Longtime Client Gets Responsive Site by InsideOut Solutions

November 19th, 2014 by

Azalea Inn Print Marketing DesignsWe’re proud of the relationship we have with Teresa and Michael at Azalea Inn. For over 5 years we have worked together to present the beauty of Azalea Inn to the visitors across the web. Ours is a successful relationship, one that has strengthened over time. Recently, Teresa explained that they needed to update the site in order to incorporate their new vacation villas. She loved the site as it was, and wanted specific branding elements to remain the same, but needed to add new content and refresh parts of the site for the new identity.

Azalea Inn & Villas (Savannah, GA)

Part of Azalea Inn & Villas’ branding is reflected in some soap labels and other print marketing that we furnish as part of our graphic design and print services. Teresa wanted the branding to remain consistent not only for this reason, but also because the B&B’s identity is already established. So our Lead Designer, Beth Edwards, went to work. She recreated the logo to no longer read “Azalea Inn & Gardens”, rather “Azalea Inn & Villas”. From there, she redesigned some of the larger site features, and changed the primary typeface to be a bit more modern. Beth did all of this with careful consideration and subtlety to preserve the recognizable identity of the bed and breakfast, while making it new enough to present the addition of the villas.

Azalea Inn Before and After Site Launch

Working with Clients to Build a Beautiful Internet

Azalea Inn & Villas knew that their website must be easy to use. A beautiful, but difficult to use website will send visitors elsewhere to choose a different hospitality venue. But being easy to use isn’t the only factor. A website must be visually appealing, as well, especially a B&B website. Our clients trust us to know our business, to know how to create a beautiful and easy-to-use website. Responsive website design means controlling the mechanics of HTML5 styled with CSS3 so that elements on the page move about freely, and scale for various screen sizes without sacrificing readability. Think of HTML5 as the vehicle and the CSS3 as the vehicle design; both of these work hand-in-hand in responsive design. To work properly and smoothly, responsive design requires a lot of planning in the design phase, as well as careful consideration and execution during the development phase. Read our June post: Responsive Web Design – Is It Time to Redesign or Upgrade Your Website? and contact us with any questions or to request a quote.

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Responsive Website Launched for New Client by InsideOut Solutions

November 6th, 2014 by

It’s always gratifying when anyone compliments our website designs. We believe we generate quality work and our clients aren’t bashful about confirming that. But even better is when a new client references site designs from our portfolio when describing what look and feel they want. This brings us to the responsive website launch for one of our new clients, The Majestic Hotel.

The Majestic Hotel (Ocean Grove, NJ)

The owner, Valerie, told us that she wanted a clean, fresh look for The Majestic Hotel’s aging website. She recognized right away that clean and fresh are important to the public “face” of a bed and breakfast website. She explained that The Majestic was Victorian in appearance on the outside, but contemporary on the inside, and that she wanted to stay away from the blue colors of her old website. She then named other websites that we had designed that had a pristine look and were easy to navigate: The Barlow, The Inn at English Meadows, and Brayton Bed and Breakfast. Taking all this into consideration, Beth Edwards, the lead designer at InsideOut Solutions, proceeded to choose a softer, toned-down blue, and then combined that with a complementary green to remind the audience of a seaside view. The layout of the site is logical and uncluttered, and the photos really accent the beauty of the Hotel and its surroundings. The result is uncluttered, clearly navigable, and visually appealing website for this boutique hotel, restaurant and event venue on the New Jersy Shore.

Before and After Shots of The Majestic Website

For a couple of years now, InsideOut Solutions has made it a standard that all the sites we design should be responsive because this increases the likelihood that site visitors will find a client’s site easier to use across various devices. Such is the case for The Majestic Hotel, which is just as usable and beautiful on a smartphone as it is in a desktop browser.

Get a New Website with InsideOut Solutions

We value good website design and functionality. We  also want our own clients’ businesses to flourish, and so we work hard to make sure the websites we design will make a lasting positive impression, entice deeper exploration and encourage conversion. Responsive website design is just one factor that contributes to having a great website for users. Read our June post: Responsive Web Design – Is It Time to Redesign or Upgrade Your Website? and contact us with any questions or to request a quote.

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Dreamy Responsive Website Launched by InsideOut Solutions

November 4th, 2014 by

We are always excited to work with our clients to design a website and to offer them a design that not only meets their needs, but that also pleasantly surprises them. From the beginning, our new clients, innkeepers Dorothy and Richard Friesen, brought great ideas and creative direction to the table for their Sweet Dreams Luxury Inn.

