Social media and Pay-Per-Click ads (PPC) are all the buzz. But the professed “death of email” never came—email marketing is still the primary mode of digital communication between businesses, their customers, and their clients. And it drives results. Email marketing is up to 40 times more effective at generating a sale than Facebook and Twitter. This means if you are putting all your energy into other channels and neglecting your email marketing opportunities, you could be missing out on a serious revenue boost.
Hoteliers are wising up to the results they could expect from their emails. Email marketing has been proven to generate high conversion rates: this means more bookings, higher occupancy rates, increased revenue, and perhaps that long-awaited promotion…
But email marketing is not just an asset to the hotel industry because it shows demonstrative results. Think about buying habits—your typical customers are infrequent purchasers of a luxury product; the people booking your rooms are usually aged over 45. Emails are non-intrusive, viewable on all devices, and easily accessible to your average decision maker.
The fact that email is established is good.
But this does not mean that innovation and creativity cannot thrive in the email format. The email platform itself has been under iterative revision since its beginnings in 1971. So too have Email Service Providers (ESPs) continued to roll out new tools with diverse applications, for both consumers and businesses.
As a marketer, you need to keep track of these developments and the relevant techniques they enable. As an example—it is no longer adequate to crop-dust content and promotions to every person on your mailing list with the hope that some might grow into leads. You have the tools available to you to increase the chances that every email will lead to a genuine purchase.
You just have to know how to use them.
If you are currently using an ESP with no advanced features for business, you’re seriously missing out. Using DirectIQ will give you the versatility you need to target your customers more efficiently.
DirectIQ is a powerful aid because it offers a multitude of features to suit your marketing requirements. For example, you can split test multiple versions of your emails to see which ones get the best results.
But where should you start?
We reveal five proven email marketing techniques used by leaders in the hotel industry, to give you a nudge in the right direction.
1. Segment, Segment, Segment… and Personalize
In a competitive market, it is important to give your subscribers exactly what they want (or don’t know they want, yet).
If you are sending emails to every address on your mailing list at the same time, you could be missing out on up to a 760% revenue hike; that hurts. If you are sending targeted emails but still getting low numbers, you may not be segmenting enough.
Segment, segment, and segment again—and segment a little more for good measure.
But what is all this talk of “segments”? Segmentation means splitting your mailing list according to certain characteristics and sending dedicated, targeted emails that are relevant to your subscribers. Typical metrics to segment by include purchase history, product type, age, interest, location; anything you could get data on to help you to send more targeted emails to a specific demographic.
With around 20% of people opening the average email campaign, you need to do everything you can to send emails that speak to your subscribers. Segmentation works by building an expectation of relevant and useful information from your brand. It has been shown to generate a 14.31% increase in opens. Give yourself the flexibility to send customers offers, content, discounts, and goodies tailored to their type.
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Create separate mailing lists and collate your subscribers by the characteristics that will get you the best results. Research suggests that the smaller the target group you select, the higher the increase in opens and conversions.
So spend time on segmentation. Segment by industry demographics—for example, by families, business guests, and frequent flyers. Segment according to the services clients have shown interest in before: if they used the spa or gym; if they enjoyed the pool or bar. Segment by room choice to target the customers looking for great value and those willing to pay for quality.
The more you split up your audience, the more you will be able to provide your guests with content specific to them. And in turn, the more you will generate dedicated followers of your brand.
The hospitality industry is all about creating individualized experiences en masse. This is why it is so important to tailor your campaigns. Targeting your emails to reach a particular demographic can make them more likely to get read. But sending your customers something just for them could sweeten the deal and tip them into making a booking.
Studies suggest campaigns with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to get opened. And it costs nothing to place personalized content into your emails with a little know-how.
Personalized emails include any information that is specific to an individual subscriber. You choose where to put conditional fields which are then filled in with the information on your mailing list. Each email is then slightly different from the next.
You often see personalization used in subject lines. “Hi <NAME>, We’ve Got Something For You,” is an oft-used example. But with DirectIQ you can personalize almost anything.
Email your customers on their birthdays to wish them well. If you haven’t seen them in a while—tell them how long it has been since their last stay and ask, “do you want to come back and visit, ___ ?”; send campaigns that include important updates about their particular account, activities, and communications, so they are guaranteed to get opened.
Suit your emails to your customers to show them you care about making every step of their experience unique. You can expect to see customer satisfaction rates, click-through rates, and open-rates rise, as well as a subscriber base that is more involved in your online community.
