Thursday, November 15, 2012

Direct Web Business with Commission Free Bookings

Direct website reservations powered by Bookassist Booking Engine

VisitScotland have announced recently that from the middle of December 2012 they will be removing access to their booking engine leaving many smaller accommodation providers with only a few weeks to find a replacement to ensure that they can receive online bookings through the important first three months of 2013.

Plan B are delighted therefore to offer a range of booking engine and integrated website solutions powered by award winning online reservations specialists Bookassist.

Aimed at the small bed and breakfast and guest house provider this lighter version of the award winning booking engine offers a commission free booking option with a host of top end functions. Open Rooms 1314 offers a modified version of the web booking engine aimed at the smaller operator making it easier than ever to manage rates and availability and take reservations DIRECT from their own websites.

Read More on the website

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Plan B Hits Another High Note!

Ah yes we always wanted to be headline writers for the tabloids!

So how have we hit another high note? Simple really with a new Sitebuilder Bands site for Red Pine Timber Company. Yup Red Pine Timber Company - is that not just a brilliant name for a band?

Their history? In the summer of 2009, a loose collective of musicians led by former Southpaw Singer/Songwriter and Guitarist Gavin Munro got together one afternoon during the Southern Fried Festival in Perth. They rehearsed just once before performing in front of the festival audience later the same day. The audience loved it and Red Pine Timber Company was born!

They describe their style as Americana Country with a strong Celtic influence and through the band’s willingness to embrace talent when and where they find it, they now have a multinational line-up, an age range of 15 to 45 and, unusually, a horn section!

How did Plan B enter the equation?

Well we have been working with David Mundell of Mundell Music for many a year helping him promote his wonderful gigs and venues and in discussion with him we came up with the idea to develop SiteBuilder Bands aimed at giving bands and musicians painless access to their own content managed website. The plethora of social media outlets were available for musicians but we still believed that an anchored presence on their won website would be of major benefit to bands and musicians.

SiteBuilder Bands was born and now provides a cost effective website option with support from someone who knows the industry really well.

The website is built on a series of frameworks incorporating all the external links and feeds - bands can easily upload their YouTube videos, link to downloads, their social media or even their own iTunes or retail pages.

looking to find more about an affordable band website? Why not contact David Mundell or Plan B to find out more.

Plan B and Some of Our Hits!

It's always good fund getting even within touching distance of the music industry and we've had some great fund working on some good stuff over the years.
And the viewings of this piece of Scottish footballing history is guaranteed to still raise hairs on the back of the neck...

Top Highland Guest House Unveils New Website

One of the finest guest houses in The Highland's has unveiled it's new look website in time for the 2013 season. Rosemary Young at Inveran Lodge in Nairn is well known for her discerning quality within her business and has built her reputation on going that extra mile with her guests as her reviews highlight.

We at Plan B are therefore delighted that Rosemary has again entrusted her most important marketing tool to us again.

Ian McCaig of Plan B explained, " This is the third generation website for Rosemary and Inveran and before that we were involved with her previous ventures at The Windsor and The Claymore in Nairn. I like to think we have a really string relationship that is built on absolute confidence. Quite rightly, Rosemary is demanding of the website's look feel and most importantly its content and we have always endeavoured to make sure that those demands are fulfilled."

The new website utilises the brand new version of Plan B's own content and destination management system The Claymore 1314.

It offers a bespoke solution to the hospitality sector offering easy to update content, image galleries and search engine terms as well as being able to manage new Mobile version websites and third part content. Hotels and guest houses can now even add a new language website in a matter of hours should they need it.

However the main benefit for the guest house and bed and breakfast operator is the simplicity and control they have over their imagery, content and optimisation.

The new Inveran website is part of the Open Rooms 1314 website packages which combines a full content managed site with fully integrated online reservations and bespoke design.

The new design is based on one of the increasing number of Open Rooms frameworks and styled to the look and feel of the individual business.