Sweet Dreams Luxury Inn (Abbotsford, British Columbia)

Sweet Dreams Responsive Website Launch Preview

Working primarily with Richard, our lead designer, Beth Edwards, learned that the innkeepers wanted us to employ our strengths in creative web design to come up with a design that captured the traditional luxury of their boutique hotel. While they liked the colors of their previous site, they wanted the overall site appearance to be revamped to look more upscale and polished. They did agree that a traditional floral background was preferred, and that they wanted to target more business guests and to schedule more events, as they host corporate and private banquets, and some weddings. So Beth went to work, designing and working with Richard to fine tune and really come up with a final design that inspired his and Dorothy’s confidence, something they could be quite proud of. Beth’s richer, darker background colors are contrasted by light, subtle colors that really convey a sense of luxury, refinement, and elegance. Beautiful, high quality photos transition softly on the homepage, revealing to the audience the grounds and face of the inn and event facility.

In addition to the beautiful design, the website is so flexible as to be viewed across multiple devices thanks to its fluid responsive design. Site visitors or potential guests are ensured a top-notch user experience on any device, which gives users confidence in Sweet Dreams’ website.  The responsive website design standards also ensures fast loading times, a longer useful lifespan, and gives the site a leg up in search engine visibility.

Get a New Responsive Website with InsideOut Solutions

Sweet Dreams is an excellent example of what clients are doing right. They approach us to solve their problem, and are open to our expertise. We want their businesses to succeed on the internet. Having a responsive website design means that you’re not punishing users who visit your website on a smartphone or tablet. We, as well as our clients, understand the importance of making it easy for site visitors to navigate the site. Read our June post: Responsive Web Design – Is It Time to Redesign or Upgrade Your Website? and contact us with any questions or to request a quote.

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Focus on Customer Delight to Connect

October 28th, 2014 by

At InsideOut Solutions, we want to give strong guidance to our own clients about how to consistently and carefully nurture those guests who have come and gone. Just because a guest has paid the bill and left doesn’t mean that the relationship stops there. In fact, it’s quite typical that guests who visit a bed & breakfast or a dude ranch might, in fact, be looking to return. Old-fashioned, outbound marketing focused very much on making the product sale and then leaving the customer in the cold. But inbound marketing at its very core seeks to engage in a relationship, to connect, and then foster that over time. Which is why instead of inbound marketing (which is a fine term in and of itself), InsideOut Solutions’ prefers “connection marketing.” That’s what inbound marketing is all about: connection.

Great. So what’s the point of aiming to delight? Glad you asked.

Customer Delight: Apple Does It Right

Ever heard of a company called Apple? If you have, you can probably name at least two – if not all – of the products they sell. Part of the reason for Apple’s success is that they not only market well, but that they aim for customer delight. In the recent Apple announcement on October 16th, the company shared that its iPad Mini Retina has attained a 100% customer satisfaction rating, besides the iPad product line itself consistently ranking #1 in customer satisfaction. Numbers don’t necessarily mean everything, but this is an indicator that Apple isn’t just doing something right with its product, but is doing something right for its customer. The product could be absolutely amazing in its own right. But without an aim to delight the customer, the product would be useless.

Make your primary goal to delight your guests because that’s what will draw them to you.

Customer Delight: Before, During, and After

Customer delight goes all the way back to “attract” or, for our purposes, “invite.” You start the relationship dialogue when you invite a potential guest to your site. At that moment, you should begin to delight them, even before they’ve booked a room, even before they’ve checked for availability. Now think about what will delight a guest who might choose your bed and breakfast. Is it the fact that your inn is $20/night cheaper than other nearby B&B’s in the area? Maybe. But it’s more likely that what will delight them is the experiences you offer there.

Delight Overarches Inbound Marketing PrinciplesThink about customer delight not as the “final phase” in inbound marketing. Instead, consider it the driving phase of the whole inbound marketing process. Your content, email, and social media marketing efforts should all focus on customer delight. Delight really is the overarching principle that makes inbound marketing so different from outbound marketing. In fact, you wouldn’t go wrong if you knew nothing about inbound marketing, but pursued the single goal of delighting individuals across the board. When inbound marketing is done right and the aim is to delight the customer, that you will not only have repeat and loyal customers, but you’ll also have gained a team of unpaid, word-of-mouth advocates.

