What is email marketing?
Email marketing is just like any other form of advertising, but it uses email as its form of communication. Coupons, announcements, and sales can all be distributed by email to promote a company’s brand, educate customers, or for fundraising purposes.
In its broadest sense, every time an email is sent out to a customer could be considered a form of email marketing – just like speaking to every customer that enters a store is promoting the brand and hotel.
But when most marketers refer to email marketing, they’re referring to specific email marketing campaigns. These are campaigns that again, are just like any other advertising campaign but they will be composed of emails and auto-responders. These emails will be sent out to a large number of customers, automatically and instantaneously.
Is email marketing dead?
Hotels know just how many ways there are to reach out to customers today. With social media, texting, and so many other forms of advertising that encourage direct interaction, some hotels are starting to think email marketing is simply no longer worth it.
There are 3.7 billion email users in the world today. That means that in its broadest sense, email marketing will allow you to reach just under half of the world’s population. In the United States alone, the majority of email accounts are consumer accounts. This means that most of them have a consumer on the other end ready to make a convenient purchase online.
Also in the US, 73% of millennials – the age group with a vast amount of purchasing power – prefer email as their main form of getting communication from a company.
So, is email marketing dead? Just the opposite. Email marketing is alive, well, and here to stay!
Why should I use email marketing for my hotel?
Okay, so with the number of email users and email consumers put aside, many hotels still want to know about the benefits email marketing will bring to their business. There are a number of reasons for any business owner to employ email marketing to some extent. They include:
- Build relationships with customers. They more they see you, even if it’s online, the more likely they are to trust you. And, the more likely they are to purchase from you.
- Generate leads. Every business owner is always looking to generate leads, that next person to turn into their next customer. Email marketing generates these leads by placing the right offer in front of the right person at the right time.
- Create direct communication with your customers. Sure texting and social media might be the first to come to mind when thinking about how you can reach out to customers quickly and directly. But with just about everyone carrying a smartphone today, their email accounts are literally in their pockets wherever they go.
- Build your brand. Coupons, sales, promotions, these are all great email marketing campaigns and can increase sales. But companies can also use email marketing campaigns that inform the customer and educate them, showing the customer that the business is the authority on the matter. This helps build the business’ brand.
- Increase sales. This one’s really easy. Send out coupons to customers, they’ll click on a link or bring the digital link into the store, and you’ve just made multiple sales that you otherwise may not have.
These are just a few of the main benefits you’ll find with email marketing, and just a few reasons why every business should use it. Once that first campaign has been sent out, you’ll likely find many more!
How much does email marketing cost?
Email marketing can be one of the least expensive forms of advertising for a business, but it can also be one of the most expensive. The amount of money budgeted for this type of marketing will depend on how it is set up, and who is actually running the campaigns.
The least expensive way to do it is to purchase email marketing software such as Mail Chimp or Get Response. The software is a subscription-based service that will allow users to create emails and send them out. The software is located on the provider’s server and the technology is all managed for the business owner. However, the content and distribution of the emails is entirely up to the business owner.
Subscription-based services can cost as little as $20 a month.
The same type of software that is used by subscription providers can also be purchased by a company and installed on their own servers. The content and distribution is still up to the business owner, as is the upkeep and maintenance to the technology. However, this option can cost thousands of dollars to purchase the software.
A full-service marketing consultant is the last and most expensive option. These professionals are well educated in creating and sending dynamic email marketing campaigns. They will create and send the campaign, as well as provide the software to do so. This gives the hotel the biggest benefits available when setting up email marketing, but also requires the least amount of their time and energy.
A full-service marketing consultant can cost anywhere from hundreds of dollars a month to several thousand.
The costs of email marketing can quickly spin out of control, but they don’t have to. It can be a very affordable form of marketing.
What is the best email marketing software to use?
If you decide to go it alone and take on most of the tasks that go into email marketing yourself, you’ll quickly find that there are many to choose from. So how do you know which one to use?
It will largely depend on what your needs are, but there are a few ways to tell that you’re working with reliable software.
- Tiered payment plans – customers should be able to pay monthly or annually
- Online chat – this is important for customer support, especially if you have a problem that needs to be resolved
- Turnaround time – everything from customer support to distribution should be done in a timely manner
- Ease of use – email marketing should not be frustrating and if it is, it’s time to find a new software provider
Do I have enough contacts in my database?
