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Do you Know what you Don’t Know?

Do you Know What You Don’t Know?  And what might Not Knowing be Costing You?

A Personal Story…

“My Dad grew up during the depression. He knew the value of hard work. Now that he is gone, my 3 brothers and I have the daunting task of handing his estate, consisting mainly of the farm he built, from the ground up, with his own hands. There is much we ‘Know we Don’t Know’ when it comes to preparing the farm to be sold. There are subdivision rules, road elevation rules, rules that dictate how big one partial must be to support farm animals, mineral rights, setbacks, right of ways, and the list goes on and on. In order to do the very best we can with Dad’s dream, we made the decision to pay people who have come highly recommended to help us “Know what we don’t Know”. Realtors, surveyors and attorneys who can help us make the right decisions to preserve the value of Dad’s legacy.”

Family FarmI  grew up on this farm. I was an Innkeeper for almost a decade. I can tell you that farm life and being an Innkeeper share many of the same values: hard work, compassion, and doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Basically a “Jack of all Trades”, which brings us to the heart of this post.

With all you have to do in your day-to-day routines, it’s easy to be overwhelmed when it comes to creating, marketing and maintaining your online presence. It’s easy to bypass “Knowing what you don’t Know” in hopes that your choice of Internet support provider will simply work out OK!

In many cases, that risk pays off, as there are quite a few providers in our industry such as Pat at Insideout, Scott and Allison at Whitestone, and Mark and I at Acorn who are dedicated to the success of this Industry, with 10, 20 and upwards of 30 years providing quality services for Innkeepers.

Just like Acorn Internet Services was the “New Kid on the Block” over a decade ago, from time to time there are new providers who come into our industry offering their services to Innkeepers. Some good, some not so good, and it’s left up to the Innkeeper to Risky Decisionchoose who they want to work with. We can't all be the best fit for every type of Innkeeper; and choice can be a good thing, as long as Innkeepers do their best to “Know What They Don’t Know” before they sign on the dotted line.

Not Knowing can be Risky…

During the past 3 years, we’ve had a handful of Innkeepers try out one new provider in particular. Just this week as I was researching our customer’s Google Analytic Statistics looking for  trends on the Hummingbird release, I stumbled on statistics of the Innkeepers that had left us. I wondered if their statistics could tell me if they were doing “OK” with their newer website and provider. Then I wondered how those results compared to our own clients with newer website designs.

This is What I Found…


Note: This data is actual statistical data as tracked in Google Analytics for each individual Test Case.
You may access the snapshots of this data, + more in our “Know What You Don’t Know” Reference Document. Business Names have been removed.

Google Analytics provides the ability to look at traffic statistics. We can see when traffic, both overall, and Google organic, has risen (positive, black numbers) and we can also see when traffic has fallen (negative, red numbers).

What we do not know is if the conversion rates for the actual Inns who moved to this provider has seen their associated revenue go up or down. Hopefully, the Innkeepers themselves have been tracking, and know that answer.

Typically when traffic increases, revenue increases also, and when traffic decreases, revenue follows.

It is possible for revenue to increase outside the realm of online traffic, which would beg the question: how much more could the revenue have increased, if there had been improved traffic.

What you as an innkeeper must determine for yourself and your business is what company is the best fit for you based on “Knowing what you don’t Know”, seeking tangible results, and not simply following sales hype. Down the road, your wallet will thank you.

Things to look for when choosing a provider include, but are not limited to:
Deliverables, Results and Services...