Here are some ways to demonstrate how you might delight your guests:

Methods of Customer Delight

Invite them to take a look around: In the lodging industry, beautiful photographs are worth more than just a thousand words. They can be the final factor in gaining a guest. The internet has a provided a level playing field — to some degree — for individuals to engage users at a visual level. A gorgeous collection of photos that show your destination at all seasons of the year, or with beautiful sunrises or sunsets, or any other theme, could very well be the deciding factor. As a site visitor decides to book with you, demonstrate that you intend to delight them by using photos to show them the experience they could have when staying with you.

Woo them with images and rich descriptions of breakfast: I do not mean post smartphone pics of a breakfast. I mean, carefully photograph a full place-setting, capturing the steam rising from freshly prepared food, the glistening of co-mingled syrup and butter atop lightly browned pancakes, and a cold glass of milk or orange juice sitting to the side. Don’t just take a picture of a muffin and a cup of coffee, and tell your potential guests to trust you, that your breakfast is top-notch. I wouldn’t buy that. Neither would they.

And don’t get all weird and formal about your breakfast. “We serve a good breakfast that is complete with all recommended nutritional elements.” Boring. Instead, delight them with terminology that invigorates their senses. Talk about the sizzling of bacon and sausage in the pan, the light and fluffy omelette made fresh, the enticing earthy scent of a hearty, dark roast coffee, or the fresh, fruit that bursts with sugary goodness in the mouth. Enrich the breakfast before the guest has even decided that’s part of the desired experience.

Talk about events unique to your area: This should not be your sole method of delighting individuals, but it is useful to talk about distinctive events that really draw crowds and a lot of buzz to your area. Also, the flip-side of this is to talk about well-kept secrets and local attractions that give character to the area where you’re destination is located. Is there a specialty quilt shop, for instance, that is renowned for the artistry of quilt-making? You might find that you’ll draw in visitors and guests simply by offering them something apart from the “norm.”

Give them a brief, compelling history lesson: One of the interesting aspects of bed and breakfasts, for example, is their often storied history. How the houses came about, who built them, their namesakes, and their gradual expansions often make for interesting lore to individuals who seek out the classic charm associated with those types of destinations. And when you do go about describing the history, try not to make it like reading a history written on parchment in the Middle Ages. Enrich it with human narrative. Make it something interesting to read. Show your friends and ask them what you might do to improve its appeal.


Customer Delight: Approach with Care

All this talk about customer delight, but you might wondering how to actually make this practical.

This is where we build on tools and tactics discussed in previous posts: email marketing, content marketing, and social media marketing.

Your website is a great commonplace for prospective guests and returning guests alike. Blog posts are a solid method for generating draw and attention. But the ways I mentioned to delight your guests are best when doled out to individuals you’ve recognized as leads, or to former guests who already subscribe to what you offer.

Email Marketing: While a solid method for “closing the sale,” email marketing is also a method of sending appropriately tailored content to guests who have left your inn. Create new connections with leads, and maintain connections with former guests because it increases the chances of a return visit.

Content Marketing: Think of content marketing as the substance you’re using to invite and delight prospective and former guests.

Social Media Marketing: Put yourself out there. Social media is where a lot of conversations are now taking place. The various channels (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.) are places where people are exchanging ideas, talking about brands and companies, and learning from one another.

As we continue to post on topics relating to connection marketing, we’ll be digging deeper into these various types of marketing and how to use them in the hospitality industry.

Whatever form of marketing best fits your goals to delight your prospective, current, and former guests, be sure that you approach everything you do with care. If you don’t care, you’re missing out on the primary ingredient for succeeding in what you do. Gone are the days of cold sales and harsh tactics meant to bully people into buying products. We are in a new era of inbound marketing that is truly customer-centric and it is the customers themselves who have shaped this new era.

If you’d like social media alerts of when we publish our next post, join us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Or, if you have an RSS reader, click to subscribe to our blog.

Currently, InsideOut Solutions offers blogging and email marketing services to help you improve your inbound marketing efforts. Click below to contact us and find out more about these services.


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Responsive Design Recently Launched by InsideOut Solutions

October 16th, 2014 by

We continue the trend of redesigning our clients’ sites to improve user experience and enhance their marketability. Part of this process also involves making their sites responsive. Such is the case with our client, Sam Hughes Inn, for whom we provided a modern and responsive design.

