It’s 2018, is email still a relevant marketing channel? If that’s the question on your mind, we understand. Social media pundits have been prophesying the death of email for years now.
But that prediction has never come true. In fact, email marketing is just as relevant today as it was 10 years ago — maybe even be more so. And it shows no signs of fading. This is great news for hoteliers!
If you own a hotel or are charged with marketing one, you’ve come to the right place. This is the most comprehensive resource on the internet about email marketing for hotels.
We’ll first discuss why email is such an important marketing channel. Then we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty and discuss the tools you need to effectively use email, how to write top performing campaigns and optimize them for success, and the best scenarios to use email marketing in. We even have a section on growing your email list.
So buckle up, you’re about to become an email marketing for hotels expert! Ready?
Why Use Email?
Before we dive into using email to promote your hotel, let’s discuss why it’s such an important marketing channel. There are plenty of reasons, but we’ll focus on the top three:
The ROI Is Incredible
If you haven’t heard, email marketing provides fantastic return on investment potential. According to Lyfe Marketing, email sees an ROI of 122%, which is four times higher than any other marketing channel. Even social media. Not bad, right?
Consumers Want Personalization
As consumers become more and more numb to traditional advertising, the need for personalization grows. The potential customers of your hotel don’t want to see another generic marketing piece. They want to receive relevant content that feels like it was made just for them.
Does that sound challenging? Impossible even? Well it’s not with email! This marketing channel is the perfect platform for personalized interactions between your establishment and your customers.
Get Valuable Feedback
Finally, email marketing gives you an amazing opportunity to get feedback from your guests. What did they enjoy about their stay at your hotel and what would they like your establishment to improve upon? Email, when used correctly, will allow you to answer those questions.
Choose Your Email Marketing Software
As we’ve just seen, email marketing is a fantastic way to promote your hotel. But how do you do it effectively? It all starts with your Email Marketing Software — abbreviated as “EMS” for the remainder of this article.
This kind of application will allow you to use email to its full potential. Here are a few brands to choose from:
Mailchimp is the most popular EMS on the market. And a great option for those just beginning their email marketing journey. The platform is easy to use, affordable, and has many high-end features.
Their entry level plan is free, with prices rising based upon the number of subscribers a user has and the specific features they require.
Our personal favorite, Robly is a great option for hotels looking to up their email marketing game. The software is fully featured and the interface is very intuitive.
After a free 14 day trial, available plans range from $15 to $149 a month and include features such as OpenGen technology that will automatically resend campaigns that were never opened, and patent-pending Robly AI; a feature that will send every email in your campaign at the exact moment each of your subscribers is most likely to open it.
These are both amazing email marketing features. They’ll help get your emails opened and allow you to see that amazing ROI we talked about earlier!
Aweber is another very popular email marketing platform. While it will cost your hotel a bit more than the other two services we’ve mentioned so far — prices start at $19 a month for up to 500 subscribers — customers love the app’s top quality customer support and high deliverability rate.
If you choose to use Aweber, you’ll have access to useful features such as email automation, easy drag and drop editing capabilities, and eye-catching templates.
For hotel marketers interested in a complete marketing automation solution, Infusionsoft is worth a look. But be warned, this platform is much more expensive and has a steep learning curve!
Infusionsoft is designed to be a one stop shop for running your business. It can handle your email marketing, help you organize your contacts, make it easier to close more sales… You can even use it to send invoices.
For most hotels, Infusionsoft is probably overkill. But it’s a great platform if your business has the need, money and time to learn it.
Create Campaigns That Convert
Once you’ve chosen your EMS, it’s time to start creating and sending emails. The real fun is about to begin! Let’s discuss the main elements needed to craft amazing, ROI positive campaigns:
What’s the first thing you do after choosing your EMS? Do you sit down and hammer out a great subject line? Do you search for a snazzy template design to use?
Both of these are important, but there’s something you must do first. It’s called segmentation, which is just a fancy term for splitting your email list into smaller sections based on subscriber preferences and behaviors.
(Note: If you don’t yet have an email list, we’ll talk about ways to build one later in this post.)
Earlier we mentioned that personalization is key to successful marketing. Segmenting your list is a great way to make your emails seem more personalized. It allows your business to send subscribers the content they’ll be interested in and nothing else.
Subscriber preference is one way to segment your email list. For example, some of your subscribers may enjoy weekly updates from your hotel. Others might only want to receive messages every couple of months. Segment your list and give them both what they desire.
