Video Length: 18:54

Interview with Louise Stokes, B&B Owner, Western Australia

Holberry House, Nannup

Louise Stokes and her husband Chris bought Holberry House, a Bed & Breakfast in Nannup, as a going concern 16 years ago. It’s a 7 room guest house set on 4 acres right in the middle of the town of Nannup, 3 hours south of Perth. When they purchased the property, occupancy was at 3%.

Over the years they’ve grown occupancy to 60%. They’ve recently given their digital presence a major overhaul and are already seeing the benefits.

Louise says, “We saw an immediate increase in direct bookings through our website. Our target audience has diversified. Previously we were drawing from Perth and Western Australia. Now we have quite a good spread across all the different markets. For example, we have guests from Asia and Europe.”

Step 1 – New Website

Louise and Chris joined a business mentor programme which helped to highlight some of the areas needing improvement.

Their first step was to completely overhaul their website. The old website wasn’t responsive, so it didn’t work on mobile phones.

Louise says the snowball effect was interesting.

“We had what we thought were really good photos, but it turned out we had to engage a good photographer to come in. We also had to engage a videographer to get some video content for us. So the whole process took longer than we anticipated.”

Step 2 – Better Booking Systems

Louise and Chris also set up Little Hotelier to help manage their business. As a result they now have valuable data which helps with planning.

Then they added a Book Now button to the website.

Step 3 – SEO

After all that effort Louise and Chris felt like they weren’t getting the traction they were after, so they started looking at SEO.

Louise had identified that she needed to delegate some parts of her business and she felt that SEO was probably something she could start with, but nevertheless she found the process quite emotional.

“I was literally handing over my business to somebody. We were getting 20 emails a day from companies all over the world offering to help us with SEO but in the end I chose the person who had developed our website. I felt that I was giving away a large component of my work and I was giving it to someone who potentially had no understanding of my business.”

Louise was quoted anywhere from $150 to $2000 a month to manage her SEO. The company they chose are charging $400 a month.

“With SEO work you don’t see the benefits straight away. But we’re really happy with the work we’ve received and we’re confident that we’ll continue. It’s a company from Perth but we’ve invited them to come and stay for a night so they can see and experience what they’re working with.”

“In the first month it was mostly about setting up, getting the business registered and choosing all the keywords. Now we’re looking at blogs and video content.”

Step 4 – Facebook Promotions

Louise and Chris haven’t started advertising on Facebook yet but it’s next on the list.

“Facebook’s rules are changing so we need to learn to personalise and engage with our audience. It’s not about posting it and leaving it, it’s about getting that engagement.”

Note that in the video Louise says they have the Facebook pixel in place so they can start collecting visitor data however my Facebook Pixel Helper is showing that the pixel is not in place yet. 

Trip Advisor Success

I first learned of Louise’s successes via a Facebook group. She wrote, “We’ve ticked off another business milestone. We were 7/9 with Trip Advisor, now we’re number 1!”

Naturally I asked a few questions along the lines of “How did you do that?”

Louise says an important part of the Trip Advisor strategy was to send an email to all guests after they had departed. The email is automated through Little Hotelier.

The guests are asked to leave a good review on Trip Advisor if they enjoyed their stay. Importantly, if they thought something needed attention, they are asked to write to Louise and Chris directly.

Demonstrating how to use the internet well

I congratulated Louise on bringing together many of the elements of the digital world for the benefit of her business.

She said, “I’ve had fantastic guidance, that’s what’s made the difference. The normal person running their business can’t keep up with all the changes in the promotions and marketing scene. It’s so different now to 2, 5 or 10 years ago.”

What’s next?

“We want to ramp up our blog, video content and Facebook. Then we want to work on retargeting. And I want to learn more about the whole process. I know I need to delegate this area but I want to understand more about how it works.”

“Then I want to focus on trade and awards. I want to start nominating for tourism awards, and start doing some trade expos.”

What’s your target occupancy?

“When we left our last property we were around 97% and it was absolutely exhausting. What we found is that when you’re running a property at 97% you give away a lot of your bookings.”

“Break even is 50%, we’re around 60% now.”

“The SEO has only just started but it will be really interesting to see in a year what impact that has had.

Visit Holberry House‘s website.