Say the word ‘email’ and many hotels will start to mentally tally up the contacts in their email list. It’s true; a solid database is the backbone of any good email marketing campaign. After all, without email addresses there are no customers, and no one to send the emails to.
But, while many of those in the world of marketing are adamant that the bigger the list is, the better it is, that isn’t necessarily true. It’s true that you want to reach people, and typically as many as you can. But it’s far more important that you have a quality campaign with solid content that will attract the customers that will see it – no matter how few they may be.
So start creating auto-responders and email marketing campaigns and send them out to however many contacts you currently have. Then start working on building the list so you have more people to send it to next time.
How can I grow my email list?
Many hotels think that they’ve already exhausted all sources that would help them build their email list. But chances are, there are many out there that you have overlooked.
If you haven’t already, start using a paper signup sheet. This is the most basic way to grow an email list, and one that many hotels start with. This is most effective for businesses that have a brick and mortar location.
When using a signup sheet, it’s very important that you’re very clear about what the customers will be receiving and what benefit it will bring them. Will it get them to sales sooner, or offer them exclusive discounts? Will they get helpful tips, or be the first to know about new inventory? They need a reason, and you need to give it to them.
One of the reasons it’s so important to start an email marketing campaign even if you only have a small database is because that campaign can be used to get more email addresses. Simply include a signup button – with the benefits they’ll get – and encourage subscribers to forward it on. You could even provide an incentive to do so!
Also start placing signup buttons everywhere – within your email signature, on your website, place links on business cards and in social media posts. Wherever you’re interacting with customers, a signup button or link should be nearby.
Events are another great place to get more email addresses for your database. Trade shows, such as wedding shows and car shows, are a great place to collect more email addresses. Provide customers with immediate benefits by giving them a small gift just for supplying their email address. And of course, if your business is ever hosting an event, such as a grand opening, this is also a great chance to get email addresses.
A very subtle way to collect email addresses is by offering your customers free Wi-Fi in your store. Typically customers will need to enter their email address in order to use it, and that can be added to your list.
What is an auto-responder?
After starting an email marketing campaign, especially if working with a professional, you’ll likely hear the term ‘auto-responder’ a lot. These are a part of many email marketing campaigns and are automatic emails that will be sent to the customer once the customer takes a specific action.
Most people have signed up for something online at one time or another. Whether it was a membership or a simple newsletter subscription, a welcome email is often sent immediately afterwards. This is an example of an auto-responder.
What are some content ideas for email marketing campaigns?
Welcome messages or thank you emails in the form of auto-responders are one type of email marketing campaign, they aren’t the only forms of communication that should be sent out. Anything you want to tell customers about, or think they might find helpful, can be sent out in the form of email marketing. Some hotel teams find it difficult to brainstorm content ideas at first, so here are a few to get you started:
- Tell a story. It can be what your business does, how it got started, or stories about the customers you serve.
- Quick tips. This doesn’t just mean offering short tips, but also tips that can be used and implemented quickly, so customers can get the full benefit of them sooner.
- Ask a question. This type of content brings so many benefits. It provides insight to your customer’s biggest needs, it sparks interaction, and may provide ideas for future blog posts, auto-responders or more!
- Provide resources. Whether it’s information about programs in the community, links to additional authoritative sites, or even a simple list of what’s currently on your reading list.
- Share successes! If your company has a success story, an email marketing campaign can be a great place to share it!
How often should I send email marketing campaigns?
Just like how often you should post to your blog or update your Facebook page, the subject of how often you should send email campaigns is up for debate. You don’t want to overwhelm your customers, or annoy them with constant emails.
However, it’s a simple fact that the more you talk and interact with your customers, the more chances you’ll have to sell to them. And even if you’re not directly selling through a campaign, you’re still giving yourself an opportunity to build your brand and gain customers’ trust.
But truthfully, no one can actually tell you how often is too often, and you probably won’t know yourself once you start sending emails. This is something you’ll need to test and continually gauge to get the best results. Have customers stopped responding? Maybe it’s time to take a break. Do you feel as though it’s been some time since your last campaign? Maybe it’s time to start a new one.
