiving an unsolicited business email is not like receiving a prank call on your personal phone. In some cases, receiving an unwanted email can even be a positive thing, signaling that the world can actually reach you from far-flung places, and your email is working properly. So relax. If you find yourself urging to send angry responses or threaten legal action, then you’re probably in the wrong business.
I recently heard of a case in which a B&B in Virginia complained about receiving unsolicited email from an online service that they subscribed to. The B&B submitted their email for a service to communicate reservation requests to them. In the process, they failed to mark the service as a safe sender in their email system. When reservations started coming in, the B&B never received them, nor responded. Eventually the online service began sending reminders to the B&B to check their email, update their system, and various other advice. When one of these reminders finally got through, the B&B owner was insulted and tried unsubscribing the service’s emails. In this case, “unsubscribing” was not the appropriate step, since they weren’t subscribed to any mailing lists. The B&B owner contacted the online service, and claimed that they were sending accusatory emails. Accusatory? They were obviously embarrassed that they didn’t understand how to use their own email. Again … probably not in the right business.
For more tips and services for your online marketing effort, check out www.BedBreakfastTraveler.com.