You can also use subscriber behavior to divide your email list. Hotel visitors that return to your establishment every year could be separated and sent different messages than those who’ve only visited once, for instance.
Before you craft an email campaign, make sure your subscribers are segmented appropriately.
Write Your Emails
The time has come. It’s time to sit down and write your message! Let’s talk about the main elements of your email — the subject line, body copy, and call-to-action (CTA) — individually.
The Subject Line
This is the most important part of your email. After all, if it isn’t enticing, your audience won’t open and read your message. No pressure!
Don’t worry, we have a few tips to help you craft winning subject lines:
1. Use the 4 U’s Approach: The 4 U’s approach is an old copywriting trick. It says that enticing copy is useful, ultra-specific, unique and urgent. To write amazing subject lines, try to include at least three of these elements.
For example, “50% Off Your Next Stay – Limited Time Only” is useful (who wouldn’t want to save money?), ultra-specific (subscribers can save 50%), unique (most other hotels aren’t offering this good of a deal), and urgent (this deal is limited.)
2. Watch Subject Line Length: You’ll want to keep your subject lines as concise as possible, while still enticing recipients to open. Aim for 55 characters or less. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it will help ensure that nothing gets cut short.
3. Use Curiosity to Your Advantage: This is a bit of an advanced technique and can backfire if not used correctly. But it also has the potential to drive your open rates through the roof!
Anytime you can successfully peak subscriber curiosity and make them need to know what’s in your email, it’s a good thing. “Is this the most romantic vacation spot in the world?” is a good example of a curiosity inducing subject line.
4. Be Professional: Lastly, avoid the use of all caps, excessive punctuation, and misspelled words. These tactics come across spammy and unprofessional — not the perception you want potential hotel visitors to have of your business.
The Body Copy
Once you’ve grabbed your subscriber’s attention with a killer headline, you need to keep it. That’s what we’ll talk about next:
1. Personalize Your Messages: Ah, our good friend, personalization. But this time, we’re not talking about segmenting, we’ve already done that. Now, we want to address our messages to each subscribers first name.
Fortunately, this is really easy in just about every EMS. Simply include a “name” tag and the software will use the information it has in the system to include first names automatically.
2. Keep It Relevant: If your subject line reads, “50% Off Your First Night Stay,” but your body copy talks about the tourist attractions near your hotel without ever mentioning the deal, subscribers will be confused.
They may even grow irritated and stop opening your emails. To avoid this, make sure that your subject lines and body copy match.
3. Use the Second Person Perspective: Use pronouns like “you” and “yours” and speak directly to each subscriber. People generally care more about themselves than the hotels they stay at. So body copy that’s full of “I’s” and “we’s” just won’t be interesting to your audience. Instead, make it all about them.
4. Benefits Over Features: This is another classic copywriting technique. Your subscribers don’t care that your hotel uses 800 thread count sheets in each room. But they do care that they’ll be incredibly comfortable and have the best night sleep of their lives when they stay at your establishment. Do you see the difference?
Features are the cold hard facts. Benefits tell us why those facts matter. Emphasize features over benefits and your email marketing efforts will be more successful.
5. Keep It Brief: Brevity is your friend when it comes to email marketing. Your subscribers are busy and there are a lot more emails waiting for them in their inboxes. So keep it short. Say what you need to say and then wrap it up.
Speaking of wrapping it up, every email needs a CTA. Something that leads recipients back to your website or another corner of the web that you control. Let’s talk about that:
1. Remember the 4 U’s: Just like with email subject lines, your CTAs need to be useful, ultra-specific, unique and urgent (three out of four is fine) or they won’t get clicked.
2. Nail Your Value Proposition: Why should your subscribers click on your CTA? Because they’ll get something valuable for doing so. A CTA that says, “Claim My 50% Discount” is clearly valuable and quite enticing.
3. Keep It In Perspective: The subscriber’s perspective, that is. Studies show that CTAs are more successful when they’re written in the first person. Meaning, “Show Me My Room” will typically get more clicks than “View Your Room.”
4. Use Power Words: What’s a power word? Simple, it’s a word that increases desire and encourages action. Some great ones are “Free,” “Effortless,” and “Savings.” Try to use power words in your CTAs whenever possible.
Choose the Right Design
The design of your email matters. Let’s make sure you get it right:
Keep it Clean and Focused
Clutter and chaos are your enemies when using email marketing for hotels. Your messages should be presented in a clean and professional way. So use the templates that come with your EMS and make use of white space. Your emails will be much more readable and successful.
