Archive for March, 2011

DED Nebraska Tourism Division offers tourism planning and community and attraction evaluation assistance

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

DED Nebraska Tourism Division offers tourism planning and community and attraction evaluation assistance

 

The Division offers a free tourism evaluation program to help Nebraska’s rural communities:

 

  • Develop and market their tourism potential
  • Realize their opportunities
  • Celebrate their strengths
  • Improve their weaknesses
  • Capitalize on their tourism potential

 

A local committee of individuals, groups, and organizations interested in promoting and developing tourism in the area is formed to complete the community evaluation form. This form helps local residents and leaders evaluate and objectively review their community’s past, present, and future tourism efforts. When the completed form is returned to the Division, the program coordinator works with local officials to set up a site-visit date to review and evaluate the community’s tourism potential. This visit normally is conducted soon after the form is submitted.

 

Once the site-visit is finished, the program coordinator writes a detailed report, outlining tourism marketing and development strategies that can be implemented so local leaders and residents can capitalize on the area’s tourism inventory. The report also includes a list of funding and technical assistance resources to develop and market local and regional tourism projects.

 

You can download the community evaluation form at the following link: http://industry.visitnebraska.org/pdfs/CommunityEvaluationForm.pdf

 

The Division also offers a similar new assessment program specifically tailored for tourism attractions called the “Tourism Attraction Assessment Program.” If you’re interested in this program, please contact Micheal Collins to determine if your attraction would benefit from an assessment. An attraction evaluation form must first be completed to be eligible for the program.

 

Recipe: Rosemary-Peach Martini from BnBFinder

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Recipe: Rosemary-Peach Martini

Do you have rosemary growing in your garden? Have we got a recipe for you! Actually, it’s the Murski Homestead Bed and Breakfast in Brenham, Texas, that has the recipe. This signature rosemary peach martini is a popular cocktail prepared in its various culinary courses and workshops.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 1/2 oz. peach syrup
  • 1/2 oz. rosemary simple syrup*
  • 1/2 fresh squeezed lemon
  • ice

Directions:
Put all ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice and shake

Strain into Martini stem

Garnish with fresh lemon slice and serve immediately

*Rosemary simple syrup: heat 2 cups of water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 6 (4 inch) sprigs fresh rosemary. Bring to boil, cover, turn off heat and let steep 20 minutes. Strain syrup and store in refrigerator in clean sterilized bottle.

Calling All Bloggers!

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Calling All Bloggers!

We want to give you, the experts, a chance to showcase your inn and area in timely blog articles. Think current and in the news. For example, gas prices. Do you have ideas for a gas free vacation (or one that’s light on gas?) Are you less than a one tank round-trip from a major city? Is your inn a destination in itself? Want to stay away from talking about gas prices, what about an article on an event in your area featuring your inn as the place to stay? Is your inn environmentally friendly? Write an Earth Day article. Click “read more” for guidelines and suggestions and write away. We’ll post as many as we can on our blog and if yours is selected, we’ll credit you.

Here is a template to use when writing this blog to make sure you get your message across:

Title – Please do not include your inn name. Title should be catchy and keywords are good.

Body Suggestions

  1. Establish what type of getaway it is:
    • Car-Free
    • One Tank Trip
    • Environmentally Friendly
    • Staycation
    • Anything else of value or interest
  2. Where is this vacation to; describe the area and the experience. Be sure to include:
    • Local attractions accessible without a car, or a very short drives away
    • Activities
    • Famous landmarks
    • Anything unique
  3. How to include your inn (Where to stay on this trip)
    • Talk about your Inn
    • You know this part, but try to include anything else you’re doing in support of the topic
  4. Conclusion
    • Here’s where you reconnect to your first paragraph, reaffirming the type of vacation it is and why it’s so cool!
    • For further information direct readers to find additional inns or getaways on BnBFinder (we can add this for you)

