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Marketing Your Green Inn

November 21, 2005

by Kit Cassingham

If you have decided to run a green inn, that has become part of your market niche. As you promote your niche to attract your guets, so should you promote your green actions. Making a specific statement about exactly what you do is as important as taking the step. Environmental issues are big in the hospitality industry. Do your part and promote your green plan to others as part of their education, and as part of your marketing efforts.

Your marketing materials, which at the very least include your website and brochure, are the avenue to tell prospective guests what experience they will have while staying at your inn. Those marketing avenues also give you a way to communicate your guest amenities, rules, contact information, and other important facts about your B&B business.

What do you share about the guest experience offered at your B&B inn? Do you tell your website readers what you serve for breakfast? How much do you tell them about your guestrooms? Do they know you are a non-smoking inn, do or don't allow pets, or have a two night minimum over specified holidays? Do you share all of the things you do to qualify as a green inn? Do you tell people any of the things you do as a green inn?

Marketing your green inn so the world knows what you do for the environment is as important as informing people what hospitality you provide. Your green activity is part of your market niche definition so you need to share your information. There are lots of travelers in the world seeking green lodging, and you are depriving yourself of business, and them of an environmental education, by not talking about your green actions.

There are lots of ways to share your environmental action and attitude with your potential guests. I have seen a link on the main navigation bar to the environmental policies page; I've seen policies effectively hidden on a page covering other topics, like news or general policies; and I've seen environmental actions scattered throughout an inn's website.

I personally don't like the approaches of hiding or ignoring your environmental policies because it strikes me as being ashamed of your environmental stance or, worse, that perhaps you're not as committed to environmental actions as you think. I hear enough conversation about guests in high class properties being turned off by too much environmental conversation that I have concluded the silence reflects an intention to not alienate potential guests. My counter to that attitude is there are numerous four- and five-star quality properties around the world that display (some more prominently than others) their environmental policy on their website, showing environmental action is viable in all walks of people, who are garnering great respect for their stance. Here are some ways lodging properties are effectively promoting their environmental actions:

Prominent display of your green actions shows an understanding that your guests value and honor your attitude and environmental policies. Your environmental position is part of your market niche and just as important to promote for building a strong business. It is, after all, part of your niche, not just a public statement.

As I have looked at green lodging environmental policies I have been struck by the differences among them. Some policies are ethereal descriptions of what the owner's or management's intentions are, but never really tell you what actions they have taken. Other property descriptions mention a few pet projects, overlooking issues that may be of interest to prospective guests. And then there are the inns that list in detail every green step they take, and why.

My favorite approach is a blend of a page dedicated to environmental policies and environmental education woven through the inn's description on their various pages. Selling your environmental actions can be done by highlighting their benefits. For example, mention the 100% cotton sheets and towels in reference to their comfort. Describing the high quality amenities you provide in shower dispensers lets you talk about providing higher quality amenities than you could with wasteful individual bottles. Educates your site visitors (and guests). Explain how their comfort is maintained by your green actions.

Innkeepers generally have no problem saying they have a non-smoking inn; how about talking about your recycling program in the same vein? When you talk about the food you serve, talk about it being organic and/or grown regionally, highlighting its freshness and quality. Save the list of all actions for the environmental policies page for the people who are seriously interested, but highlight the actions you've taken throughout the main part of the site to sell and educate.

Market all aspects of your market niche. Make being a green B&B inn more than lip service by telling everyone who browses your website and brochure what you stand for in regards to the environment.




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