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Research for your Bed and Breakfast Company

July 25, 2003

by Kit Cassingham

Business market research, and analysis of the information you gather, is an integral aspect of writing a business plan. It a vital way of taking your B&B idea from dream to reality. Understanding the nuances of your plan will help you strengthen your weaknesses and expand your options. You can use market research services or companies, form a market research focus group or conduct your own free market research surveys, but do the research, Research choosing the location of business and your market niche at the very least. Plan to succeed.


Market Investigation


from my Ebook, "Planning Your Business -- Getting A Handle On The Nuances Of Implementing Your Idea"





"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!" Avoid failure by researching your business concept!

One of the main causes of business failure stems from insufficient research [under capitalization ranks right up there too]. Your dream’s only the first step in your business. Your research creates a firm foundation to set that dream on so you can build a viable reality. Research before putting any significant money into it. The information you learn will help you understand the ups and downs, see what government regulations will apply, understand your customers’ profile, find professionals and suppliers, and spark marketing ideas. Consider working at a B&B inn as part of your research to test yourself for this business [Many innkeepers got into the business who didn't belong. Some didn't have the right personality; they didn't like people, they didn't like serving their guests, or they are too rigid and can't easily deal with the public. Some innkeepers can't focus or act on more than one thing at a time and end up dropping important tasks -— like marketing. Working at an inn wil l help you analyze if this is a good career and lifestyle for you. I hired a woman as my weekend manager who had wanted to be an innkeeper for many years. She lasted one weekend, quitting with the comment that it was too much like being a housewife —- a situation she couldn't bear and hadn't anticipated.]. Conduct your research near and far. Establish your inn's feasibility before putting significant money into it! I have seen many innkeepers go bankrupt, losing their inns and retirement nest eggs, because of their failure to do adequate research before diving into the business.

You've recorded your dream on paper [a guided exercise in the e-book Building A Good Foundation]. Now it's time to move toward reality by researching your ideas. Incorporate your market niche and target audience into your research so you can determine if your idea is a solid one and satisfies a need -— or if it's an illusion (an idea whose time isn't now). Also accommodate your personal needs in your B&B concept. Analyze what you need in a community in the way of grocery stores, schools, theaters (movie and other), bowling alleys, discount stores, population. What keeps you ticking? Answers to these questions shape your location options. Analyze uncontrollable environmental factors which include:

  • culture (what societal or cultural characteristics of the market will affect you)
  • economy (what national, state, and local conditions will affect you)
  • politics (what federal, state and local restrictions/trends will affect you)
  • technology (what changes and innovations will impact you)
  • competition (what’s your market share in relation to them)

Follow this research with interviews, library/Internet research, classes and internships.

[A quick note about competitors. I don't feel B&Bs are competition to each other, nor do I feel hotels/motels/historic lodges are competition to B&Bs. In the latter case they satisfy a completely different market niche from B&Bs, though there will be people staying in hotels who would prefer a B&B if they knew of its existence. I feel B&Bs support each other —- the more there are, the higher the awareness a community and its visitors have of B&Bs. Each B&B inn is unique and therefore is satisfying slightly different needs and thus attracting a slightly different clientele. I wholeheartedly believe it is in every innkeeper's interest to network -— with hotels, motels, historic lodges, big B&B inns and tiny B&Bs. Being aware of the alternatives and being able to direct guests where they want to go when you can't help them establishes your service style so they visit another time or refer others to you. Giving information as a solution of a need is helpful and necessary. Cooperation is more beneficial than competition.]

Anticipate at least four weeks of research. The cost will depend on how and where you conduct research. Variables include phone bills, meals, travel expenses (will you drive to B&Bs in your target area, fly coast-to-coast, fly to an area and then drive around, ... ?), taking classes, and interning. You could spend $500 without flying anywhere and several thousand traveling. That seems like a lot of money but it may save tens or hundreds of thousands from avoided mistakes. Keep a "Worry List" as you go; write down questions and concerns as they appear and answer them with your research.

As you develop research questions determine open- and close-ended questions. Employ the "five W’s and H" (who, what, when, where, why, and how). If conducting an interview, establish and maintain rapport first and keep it conversational; don't make this a drill or test.

I have provided some sample questions below for your research. Feel free to use these, expand the list, modify the sample questions, or even ignore them and make your own list. Your inn concept and your personality will dictate how you tackle this first step. Remember, others in the lodging industry know what you need to learn so establish a relationship with them and talk to them. Answers to your burning questions can also be found at other tourist-related businesses. Be creative and reap the benefits by having a successful business you enjoy.

You can learn more about this Ebook on market research, as well as the others in the collection from my website.




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