Case Study: Hilton Hotels
Spot the difference? This Hilton Honors member email campaign is the perfect example of how segmenting your list can create a more targeted connection.
Both emails have the same goal: to inform subscribers about the honors member account and its benefits. But each is tailored to a different segment of the audience.
The email on the left can be sent to customers who visit to relax—they have used the pool before; perhaps they have stayed at that particular hotel location (in the featured image).
The right-hand email is for those who have displayed an interest in another specific hotel/location or who like to stay active on their trips.
The result? An email campaign that is suited to its customers’ needs, so they are more likely to open and click-through to the membership account on offer.
2. Send Quality Content
Content is all the rage.
The average person spends 11 seconds reading the average email. Sending high-quality content can be the difference between an engaged recipient and a swipe into the trash.
Don’t let your campaigns be average.
If you’re sending email after email and not getting the results you want, you may not be adding enough value with your content. Upping the quality could be the boost your hotel marketing strategy needs.
Sending high-quality content means making a commitment to curating and creating relevant, detailed, clear, informative, entertaining, and accessible output, to generate engagement with your brand.
What content can you give your subscribers on their “pain points”? What can you provide to make their lives a little easier? Business guests ask where the best restaurants in your area are?—send an eye-catching newsletter exploring the “top ten restaurants” in your location. Families struggle to find your baby changing facilities?—create a stunning infographic map for parents to carry with them when they visit.
Be the best and most authoritative resource for everything your guests need to know about your location, business, and industry.
What are your customers interested in reading, viewing an infographic, or watching a video about? How will you add value to their perception of your brand?
Listen to what your guests need and give it to them in the best ways you can. They will be more actively engaged in your campaigns, so when you do send promotional emails they will always take a look.
Of course, to get the highest returns, you need to make sure your content costs you as little as possible to produce. This is why written copy is such an essential tool in digital marketing—it is a form of value that everyone has the skills to sculpt.
But with great power comes great responsibility: choose your words well.
The words in your emails and web copy have a huge influence on how your brand is perceived. Your words can make your hotel friendly and personable or authoritative and high-class. As Beth Dunn writes, “words are a proxy… a stand-in for the things that we as people and we as companies want to convey to the world.” The words in your emails are the best opportunities to create an emotional connection with your subscribers.
They can be angelic messengers or little devils. Consider what words you choose and how you use them. Check all grammar and spelling, and format to make your copy easy to read.
You can learn all about how to write winning marketing copy here.
Case Study: Heritage Hotels
Heritage Hotels have got their content marketing down. “Here’s a little secret…” is the perfect opener for a newsletter that grabs attention and hints at the insider information that follows. Heritage are aware of the most valuable features of their customer experience. But they don’t just tell their customer.
They turn their best bits into a passionate story about the uniqueness of their location and team.
Here, we see the power of words to create an emotion. Loaded terms such as majestic, idyllic, and foothills, are used to rebrand the location as a magical place to explore.
This content is demonstrative of quality because it has a high level of detail and information while still being clear, enjoyable, and easy-to-read. It consistently sticks with the same style, tone, and voice. The reader is taken on an imaginative journey; by the time they finish, they are already picturing themselves as future guests.
Use quality content in your email campaigns to strengthen your relationship with your customers and build an authoritative brand identity, and they will always trust you to take care of their stay.
If you provide a top-notch experience in the digital world as well as in your hotel, there will be nothing to stop your sterling reputation echoing wherever you go.
3. Ask for Feedback
As a hotelier, your reputation is everything. Warren Buffett puts it well: “it takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
In a digital world, your reputation is digital too. Travelers are up to four times more likely to select a hotel with better online reviews; 53% of people would not book a hotel without checking reviews first.
This is why reputation management is key—if you are not working hard to prompt customers for positive feedback, the majority of reviews will be from the minority of customers unhappy enough to complain. This is not great for business.
Send clear and honest, targeted “thank you” emails—triggered emails thanking your visitors for their stay—as soon as they check out. Prompt your guests to share thoughts about their visit while they are still feeling the effects of their trip.
Whether a TripAdvisor link or your own feedback form, give your guests a way to tell you what they think in a simple, clear, and anonymous manner.
Restraint is important here. Don’t go overboard with your sales tactics. You might think that offering something in return to anyone that writes a review is generous. But your primary demographic is eloquent and intelligent; they read between the lines.
Conditional offers can scare valued guests away and devalue your brand.
Your customers are already primed with positivity by their stay. Sales ploys can make them suspicious, depreciating the chances they will do you a favor by writing a spectacular review.
