How to find your target market for your Bed and Breakfast Business

I've noticed recently, while helping some fellow Bed and Breakfast owners, that some of them are not all sure about who is being attracted to their B&B and why.  From my own experience, this is quite common and was certainly true for me in the beginning when I was running my "business" like a "hobby", so I can understand how easy it is to just take "anybody".

While this might work in the beginning, it's not a long-term strategy for creating a real business that you love, attracting guests who love you, and making the kind of income you deserve to make.

This point about "Finding your Niche" is one of the first things I tackle in my Coaching Programmes, because  even if you've been in this business for sometime, but still aren't making the income you want, or having enough time to have a life, the chances are you haven't clearly defined your ideal guest, and therefore tailor ALL your marketing efforts towards attracting them.

So,  if you don't yet know who you want to serve, then let me help you to gain some clarity.

First, let’s start with you:

  • What age range am I in?
  • What is my background?  Where I’ve lived, where I’ve worked, what kind of work have I done that I’ve enjoyed in the past?
  • What car do I drive?
  • What are my hobbies?  What do I love to do in my spare time?
  • What magazines do I subscribe to, or have subscribed to in the past?
  • What do I watch on TV and then love to talk about?
  • What kind of people do I love to be around?  Young or old? Children or animals?
  • What is my ideal type of holiday? Is it adventurous or sun-seeking or learning?
  • What kind of food do I love to eat?
  • What kind of wine (or not) do I love to drink?
  • What causes do I support passionately?
  • What would I love to change in the world, if I could?

Now you have a picture of yourself, perhaps you’ve uncovered some things that you had forgotten about or simply didn’t know.  That’s OK.  So now we have a picture of you, we can match you to your ideal guest, because you need to be part of your target market.

When you know who you want to attract and can position yourself as the “perceived expert” in your “niche” then all your marketing messages will be tailored to that ideal guest.

You see, if you were a keen mountain trekker, and your B&B was by the sea, then it would be impossible to attract your ideal guests, and frankly you wouldn’t have much to talk about.  There would be a mis-match and your relationship would not develop.  Almost like a marriage really!

I hope this helps you, and until next time.

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12 Responses to “How to find your target market for your Bed and Breakfast Business”

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  1. Liz says:

    This is the foundation for every business but time and time again business owners fail to set the foundation and wonder why their business flounders.

    • Yvonne says:

      Thanks Liz, and it’s so true. The problem lies in one’s inability to say “no” to people, and so we end up not serving anyone. Thanks for commenting :-)

  2. Danielle says:

    how true!! i was actually writing my business plan this weekend and was trying to put in words exactly that! you need to be part of your “niche” thank you!!!

  3. InnkeeperVA says:

    “in the beginning when I was running my “business” like a “hobby”, so I can understand how easy it is to just take “anybody”.”

    You said it right there, it is a business. We do not take guests to become friends, we don’t take guests in our own demographic, world views, etc We might find a very lonely and poor business if that were the case!

    Marketing our B&B needs to be more about what we have and where we are to draw in guests. ie if we are in ski country, then we need to market the slopes. Sure our style can play into that, ie rustic eco-lodge or elegant high end inn, of course this is also dictated by ROOM RATE.

    I think any inn who actually sets up from the get go a certain target market, they might end up with no guests and closed up. There is no way of knowing until you are actually running the inn, and much of this would have to do with how you market your place.

    Overall, even though we want to market toward one demographic, in our B&B we have romantic getaways, business guests, just stopping over for the night enroute somewhere else, overseas visitors who want the least priced room, outdoor enthusiasts, etc etc. So I guess I am confirming the dilemma as much as disagreeing with it. I would never want to market to the Gen Y and Gen X and exclude my bread and butter which is Baby Boomer.

    Good article, thanks.

    • Yvonne says:

      Thanks for your comments. Contrarily I believe it is important to know who you are before you open your B&B. What I mean by this is that if you are near the ski slopes and you don’t like ski-ing then you’re going to have a hard time attracting ski-loving guests, because you won’t be interested in what’s going on on the slopes, and so won’t be able to provide useful insider information to your audience. Of course, this doesn’t exclude you from attracting ski-loving guests, but if your core market is in alignment with who you are and your interests, then it makes for a better experience for everyone concerned. I agree that we cannot afford to discount Gen X for Gen Y but I do believe that our core value lies in who we are as B&B owners. Interesting discussion, and thanks so much for joining the conversation :-)

  4. The great thing about finding your niche is that it does make marketing much easier, as you know exactly who you want to target. If it is something that you are passionate about yourself, you will also find it easy to speak to your target market in their language.
    This is useful for any business, as Liz has commented.
    The other advantage is that you are more likely to develop rapport with your guests if you are on the same wavelength, which is going to make for a better experience them and for you. This in turn will mean they are more likely to recommend you as well as return. Sounds like a win/win to me :-)

    • Yvonne says:

      Thanks Sarah, it does make perfecr sense, doesn’t it, but so many B&B owners think that they have to take anybody. And the beauty of B&B is that you can focus on several different groups of people and tailor your website to those different groups. As you say win/win for all. Thanks for posting :-)

  5. Someone who sets up a business that is diametrically opposite to what they enjoy and believe in is going to have a lot more problems than just attracting the right guest.

    While I understand that you are working with people who already own a B&B I am a firm believer in doing all that kind of research before you even buy the B&B.

    That being said, in most cases your location will play a large part in who your potential target audience is, and I believe that the point Yvonne is making is at that point, you take a look at targeting within that group.

    I believe that my success has come from my love of the area I live in and all it has to offer. So although I am not a kayaker, or snowmobiler, I have educated myself on what those guests need to know to enjoy their time, and it has worked for me.

    It took me a few years to accept the idea that as much as I enjoy small children, I don’t want them in my B&B. And if I was really honest, they were never in my “picture” of my B&B I had in my head. I accepted them because I was afraid to turn away business. Once I really looked at my guest statistics, and saw that they were actually costing me business and had no problem with developing a “no kids” policy.

    Better late than never!

    • Yvonne says:

      You make a great point there Susan, in that especially in the beginning of our B&B journey we feel the need to accept all-comers because we’re afraid to turn away business. But the funny thing is, that when we say “no” to something, it opens up a space for more of our “yes” type guests to come to us. Just knowing who you’re aiming to attract to your B&B is the first step. Thanks for making that point and for joining the conversation :-)

  6. Jan says:

    I’m wondering how many people go into business thinking it’s going to be the same as having a hobby without realising that it is very different.

    With a hobby, you can pick it up or put it down at any time. When you decide to go into business and you want to succeed, then you have to look at everything from as many different angles as possible.

    Knowing who you are and what you’re looking for has to be a great place to start. No reason why running a business shouldn’t be fun is there!

    • Yvonne says:

      Thanks Jan for joining in. You make a great point, but so many B&B owners start their businesses “just for fun” because they like entertaining and having people to stay. I speak from my own experience! But the problem is that a hobby can never make you money, in fact hobbies cost you money. It takes a mindset shift to move you into being a serious business owner, and yet this is where the fun really begins! Thanks again :-)

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