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Case Study: How a Bed & Breakfast Inn Boosted Its Bookings with One Video Ad

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Company: Morning Glory Inn
Contact: Dave Eshelman, Innkeeper, Co-owner
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Industry: Hospitality, Small Business
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: 6

Quick Read:

Operating a bed-and-breakfast (B&B) inn in the highly competitive historic Pittsburgh area, Dave Eshelman, Morning Glory Inn's co-owner, needed a way to attract more recreational and business travelers.

The inn, located in a historic building, typically hosts 40 receptions and 50 business meetings a year, accounting for some 5,000 visitors in addition to its overnight guests.

Eshelman's challenge lay in not only competing with big-brand hotels but also standing out among the 16 B&Bs within 20 miles of Morning Glory Inn.


For over a decade, Morning Glory Inn relied on its Web site, the Yellow Pages, and direct mail initiatives to bring in new customers. As more travelers turned online to find places to stay, Eshelman wanted to go beyond his Web site and boost his online presence through rich-media advertising.

Eshelman turned to CityAds.net, which produced a digital-video commercial, allowing Eshelman to build a strong online advertising presence that successfully boosted the inn's visibility, both locally and regionally, among business and recreational travelers.

The Challenge:

Facing stiff competition from larger-name hotels in the historic area of Pittsburgh, Dave Eshelman, owner of Morning Glory Inn, a quaint B&B in a historic building, was intent on finding a way to bolster recognition among tourists and business travelers.

Eshelman was already using direct mail, Yellow Pages, and print ads to advertise his Inn, but he wanted to try a more dynamic, online form of advertising.

"We'd had a good Web site up for 11 years, but we also knew it was time to utilize more of our ad dollars online and better promote ourselves with attention-grabbing advertising," recalled Eshelman.

His goal was to use the benefits of a rich-media ad to not only increase bookings for business travelers and tourists but also highlight the inn's wedding and reception offerings.

Eshelman said the inn had also used a television and radio advertising, but those had not generated the desired return—nor truly captured the personality of the inn and its staff.

"We wanted an economical way to more deeply personalize us and the inn, and felt that a short video ad would engage potential customers on a deeper level," said Eshelman.

Eshelman hoped the video ads would provide a compelling reason to book his B&B rather than the 16 others within 20 miles of downtown.

The Campaign:

In January 2008, Eshelman turned to CityAds.net, which offers the ability to build professional rich media ads with images, Flash, and video. Those ads are then placed locally or nationally on Web sites selected from a network of thousands of partner sites.

The cost of producing the video was $300, and the campaign that Morning Glory selected cost $300 per month for 12 months. The inn spends $375 a month to send out 400-500 direct mail pieces per month.

Eshelman and his wife shot an interactive profile commercial video, which runs longer and provides more information than a 30-second TV spot. CityAds.net's ads are interactive in that viewers can play and pause video and click through to get more information and make real-time purchases.

Using CityAds.net's ad-building and broadcasting platform, Morning Glory Inn was able to geographically and demographically target its ad. The rich media ad was pushed out across a dozen specifically targeted mass-media and CityAds.net partner Web sites. CityAds.net selects the target sites based on demographics, location, and other parameters that fit its customer's needs and profile.

Morning Glory Inn's video ad was placed, among others, on Trib Total Media Web sites, including weddingessentials.com, Fanfaremagazine.com, and Pittsburghlive.com's business and living sections.

The video ad runs 21,000 views a month and is rotated with others based on Web site channel and viewers' geographic location.

In addition, CityAds.net offers clients a dashboard for tracking views, clicks, and videos watched.

Once the video ad was created, Morning Glory also placed it on its own site, in the lower-left corner of the homepage.

Results:

"After we worked with CityAds.net to develop our rich-media advertisement, we saw an immediate boost in our business," said Eshelman.

The ad's video better enabled Morning Glory Inn to showcase its courtyard and conference rooms for weddings and receptions. Eshelman said booking interest specifically in those services has increased due to the video ad.

"We also had people coming to our inn in person and inquiring about our other services for business meetings, directly due to seeing the ad," said Eshelman.

Over a three-month period, the ad has generated over 70,000 views and 800 click-throughs.

Travel bookings have increased 5% over the past three months. "If we had not started using CityAds.net, especially January-March, which are the slowest months of the year, we most likely would have had a 5% decrease in bookings during those months," Eshelman noted.

"We are happy with the results so far in our campaign, and the (video) views are still growing.... Those increases are being tracked and it's good to be able to see them as they come in," said Eshelman.

Lessons Learned:

  • Having a Web site alone may not be enough of an online presence, especially when competing locally. Go beyond your own Web site and use local and regional media sites to reach your target audiences.
  • Don't keep your advertising on autopilot. Though traditional advertising, such as direct mail and Yellow Pages, is useful, a more dynamic medium such as video ads will raise your local profile and differentiate you from your competition.
  • When you're up against bigger competitors, play to your strengths. In the case of the inn, its advertising emphasized personal service, its historic building—along with modern amenities for businesses—and quaint, picturesque setting for weddings and receptions.

Related Links:

Note: The Inn has three full-time and three part-time employees.


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