How successful inn-owner and restaurateur Celeste Borel recognized the power of professional marketing early on to build a 40-year legacy business. The first in a 5-part series exploring how the right partnerships create thriving businesses.
Over 40 years ago, Celeste Borel was peering out the window of her little turboprop plane wondering where they would land. Celeste and her husband Alain had sold their two very successful restaurants in Key West less than two weeks ago. Alain had longed to get back to his hotel roots having been raised in a small inn in the French countryside by his family of chefs. So now they found themselves gliding down the East Coast looking for the perfect location to plant their dream. They ended up falling in love with Virginia’s sunny wine country, and Shenandoah Valley’s proximity to the D.C. area seemed like the perfect place to stake their claim as boutique hotel pioneers. They made the leap and opened the doors to the now renowned L’Auberge Provencale Bed and Breakfast.
Before hiring White Stone Marketing, what was your marketing strategy?
Celeste: Back then it was mainly sending out mailers, press kits, print advertising in magazines, and local publicity. Trying to get on a radio show to chat with a disc jockey or networking with the local chamber also helped spread the word. But then my brother, who was the Senior Director of IT at Oracle at the time, got a colleague to build us one of the very first hotel websites. Even though now it would probably be considered one of the ugliest websites ever made, we noticed a boost from it. People liked having all that information and certainly saved me hours of talking on the phone to potential guests. The problem was when it crashed. It took a long time to track down the person who built the website as they had left the company. That’s when I realized that I am a professional in my business, and so I wanted to work with professionals.
How long have you been working with White Stone Marketing?
Celeste: A long time! I’d really would have to look back to see. I would say at least 15 years. At the time White Stone was a fairly new company as well, but I remember meeting [the co-owner] Allison at a conference. We were looking at other websites and I wanted to have the new, fancy dropdown menu feature on mine! We ended up at the same table at dinner, but I didn’t want the wine being served, so we all got a better bottle and by the end of the night, I was getting a new website.
“That’s when I realized that
I am a professional in my business, and
so I wanted to work with professionals.”
What piece of your marketing program has had the greatest impact on your business?
Celeste: Our website, now on our third iteration with White Stone, is certainly a critical component and the SEO that is always working behind the scenes. However, meeting and talking with Vikram Singh through White Stone’s Revenue Management Program taught me some great lessons. It changed the way I manage my rates. I’m now looking at them multiple times a week and changing them manually based on what I learned and I’m not relying on automation.
How has White Stone Marketing helped you deliver on your hospitality promise?
Celeste: When people come here I want them to get away from themselves, to truly relax and slow down. I provide them with the tools to do that; good food, ambiance, and so on. We’re really at our bandwidth with what we can handle in-house in terms of marketing. Marketing is not my job or expertise, so that’s why it’s important to me to have professionals handling it. I would add that it is really helpful that White Stone is familiar with all of the support systems we use, like ThinkReservations. In fact, they even introduced me to them! To have White Stone be able to advise on those systems and make sure everything is working together and integrated is extremely valuable.
What’s your next big goal with your business?
Celeste: We’re going to be working on updating and refreshing some of our rooms next. We redid our dining room and bar recently, it is amazing how it has changed people’s perception of even the food. It’s a beautiful space now and I get comments on how pretty it is all the time. After that, we might look at expanding and adding a few rooms. I know that I can easily rent them – even just on the weekends – and make my money back. Our biggest challenge right now is finding enough help, we’re so busy. But at the end of the day, I’ve got a great business, I make a good living and life is good.
L’Auberge Provencale is currently on our Comprehensive Marketing Program, which includes:
PPC Maintenance & Optimization
SEO Maintenance & Optimization
Google Analytics Monitoring
Monthly Strategic Meetings
Social Marketing Monthly
Email Marketing Monthly
Strategic Content Creation
Over the last 5 years, they have seen amazing results!
Bottom line, we help our clients make more money.