When discussing your inn, you do not have to offer a discount. Sometimes packages are more interesting when they show added value and give compelling reasons to stay at your inn. Please don’t just copy and paste an article that you’ve used somewhere else, according to Google duplicate content is harmful to search results, which is something nobody wants. Lastly, write a sentence about yourself that we can include in the byline. Here’s an example:

This blog was contributed by Mary Catherine Gallagher, the innkeeper at the Superstar Bed and Breakfast and Lemming Ranch. In her spare time, Mary Catherine trains lions!1

From the Press Room by BnBFinder

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

From the Press Room

What a month for media! The queries were so varied; we were able to garner coverage in newspapers, newsletters, mainstream websites and blogs for a myriad of reasons. From romantic getaways to creative recipes, BnBFinder inns repeatedly appeared in the press. Plenty of pots still on the stove, next month should be bigger and better—especially with the early outreach to magazines and other publications. Here’s what we’re stirring up next.

Kids, Kids, Kids. Summertime and summer vacation go hand-in-hand. We’re seeing an increase in child-friendly getaways. Does your inn accept children or infants? Do you offer cribs or cots? Do you bake an extra batch of cookies? Are you near a popular children’s museum, zoo, or pastime? Anything and everything pint-size is of interest. Please log in to post your package under Family Vacations. If you have a specific story angle in mind, please email us.

Summer Escapes. Got flip-flop-worthy getaways? What are the special summer favorites taking place near your inn? Any fun or quirky festivals? Do you have any celebrities, authors or chefs coming to your inn? What about classes – any unique cooking classes? Art lessons? Sand castle building seminars? BBQ workshops? If it conveys the message of hot sun, sultry evenings, and a need for pool dips or air conditioning, we’d love to know all about it. Log in to you account and post your packages under Summer Getaways or Classes, Courses & Workshops. If there’s something specific you’d like us to know, send an email.

Mommy Dearest. Amazing mother-daughter stories and very creative mom packages will be in high demand by the media as Mother’s Day nears. If you’re creating a special getaway to pamper mom, make sure you put a catchy title on it. There will be tons of Mother’s Day getaways on the web… help your package stand out with a clever title. Think: super mom or something silly like “downward mom” for a yoga getaway. Log in to your account and post your packages under Mother’s Day Specials. If you have any questions, please send an email.

Gas Free Getaways/One Tank Trips. We’ve all seen the price of gas rising over the past weeks, the media have already been talking about how this may affect travel. Does your inn have a solution for this? Are you in an area where cars aren’t necessary? Are you near enough to big cities so that gas isn’t an issue, but far enough away so that it’s still a retreat? Are you partnering with local gas stations to offer deals and incentives to your guests? Log in to your account and post your gas friendly special under the “Gas Savings and One Tank Trips” tab. If you’d like to contact us, email us here.

Inn-come Tax Relief. One of life’s certainties, tax-season can be grueling. Is your B&B doing a tax season special? Last year, inns offered everything from on the spot refunds, discounts based on the number of dependants claimed, or even doing the guests’ taxes, thereby making the trip tax detuctable. We’ll be pitching our tax-based stories soon. Log in to your account and post your tax relief specials under the general tab. If you’d like to contact us, email us here.

No Leaf Unturned. Yes, it seems early for fall but not if we want to get you into magazines! Do you have a great fall special in the works? Did you run a terrific special last year? Copy and paste it and jazz it up with a clever title and log in to your account to put it under Fall Specials. Add one package now and come back later when you have more time. If you have any questions, please email us.

Catchy Titles Snag Media Mentions by BnBFinder

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Catchy Titles Snag Media Mentions

Looking to garner more media attention for your bed and breakfast? If you want to land the limelight you have to put yourself in the spotlight. While there’s no foolproof way to guarantee press coverage for your inn, there are several ways you can up the ante. One of those ways is to create a catchy title.

Take the upcoming Mother’s Day for example. Do you know how many “Mother’s Day special” packages are out there? A lot. Sure, your “special” is different. Your inn is different. Your exemplary guest service is different. But your title is the same. It doesn’t strike a chord. Frankly, it’s kind of boring. So, you need to kick it up.