Ian continued, "This is not about rolling out mass market templates but it is about offering a website and online marketing strategy that is affordable yet allows for personalisation on a high level. We understand what the small operator needs and Open Rooms 1314 offers it"

What Open Rooms does offer is impressive;

Website Structure

  • Choice of Fully Personalised Frameworks
  • Ten Updateable Pages
  • Full Content Management System
  • Upload Files and Documents
  • Online Image Editor and Gallery
  • Online Contact Form
  • Google Maps Integration
  • Social Media Share Buttons
  • Online Reservations Integration

Booking Engine

  • Commission Free Bookings ( less than 10 beds)
  • Availability and Rate Management
  • Detailed Reporting Tools
  • Multiple Language and Currency
  • Guest Comments Module
  • SMS Text Confirmations
  • Upgrade Modules available

Business Development Support

  • Regular Online Briefings
  • Free Social Media Promotion
  • Access to publishing blog articles
  • Access to online B2B support
  • Free publication of offers
  • Access to email promotions

Search Engine Optimisation

  • Search Engine Page Titles Editing
  • Updateable Meta Tags
  • Search Engine Submissions
  • Google Site Map
  • Google Analytics Set Up including Goals
  • Search Engine Reporting

Administration and Communications

  • Hosting Package & Database Licencing
  • Domain Registration or Transfer
  • Online Account Support
  • Three E-mail accounts
Find out more about Open Rooms at Plan B online or contact the office on 01292 521404

Open Rooms Websites

Why not have a quick look at how personalised an Open Rooms 1314 website can look and feel

The Inn at Lathones Fife | Wheatsheaf at Swinton | Clan Anderson Cottages | Fairfield House Hotel Ayr | The Clubhouse Nairn | Old Loans Inn | Gailes Hotel | Golf Lodge B&B | Royal Golf Hotel Dornoch | South Beach Hotel Troon | Callater Lodge Braemar | Royal Marine Hotel Brora | Inveran Lodge Nairn | Boat House Boat of Garten

Friday, October 19, 2012

Build Your Customer Communications with E-mail Marketing

If you needed a reminder of how email marketing still works just have a look back at the Groupon style email driven campaigns of the last year. More than ever businesses need to be developing their OWN email marketing much more effectively to drive DIRECT lower cost sales.

Your website may still be the core of your online marketing strategy but it is increasingly only a part of a much wider mix. It is essential that you can communicate with your previous clients or site visitors simply and frequently whether it is through social media, blogs, mobile technology or by good “old fashioned” email.
Email marketing complements both your on and off line marketing strategies and should be developed as an integral part of the business’ marketing plan.

Plan B having been using ConstantContact for our own email marketing for more than a decade now and are more than happy to work with thme now as partners.
Email Marketing by Constant Contact® is the easy, effective, and highly affordable way to get your message out to your customers, clients, or members. You can create high-impact, professional-looking emails—quickly and with no technical expertise. And, most importantly build strong connections with your marketplace that lead to referrals, repeat business and loyalty.
  • Choose from more than 400 easily customized email templates—or create your own from scratch.
  • Create highly visual, professional-looking email newsletters and promotions in just minutes.
  • Drive more traffic to your website with focused, targeted email communications.
  • Build and manage your email list: import exis ting customer lists, add names individually, or capture contact information from website visitors.
  • Measure your email campaign results instantly - check click-through rates, review new subscribers, and see who opened and clicked on each link so you can tailor your follow-up communications.
  • Send automated communications to new sign-ups via our Autoresponder tool.
  • Communicate with your audience with confidence, knowing that Constant Contact will take care of getting your email delivered and keep you CAN-SPAM compliant.
For an affordable cost we can set up your Constant Contact campaign to ensure that you’re ready to start emailing your target markets immediately.
  • Design your sign up box to encourage site visitors to lea ve their address and provide your web developer with the code to embed into your site
  • Embed the sign up box into your Facebook page
  • Design your introductory sign up details page to match the branding of your website
  • Create your mailing distribution lists to allow you to target your message most effectively
  • Design two different styles of newsletters around your website and brand to ensure your message complements your marketing materials

Constant Contact(R)

Email marketing remains one of the most powerful tools available to small and medium sized businesses. Make sure that your online marketing strategy does not overlook the opportunities it offers to your bottom line. Keep your customers informed; Make them feel important


Plan B's RelationshipBuilder Email Marketing programme has a set up fee from £395 and includes all of the above. There is a monthly charge for the use of the system dependant on the number of email contacts in your database and this starts from as little as £10 per month and you can cancel at any time. You can also prepay and make further savings.