The rule of thumb when it comes to email frequency is this: don’t campaign just for the sake of campaigning. Send one out every time you have something of quality to tell your customers. If that’s every day, every day is a good frequency for your company’s campaigns.
Where are my leads? Why isn’t my phone ringing?
If after some time, you find that your campaign just isn’t generating the leads you thought it would, it’s time to take a step back and analyze the campaign.
Start by looking at the content. Is it interesting to the reader? Have you clearly outlined your message, and is that message beneficial to the audience? Is it compelling enough to prompt them to take action?
Once you’re confident with the content of the campaign, focus on the call to action. Is it clear what you want the audience to do? What benefit will they receive by acting? And how many actions are you asking them to take? It should only be one.
When looking at the call to action, make sure to remember your audience, and how they’re viewing your campaign. Asking an email subscriber to pick up the phone and call someone doesn’t make sense. Include a link, a form, or other online content to direct them to.
Why are my contacts not receiving my emails?
It can be frustrating to put so much time and effort into an email campaign only to find out that the emails were never delivered. There are a few reasons for this, especially if you’re using a subscription service and doing it on your own.
The first, and most unlikely reason, recipients don’t receive their emails is because there’s a problem with the email marketing platform. Whether their software or servers or down, this could be problematic for subscribers. But this happens very rarely and even when it does, is a usually a very temporary problem.
The bigger issue might be that the email service provider you’re sending those emails to is rejecting the emails. Email service providers can refuse to accept any emails at any time, especially when many of them such as Hotmail or Gmail are free. Some email marketing platforms such as AgencyBuzz, have been found to be very successful with most email marketing campaigns.
Lastly, and the bigger issue that occurs with most emails that don’t get in front of the customer, is that they’re being sent to the recipient’s junk folder. There’s a lot of email out there these days, and a lot of email users are tightening up on what makes it to their Inbox.
What are my email marketing goals?
No marketing campaign should ever be employed without it having a clear goal. The same is true for email marketing. Do you want customers to download a new seminar or workbook? Are you trying to attract subscribers to your blog? Or do you just want to increase sales?
Having a goal is important because it provides direction for the rest of the campaign. They can point you towards dynamic subject lines, calls to action, and even the graphics you use within the email.
Having a clearly outlined goal is also important because, without a goal, you’ll have no idea whether or not your campaign is working. With nothing to measure it against, there’s no way to tell if it’s successful.
Should I really DIY my own email marketing campaign?
This is sometimes one of the first questions hotel owners ask themselves simply because it’s often the cheapest option. And if you’re not quite sure just how big of a return email marketing will give you on your investment, you may want to test the waters on your own, at least at first.
Truthfully, seeing an email marketing campaign through from start to finish with the help of a subscription service can be very easy; and basic campaigns can be done by most hotels. But before employing any email marketing campaign, hotels need to ask themselves if it’s really worth it.
Not only will professional marketers and consultants create, set up, and distribute entire email campaigns, and they’ll also offer sound advice on how to create dynamic campaigns. Handing over the tasks of campaign creation can also allow the business owner get back to focusing on their business. Creating effective campaigns can take a lot of time that many hotels simply don’t have.
What are the most important practices when creating an email series?
Even if you’ll be handing the campaign off to a professional marketer, you’ll likely still want to know what goes into a great email marketing campaign. And if you’re doing it on your own, it’s essential to know some of the key aspects to making a great campaign.
- Fulfill your promises. If you promised subscribers a free report, free video, or other free gift, make sure it’s easy for them to claim it.
- Show off your personality! Emails are an extension of yourself and your company, so show off its personality! You definitely want to keep the tone in line with your brand but emails don’t need to be boring, so have fun with them.
- Open yourself up to customers. Every single email you send as an auto-responder or as part of another campaign should reveal a little bit about yourself. This can include how your product would be most helpful for you, what prompted you to create it, or something else entirely that you’re passionate about.
- Continue to add to it. Never create an auto-responder or email campaign and let that be that. Continue to go back to it, review it, edit it, add to it, and change it.
- Plan it out. Just like other marketing campaigns, email campaigns need to be well-thought out and planned very well. Write out all your email messages, when they’ll be sent, and what they’ll be offering the customer.