Let’s say you’re a southern B&B and you have a special Mexican Mother’s Day brunch, call it a Mother’s Day Fiesta, Taco Mom Special or Mothers & Margaritas. Now, not only are you garnering media attention but guests are much more interested in reading more about it.

Do you have a photographer available for family portraits? That could be a Mommy-and-Me Photo Shoot, a Cover Girl Package, or a Say Cheese Extravaganza. Are there add-ons? Do you have a basket full of flowers? A spa service? Think: Queen for a Day Package.

If your title brings a smile to your face or turns your own head, then you’re on to something. We’ve had requests from media for: gone with the wind, the whole enchilada and brew ha ha, long before the reporter even knew what the package was about. But don’t stop there. Now that you’ve got a clever title, dress up the copy too.

It’s not coffee on the porch, it’s hot coffee on the verandah. Forget simultaneous couples’ massages, it’s side-by-side couples’ massage. And that blueberry pie, it’s your signature blueberry crumb pie.

Sometimes a little synonym can go a long, far, reaching, way. Whip out your thesaurus or enter your search term here: http://thesaurus.com/

A Note from Mary White

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

A Note from Mary White

Hotels have B&Bs beat when it comes to taking advantage of Internet marketing … or do they? True, they have infringed on our territory – brands from the Four Seasons to Hampton Inns are offering complimentary breakfast and an abundance of amenities, hallmark features of a bed & breakfast getaway – however, I believe there is still plenty of room to compete.

When I started BnBFinder in 1998 the Internet was about to become the great equalizer, the chance for B&Bs to be on a level playing field with hotels because of a cost effective advertising vehicle (a website) to get the word out about our properties. Our industry has changed a great deal because of the Internet and the benefits have not come to an end.

Our agility and individuality are some of the advantages that we should seize. As a small business owner you can make a decision right now and implement it immediately, you’ll never be held up by corporate bureaucracy. You can provide a truly personal experience for your guest, something even a 5 star hotel will have trouble rivaling. You frequently know ahead of time, or are the first to know, when couples become engaged and can add an extra touch such as champagne at breakfast or a mug from your inn as a remembrance of their engagement. You also have the advantage of deciding on the spot what to do, based on guests’ personalities, making the gesture more meaningful than a canned, corporate response. Beyond the special touches, guests would have to stay at a very high-end hotel to experience the type of concierge service offered at most B&Bs. Innkeepers are in the know about the best spots, restaurants, and local secrets.

As a result of your agility and individuality, I believe your “Internet message” should always convey the value and experience that your B&B offers. Your advertising should start with the premise that your B&B is more than just a place to sleep; that to stay at a B&B is to wakeup someplace special; that B&Bs are a better way to stay. This means something different for every inn, so how do you use the Internet to convey this?

Good photos are essential. We had wonderful feedback on Melissa Giannelli’s article on photos of your inn in last month’s newsletter. Does your marketing (website, blog, newsletter, directory listings, etc) show your breakfast, amenities, and area activities? Keep it simple and appealing and when it applies, flaunt it!

Video tells your story and conveys the experience far better than words. No longer do you have to be able to shoot and edit video clips or hire a high priced videographer to have great video for your website. Programs, such as Photo Story 3, make it easy to assemble photographs into high quality, engaging video. I created the video below in less than an hour after one webinar taught by Acorn Internet. (If you’re not an Acorn customer you can sign up for their webinar series by contacting sales@acorn-is.com The video class was originally offered as a “test” beta-class, and will be worked into the class schedule later this year.)

Don’t forget Social Media. At a recent HSMAI (Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International) panel discussion, revenue managers were asked how to judge the return on investment (ROI) of their social media efforts. I listened closely for this answer, as this is a question I am frequently asked by innkeepers. Interestingly, many chain hotels have not embraced social media as a format for engaging guests. It’s not that they don’t want to, but because of the priority of other corporate tech projects or because of the personal message necessary to engage in social media, they are unable to approach this medium with the agility that countless B&Bs have.