Downloads and Links

Email Marketing Briefing PDF
Click for your free trial or contact us on 01292 521404 for further advice.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Plan B and Bookassist - A Decade Together!

Bookassist and their award winning booking engine software for accommodation providers has been an integral - and integrated - part of Plan B's product offering for nearly ten years!

At that time it was clear that the hospitality sector was changing. We had our own tour operation based out of Prestwick Airport called Celtic Links and up until that time we would have had anything up to a couple of hundred people in Dublin at any one weekend for short breaks, golf holidays or concert packages.

It may seem so long ago now but post millenium there were no airline bookings online, flights had to come thorugh a travel agency and we would receive 15% commission from Ryanair for selling their flights! And that was THIS century.

And all rooms were booked by phone and confirmed by Fax! Email was not in widespread use in the hotels at that time.

By chance we were booking a rugby weekend for ourselves and came across not only a hotel website but one with a Book Online button; we thought it would be one of these enquiry form confirmations but no it was live online availability, DIRECT from the hotel and confirmation came back to us instantly.
We were impressed. met up with their Ops Director in Dublin and we've been partners ever since.
Nearly a decade on and we have a wonderful basket of properties and owners the length and breadth of Scotland who we work with to improve their DIRECT online reservations from Resorts such as Green Hotel and Mar Hall to fantastic guest house and B&B operations such as Callater Lodge in Braemar or Inveran in Nairn. And everything and everywhere in between.

All in all we have around a hundred properties all over Scotland utitlising not only the leading edge technology of the Bookassist booking engine but also the creativity and business support of the Plan B team.

Find Out How Bookassist Can help your business

Friday, August 17, 2012

Boat of Garten Guest House Upgrades Online presence

Our Open Room Lite web development package which includes the full integration of online reservations and social media sharing has been selected by another Highland Guest House as the way forward.

The Boat House Guest House in Boat of Garten in the Scottish Highlands went live this week with an all new website and booking engine to replace the VisitScotland web in a box version they had previously been using.

The Open Rooms Lite package was specifically designed with small independent operators in mind and can come with or without the booking engine providing full content management, social media integration, site optimisation and highly personalised design.

When designed properly there is no reason why the independent operators can't have the highest level of content and destination management information to inform and entice their guests to the area and to their property.

Plan B believe that the new Boat House Guest House website achieves both.

Read More about the project and what is included
Visit the Boat House Website

Monday, July 9, 2012

SimpsInns take gold at 2012 DRAM Awards

It’s official. SimpsInns landed the gold medal at last week’s glittering DRAM Awards at the Grand Central Station Hotel in Glasgow. The Ayrshire family business picked up the 'Benromach Award for Success' at the ceremony themed on the Olympics.

SimpsInns owners, Malcolm and Karen Simpson, were delighted to have come out on top when up against such stiff competition.

“This is unbelievable news,” beamed Malcolm Simpson after scooping the top award. “To receive recognition for all the hard work means everything to us. Although SimpsInns is enjoying a busy period of accelerated growth at present, the family business ethos we started out with remains at the heart of everything we do today.”

“Special mention must go to all our team for without their dedication and commitment we would not be receiving an award like this. It is also for our loyal customers, which we are fortunate to have built up over the years and who continue to enjoy the SimpsInns offering.”

This time last year SimpsInns operated The Gailes, Irvine and the Old Loans Inn, Troon but later this year they will have five very distinctive venues.

The Irvine husband and wife team recently bought The Riverside Inn, just south of Ayr on the outskirts of Minishant. The original farmhouse building is now a quaint restaurant and bar set on acres of unspoilt countryside. The new owners introduced brand new menus with some great new dishes and the ever popular Simply SimpsInns menu.

Better still, there is an introductory 2 for 1 meal offer currently running at The Riverside Inn where all are welcome come and sample the latest SimpsInns venue and take advantage of this great promotion. (see for further details).

Last October The Waterside opened in Seamill, West Kilbride and has proven a great success with people travelling from far and wide to enjoy the stunning water’s edge location and great food on offer.

