A serious email marketing strategy can see your hotel or hospitality business reap serious rewards. After all, email marketing return on investment is climbing, with a possible 4400% ROI up for grabs if you play your cards right.
Not only will you be able to retain customers with deals and promotions, but you can also fill empty rooms in a pinch, or promote new services you might be offering.
Here at Tech.co, we don’t like letting small businesses leave things to chance. This is why we’ve sunk hundreds of hours into researching the email marketing business to help your business get the right solution. If you want to get started with an email marketing provider, you can begin by using this link.
10 Steps to Ace Your Hotel Email Marketing Strategy
An email marketing strategy sounds fancy but, really, it’s just a way to make sure that all your email marketing efforts are coordinated and fit into a broader plan. You don’t want to be shooting off emails without any thought or pre-planning, after all.
By following our ten easy steps, you’ll be able to form an effective email marketing strategy for your hotel – one that will help you to retain customers and fill your rooms.
- Create a list with quality subscribers
- Segment your subscriber list
- Build your brand and visual elements
- Invest in an email marketing platform
- Send pre-arrival emails that build trust
- Use social media alongside email marketing
- Gather customer testimonials to see what worked
- Send post check-in emails
- Write persuasive copy
- Track your campaigns through software analytics
- Bonus strategy: Create a hotel newsletter
Create a list with quality subscribers
Before you start sending out emails, you need to have a list of subscribers to send them to. Not just any subscribers, either, but quality ones that will show a return on your investment in contacting them.
Creating a list out of thin air is, naturally, impossible. However, there are a range of easy tricks for getting started with a list of email subscribers.
Creating a list
Perhaps the simplest way of starting an email list is by adding a signup form to your site. This can appear on your hotel’s website pages, or even as a “lightbox” which appears in front of a user after a certain amount of time on the site. You can even add a tick box to a checkout page on your site, so users can opt in to receiving your marketing emails when they reserve a room.
Now, there are a number of legal hurdles you’ll have to jump when creating a signup form. If you’re operating in the US, it’s likely that you’ll need to be compliant with California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), for example. This might not apply to small businesses but, if you’re planning on collecting a lot of email subscribers, it will. Similarly, you’ll need to follow GDPR guidelines if you’re operating in Europe.
Making sure your list is high quality
Emailing millions of people might sound impressive but, if none of them are opening your emails, there’s little point in sending them.
The first thing you should do when compiling an email subscriber list is make sure that you’re attracting real people. Making a sign-up form easy and straightforward is all well and good, but you want to add some level of user interaction to sift out any bots that might be looking at your site.
ReCaptcha forms (you know, the ones with the little pictures you click on) are a decent quality assurance step to add, for example.
Getting guests to buy-in
Of course, no one really likes signing up to email marketing forms. They can be a pain, taking up space in your inbox and getting in the way of useful emails.
However, offering an incentive to get users to sign up can assuage their fears about saying yes to marketing emails. For hotels, you might not want to go around handing out free rooms. But why not offer customers a free massage in your spa? Or a voucher to put towards dinner in your restaurant?
Evaluating your list
If you have a pre-existing list of users, it’s worth looking them over to sort out which ones are worth keeping.
Exporting the list into a .CSV sheet is a good way to start. From there, you can easily separate duplicate emails. What’s more, you can filter users by their sign-up date, or by metrics such as the open rate.
This is a good way to start sending higher quality emails and tracking their performance properly, so you can actually start evaluating and assessing the decisions you make.
Find out more – What is Email Marketing?
Segment Your List
Segmentation is a horrible word, which basically means splitting up your email mailing list into different groups which reflect their needs and buying habits.
How to segment your email list
When collecting sign-ups for email marketing lists, it’s important to make sure you record some data about the new users. Even the date they signed up is essential, as is their email address.
That could be everything you need to get started – you can start segmenting your user base by time signed up, or combine this with information you might already possess if they’re a previous hotel customer.
You could always try to collect some more information, but you’ll likely find that users are put out when you ask them for a boatload of personal information when they haven’t even made a purchase.
Collecting email list sign-ups at the point of purchase gives you lots more scope for collecting personal information. For example, you can grab user names, ages, locations, and genders, as well as the type of service they’re interested in.
Better targeting and personalization
When you’ve collected all this info, it’s worth putting it to good use.
Users are more likely to respond to emails which are directly targeted at them. Of course, it’s pretty impractical to send hundreds of individual emails to users, but you can use tricks to make your mass emailing seem a bit more personal.
For example, if you know that a portion of your audience has previously booked a double room for two people, sending them an email with a Valentine’s Day promotion is a real slam dunk. At the same time, sending this email to people who’d marked their previous stay as for business will more likely be a waste of time.
