Mark Koester and Lynne Rainen didn’t plan to run a bed and breakfast in New Hampshire, but that’s where fate took them when they went looking for a place to retire in 2013. The eighteenth century homestead they found in Meredith, NH, had been a bed and breakfast in the past, so Lynne and Mark decided to revive it.
In addition to modernizing key systems to conform to building codes, their first important task was to develop a website that would attract customers. Another key task was to select and implement automated reservation software that would connect their property to much used online travel agencies (OTA’s) and the world at large. Starting from scratch, the couple built a hospitality business from nothing into a five-star rated bed and breakfast visited by tourists from all over the world.
“I’ve had people in all phases of their lives come here,” Mark said. “People sometimes embrace us with tears in their eyes and thank us for the wonderful stay they’ve had. It’s very gratifying. It beats sitting in an office any day of the week.”
Lynne and Mark do all the cooking, landscaping and maintenance. They employ two housekeepers to help with cleaning the rooms and doing the laundry, but they also depend on modern technology to market the inn, book visitors, and order supplies. “Amazon saves our lives,” Mark said, noting that he and Lynne shop locally for groceries and hardware, but purchase everything from hotel amenities, linen, and esoteric mechanical replacement parts on the web.
The Nutmeg Inn tried Google AdWords for outbound marketing but now relies heavily on OTA’s such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and Hotels.com to generate business. Google Hotel Ads is another tool. Of the 95 percent of the inn’s bookings that occur online, 35 percent come through online travel agents and the remainder come directly through the inn’s website.
The inn’s success depends on good reviews, so the innkeepers also encourage guest reviews on sites like Trip Advisor to cultivate the business’ online reputation. Mark also serves on the board of the New Hampshire Bed and Breakfast Association, and he is eager to leverage technology for its members.
Talk of the government increasing restrictions on or breaking up big tech companies gives him pause. He said politicians tend to enact rules and laws that aren’t helpful to small business and come with unintended negative consequences. “I’m afraid that the buzzword is going to be ‘breakup’ of the big companies without considering the consequences,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily foster competition and may make it more difficult for small businesses to quickly find goods and services they need.”