Conditional offers also mean that customers are only incentivized to provide a bare minimum of information to receive what you are offering them in return. And the feedback they provide is important. It will not only be seen by other customers. It can also help you iron out the problem areas of your business to streamline as you move into the future.
Be honest with your guests and ask for honest feedback. Reliable data yields actionable results, however much complaints may sting.
A simple and heartfelt “thank you” note inviting guests to share their experience shows your appreciation plenty. Keep it minimal and make your call-to-action the first thing your viewers see when they swipe open (keep it above the “fold”). They should be happy to reciprocate the appreciation after a great stay in your hotel.
Case Study: The Hansar Bangkok
(Source: Hansar Hotels)
If you want to incentivize guests to return, it is better to do this on a complimentary basis. The goal of your “thank you” campaign is to get something for nothing. You want your guests to leave you detailed feedback; they don’t have to.
You need to stay on their good books for them to go the extra mile.
The Hansar Bangkok offers “secret rates” on future bookings in their “thank you”s. With no conditions, the offer shows their customers they care about strengthening guests’ allegiance to their brand in an honest and upfront manner.
These simple but elegantly designed emails achieve a lot. They help the Hansar manage their reputation, collect customer data, and keep guests coming back for more.
Send clear, well-written, and honest appreciation emails for compliments all around. Positivity breeds positivity—thank your guests in a friendly, caring, and respectable manner, and they will be likely to return the gratitude.
4. Create Seasonal Campaigns
Everyone loves a gift. And gifts that everyone can enjoy are even better. They reach a wider audience than products with a specific customer profile. This means larger increases in sales when we get to the festive season.
Wine, chocolates, and flowers produce such predictable seasonal revenue boosts because anyone would be happy to receive them.
Hotel gift cards are one of these golden gifts. Most people would be happy to receive a stay in your hotel and use of its facilities. Gift cards are flexible: business guests can save on their spending and couples and families can take a break. The cardholder can also redeem them whenever they like (before they expire). They are perfect if someone wants to royally treat the hard-to-buy-for.
Promoting your gift cards during the festive period is an example of a key seasonal hotel marketing technique.
All those guests you satisfied over the course of the year are just itching to spend cash on their loved ones.
Provide your subscribers with a convenient gift for that special someone. Receivers have such a high incentive to spend them that every gift card you sell is likely to get more subscribers on your mailing list and more guests in for the next quarter.
As we near the season of goodwill, roll out a targeted campaign to offer and promote your hotel gift cards. Send dedicated versions of your campaign to different segments of your customer base.
The hotel features you focus on should be particular to each segment. If they are regular guests give them great content about events they will love; if they have only stayed once give them promotional content about little-known features of your location and facilities. Remember, the more accurately you target, the better the return.
Send email campaigns that tap into seasonal spikes in spending. Promote your gift cards over the Christmas period to take advantage of an extra stream of revenue that could be passing you by. Set yourself up for new customers and better profits as the new year rolls in.
Case Study: Jurys Inn
(Source: Jurys Inn Group)
The gift voucher campaign run by the Jurys Inn Group is efficient and direct. A short message is all it takes to tell subscribers about the voucher and how it can be spent.
It highlights the services most likely to resonate with shoppers; the use of bold, colored font makes these keywords stand out so this the most important info can be gleaned at a glance.
The concise format does a great job of pointing the reader to the most important element—the rallying cry; the call-to-action. These emails are short, sweet, and put a great gift right in front of their subscribers with all the reasons there could be to buy.
The average American spends around $1,000 on gifts, every Christmas. Make the most of it. Create a robust email marketing campaign that will set you up for seasonal success.
5. Crunch Those Numbers
Whatever approach you take to your email marketing, prepare for the future.
Tried-and-tested techniques can improve your results “out-of-the-box.” But they will also prime your email marketing system for continued growth.
The best way to improve your email marketing is to crunch the numbers. You can gather almost any kind of data about your audience imaginable. If you start to collate this now, in a few months you will be able to use it to figure out exactly what works for your subscribers and doesn’t. You can then put exactly the right amount of resources into the right places to make your campaigns the best they can possibly be.
DirectIQ can do all this for you. Use delivery reports and analytics to explore the devices your emails are getting read on, how many subscribers click through to your site, their geographic distribution, and more.
Add DirectIQ to your marketing arsenal and use it at full power for more engaged subscribers, more paying guests, and higher returns.
Get your email marketing in order to see the engagement and growth your hotel business deserves.