Sam Hughes Inn (Tuscon, AZ)

The innkeeper, Susan Banner, explained that she liked the design and color scheme of the site she’d had for nine years and wanted to retain those characteristics as much as possible. Also, as the B&B is within walking distance of the University of Arizona, so she wanted us to be cost-conscious about our approach to the new site since a large portion of her marketing is done by proximity and word-of-mouth. The redesigned site accommodates all of those needs, maintaining the “look and feel” of the former site, while refreshing it with a cutting-edge web design approach. More specifically, we adapted her previous websites to one of our Modern Theme Concept Sites to remain cost-conscious and to provide the best solution for her. The Modern Theme is clean, professional, and well-structured. It lends itself to ease of use and really focuses on accentuating the photographic beauty of the bed & breakfast and its surroundings. Additionally, the responsive design of the site strengthens the website’s versatility across devices. So whether you’re looking at your smartphone, your tablet, or on your desktop, you’ll get a clear-cut, beautiful site to navigate.

Sam Hughes Inn Responsive Design Site Launch

Do You Have a Responsive Design for Your Site?

Many businesses haven’t yet upgraded their website to a responsive design. It takes time and care to do it right. Sam Hughes Inn is now on a better track to engage users from various points of view. Read our June post: Responsive Web Design – Is It Time to Redesign or Upgrade Your Website? and contact us with any questions or to request a quote.

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Another New Responsive Website from InsideOut Solutions Launched

October 10th, 2014 by

No more is responsive website design a subject of speculation. It has become a recognized industry standard for website design that is a hallmark of successful and leading websites.  On October 6th, we launched a new responsive website for the Texas B&B Association that ushered them into a better position to be a leading resource in their industry.

Texas B&B Association Site Launch

Texas B&B Association

InsideOut Solutions has been the host, web designer, and web developer of the Texas B&B Association for over six years. Marketing Director Joe Cloud’s overall desire was to achieve a more contemporary aesthetic, as well as to improve some functional elements of the site.  So we provided a new design and code that achieved Joe’s vision for the site. Also, Designer Beth Edwards gave the Association’s logo a refresh to ensure its consistency with the site’s new look while maintaining the identity and feel of the original logo. In addition, we added social networking buttons to the header and footer, upgraded the site to a responsive design, included a new map to replace a Flash map, removed all Flash from the site, and executed various other upgrades. The result is a visually-appealing design that is well-structured, clean, and loads quickly. The 100% width imagery allows site visitors to enjoy the full beauty of the photos of Texas’ landscape. Further, the site’s responsive design, which Google prefers, provides a consistent user experience and visual quality across a variety of devices.

Texas B&B Association Logo Refresh

Is It Time for You to Get a Responsive Website Design?

The newly launched responsive website for the Texas B&B Association brings it up to speed with web standards and its improved aesthetic enhances its credibility and visual appeal to site visitors. Note that responsive website design is not a passing fad. It has emerged as a relevant technique for designing tasteful and functional websites. Read June’s post: Responsive Web Design – Is It Time to Redesign or Upgrade Your Website? and contact us with any questions or to request a quote.

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New Responsive Website from InsideOut Solutions Launched

October 8th, 2014 by

Client demand for responsive website designs from InsideOut Solutions continues to grow as this revolutionary web development standard takes hold among leading websites.  On October 2nd, we launched a new WordPress-based responsive website for a historic Lansing, Michigan area lodging, dining and event facility that brought a longtime client into this new era of web design and development.

The English Inn (Eaton Rapids, MI)

InsideOut Solutions has been the host of The English Inn, Restaurant & Pub for five years.  Manager Erik Nelson wanted the site’s aesthetic to be streamlined and elegant, and knew he needed to make the user experience better by re-organizing the site navigation to make clearer the inn’s offerings for accommodations, gourmet cuisine, and spectacular event venues for weddings, corporate retreats, family reunions, parties, and other gatherings.

The result is a beautiful new site that is user friendly, clean, and emphasizes the opulence and atmosphere of the Inn and its peaceful countryside setting. Visitors to the new website will note the high quality of the photos, the well-organized navigation menu, the soft flourishes that are consistent with the brand of The English Inn, and the careful treatment of typography. At first glance, you know you’re looking at a high-class, luxurious, and professionally served destination B&B, restaurant and wedding venue. In keeping with the responsive trend preferred by Google, the site adapts its unique “look and feel” across various devices and browsers to improve the visitor experience.

The English Inn Homepage


Is It Time for You to Get a Responsive Website Design?

The newly launched responsive website for The English Inn, Restaurant & Pub has given this client a strong platform to ramp up their internet marketing and will prolong the site’s usefulness. Is it time for you to take your website to this next level?  Read June’s post: Responsive Web Design – Is It Time to Redesign or Upgrade Your Website? and contact us with any questions or to request a quote.