Make Your CTAs Stand Out
It’s generally a good idea to make your CTAs look like a button and give them a color that stands out from the rest of your email.
Buttons are made to be clicked and if they’re easy to see (because they’re red when the rest of the email is white and black, for example) more people will click them. Especially if you’ve used our above tips and written a stellar call-to-action!
Use Alt-Text for Images
If you’re including images in your emails — a picture is worth a thousand words, as they say — then you need to include alt-text for each one. Alt-text is just a bit of copy that explains what a picture is supposed to display if it fails to load.
Some email services (40% of them to be exact) will automatically disable pictures. If alt-text isn’t included, your audience will have no idea what they’re looking at.
Optimize Your Email Marketing Efforts
By now, you realize the importance of email marketing for hotels. You also know a few of the top choices for email marketing platforms and how to craft email campaigns that convert.
We’ve come a long way in a short period of time! But there’s still another important step: optimization.
Even the best email marketers on the planet don’t get everything right the first time. They need to analyze the numbers and optimize their efforts for greater future success. This is how it’s done:
Watch The Metrics
Optimization is all about understanding the numbers and improving them to better your hotel. But which metrics are most meaningful. These are the top four:
This is the rate at which your emails are opened and is found by dividing the number of opened emails by the amount of addresses the campaign was sent to. If you have 100 subscribers and 40 of them opened your email, you’ve earned a 40% open rate.
Obviously, higher the rate, the better.
The click-through rate is found in a similar way to the open rate: simply divide the amount of people who clicked on your email’s CTA by the amount of people who opened your message. Returning to our previous example, if 10 out of the 40 people who opened your email also clicked the link, you’ve earned a 25% click rate.
Elevating click-through rates is a great way to increase ROI.
The bounce rate is the percentage of emails sent that never reached a recipient. There are two categories: soft and hard bounces. Neither is ideal.
We won’t bore you with the details, but if you’re consistently receiving a high bounce rate, your email marketing efforts won’t be nearly as successful as they could be.
This metrics tracks how many people have unsubscribed from your hotel’s list and can be displayed as a number (number of unsubscribes) and a percentage (unsubscribe rate).
Nobody likes to see people unsubscribe, but it’s inevitable in email marketing for hotels. As long as you aren’t seeing a consistently high level of unsubscribes, there probably isn’t a need to worry. It’s just a natural process.
All of the metrics we just mentioned should be analyzed after each campaign has been sent. That way you can begin optimizing them for better results in the future. In the tourism and hospitality industry, the average metrics are as follows:
Open Rate: 20.53%
Click Rate: 2.27%
Bounce Rate: .61%
Unsubscribe Rate: .24%
Use Split Testing
Split testing, also known as A/B testing, is a common optimization technique used in email marketing for hotels. Basically, marketers create two versions of their email and send them to different, small portions of their audience. The one that performs best is the winner.
The one caveat is that only one alteration between the emails can be made for each test. More than that and you’ll never really know what made one campaign more successful than the other.
Are you wondering what you should test and attempt to optimize in your emails? Fear not, we have the answers!
Pretty much anything can be tested and optimized when using email marketing for hotels. But subject lines, email layout, images, and CTAs are the first and main components to check.
Ways to Use Email Marketing
We’ve covered how to create and optimize email campaigns. Now, let’s talk scenarios. How can you, a hotel professional, use emails to better market your establishment? We have a few ideas:
Stay Related Emails
Stay related emails are the most obvious use of email marketing for hotels. In fact, you may already be sending these kinds of campaigns!
This email type includes the thank you emails you send when a customer first books a stay at your hotel, the reminder email notifying them that their stay is approaching, and the post-stay message you send thanking visitors for their stay and (maybe) asking for feedback.
They’re generally automated to send on their own when certain conditions (like a new booking) are met.
If you are brand new to email marketing for hotels, stay related messages are a great place to start.
Discounts and Promotions
A great way to provide value with your email marketing efforts is to send the occasional discount coupon or special sales promotion to your subscribers.
You know what we’re talking about: a message that contains a code for 20% off a subscriber’s next booking at your hotel, or a promotion that guarantees a free night stay if a subscriber books at least three other nights.
This type of email will generally receive high open and click-through rates and bring in a lot of business for your hotel. Just don’t over do it.
Hotel News or Events
Has your hotel recently undergone renovations or won an award. Are you hosting an event of some kind in the near future? Let your list know!
News of this kind is a great reason to email your subscribers. Often times it will improve your establishment’s standing in the eyes of your audience and may even entice them to book another stay.