As an Innkeeper you can always be thinking about what makes your inn special and how to convey that in whatever form of Internet marketing you use. It’s a privilege and a pleasure to promote your inn and as always I value your feedback.

P.S.: I will be at the Northwest Innkeeping Trade Show & Conference April 4-6, in Portland Oregon. If you’re at the conference, make sure you stop by the booth and say hello!

Three Common Small-Business Tax Mistakes

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Three Common Small-Business Tax Mistakes

March 28, 2011 by Karla Dennis | Comment

Three Common Small-Business Tax MistakesMany entrepreneurs feel the need to carry every responsibility for their business on their own shoulders. As a result, a surprising number of business owners file their own taxes. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of their filings contain avoidable mistakes. Here are three of the most common.

1. Poor record keeping. Don’t rely on your memory alone. Sloppy record keeping is the most common problem among business owners, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

One particular area where business owners can go wrong is in using a personal credit card or cash for business purchases and failing to track those expenses. When tax season arrives, you might find yourself estimating your expenses only to arrive at a number that is either far above or below the reality. Remember, the IRS is looking for exact numbers, not ballpark figures.

Off-the-shelf accounting software can help you keep track of expenses. But if you know little about accounting, it’s a good idea to consider working with an accountant who can help review your data entry periodically to help to ensure the accuracy of your numbers.

2. Misclassifying workers. It’s common for business owners to use independent contractors or virtual assistants to help with projects and jobs. Many erroneously classify these costs as labor or payroll costs. They are then deducted on their tax returns as salaries and wages. However, costs that are classified as wages are subject to payroll taxes, meaning a business owner can be taxed 10 percent more than they should be. Independent contractors should be classified as outside services on the tax return. In addition, if the amount you pay an independent contractor exceeds $600 per year, you will need to file the appropriate 1099 forms.

The best way to determine the correct worker classification is to review the amount of control you have over their work. If you are controlling how and where the work is done and providing the tools to do it, then chances are good that are the worker is an employee. To make sure you’re classifying a worker’s status properly, consider reviewing it with a payroll-services provider or your tax accountant.

3. Late payments. Some business owners believe their tax payments are due when they file their tax returns April 15th. This is a common mistake. The tax system for businesses operates on a “pay as you go” schedule, and owners are expected to make quarterly estimated tax payments. The due dates are April 15, June 15, Sept. 15 and Jan. 15. Failing to make these payments may flag your return for audit, and trigger penalties and interest charges when you finally do file the tax return.

— This post is an excerpt from Tax Storm (Panache Publishing, 2010) by Karla Dennis. Dennis is chief executive of Cohesive, a tax and accounting firm in Cypress, Calif.

Small Business News: Creative Marketing Secrets

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Small Business News: Creative Marketing Secrets

Marketing for your small business can be part art/part science. But however you would describe it, it is the key to both getting new customers and keeping the ones you already have. Want to learn more about marketing creatively. We’ve collected a bunch of resource we hope will help. Please let us know what you think below.

Tips & Trends

Does it make a difference where your product is made? It could, especially in a world of outsourcing where customers value domestic brands that employ local workforces. Here’s a story on a marketing edge being exploited by U.S.-based brands who are finding manufacturers closer to home for some of their products. How can your product’s story be marketed to enhance your brand. Bloomberg Businessweek

Is your marketing copy magnetic? Communicating with prospects and customers via the copy on your Website can create a strong first impression of your brand, so the content you place on your Website is very important. If you want to be sure what you say will grab readers, hold them and keep them coming back for more, follow these simple tips and take your Web content to the next level in just 30 minutes. Digital Marketing Now