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Close with Email Marketing: From Lead to Guest

October 7th, 2014 by

Over the past few posts, we’ve been discussing how the right content invites visitors to your site where you can then connect with them to turn them into leads. Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing methodology indicates that closing is where a lead is transformed into a customer. In the case of B&B Inns, this is where a lead is transformed in a guest. From inbound marketing’s tool chest, email marketing is a prime tool to help you achieve this transformation.

Transform a Lead into a Guest

Close with Email Marketing

Did he just say email marketing? He did. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about financially supporting the deposed Prince of Nigeria. Also, I’m not talking about herbs that make you feel stronger and younger. I’m not talking about cheaper pharmacy medication. I’m sure you’ve seen any or all of those emails, and if you’ve got a good email client, they’ve probably been pocketed in your “junk” or “spam” folder. And rightly so. Most of those types of emails are striving to get you to click through to a dangerous site to gain private information or to download some malware.

When I say email marketing, I’m actually referring to targeted, intentional emails meant to educate, help, and entertain the leads that submitted contact forms (during the “convert,” or as we’re calling it, “connect,” phase). Chances are, if you’ve ever submitted a contact form via a landing page that you’ve received this type of email.

In my previous post on conversion, I explained segmentation of contact lists. You get a bunch of email contacts, and you break them up into logical groups so that you can follow up with uniquely tailored, relevant content to each group. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool like Highrise or an email marketing tool like Constant Contact can help with this process.

But now we go a bit deeper with just exactly how you tailor email marketing to nurture those leads and turn them into guests at your Inn.

Match the Interest

Sounds simple, right? You’d be surprised to learn that this often goes unnoticed in the world of email marketing, even though those who send it to you might try to convince you that it’s relevant. Which is why I consider a lot of email marketing I receive to be spam.

For instance, let’s have individuals Joe and Jane Smith. Joe and Jane are interested in getting away to a B&B Inn where there are lots of local attractions, as well as good food and wine to be had. Whilst Joe is at work, Jane decides to do some “shopping.” She has already visited several B&B websites, but followed you on Twitter when she saw you post some great photos of your breakfasts. When she clicked through to your site, she was presented with a landing page that offered a free recipe book for download, and so she submitted her contact info and downloaded it. Now gone from a site visitor to a lead, she has already cooked one of the meals, and both she and Joe were so delighted that she planned to cook another very soon. You then use your CRM to segment Joe and Jane into a “food” category for your email marketing campaign. But then you also place them in “beer” because you find that there are often times a correlation between individuals seeking fine food and craft beer. So, you follow up with emails to them about food and about local craft breweries, home-brewing recipes, etc. After a few weeks and no decision yet on where they’ll stay, Jane begins to get annoyed at the beer-oriented emails. She really likes the emails about the food, but feels put off by the emails about the beer and doesn’t like them cluttering her inbox. She begins to place your emails in her junk folder and continues her search for the right B&B Inn for her and her husband.

So, what went wrong?

Notice that Jane as a site visitor converted to a lead when she submitted the contact form through the free recipe book download page. She was obviously interested in things food related, particularly recipes. She was interested in the follow-up emails you tailored to her about food and recipes. But not about beer. That’s where you lost her. You interrupted her with things in her email inbox that were not relevant, interesting, or helpful to her.

How do I avoid this blunder again?

Know Your Audience

Here are some methods for maintaining a successful email marketing strategy:

  • Zero in on the lead’s interest and nurture it: Because Jane was interested in food and recipes, send her emails that offer her additional downloads of recipe books, expert tips on food preparation, and even short e-books that feature photo albums of various dishes. Further zero in on Jane’s particular food interest by using click-through rates (available in tools like Constant Contact) to determine what pieces she found most useful in the emails you sent. This can help you refine how to approach Jane (and other leads like her), and to improve the quality and nature of the content you offer.  You might be thinking at this point: Gee, seems like I’m offering up a lot with little return. Transform that thinking into this: Gee, I’m working hard at building a relationship with a potential guest and a potential advocate through email marketing.

NOTE: Click-through rate is basically the percentage of the number of times your email registered a click through compared to how many times it was opened. For instance, if 60 contacts opened the email and 6 contacts clicked through, your click-through rate is 10%.

