4 marketing secrets from a third-generation innkeeper

By Matt Villano

A few secrets to finding your marketing voice

As co-owner of 84-year-old Little River Inn (LRI) on California’s Mendocino County Coast, Cally Dym has learned a thing or two about marketing a gem.

Dym represents the third generation to own and operate the 65-room inn, putting her in charge of one of the oldest and most storied family businesses on the California coast. She took over from her parents in 2008 and made sure the business survived the Covid-19 pandemic with a mix of austerity measures and creative advertising.

Family Business contributing writer Matt Villano recently sat down with her to gain a better understanding of how Dym approaches marketing. Here are some of the secrets to her success.

Leverage the best

Every family business has standout features; in the case of LRI, two of the biggies are the breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean and an on-site 9-hole golf course that plays like 18. Throughout her leadership, Dym has built marketing around these amenities. The website greets potential customers with a drone’s view of the inn from the water, and there are always promotions and offers for golfers. “You have to play to your strengths,” Dym said. “Whatever they are, talk about them all the time.”

Make it fun

Fall and winter represent the traditional “off-season” on the Mendocino Coast, but Dym has managed to rise above these doldrums by engineering several different festivals to bring people out. She cites four annual events for helping LRI’s bottom line: A crab festival in February, a whale festival in March, a sea urchin festival in June, and a mushroom festival in November. “From a business perspective the festivals help us make payroll,” she said. Dym uses the festivals to raise money for nonprofits she supports, too.

Keep it fresh

LRI will turn 85 in 2024 but the inn continues to roll out new things to keep customers excited and coming back for more. During Covid the team put up a banquet tent to create one of the most appealing outdoor patios in the region; Dym is now looking to make the tent permanent. The inn also is working with local authorities to add five new accommodations on the west side of Highway 1, essentially right next to the ocean. “Innovation can never end,” she said. “You have to keep moving.”

Add Easter eggs

Travelers love inside knowledge, and Dym has worked hard to sprinkle these “Easter eggs” throughout the LRI experience. Her husband, Marc Dym, is chef at the on-site restaurant, and his crabcakes are renowned as some of the best in the county. The bar, Ole’s Whale Watch, offers a small-batch rye made by a local distillery, and the rye is only available at the inn. “People feel pride connecting to these,” she said. They also share the details with others, essentially giving free advertising.

Matt Villano is a freelance writer and regular contrinutor to Family Business magazine. He is based out of Healdsburg, Calif.

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