109 ways to get press for your small business. The best marketing costs nothing but the time to put it into action. It’s that way with media coverage, still some of the best free marketing there is for a small business. But, of course, there’s a lot more to gaining media interest in your product, service or company than just calling up and asking that a story be written about you. Consider these suggestions when trying to court interest in your brand. Copyblogger

Marketing Overview

The true power of marketing…and what we can learn from it. In the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan, it’s amazing to consider what the real data tells us about the relative safety of various forms of power in use today. Real data versus our perceptions should tell us something about why consumers really make the decisions they do. Still think presenting just the facts will convince people your product is best? Take another look at the graph in this post. Seth Godin’s Blog

Why sometimes the best marketing is customer relations. Building strong relationships with customers can be the best marketing in a small business owners arsenal. That’s because these connections are tough for competitors to severe even with expensive advertising and marketing campaigns. Also, with some clients and customers, that one-on-one relationship will always trump a less personal marketing campaign aimed their way. So don’t discount the power of these relationships in keeping customers loyal. Bloomberg Businessweek

Adding the oomph factor. So if, as we saw in an earlier post, customers and clients don’t necessarily make their choices based strictly on an objective basics, how do you go about differentiate. Of course, customer service is fine once you’ve got them, but how do you go about convincing prospects or potential customers to go with you in the first place. Well, it’s all about brand…and about adding that extra oomph. One of a Kind Preneur

Tech & Techniques

Direct digital marketing for your business. Direct digital marketing is evolving beyond the e-mail address, the mobile phone number and the Web browser cookie. Today, you can use trackable data to identify your most influential customers within the new context of social media to “light the fuse to the powder keg.” What does the future hold for direct digital marketing and how can you best prepare your business for what lies ahead? The Lunch Pail

How to market (and sell) from your business blog. Of course, your business blog can and should be a marketing tool for your blog as well, but striking a balance between the free content you provide to keep visitors coming back and the marketing or sales copy that makes your visitors aware of the products and services you offer can be a difficult one, especially if you are new to using your blog as a marketing tool. Wake Up Cloud.com

Communications & Resources

Crafting messages to meet clients’ needs. What are your client’s communications preferences, and have you made the necessary effort to communicate in the method they feel comfortable? Whether using texting, telephone, face-to-face or e-mail communications, your marketing, customer service and sales communications must fit the preferences of those you trying to reach? How do your customers want to hear from you? The Sales Blog

10 steps to killer copy. We’ve noted earlier the importance of great copy for your Website or other marketing and sales materials including newsletters, e-mail etc. But how exactly can you be sure you are creating the right content and more importantly content your current and future customers will respond to? Well, among the first steps is to sit down with your sales team and ask them what’s worked and then to go to your customers and ask them too. Austin SEO Academy

Six Tips For Small Businesses Waiting for Economic Recovery

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Six Tips For Small Businesses

Waiting for Economic Recovery

Expert Reveals 6 Killer Ideas For After the Recession

 

As recovery creeps up on the U.S. economy like molasses going uphill in the winter time, small businesses are starting to feel the pressure ease, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to go back to “business as usual.”

 

 

 

That’s the opinion of consultant Jim Muehlhausen, CPA and author of The 51 Fatal Business Errors and How To Avoid Them from Emerald Publishing (www.51errors.com ). He wants to help owners keep their cool as the economy starts to warm up. He has narrowed down the reasons why small businesses tank during the lean times.

 

 

 

Small businesses face more challenges than the large corporations with huge cash reserves to help them through financial crises. They are more susceptible to market fluctuations, have fewer clients to support them and generally have more transient staff. On the flip side, they also make up 70 percent of the businesses in the U.S., so as goes small business, so goes the economy. Small business:

  • Represents 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
  • Employs about half of all private sector employees.
  • Pays nearly 45 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
  • Has generated 60 to 80 percent of new jobs over the last decade.
  • Hires 40 percent of high-tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer workers).

