Dorset’s guest houses, B&Bs and hotels are beginning to find their way with social media. One that’s seeing some success, on a network that many businesses overlook, is Morven Guest House in Weymouth. Run by husband and wife team Matthew and Nancy Lambley, Morven is a four star, nine-bedroomed guest house within a short walk of Weymouth seafront. It’s open between 1 May and 1 October every year.
Having been there for 25 years, the Lambley family has experienced the massive disruption that the digital revolution brought to the hospitality trade. “Years ago, we advertised in the Weymouth Guide, which was advertised in the Radio Times and TV Times at Christmas. From that, we had loads of phone calls during January and February,” said Matthew.
Today, the phone still rings, but not so often nor so predictably. Bookings also come in through email and social media, particularly Google+, Matthew’s favoured social network.
Many people I speak to have little interest, or knowledge, of Google+. If they use social media at all, their focus is Facebook and Twitter.
Matthew has chosen to put his energies into Google+, while also using Facebook. The Morven Guest House Google+ Page has around 4,000 followers and has been viewed well over a million times. But the real test is bookings, and here Matthew is satisfied with the results so far.
The best way to understand how Morven uses Google+ is to take a look at their Page. Here you’ll see that Matthew usually posts once each day, sharing a great photo that he’s taken himself. Every post gets upwards of 20 pluses (likes) and most attract some comment.
The result is that Matthew is engaging with his audience, and that engagement translates into bookings. Many come from overseas, particularly Germany. Google+ is much more popular in Germany, Italy and France than it is in the UK.
Having posted an update to Google+, Matthew often puts the same image onto Facebook. But having less than 200 Page likes, the level of interaction per post is much less. That said, he does get bookings through his Facebook Page, as a result of guests sharing with their own network of contacts.
Focusing on the specific interests of customers
Niche marketing, as it’s called, can be a very effective way to get noticed by a specific type of person, and this is an approach taken by Matthew.
Some people are attracted to Weymouth by the scenery, others by the wildlife, or the heritage. Knowing what makes people choose to come here, and then enticing them with great photos and information, is at the heart of Matthew’s strategy for marketing Morven.
Take a look at his photos and you’ll see Dorset presented in splendid variety. Harbour and lighthouse images appeal to those drawn by the coast. Flowers, trees and butterflies catch the eye of nature lovers. Tyneham, Gold Hill and historic buildings whet the appetite of heritage hunters.
The Morven marketing strategy encourages people to get in touch, through Google+, Facebook, email or via the fresh, smart website. Here the phone number is very prominent, making it really easy for people to call with an enquiry.
There’s more to be done when marketing Weymouth
I’ve spoken to some B&B owners, frustrated by the trend for people to book at the last minute, only for short stays, and often via a booking website that takes a commission of up to 20%.
The Morven enjoys plenty of advance bookings, many for a whole week, and you won’t find it on the major accommodation websites. But Matthew is neither complacent nor entirely satisfied. The Morven isn’t always at capacity, and he knows that he can’t let up on his marketing efforts.
But he does believe that Weymouth could do better as a whole, and this would lift trade for all those involved in hospitality. The Morven was one of the first Weymouth guest houses to have a website and it’s now one of the few on Google+, and indeed on social media. Matthew is leading the way and setting an example that should inspire others to follow.
To see how Matthew is using Google+ to promote Morven House, visit the Google+ page.