It’s also important to personalize emails with small touches that make your email stand out. Putting the customer’s name in a subject line will grab their attention, for example, as will details of their last visit. This sort of personalization will help make your customers feel like they aren’t getting a one-size-fits-all email.
Build Your Brand and Visual Elements
Building your brand sounds tricky but, really, it’s all about having an idea of what your hotel does well and what sort of stays you’d like your customers to have.
You can then start reflecting this brand in the images, fonts, and design details you use in your marketing emails. Are you a slick city center boutique hotel? Maybe try using lots of block colors and sans serif fonts in your copy, as well as images of nighttime bars.
By contrast, if you’re running a fancy spa hotel, you’ll want images of people using the spa, as well as using classy serif fonts.
Importance of imagery in hotel marketing
When running a hotel, it’s important to play to your strengths. Not every hotel can do everything, after all.
Think about what you want your hotel to be known for, and use images that conjure up those feelings. Is it a luxury beach-side hotel? Clearly, you’ll want to use lots of beach photos. But make sure these don’t look generic, and genuinely reflect the unique experience your own location can offer – these small details may remind a former customer of what they loved about the beach by your hotel over any other.
Check out our 10 Best Email Marketing Templates for more inspiration
The differing visual styles of the Hoxton Hotel in New York's trendy Williamsburg and 11 Cadogan Gardens in London's fancy West End
Invest in an Email Marketing Platform
Once you’ve created your subscriber list and sorted your branding, you need to get an email marketing platform.
While most email providers don’t allow for sending lots of emails at one time to loads of users, an email marketing platform – such as Sendinblue – will make that a piece of cake.
However, the advantages extend beyond being able to send lots of emails at once. You'll also be able to create email designs with bespoke templates, helping to make your content even more eye-catching and engaging.
Similarly, you’ll be able to track how well your emails have performed through analytics. For example, you’ll be able to see how many times your email was opened, for how long, and how far users scrolled. You can check how many people have clicked on your email links and how many people went on to book a room, or a meal, or a service at your hotel. All these factors can help make your email marketing more efficient, and help you keep rooms full.
Getting a good email marketing platform will generate more revenue for your hotel and make your marketing campaigns far, far easier.
Want to know more? Check out our Email Marketing Costs Guide
Maximum monthly emails
All-in-one marketing solution
Overall value for money
Pure email marketing platform
Value for basic email marketing features
$25/mo – $755/mo
$3/mo – $375/mo
$8/mo – $760/mo
$9.99/mo – $1190/mo
$10/mo – $1915/mo
$50/mo – $3920/year
$15/mo – $580/mo
$9/mo – $505/mo
$9/mo – $989/mo
3 million (possible to increase this with a bespoke plan)
5 (can be increased by contacting customer service)
5 (can be increased to 10 on a bespoke plan)
However, your email marketing shouldn’t simply extend to sending emails to customers on your mailing lists, hoping to convince them to reserve a room.
Instead, you should also be sending emails to customers once they’ve booked. It’s a great way of building trust, and potentially upselling existing customers.
Confirmation emails go almost without saying these days – customers often don’t think an order has gone through at all unless they get an email a few moments later.
However, your confirmation emails needn’t simply confirm the booking. You can also use them to advertise any services you might offer. For example, you could start booking in excursions or spa treatments. You could even use the confirmation email to upsell the room they’ve booked – they could get a room with a better view, or get breakfast added to their room.
Even small touches can help your brand to stand out, such as emails the week or day before a guest is due, telling them how you’re looking forward to welcoming them (or helpfully explaining their parking options).
Reminder emails might seem a bit trite (who actually forgets they’re going away?), but again, they’re a good chance to upsell your customers. You could even give your email a foreboding subject line, such as “Regarding your booking”, to make them open it – though that’s pretty poor form.
Use Social Media Alongside Email Marketing
Adding a social media string to your digital marketing bow seems like a no-brainer. However, if it isn’t tied into your broader marketing strategy, it’ll stick out like a sore thumb.
Your branding needs to be consistent across both platforms, for example – otherwise, potential visitors might think that they’re receiving emails from a different hotel.
It also pays to include social media buttons and links in your emails – if one customer shares their brilliant experience with friends, it makes for an even greater trust signal.
The best way to ensure consistency is by using an email marketing platform that includes some social media integration. HubSpot or Zoho would be great fits here – both platforms integrate directly with Facebook and Twitter, while HubSpot also integrates with Instagram.
Find out more – What Is Social Media Management?
Customer testimonials are a great way to build trust, and you can put your email marketing to good use here.
You can use emails to gather testimonials and reviews from previous guests. You don’t want to make the feedback section too long, or no one will fill it in – but a quick rating and comment could easily help you gather up some feedback.