Later this year the £2million Si! Cafe:Restaurant:Bar development will open at the site of the former Golf Hotel on the Kilwinning Road in Irvine. Si! will be a contemporary build with a distinctly European/Mediterranean theme. Downstairs will house a vibrant, yet informal, bar and restaurant while upstairs will be the Italian restaurant.

Such growth within the privately owned company means the owners also had to invest in new people. First off they added to their senior management team. Kevin MacGillivray, the highly regarded chef formerly of the Marine Hotel in Troon, joined SimpsInns as the group’s Food Operations Manager, while Adam Cosgrove joined as Operations Manager after a number of high profile hospitality roles in Glasgow and Arran.

Plan B have been providing online support for Simpsinns businesses for a number of years now including provision of content managed websites, suport for social media activity and the integration of the Bookassist booking engine for accommodation reservations.

Downloads and Links

Gailes Hotel Website
Old Loans Inn Website
SimpsInns group website
Riverside Inn Holding Page

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Customer Service Matters Most

What makes you leave a service provider? Well it normally takes a lot because the hassle and time involved in shifting bank accounts, or Broadband, or telephone makes it so scary that you end up putting up with the poor service as better than the thought of losing your connection, or direct debits or incoming payments.

The opposite is however also true and we use social media and customer review sites more too often to criticise bad practice rather than promote good service. I know I do.

So when you get something as exceptional as the service I've just received then you really should share it.

Yesterday I received a text from my business mobile company O2 in Irvine saying that I now had access to a Guru named Stuart. Great idea I thought. This morning I got a postcard from O2 in Irvine giving me more detail and advising that I now had access to Stuart via a mobile number or an email address. Great reinforcement of a great idea!

Now for two weeks I've been trying to figure out how I could synchronise my Google Apps for Business. driving me absolutely nuts and I spent seriously eight hours, maybe more, trying to fix it.

So with nothing to lose a quick email to O2 Guru Stuart; the first reply suggested that he couldn't help as it would require changes to certain things that he couldn't fix. Five minutes later however a phone call saying that he had reread it and would come back to me if there was anything he could find.

Another five minutes passed and an email arrived with a techy type link but with easy to follow advice on what I'd done wrong. Ten minutes later, mild punching of the air and a fully synchronised communications network now working between Google Mail, iPhone and outlook on the the laptop.

Now when BT next phone me up from a call centre somewhere asking me if I'd like to switch my mobile, landlines and telephones back to them what do you think my response will be?

Almost without exception I have found the support from O2 Business to be exceptional. Exceptional may be hyperbole or not but customer care is only tested when things are going wrong. It's how you handle the negative issues that determine all of our future relationships with a client or supplier. When things go wrong with O2 - and they have - the ethos is let's sort it together.

So here I am feeling better about myself this afternoon because I'm praising someone! Feels great! And if it gets up the line to O2's customer service team then even better because Stuart in Irvine has made my working day, week prhaps even my month infinitely smoother than it was looking at ten o'clock this morning.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Golf Scorecard Design For Dragon's Tooth

Lovely wee job done this week for our old friends at Dragon's Tooth at Ballachulish on the way to Fort William.

Having designed their website a few years back Laurence Young asked if we could redesign their course map. The greenkeepers have just completed the addition of nine new tees to provide two sets of tees for the nine greens.

In the week of the launch of the movie Brave it would not be difficult to imagine that the course provided the location for some of the background images of the fantasy Disney film!

We designed the new graphic over the past week and it'll go to print for summer visitors. And it's always nice to get a Facebook plug from clients, "Sneak Preview! The new illustration for the 18 Tee Course has just been received . . . and here it is! Thanks to Steven Timpson of for such a clear, attractive and professional production." - you can follow Dragon's Tooth on Facebook too

I played nine holes here during the May heatwave and it was he most enjoyable game of golf I'd had in years so if you're in the area you really have to fit in a round. Great soup and baked potato too!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Quick Graphics Job for Golf Tourism Scotland

Over the past seven, maybe eight years no we've been working with trade body Golf Tourism Scotland in a number of areas from strategic planning through to online marketing marketing workshops. (We're currently redesigning their website for an Easter laucnh to make it more consumer facing.)

The body were attending the PGA merchandise show in Orlando and we were delighted to step in to help finish of their stand display for the show.

Not a big part of the stand we have to say but we quickly turned around the graphics required for each of the participating members to ensure that the stand's branding was continuous.

