B&B Owner Wins National Small Business Award for Marketing Savvy

The Inn Times | July/August1996

Proprietor Marcy Tudor’s was asked to write this article for The Inn Times when she won the Microsoft/Home Office Computing’s ” Most  Innovative Business Marketing Award.” It appeared in the July/August 1996 edition:

” As proprietor of Weatherbury Farm, I was recently one of six small business entrepreneurs nationwide awarded the Microsoft Publisher/Home Office Computing “Most Innovative Business Marketing Award’ for ‘entrepreneurial creativity and desktop publishing marketing savvy.’ As the award was made at the 21 Club in New York City, I decided to leave my bib overalls at home!

The contest (which was announced in Home Office Computing magazine) focused on identifying innovate businesses which use desktop publishing marketing materials.

Weatherbury Farm brings an innovative twist to the bed and breakfast industry — as a working beef and sheep farm, Weatherbury is a destination rather than merely a place to spend the night.

We welcome (and encourage) children (also innovative in the B&B industry). We love to see children with the farm animals. Most children go home wanting to be a farm boy just like our son Nigel, who is actively involved in the farm, doing everything from helping to prepare breakfast to feeding the animals and giving farm tours. Our son’s interaction with the guests is one of the best non-monetary rewards of the farm!

With the decline of the family farm, children no longer have relatives living that lifestyle. We feel we are making a difference by helping them recapture this part of their heritage. Children leave us not only with a wealth of experiences, and farm coloring and activity books, but also with our “official Weatherbury Farm kid” certificate — one of our desktop publishing projects.

Desktop publishing, as I will discuss, is an integral part of our marketing program. Our rural location does give us our ambiance, but it also provides us with the challenge of letting prospective guests know about us. As so many of our guests are returns and referrals, we define marketing broadly in include not only bringing in new guests, but also insuring our guests have a unique memorable stay.

An accountant by profession, I discovered Microsoft Publisher and desktop publishing early in 1992, Trying to develop a brochure for Weatherbury Farm, I was unhappy both aesthetically and cost-wise with what local printers wanted to do. We used that first brochure through the end of 1995, modifying it early this year to include guest comments and thus, increasing the ‘comfort’ level of potential visitors to Weatherbury, Using Publisher has become second nature — I seem to be adding new desktop publishing items all the time. I have recently finished a cookbook and am beginning a coupon book for area attractions, shops and restaurants.

Through our marketing efforts and the structure of our farm vacation stays, we reinforce Weatherbury as a destination. Our brochure talks about the tranquillity of the farm, and the activities available both on the farm and close by. We keep in touch regularly with our guests.

Our newsletter, Weatherbury Moos, sent to former guests talks about what is new at the farm, special offerings and nearby festivals and theater opportunities. (TIP: As our newsletter promotes local businesses and historical attractions, they in turn refer lodging inquiries to Weatherbury Farm.) We even sent a birth announcement (‘It’s a Bull!’) to announce the arrival of our first Scottish Highland calf.

Word of mouth is the best source of guests in the B&B industry, and because nearly 50 percent of our guests are returns and referrals, we feel we are successful in this aspect of our marketing. Right from the moment our guests arrive, we make them feel special. We welcome them before they even get to the farmhouse porch, and in their room is a personalized welcome letter.

Our booklet, Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know About Weatherbury Farm and What to do During Your Visit, includes everything from where the mah-johng set is to area attractions, the history of the farm, information about the farm family, and even ‘Farming spoken Here” (a dictionary of farm terms). Although we developed this booklet to give guests  facts about the farm and local attractions, we find that almost everyone takes it home — even return guests. But then again, it is always growing new chapters.

Recently we added journal pages, ‘Memories of our Visit to Weatherbury Farm.’ Other desktop publications in our guest rooms include the Pocket Book of Directions, our farm bookmark describing Weatherbury in dictionary form as’1/ The setting of Thomas Hardy’s novel Far From the Madding Crowd and 2. A small bed and breakfast removed from the cares of the workaday words,’ and our ‘Save the Planet’ towel washing sign.

Our philosophy is that visiting Weatherbury is like visiting family friends; the number of thank you notes we receive testifies to this. We spend time with our guests, both at breakfast (We solve all the world’s problems.) and on farm tours doing everything to make a stay at Weatherbury special.

For example, we send photo cards of the guests feeding the animals. We feel this ‘framed’ photo card is quite likely to be put on the mantle as a reminder of the great time they had at Weatherbury. Also, last fall we pressed apple cider with our guests; everyone went home with a bottle of cider with our own personalized Weatherbury Farm label.

Desktop publishing has been an unexpected joy for me — I suppose because it allows me to express my artistic leanings, even though I am far from an artist. I encourage all B&B and country inn hosts to give it a try! At Weatherbury Farm, our marketing has succeeded so well that we are converting our summer kitchen into two additional rooms this summer.”