Relevant Email Marketing

  • Don’t flood the lead’s inbox with email: Marketing with email doesn’t mean sending email to a group of contacts every day. To the contrary, it’s all about timing. For instance, any more than once a week is probably too much, especially for your target buyers. By watching click-through rates, bounce rates, etc., you can quickly determine the best timing and frequency for sending emails. By analyzing with actual data, you can learn when your target buyer is more likely to open an email and also when that buyer is also likely to click through.
  • Mix it up: Don’t be all business. If all you’re sending are email specials with only footnote sections about your target buyers’ interests, you’re not likely to earn any guests. Preserve specials for once a month, or in the case of inns, perhaps seasonal. Announce local events in e-newsletters, but don’t bombard the lead with tons of email every month about special events. Remember to marry up these ideas with the content of interest to your lead, and also timing the email with when they’re liking to either open it or click-through.
  • Don’t guess at the lead’s other, unexpressed interests: In Jane’s case, you guessed that she might also be interested beer. But that was wrong. She gave you no indication based on her visit that she was interested in anything other than food. For your target buyer, always go with what you know about them. Remember that, if you were talking to the individual in person, you wouldn’t bring up beer in the middle of a conversation about food. That’s neither tasteful nor helpful, and represents poor conversation etiquette. Treat your email marketing as if it were a real-time conversation with the individual. Focus on talking only about what that lead’s interests.
  • Offer content that will shape a positive perception of your B&B Inn: Suppose you threw together a bunch of recipes in a MS Excel spreadsheet, didn’t format it, set it to be downloaded, and then invited a lead to click-through to it. What percentage of success would you guess you’d have in transforming that lead into a guest? Approximately zero. Because there is now high quality content to be found on the internet, you must take care about the quality of the content you offer. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the lead just wants something. If a lead has gone as far as giving you their contact information to gain a piece of downloadable content, it is highly unlikely that the same lead is just interested in downloading any old content. Strive for quality and usefulness to get the best results from the content and information you offer in your email marketing. Contact us for more information about the content creation services we offer.
  • Don’t cast your pearls before swine: Have you been sending emails for months to one or more contacts, but with zero opens? The answer to this problem is simple. Stop sending the email. It’s a waste of time and is unlikely to net any results. It’s possible that down the road you could come back and re-market to that individual(s). But for now, stop sending the emails because it’s going to skew your view of your email marketing campaign’s success.

Close as Marketer, Close as Salesperson

At this point, it should be clear that the email marketing is meant to be both a form of marketing and a form of sales. It’s a form of marketing because it continues to publish resources and knowledge to your lead. It’s a form of sales because it seeks to help the lead make the decision to stay at your Inn.

In the B&B Inn industry, relationships are key. Hospitality overall is a unique service to offer, and B&B’s are set apart from mainstream resorts and hotels because they offer a very individualized, personalized, and tailored experience that larger hoteliers can’t and don’t. The B&B experience begins and ends with relationships. Innkeepers who seek to develop relationships tend to have more success than those who don’t because the target buyer is often interested in a warmer transaction than, say, with a ten-story hotel. Recently, the Chef For Feng blog published a case study demonstrating was the importance of good phone sales skills, particularly with regard to cultivating a relationship.

Your email marketing is about a relationship — it goes back to the conversation I referred to. Engage and talk about what the lead wants to talk about. Answer questions, offer entertaining and informative content, and be available both as a person and as an innkeeper.

Many business feature a marketing department and a sales department. The marketing department furnishes leads to sales. In your role, you are both marketer and salesperson, bringing in the leads, nurturing them, and then closing the sale, which transforms that lead into a guest. Our next post will delve into how you delight your guests, even after they’ve left your inn.

If you’d like social media alerts of when we publish the next post, join us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Or, if you have an RSS reader, click to subscribe to our blog.

Currently, InsideOut Solutions offers blogging and email marketing services to help you improve your inbound marketing efforts. Click below to contact us and find out more about these services.


Learn More About Our

Inbound Marketing Services

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Link Building for SEO in 2014: Adding Outreach

September 30th, 2014 by

This article, which deals with link building outreach best practices is the third part of my series on Link Building for SEO in 2014. If you aren’t familiar with link building basics or how to start a campaign I recommend you read:

link building graphic

A core concept for link building for SEO is to earn links from websites that have greater authority for desirable keywords.  Natural editorial links,  earned when a web content writer finds your content and links to it, are great when you can get them, but sometimes you need to take your efforts to the next level.

An example: You have been blogging for awhile and are getting good feedback comments from readers. You aren’t, however, seeing referral links to your posts show up in your web statistics. What now?

Link building outreach efforts can earn you valuable referral links and increase the SEO value of your content at the same time. Rather than hoping your content is found and linked, it requires you to directly contact website owners and bloggers to request a review of your content.

Here are the steps for adding outreach to your link building strategy.

Find Potential Referring Websites to Contact in Your Link Building Outreach

The whole point of building incoming links for SEO is to receive links from websites who have greater authority for targeted keywords, so how do you find them to start your link building outreach efforts?