Elevate the Customer Experience
Finally, you can also use email marketing to improve your guest’s experience at your hotel. For example, are there any under the radar tourist attractions in your city? What about restaurants? Send an email to subscribers who recently booked a stay and let them know.
When customers visit a hotel, they’re often unfamiliar with the area. You can improve their experience with your business by helping them better enjoy their time in your city.
Quick Tips to Build Your List
We’ve talked a lot about how to create and send email campaigns to a list of subscribers. But what if you’re just starting out and you don’t even have a list yet? We haven’t forgotten about you! Here are a few quick tips to build an email list quickly:
Ask For Signups
In the beginning, the easiest way to add names to your email list is to ask people to join.
When customers book a stay at your hotel, give them the option to receive updates and offers via email.
You can also ask for signups when guests check in and include opt-in information on every receipt/invoice. We recommend you also consider printing flyers with signup information and placing them in every room. Get the word out!
Make It Accessible
If you want to grow your list (and you should definitely want to!), then you need to make it as easy as possible to join. Add a signup form to each main page on your hotel’s website. Do the same (when possible) on every social media profile.
Make signing up to your list a simple, no-brainer choice.
Send Great Content
Great content is key to email marketing for hotels. Not only will it help you retain current subscribers and continue marketing your establishment to them, it will also help you attract new signups.
How? Simple, people share great content. If your subscribers look forward to receiving your emails, they’ll tell their friends and forward your messages. This version of word-of-mouth can be very powerful!
A proven way to grow an email list is to provide incentives for joining. You’ve surely joined a list or two in the past because the company offered a discount or special offer for doing so. Why not use this same tactic to build your hotel’s email list?
The incentive you offer could be a percentage discount on a subscriber’s next booking. Or it could be a special content upgrade like a free ebook on travel. Just make sure that what you’re offering is relevant to both your hotel and your target audience.
A Few More Things
We’re just about ready to wrap this post up. But first, let’s cover a few more email marketing tips you need to know:
Have Something to Say
When you sit down to email your list, make sure you have something to say. Don’t just send random emails because you’re “supposed to.” Give it some thought and plan out your email marketing approach. Always provide value.
Automate your email marketing efforts whenever possible. Most EMS apps come with some level of automation. These tools can be life savers!
There are plenty of ways to send automated emails including a welcome sequence when a new subscriber joins your list, or a reservation sequences when a guest books a stay. You can also automate abandoned cart type emails, happy birthday messages, and event reminders.
Don’t Forget the Landing Page
A landing page is the page a subscriber lands on after clicking your CTA. This topic really deserves its own post, but here are a few things to keep in mind for now:
- Landing Pages Should Be Targeted: If your email promotes a free travel ebook, make sure that your CTA directs subscribers to a page dedicated to that piece of content. Don’t just send them to your website home page.
- Use Persuasive Writing Techniques: Remember when we talked about the 4 U’s approach to subject lines? Use the same tactic when writing your landing page headline and CTA. Also, be sure to emphasize benefits over features.
- Optimize Your Landing Pages for Success: Just like emails needs to be analyzed and improved, so do landing pages. Test different headlines and CTAs. Rearrange design elements and try different color schemes. Use the same split testing techniques we mentioned for your emails.
The best emails in the world won’t help your hotel if they direct subscribers to a subpar landing page. Getting this part right is essential!
Always Provide Unsubscribe Links
While it may hurt to see people leave your list, it doesn’t make sense to market to an uninterested audience. Especially when your EMS of choice is probably charging you by the amount of subscribers your business has.
Just let them go and focus on the subscribers who want to be on your list.
Well that’s it, a complete guide to email marketing for hotels. Congratulations on reaching the end! You now have a strong foundation on which to build your email efforts and promote your establishment.
Let’s quickly recap:
- Email is an incredible marketing platform. When used correctly, it provides a high ROI, the ability to personalize communications, and a chance to get valuable feedback.
- The first step in email marketing for hotels is to choose an EMS. There are a lot of them out there, but MailChimp, Robly, Aweber and Infusionsoft are our top choices.
- Before you sit down to write an email, segment your list. This will allow you to send relevant content to each subscriber.
- When writing your emails, use the 4 U’s approach to write better subject lines and CTAs. Also, keep your body copy brief and relevant and make use of quality design principles.
- Your work isn’t done when your email is written. Now it’s time to optimize. Test different messages against each other and try to increase your open and click-through rates.
With the information in this guide and a bit of elbow grease, you can use email to successfully market your hotel. Give it a try!