Are there things to avoid when sending an email series?
Just like there are definitely some things hotels should do when sending an email campaign, there are also some things they should not do.
- Rely on the welcome message alone. It’s great to send a ‘hello’ or ‘thanks’ to customers after they sign up for an email campaign. But that’s not enough! If that’s the only message you send customers will quickly forget about you and they will not likely take action. They need reminders, in the form of three to five messages, to really feel connected to the campaign’s message.
- Send way too frequently. Yes, frequency is good in email marketing campaigns, and you definitely want to make sure you stay top of mind. But there’s also a thing as just way too much. Sending one message a day, and even leaving one or two days in between, is plenty. If you’re sending multiple auto-responders in one day will likely annoy customers and cause them to unsubscribe.
- Overshare. You need to let your customers see who you are, and you need to show off your personality. But there’s a fine line between letting your customers in, and using them as a venting base. If you use your campaigns to unload on your customers, they’ll just go away.
- Oversell. Even if you have the greatest product on earth, nobody wants to be sold to all the time. This doesn’t mean that you can’t send campaigns frequently, but it does mean that you shouldn’t sell to them all the time. Don’t include a promotion or sale or pitch in every email. Use some to tell customers about industry news, current news, or give them tips relating to the product.
Does mobile matter with auto-responders?
Mobile matters with everything these days, and email marketing is no different. Yes, it’s true that there’s a chance at least some of your subscribers are sitting down at their laptops or computers when they open your email. But, the majority of them are likely to be on mobile devices.
This may not matter so much when it comes to how the email itself is viewed. The email service provider will determine that. However, it does matter when it comes to the links displayed in the email, and how those links are viewed. This is an important consideration that many hotels overlook because they’re so worried about the email message, they forget about the website it’s pointing to.
Can video be included in an email marketing series?
Not only can you include video in your email messages, you should! Video is the most preferred form of content among viewers and readers today. They give the sense that the audience is directly interacting with you, and that you’re there in person, giving a tutorial, demonstrating a product, or giving helpful tips.
While you can include a video with every email message, you don’t have to personally appear in the videos in order for them to be effective. You can include voiceovers, or just background music when appropriate.
When is the best time and/or day to send out emails?
This is a question many hotel teams don’t ask, but they should – even though there is no magic day or time. Every industry and every company within it will find that different days and times work better for different customers.
But while there is no ‘magic number’ for all businesses to use, there more than likely is a magic number for you company. The trick is to test out different days and different times and see what works best for your company and your campaigns.
How can I create a great call to action?
Many hotels know that they need a call to action at the end of their email message. A call to action is when you tell the customer what you want them to do, or the next steps that they should take. But while many hotels include a call to action, they don’t create a dynamic call to action. They leave customers with a simple ‘call us today’ or ‘call now’ and those simply aren’t compelling. They don’t have the oomph required to really encourage customers to do it.
Here are a few tips to help boost your calls to action:
- Keep it short, about 35 characters
- Use strong verbs like buy, download, shop, or subscribe
- Use words that provoke emotion or enthusiasm
- Use exclamation points!
- State the benefit of taking action – clearly
- Use FOMO (fear of missing out)
- Get creative saying ‘begin your healthier life today’ instead of just ‘call today!’
- Use numbers when appropriate, such as when discussing pricing or dates
- Use ‘crappy’ language, but be careful – such as ‘end your crappy fitness routine today’ when promoting a different fitness routine
How can I make sure my emails don’t end up in the junk folder?
Some hotels don’t even realize that their emails are being sent to recipient’s junk folder instead of their inbox. But even many of those that do understand this don’t know that there’s something that can be done about it! Getting automatically shuffled into the SPAM or junk folder doesn’t have to be an inevitable; there are things that can be done about it.
First and foremost, do not buy email lists. While the temptation to grow your email list, potentially by the millions, may be great, it’s a bad idea. Not only will they most likely be filed into the spam folder, they might also be reported and that could ruin the reputation of your business. Purchased lists should never be used.
When it comes to spam filters, content is important. While keywords may not necessarily help, filters will look for words such as free, buy, or sale and automatically file emails containing them into the spam folder.