1. Choose Your Targeted Keyword Phrases


Use private search functions on Google, Bing and Yahoo to determine who ranks highly for your targeted search terms.

Before you go off and start searching for targeted keyword phrases to see how your website ranks, its important to understand that your personal search results will likely be filtered in search engines based on a variety of factors (web history, search history, your location, etc.).  It’s vitally important to start your search without this “results customization” to see the “raw strength” of your website compares to other for your targeted keyword terms and that starts with your browser.  My recommendation to choose and configure one web browser (either Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome) that will be dedicated to private searching and follow the requirements of the major search engines to keep those searches free of personalized results.

It’s a good idea to read up on what the major search engines require for private searching:

2. Review High-Ranking Website Search Engine Query Results for Your Targeted Keyword Phrases

List the websites that have higher ranking for your targeted keyword terms and review each for their suitability for link building outreach to improve SEO, including:

Site Authors & Bloggers Link to Relevant Content

links in a chain

Make sure a website is worth your precious time before engaging its owner or author for links.

A website will not likely entertain the idea of linking to you, no matter how good your pitch, if it does not already link to other websites with relevant content.  Also Look for contact info for authors/bloggers on the website and in social media; if you can’t find contact info easily, it’s probably not worth your time.

Site Does Not Use “NoFollow” Links

It used to be that all links were considered a “vote” for the content they linked to.  These days, a link with the “nofollow” attribute tells Google to not count the link as a vote.  This link attribute is growing in use and is now widely seen wherever a link is paid for (i.e. banner advertising your website on another site) or the referring website owner/editor may not have full control over the link, such as:

  • “Advertorials”
  • Article directories
  • Blog comments
  • Forum posts and signatures
  • Guest book comments
  • Guest post signatures
  • Press releases
  • Wiki pages (e.g. user-editable pages such Wikipedia)
  • Yahoo! Answers

That’s not to say that all these sources on all websites will be “nofollow” links, but it pays to check before spending your time trying to get your link on there for SEO purposes.  When you’re on a page with a link(s) to external websites pull up the page source code (typically a View selection in your web browser) and look for an example link.  If it looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.examplewebsite.com” rel=”nofollow”>Example Website</a>

then you will know those links are not counted by Google and do not contribute to SEO efforts.  Please note that “nofollow” links may still give big value in terms of the referral visits they bring, so be sure to add these websites to your referring links efforts.

The following can help you narrow down your targeted sites and set their priority if you end up with a long list.

Site Does Not Require Payment for Review or Link

If the website in question only reviews sites that pay for the service then it’s not worth your effort.  The major search engines are constantly looking for sites using paid links and downgrading or eliminating them from search results so that link you buy today may be worthless tomorrow.

Don’t Forget Check Your Own Readers’ Comments

Sometimes a reader who leaves a comment on your blog post is also a writer for a blog or other website and a potential source of links.  If they have engaged you by leaving a comment on your blog post, chances are they will be open to linking to you.

Next Up: How to Earn Links with Your Link Building Outreach Efforts

My next post in this series will present best practices for engaging website owners and bloggers to get their attention and earn those links.  Contact us if you want help in getting your link building strategy off the ground.  We offer consultations and ongoing services for link building outreach and other SEO-related services.

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Password Security in the Age of the Hacker

September 29th, 2014 by

Passwords: they are the “keys” of the internet. Most individuals find themselves using at least one password at some point in their internet exploration from day to day. Everything from email accounts to forums to purchases require passwords.

The Truth About Passwords

Password Key

Truthfully, that’s a good thing. Passwords help ensure that the individual who needs to see information or send information should be the individual that is meant to. But the problem is that, as with houses, less scrupulous individuals (we’ll call them hackers) want to break in and steal what doesn’t belong to them. So they work tirelessly at either figuring out how to get that key.

Over the past couple of years, large companies like eBay and Adobe have experienced hacking of very sensitive user and customer information. This is obviously problematic from a trust standpoint, but also for customer identity protection. The silver lining – if there is one – of these major hacks is that light was shed on poor password practices. For instance, data from the Adobe hack revealed that the 9th most popular password for users was “photoshop,” one of the tools Adobe offers. And what was the most popular password used? “123456”. With weak passwords like those, a hacker’s job becomes much easier.

All this doom and gloom might leave you feeling a bit hopeless, but there are ways you can help protect yourself.

Best Practices for Password Security

We recommend these best practices for password security as they are both practical and necessary:

Avoid Using Words in Your Password

Password Weak“Well, geez, how else do I go about making a password?”