Post Check-In Emails
Sending an email after a visit is another great way to build trust and a rapport with customers. You can thank them for their stay, gather feedback, and even create a loyalty scheme.
For instance, you can send out an email with the link to your hotel’s TripAdvisor page, to make things easy for a customer to give feedback.
It goes without saying that these emails need to be personalized. There’s no point in thanking someone if you aren't even going to use their name in the email. Fortunately, as the customer has already visited, you should have plenty of information about them to help personalize your communications.
Some screengrabs from our favorite email marketing providers
Write Persuasive Copy
It goes without saying that you should write good copy in your emails. But it's important to consider how you want your audience to feel when they read your emails. Do you want them to be inspired about the kind of trip they could experience at your hotel? Or do you want them to feel as though your hotel would be the perfect respite from the busy modern world?
You’ll need to write differently for both of these scenarios. Fortunately, once you’ve identified your brand style, appropriate writing should come along easily. However, it is worth checking in every so often to evaluate whether your writing is up to scratch.
A good email marketing platform will also let you A/B test two types of emails with different copy or visual elements. This can help you work out what your audience wants to read, as well as improve the chances of them converting into a sale.
However, not all email marketing platforms let you A/B test. Sendinblue, for example, lets you test different email subject lines and content, while Mailchimp lets you change content, subject lines, and the email sender. Constant Contact, on the other hand, only lets you change the email subject line.
Tracking your campaign is essential to working out how well it’s performed.
Any email marketing provider worth its salt is able to give you a report about how your communications have fared. If it doesn’t – look elsewhere.
However, don’t expect to be blown away by the amount of people opening your emails. According to hospitality research company Cendyn, the average open rate for an email in the US is just 26%. And the average click-from-open rate, which measures how many users click a link within the email as a percent of those that have opened the email, drops again to just 18%.
This means, if you send an email to 1,000 people, expect it to be opened by just 260, with around 47 people actually clicking on a link inside the email.
Then again, you need to decide the metric that matters to you. If you run a small, boutique hotel with expensive rooms, a single person converting to a reservation from an email campaign might be enough to make a profit on your email marketing efforts.
Setting a clear objective – such as an open rate, or percentage of social shares – is a great way to make sure that your email marketing plans are strategic, planned, and have the biggest impact for your business.
Bonus Strategy: Create a Hotel Newsletter
A regular newsletter could be a great way to keep loyal and engaged customers up to speed with the goings-on at your hotel.
For example, you could update them when new activities or excursions launch, with plenty of imagery and videos to accompany the copy.
It could also be used to keep customers updated on the progress of reopening after coronavirus, and the efforts your team is making to ensure the hotel is safe for travelers again.
Goodwood Hotel – Drumming up business
Goodwood is an old English estate surrounded by grounds and fields, and is a great place to enjoy the summer.
Indeed, that’s exactly what Goodwood is playing on with this email. It’s designed to drum up customers with bright, eye-catching imagery, as well as rosy language to make you feel nostalgic about the summers of the past.
Saunton Sands Hotel – High-quality subscriber lists
Devon’s Saunton Sands Hotel is a lovely spot to enjoy some time away. However, with this email, it’s asking us whether we want to remain on their user database. It’s a boring email that few people are going to read, let alone click through.
However, by using emotive language like “Let’s stay in touch”, rather than “Do you want to remain on our email subscriber list?”, the Devon hotel is trying to seem more human to us. What’s more, the large clickable action button makes it clear what the user is supposed to do.
George Street Hotel – Pre-check in
This email is, effectively, confirming the reservation made by the user. However, it’s also setting the tone for the hotel and the stay.
Words such as “honored” make the user feel valued and excited about the trip – this is clearly no ordinary hotel.
Email Marketing for Hotels Pricing
If you’re looking to get your hotel set up with an email marketing platform, we’d recommend taking a look at Sendinblue or Mailchimp – after our extensive research, they’ve emerged as our top recommended providers.
Of course, it also pays to start developing your email marketing strategy now. Get to compiling your users lists and developing your branding so you can hit the ground running!
For the longer, more in-depth answer, check out our ten recommendations above.
In fact, email marketing can often be a great way to help retain older customers with deals and promotions – they feel more attached to your business, and you get more revenue.
Making sure your customers are aware of your hotel’s uniqueness is always going to help bring in business.
Why? Social media platforms are often clogged-up with useless content that people simply scroll past. Your hotel’s promotions are likely to get lost in the cacophony of influencers, celebrities, brands, publishers, and even real-life friends who are posting on social media.
That’s not to say that social media marketing isn’t useful – it certainly can be.
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