The overall stand was we think put toegther by VisitScotland in conjucntion with the GTS team and it certainly gives a very positive impression.

Speaking at the event, GTS chairman Lee Derrick said, “The PGA Show is one of the main golf industry events of the year and an important showcase for Scottish golf tourism businesses. This year we took more stand space than ever before and created a presence that truly reflected the quality ofScotland’s golf offering. The feedback from our stand partners has been positive and this week could generate thousands of pounds’ worth of business for the sector."

GTS was joined by 10 partner organisations representing a broad spectrum of Scotland’s golf industry, including golf resorts, tour operators, hotels and industry groups. The consortium was the largest ever assembled to representScotlandat the annual PGA Show.

“The commitment shown by everyone who attended has been very impressive and gives us a real platform to build on,” noted Derrick. “As a starting point for an exciting and busy year for Scottish golf, we could not have asked for anything more.”

As well as manning the prominent exhibition stand, delegates also attended a Scottish golf day prior to the show which attracted around 70 leading industry figures and golf journalists. The Scottish contingent included Andy Burgess, head of operations and development at Meldrum House, who picked up the 2011 GTS Gold Standard award for Country House Hotel of the Year.

“The PGA show is where a lot of decisions are made concerning the golf travel industry, so being there is an absolute must,” Burgess said. “Partnering with so many other businesses meant we could boostScotland’s presence and get our message across to more buyers. It was simply great to be there.”

You can find out more about Golf Tourism Scotland on their current website - new one due out April 2012!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Website for Braemar Guest House

Sometimes things work out okay after all - in spite of our best efforts to screw them up!.

We were asked to present at a workshop in Boat of Garten in the autumn of last year about online reservations and increasing website conversion. Being a little smart, I thought we’d do something slightly different and use a linked image gallery to make the presentation instead of  a tried and trusted and frequently amended PowerPoint presentation.

Did it work? Did it hell!

The feedback reviews for our presentation were the lowest I think we’d ever received and lagged well behind the other speakers. Tail between our legs and lesson well learned.

However out of it did come a few very good follow ups and one of these lead finally to the launch of a new website for a fantastic Guest House in Braemar – Callater Lodge.

I say finally because when Andy at Callater Lodge called us we were just in final testing of the new Content Management System which we using to drive our new suite of Open Rooms MM12 website packages for accommodation providers.

“Final Testing” does cover a multitude of descriptions however and as a result the site did take a few week longer to complete than it should have done. However it is now live with what we think is a more contemporary slant on the Highland hospitality website featuring some great images and most importantly good content.

The site also utilises the functions of the Bookassist Booking Engine with fully integrated room reservations in the website (not linking out) and the same availability is also shown live in real time on the Guest House’s own Facebook page.

Ian McCaig of Plan B said, “We were a big bit frustrated that we didn’t get the site live when we said we would be but we are belatedly happy with the results. Being a small guest house in The Highlands shouldn’t mean that there should be any sacrifice in website functionality and the new site now combines Callater Lodge’s own social media activities with a full Content Management System and a highly specified booking engine that can offer promotional pricing, sell vouchers, utilise Discount Codes and a whole lot more. We look forward to helping Andy develop the site functionality and online presence as we progress.”

The Open Rooms MM12 packages were created and built around the needs of small hotels, guest houses, B&B’s and self-catering operations and are integrated fully with the award winning Bookassist Booking Engine.

Based on an ever expanding series of template strictures each site is then given a full make over which transforms the template into a bespoke designed fully content managed website with online booking from the start.

Andy Shore from Callater Lodge gave his view on the process, “I went to the meeting in Boat of Garten with a view to gaining knowledge about new technology, booking engines and mobile applications. Ian is right actually; his presentation wasn’t the best! But after chatting with him one to one it was clear his enthusiasm, knowledge and commitment to help was all there. I had no hesitation in enlisting Plan B to design our new website and integrated booking system. As Ian has mentioned there have been a few hiccups along the way but as with any new system that was not unexpected. We now have what we think is a great working website and online booking system, which is already proving its worth.

We look forward to our continued relationship with Ian & Plan B to further develop our electronic media and hopefully keep one step ahead of our competitors!”

Related Downloads and Links