  • Increased Traffic (and a tool to show you these statistics)
    Even if the company you choose has its own tools, you should be able to validate statistics with Google Analytics or similar products.
  • Increased Revenue (and a tool to show you these statistics)
    Again, remember to validate by tools not created by the chosen provider.
  • Tracking Ongoing Google Updates and how they might affect your website and online presence (beyond just your site code)
  • Initial and Ongoing Costs
  • Ongoing Education on how to improve your search placement, and otherwise keep up on industry trends.
  • Reputation of the Company (check references!)
    How long have they been in the industry? What are their clients saying about them? Have you called and talked to other Innkeepers using the provider you are considering? Make sure to talk to other Innkeepers that are similar to you! Size of Inn, length of business, location (Rural, City) etc.
  • Development of a Responsive Site with acceptable levels of Google optimization.
  • Inclusion of Author and Publisher Tags and their ongoing building of authority.
  • Hosting Up-Time and Disaster Recovery (both dedicated and cloud based servers)
  • Social Media Support
  • Local Placement Support
  • On-Page SEO conversational content and meta creation and installation
  • Website Portability
    Can you walk away with a working copy your site when and if you ever wish to leave your web company?
  • Blog Support (we know Google wants ongoing fresh content, a blog is a great way to provide it)
    Seamless incorporation of your existing blog into your new site or support to create a new blog.
  • And the List Goes On…

So how do you “Know What You Don’t Know?”

The answer is simple. You MUST GET INVOLVED in Ongoing Education.

National Conferences

Attend Webinars

Read Industry and Topic Related Blogs

Join Industry Related Forums

siliver-bullet-magic-pillYou have to take the time to learn about what is going to impact your business online. There is NO Silver Bullet or Magic Pill to bring this knowledge to you or get the job done.  Anyone making you this promise is NOT looking out for your best interest. It really is just like farming. Hard work pays off. Ask our dedicated Acorn University Students, they’ll tell you. “Knowing What You Don’t Know” is the key to success!

Lisa Kolb
President and Co-Founder
Acorn Internet Services, Inc.

3 thoughts on “Do you Know what you Don’t Know?

  1. Great, great post. Ever since I got into the B&B business I was surprised how much more IT it was than tea and cookies. It’s too bad that this type of business can’t be successful as just a B&B, you have to invest most of your free time doing IT work, and often you need to make choices of buying things for the Inn, or investing into another IT related method or site. How in the world did Innkeepers become successful 10 years ago without blogging?

    I do understand what you’re saying, but it’s a shame that Google as taken over the way we need to run our business, and our lives.

    • Time spent on IT has increased exponentially for all businesses that are directly serving customers. Retail, foodservice, lodging, activities, services, etc. Consumers reach for their tablets, smartphones & keyboards to find what they need…and whether you do it yourself or hire it out, it’s a critical part of the of any business these days. If you’re a DIY by nature, you may have to decide what parts of the business you really want to handle yourself and which parts you need to contract out. (Otherwise breakfast will be burning in the oven as I struggle to compose a clever tweet!) 🙂

  2. I just read your article regarding your farm and your Dad’s estate.

    Truly I think this is one of the best things you have ever written and it touched my heart because I can so relate to what you are saying.

    Lisa, you have an amazing mind, brilliant actually and I honestly don’t know how you keep ahead of all of it.

    This I know for sure is that you have such a heart for what you do, amazing in today’s world. So many people give up or lose their focus.
    Acorn helped and influenced turning this Inn around.

    There is still a much to do but at least we have gone on the up side in many positive ways these past three years.

    Hopefully this part of the end of the year I can get back to learning from Acorn.

    At first I thought, I am to far behind, I’ll never catch up on the education. Then I thought, no Georgie just think of it if you were starting again and you have to learn. Then my thought is what I learned yesterday might not be the same tomorrow so try to stay on the cutting edge if at all possible.

    My gosh I didn’t understand a thing about the tech world before Acorn and I now I am educated. I wish I would have known then (when first buying) what I know now as it would have made Innkeeping so much easier.

    Lisa, told me they now have a tech class for aspiring innkeepers…GREAT….KUDO’S TO ACORN.

    The tech side was a huge missing element for me when starting an inn. I still struggle because my brain doesn’t go the way of the “tech world”.

    Give me something to draw, create or design and my brain works overtime.

    At least now because of Acorn I can “connect the dots” and as always I must give credit to my beginning mentor.

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