Email Marketing – an Often Overlooked Opportunity for Hotels and Resorts
With so many online channels for properties and marketers to tackle, email marketing is frequently forgotten, or at least not prioritized. However, email should still be a key component in properties’ online marketing strategies.
With your website, mobile website, SEO, PPC, social pages, local profiles and much more to integrate into your property’s digital marketing, it’s easy to forget what sometimes seems like an archaic form of marketing – email. But just because email has been around since the advent of the Internet doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. Quite the contrary actually, as Reuters reports that 85% of global online users communicate via email, trumping 62% that communicate via social media. Furthermore, according to eMarketer, 47% of U.S Internet users have a positive attitude toward email, more than any other form of online advertising.
As proven by reputable statistics, there’s no doubt that email marketing is a channel consumers prefer, and 67% of organizations plan to increase email budgets in 2012 (Marketing Sherpa). With proper utilization, email can benefit your property in many ways. It’s cost-effective, versatile, engaging, builds loyalty, directs traffic to your website and social pages, and drives revenue.
Let’s review some best practices your property can implement for effective email marketing.
Whether your property has a staff member that is dedicated to email marketing and in communication with your provider, or you outsource to a hotel Internet marketing company, you entire email program starts with a setup. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Consistent Branding: Both HTML templates and custom designs should match your property’s brand, website and entire look and feel. Consistent reinforcement helps past guests and travel shoppers keep your hotel front of mind.
- Mobile Friendly: In today’s mobile world (according to comScore over 50% of travelers research on smartphones, while roughly 20% book hotel rooms), it’s vital that emails are mobile friendly. This means designs that fit mobile screens, reduced subject lines and content, larger calls-to-action (for touch functionality), alt tags to help preview images and text only versions.
- Plan of Action: Even if you stray from the path a bit, form an organized plan for email marketing. You can build and send emails as you go, or even build and schedule automated sends in advance. This will help ensure you consistently send messages without overdoing it and keep email marketing on the forefront, where it belongs.
Taking Advantage of Various Types of Emails
Emails come in pre and post stay form, along with promotional emails, which all have their own unique benefits.
- Pre Stay Emails: After a guest makes a booking, an automatic email can be sent that serves as a thank you and convenient reminder. You can also attempt to upsell the guests with various offerings and packages.
- Post Stay Emails: Start building loyalty by sending another thank you email, perhaps offer them a discount on a future stay, and even ask them to take a quick survey to generate valuable guest feedback.
- Promotional Emails: Drive incremental revenue by offering discounted room rates, packages and specials to past guests and travel shoppers that have opted in to receive emails via website email harvesters.
Targeted Lists for Targeted Sends
Don’t think of your property’s contact database as only one large group of names, email addresses and other attributes (usually demographic stats you collect with harvesters and reservations). Sure, some promotional emails are designed to be blasted to your entire database in one send, while the aforementioned thank you emails go to recent bookers or exiting guests. But there are countless other ways to segment your list, including based on purchase history, for targeted email blasts with unique messages. A couple of examples:
- Vacationing Families: Is your hotel near a major attraction like a beach or theme park? Sending a custom email blast in the spring (before school is out) to contacts with children would provide solid ROI. You can center the email around your proximity to said attraction, while offering family friendly packages and deals on appropriate suites.
- Business Travelers: If your property is situated in a major city or near a dense corporate area, you can target the business travelers on your list. Maybe an email offering exclusive discounts to business travelers, along with free Wi-Fi and meeting room space.
Two different forms of testing when discussing email marketing…
- Test Group: Forming a test group (should generally include at least two people, preferably more) that receives an email blast before it’s actually sent to your group is the best way to make sure it’s error free. This is your last review before you send the email blast. There’s nothing worse than sending an email with a broken link or misspelled words.
- A/B Testing: Split a group down the middle, send one variation of the email to one half and a second variation of the email to the other half, and track which variation of the email works best. For example, maybe you altered the subject line, personalized the email, changed the offer or altered the landing page. You can now have tangible evidence if these tweaks work.
Reviewing analytics after each blast (especially when A/B testing) equips you with the intelligence you need to make better future email decisions. You can pinpoint which types of promotional emails perform best, whether the pre or post stay emails drive more traffic to your site, and much more. Top level stats like number sent, deliverability rate, open rate, click-throughs and even bookings should be the focus.
Email marketing can benefit various types of properties in various ways. It’s still a preferred means of consumer communication and works at different stages of the purchase process, as it can reinforce your hotel, engage readers, entice bookings and help create loyalty. With so many cost-effective options, a proper setup and implementation can be absorbed by most online marketing budgets. If you’re not currently practicing email marketing, you’re missing out on a consistently strong channel, and if you are, work to iron out any issues to maximize its return. Email should never be overlooked as part of a strong, complete digital marketing plan.