September 19, 2007
Email marketing is one of the most effective communication and promotion vehicles in the internet marketplace. 90% of internet users and 56% of Americans use email on a regular basis (source: e-marketeer Aug. 2006). Hotels benefit from email marketing because it’s fast, direct, cost-effective, and builds loyal relationships. It is one of the lowest cost channels available to the lodging industry to book rooms and build customer relationships. High quality email campaigns can deliver effective messaging that drives action and manages customer relationships.
For email campaigns to be truly effective, they have to be managed properly and conducted in a professional manner. This article provides hoteliers with some practical tips for conducting effective email marketing campaigns that maximize their return on investment.
Building Reputation & Credibility
Your email marketing practices establish your hotel’s image and reputation in the minds of people of who receive your campaigns. By following simple guidelines, you can run more effective email campaigns and ultimately enhance your reputation.
Permission Email Vs. Spamming
Permission Email operates on the premise that the recipient of your message has in some way established a relationship with you by indicating an interest in your product or offer. Spamming is sending unsolicited commercial email using broadcast methods to multiple recipients without first establishing a relationship with them and without regard to their interest.
Sender Email Address
Make sure that the sender email address is a genuine email address and the recipients of the email can see the address and respond to the email by hitting reply on their email applications.
Make sure that all emails you send out have a clear “Unsubscribe” link where the visitors can click and choose not to get future mailings from you. While it may seem counter-intuitive, using this technique ensures that people do not regard your campaigns as spam.
4 Steps for Conducting Effective Email Marketing
- Permission-based Email Database
- Email Marketing Plan
- Send Email Campaigns
- Track and Monitor Results
Permission Based Email Database
For effective email marketing, it’s important for a hotel to develop a targeted, permission-based database. Email addresses can be collected on the hotel website or at the front desk when the hotel guest checks in or out.
Create an opt-in form on your website so visitors to your site can sign up for specials and promotional offers. You may want to offer an additional incentive to sign up, such as an entry into a raffle drawing for a gift basket or a percentage off their room rate. It’s good to ask the visitor to specify their area of interest, such as weddings, group meetings, skiing, or wine-tasting so that you can segment your email database by interest. This is especially useful in sending out targeted campaigns that meet the interests of your guests. Once a guest hits “Send” on the opt-in form, they receive an email confirmation stating that they have been added to your mailing list. If they are not interested in getting email specials, they can simply “unsubscribe.” Guests who do not unsubscribe become part of your powerful marketing tool – the opt-in email list.
You can also collect email addresses at your front desk during check in or check out. Ask your guests for permission on an opt-in card to send specials by email. If you have done a good job of treating your guests well, they will most likely want to hear about your future specials. Ask the front desk staff to enter the information of that guest on the website form. By following this process, you ensure all addresses are being collected in the central database and that they are legitimate email addresses following the opt-in process.
Email Marketing Plan
Once you have an email database, you are ready to conduct email campaigns. In this step you decide what campaigns you want to send and how frequently. From our perspective, there are two kinds of campaigns:
e-Cards are campaigns that promote one specific special or item. Some of the campaigns that we have found to be effective for the lodging industry include: Spa Specials, Ski Packages, Thanksgiving Specials, Holiday Specials, Christmas Specials, etc.
e-Newsletters contain multiple specials and news items.
The frequency at which campaigns are sent depends on the aggressiveness and the input of effort. We recommend sending out one campaign a month or less. Sending more often could alienate consumers on your list.
Design and Content of Campaigns
The design and content of e-campaigns are perhaps the most difficult part for hotels. Some hotels with an in-house designer and programming capabilities will develop their campaigns in-house. Most hotels will use their e-marketing agency for the design of the campaigns and will provide the content. Some e-marketing agencies, like Milestone, will provide content ideas as well as the design.
Send Email Campaign
A critical component of sending out campaigns is to determine which email marketing tool you use. There are several utilities that can be used to send campaigns depending on the cost and capabilities of the systems. In general, here are some of the criteria that could be used to select a system for sending out campaigns:
In-House vs. Outsourced
A critical decision that most hotels face is whether to outsource the sending of their campaigns to an agency or if they are going to do it themselves. If the hotel has resources with reasonable knowledge of html programming and some design capabilities, there are several solutions available that hoteliers can use to send campaigns. If the hotel decides to do this internally, it’s important to evaluate the usability of the system available. There are systems available that will enable the hotel to send out campaigns with relative ease.
Several hotels prefer an agency to set up the system for them, and the hotel to be able to send out the campaigns on their own. Mixed mode systems are effective in lowering costs. These solutions are fairly sophisticated, hence few in number, and can be procured from email marketing agencies.
Working with ISPs
Another important criterion for selecting a tool is based on how much technology is being used by the provider of the tool to ensure that the emails do not get stuck in the spam folders of the major email providers and ISPs, like Google, Yahoo!, MSN, etc. Good tool providers spend plenty of time working with email providers in understanding their spam guidelines and making sure that your emails make it to the consumer’s inbox. Good tool providers will specify the guidelines for the design of email campaigns that will follow the spam-checker guidelines. Once you have designed your templates and selected the tool that is going to be used, you are ready to send out your email campaigns.
Good quality email tools have sophisticated reports available that will tell you the effectiveness of your campaigns. The tools provide information on how many recipients of your campaigns opened the emails, how many unsubscribed and several other statistics related to the effectiveness of your campaigns.
One of the more effective reports indicates who clicked on which links of your email campaign. This gives you insight into the minds of your readers as well as their behavior. It also points to which particular specials in your email campaigns are most effective.
More sophisticated tools will allow you to set up the system so that the consumers who click on specific links can get a follow-up email that sell them only that particular special. This feature is particularly effective when you send multiple specials and you want to send out more targeted campaigns once you gain a better understanding of the interests of your target audience.
Using Email Marketing to Up-sell
Email Marketing can be used effectively to up-sell your hotel. Sending your guests an email a before their arrival at your property telling them about specials and packages offers an immense opportunity to increase the revenue generated per customer. State-of-the-art technologies will enable you to automate the process where all reservations received from all your sources – property direct, internet booking engine, and central reservation systems – can get such an email. Branded properties should exercise caution since some of the brands already send such emails to guests.
Email Marketing to Build Relationships and Get Feedback
Some hotels and brands will send their guests a post stay survey form to get feedback. This helps to build customer relationships and also understand what guests like and dislike about your hotel. Online surveys offer instant feedback to your hotel.
You’ve probably realized that email marketing is a critical piece of the online marketing puzzle. Email campaigns, when conducted effectively, can generate significant return on investment, build strong customer relationships, and help hotels understand their customers better. If you are a branded property, check the brand guidelines before embarking on email marketing. We recommend that hotels use this powerful distribution media extensively to book more rooms and build long-lasting customer relationships.
Author: For your email campaigns to be truly effective, they have to be managed properly and conducted in a professional manner. This article provides hoteliers with some practical tips, the nuts and bolts, for conducting effective email marketing campaigns that maximize their return on investment. http://www.milestoneinternet.com