In order to prevent the ensuing panic and confusion to consume your business, Muehlhausen has devised six basic rules that can help steer businesses clear of the pitfalls of recession:

  • Focus – Pay more attention to your business model and your business, and pay less attention to the economy. Keep your eyes on the road, and not the landscape, and you’ll get where you’re going.
  • Don’t Throw the Hail Mary – Don’t make dramatic changes. Work on the tactics already in front of you. Keep moving and keep working at the tasks that have traditionally helped your company succeed and don’t count on that big order or some other source of instant salvation.
  • Stop Fretting – This is a terrific time to tune up systems, make large time investments in future products/services that you just did not have time for when times were good.  Rather than lamenting bad times and wasting time on activities aimed at making things better right now, focus on two years from now while everyone else is short-term focused.
  • Buy a competitor – Now is a great time to buy weaker competitors.  Prices are low and rolling their business into yours can add valuable employees and sales at bargain prices.
  • It’s not the economy, it’s your model – The weak economy has hit businesses with weak business models MUCH harder than those with solid models.  If the economy has hit you hard, this is not bad karma. It is a sign that you need to tune up your business model.
  • Ignore Web 2.0 at your peril – Yes, Web 2.0 is just as valid for B2B as it is for B2C.  Web 2.0 has very little to with Facebook and Twitter.  At its core, Web 2.0 is nothing more than an automated referral system.  If your business does not need additional referrals, ignore Web 2.0, but beware that traditional marketing methods will continue to loose effectiveness while Web 2.0 methods will continue to improve.

 

“Decisions made out of panic and anxiety are rarely, if ever, the right ones,” Muehlhausen said. “I’m not sure there is a single business book or consulting firm that has recommended running scared when times are bad. That being said, far too many business owners let fear affect them and their choices. Times are not great, but people still have money and companies are still spending. For every business that is closing, ten more are surviving. So, relax, focus and get smart about how to navigate the tough times. You may find you wind up doing even better than before.”

 

About Jim Muehlhausen

Jim Muehlhausen CPA, JD graduated from Valparaiso University with a B.S. in Accounting, passing the CPA exam while still in college. While subsequently attending the Indiana University School of Law, he became the youngest franchisee in Meineke Discount Muffler history (1987-1991). After successfully selling that business, Jim founded an automotive aftermarket manufacturing concern.  During his 9-year tenure, the company achieved recognition from Michael Porter of theHarvard Business School and Inc. Magazine in the INC 100 Fastest Growing Businesses. Over the past eight years, Jim has personally coached hundreds of business owners in more than 3,500 face-to-face coaching sessions and has clients in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Updated Versions of the Tourism Development and Marketing Resources Directory and Tourism 101 Guide are Available

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

For more information: Micheal Collins, 402.471.3795, micheal.collins@Nebraska.gov

Updated Versions of the Tourism Development and Marketing Resources Directory and Tourism 101 Guide are Available

 

  • Are you searching for funding for a tourism project?
  • Do you need help with writing a successful grant or creating package vacations?
  • Are you interested in starting a tourism business or need to write a business plan?
  • Do you want to know how to distribute your travel literature in the Tourism Division’s interstate information centers?
  • Are you looking for information on how to create a recreational trail or develop interactive museum exhibits?
  • Do you want to know what grants and technical assistance the Tourism Division offers?

 

If so, you’ll find two Nebraska Tourism Division publications to be valuable assets: The Tourism Development and Marketing Resources Directory and Nebraska Tourism 101: A Guide to Your Tourism Questions.

 

The resources directory provides information on local, state, and federal funding resources; foundations; and tourist oriented organizations and associations. The tourism 101 guide provides answers to general tourism questions that Division staff is most often asked.

 

Updated versions of both these publications are available on the Tourism Division’s Industry Web site:

 

Tourism Development and Marketing Resources Directory

http://industry.visitnebraska.org/pdfs/DevMarRes1.pdf

 

Nebraska Tourism 101: A Guide to Your Tourism Questions

http://industry.visitnebraska.org/pdfs/industry/Tourism101Guide.pdf



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