Simple; use numbers and letters. So instead of using “mypassword” consider using something like “1m56y589pa43ss”. The reason behind this is pretty simple: hackers use dictionary programs that run constantly, fishing for whole words used in password fields. Thus, a whole word like “my” or “password” in a user’s password instantly makes it an easy target for hacking. Try to avoid replacing letters with a number that looks ‘similar’ to it. For example, don’t replace ‘e’ with ‘3’ or don’t replace ‘a’ with ‘4’. These replacements are very common and make password guessing trivial.

Generate Strong Passwords

“That’s easy to say, but how do I accomplish this?”

Using a ‘password generator’ is the best way to accomplish this. A lot of password storage apps (as discussed below) offer fantastic password generating tools built right into the app. These make setting up very strong passwords a breeze.

There are also a handful of password generator websites that can accomplish this same task. However, be sure the website is from a trusted source. It’s best to verify that the website is encrypted (aka using “https”). Here are a couple of trusted sources to get you started:

“But how do I remember these more complicated, stronger passwords?”

Store Passwords in a Trusted App

“Oh, no, here we go: a sales pitch for some kind of expensive app.”

Well, yes, some apps for password storage are expensive ($25 – $50) others are cheap, or even free. The benefit of an app in the first place is having something accessible so you don’t have to remember the more complicated passwords (i.e. 1m56y589pa43ss). Instead, when you need a password, it’s simply a matter of copying it from the app and pasting it in the password field in your browser, email app, etc. Do your research about which app might be best for you. If you only have a couple of passwords you need to store, choose a free version, so long as it is secure and its reviews are good. If you have multiple passwords to juggle, consider making the investment in one of the more expensive apps and determine whether the desktop version of the app and smart phone version can be synced so that you can access your passwords at your computer, as well as on-the-go.

While we don’t want to push any specific app on anyone, we do highly recommend 1Password. We use this internally for all the password security, management and storage needs at InsideOut. It has been one of our most trusted and highly used apps over the years.

Here are a couple of good leads to get you researching what app might be best for your password security needs:

Change Your Passwords Every 3 Months

Password Changes Every 3 MonthsWhat’s the best way to keep a burglar from getting into your house if he steals one of your house keys? Change the locks. The same is true with your password security. Yes, we recognize that it sounds laborious to change passwords every 3 months. The better question is: do you spend the time to do that or to dig yourself out of the morass of identity theft? The internet can be a fun place to interact with others, purchase goods, and find entertainment. And since passwords are part of the internet landscape, it’s probably best to keep that landscape shifting so that hackers don’t have even the inkling of a chance to gain access to your otherwise private and secured information.

Transmit Passwords Only Via Secure Channels

Think email is a secure way to transmit a password? Think again. If you absolutely have to transmit a password to another individual, do so with programs that use strong encryption methods. For instance, Dropbox is a trusted method of transmitting information that users often want kept private or confidential. Email, text messages, and social media messaging systems are not considered private or secure means of transmitting any type of password information. We recognize, however, that often times you have to send a password with email or text message. If this is the case, we highly recommend that the password be changed immediately upon gaining access to a system. Using the ‘password recovery’ feature of a website or changing the password from the user profile page is the best place to start. Remember, use a strong password each time you change it!

Erase Your Storage When You Sell a Device

A not often thought of security measure is wiping all the data off of a computer hard drive or overwriting information on a smart phone. When you sell these items, remember that the data is still there even after a simple “erase.” Software exists that can pull information off of hard drives or phones that was otherwise considered “deleted” or “erased.” Some security companies like Avast indicates that there is no full-proof way to prevent “erased” information from being retrieved from a phone. The only best way is to destroy hard drive of the old device rather than selling it for reuse. This, however, is probably not considered the most popular method since individuals tend to sell old devices to help invest in newer versions. For computers, there are similar sites with excellent guidance on how to scrub a hard drive clean:

The Bottom Line About Password Security

Protect yourself and be smart. It is not smart to use names, words, anything recognizable as a word in a password. It is not smart to use a series of sequential numbers or keystrokes such as “123456” or “asdfjkl;”. We have listed methods we feel are solid in terms of protecting yourself when you use and manage passwords. Perhaps there is no foolproof method for password security given that a lot of hackers make it their day job to steal what doesn’t belong to them. But that doesn’t mean you leave the door to the house open, and you certainly don’t leave copies of the key lying around. Do your best to protect yourself and think ahead of the hackers, staying one step ahead of them so that the information you consider to be private remains that way.

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