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If anyone knows about B&B, Karen does. Hopton House - a converted granary with three bedrooms - has a five-star grading (putting it in the top seven per cent of rated properties in the country) and a gold award (given by Visit Britain for added excellence)

The Guardian, January 2009


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Researching Your Business Part 3 - What Questions to Ask

The very first thing any prospective business owner should do is research their market. Is your business viable? Will it make any money? Is there a gap in the market locally? Are there specific markets that you can tap into?

Do some research, then do some more! The more research you do, the more chance you have of creating a successful B&B business that gives you a good income.

So what information do you need and what questions should you be asking?

1. Why Do Visitors Come To Your Area?

If you are in a tourist area, it may seem obvious. But be careful of making assumptions. I recently visited a B&B in a very rural part of the Peak District, which I assumed, catered to the walking market, but the majority of their guests were actually business people who worked at a local company during the week and went home at weekends. This B&B had researched their market, and had ensured that their business catered to business visitors; Wireless internet access, writing desks with adequate lighting, good quality showers, simple evening meals, early breakfast times. Had they not done this they would have considerably reduced their income.

2. What Do Visitors Do When They Are Visiting?

Knowing this will help you design your B&B appropriately, get your pricing right and target your market. Again do not make assumptions based on what you think people do or what you would do yourself!

I made an incorrect assumption when I set up my B&B. I assumed, living in an area known for its walks, that I would attract a lot of serious ramblers. So I spent a lot of money advertising with the Ramblers Association. However I am not actually located on any major walks and I am also at the luxury end of the market and so quite expensive As a result I have never had one enquiry from that advertising!

Generally my guests want to be in the countryside, but close to local market towns to explore and good quality restaurants. They do go walking but only 2-3 hour walks, combined with other activities. They want somewhere with a bit of luxury where they can relax and unwind at the end of the day.

3. What Is The Typical B&B Guest Profile?

You need to have an idea of how old your guests are likely to be, how much money they have, whether they are single or with their partner, if they are a family or a couple, whether they want to bring their dog.

By having an idea in your head who your target market are will make it much easier for you to write copy that will attract them and also know where to find them.

Generally my guests are internet savvy early retirees in their 50s from the North West of the UK with plenty of spare cash. They come away to relax. They like to go to nice restaurants, eat a good breakfast, go for 2 hour walks and visit National Trust Properties. On my website you will see a description of a relaxing place, with descriptions of good restaurants and some local walks, as well of suggestions for days out.

If you live in a seaside area you may find your two main markets are people with young families and more elderly people. You may tend to get young families in the school holidays and the elderly people in the winter.

4. Are There Gaps In The Local Market?

If there is a gap in the market - say for a boutique B&B or a cheap and cheerful B&B - then you may well get more guests than if you set up a B&B that is identical to all of your competitors. However you do need to be very careful - there may be no boutique hotels in the area for a reason!

For example, our local area is short of family friendly B&Bs so, if you have younger children, this may be a market you want to focus on. However there is also very little to do with young children locally and many people who go away with their families prefer self catering