Email service providers will be judged based on the IP addresses of their clients. Service providers that are given low scores by recipients such as Gmail and Hotmail will also be filed into the spam folder. Teaming up with a reliable email service provider that has a high score based on their clients’ IP addresses is a great way not to get filed as spam.
Just like it used to be common practice to purchase lists, it also used to be common practice to use certain “tricks” to get emails delivered. Today, those practices are known as “dirty tricks” and should not be used. These include breaking up words or inserting random characters to trick the spam filters. “B uy&N ow” is an example.
Some spammers are still using the trick of starting the subject line with “Re:” or “Fwd:” to indicate the person has already begun an email conversation with that person. Again, it’s another trick that should never be used.
Of course the email addresses on your list matter to your email marketing campaign, but so does your own email address. Convoluted addresses such as ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ are likely to get filtered into spam, while ‘email@example.com may not.
Lastly, sending frequent emails will also help your emails land in the inbox instead of the spam folder. The more frequently emails are sent to an address, especially when the recipient interacts with that email, the more likely it is that the spam filters will recognize it next time and file it towards the inbox.
Note that this does not mean that hotels should constantly send customers emails – that in itself is spam!
What is the open rate, and how can I improve mine?
The open rate is just that – the percentage of recipients that actually opened the email. This is important to track because it can indicate there are problems with your subject line, or your campaign overall.
The subject line is usually the biggest reason for a low open rate, so that may need to be examined. Remember that subject lines are the first thing a person sees so it needs to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to open the email and see what’s inside. You’ll also need to test different subject lines to determine which lines work best on certain customers.
A good open rate typically falls between 15 and 25 percent of emails opened.
What is a click-through rate and how can I improve mine?
The click-through rate is the percentage of email users that clicked on a link contained in the email. If you have a website, it also has a click-through rate to determine the percentage of people that have clicked through to other areas of the site.
The click-through rate is important because it gives an idea of how engaged customers are with the company, and with the emails they’re receiving.
Just like a good subject line can increase an open rate, compelling content within the email can increase a campaign’s conversion rate. Making the call to action bold on the page, such as highlighting it or emboldening the text can also help.
If making these changes still doesn’t improve the click-through rate, the entire campaign may need to be examined to determine if it’s really offering the best value to the customer.
What is the conversion rate, and how can I improve mine?
While the click-through rate is the percentage of people that have simply clicked on a link in the email, the conversion rate is the percentage of people that have not only clicked, but also gone on to take action. That could be making a purchase, downloading an e-book or report, or filling out a form.
It could be argued that the conversion rate is the most important of any percentages pertaining to an email marketing campaign. That’s because it indicates how many people are actually seeing the campaign through to the business owner’s ultimate goal.
The first step to improving a conversion rate is to improve a click-through rate, if it’s been dropping or has never gotten as high as the business owner would like.
The next step is to focus on the landing page the subscribers are being sent to. This page needs to be appealing to customers, convenient for them, and should draw their attention to the action you want them to take.
How can I reduce my unsubscribe rate?
The unsubscribe rate is the percentage of email users that have signed up for the campaign, but then later unsubscribed from receiving emails. Many hotels become obsessed about their unsubscribe rate and start to panic when it starts to rise, but there’s no reason for that.
Customers come and go all the time for many different reasons, and this alone does not indicate that there’s something wrong with the campaign. However, for those that want to increase it, there are some things that can be done.
The first is to make sure that the content within the email is exceptional, compelling, and drives customers to not only remain subscribed, but also take action.
If it’s not content that you think is the problem, you should evaluate how often you’re sending emails. Many customers unsubscribe simply because they’re hearing from a business too much, and they simply want to quiet them for a little while. Reduce the number of emails you’re sending, and see if that helps keep your current subscribers.
If you’re really worried about your unsubscribe rate, consider providing a short form for customers to fill out when they unsubscribe. Don’t make it long; it can be as simple as a multiple choice question about why they’re unsubscribing. Based on the answers, you may be able to reduce your unsubscribe rate.
How can I track the results of my email marketing campaign?
You’ve set goals and have spent a lot of time, energy, and possibly even money on creating a great email marketing campaign. But the work is not quite done yet.
One of the reasons hotels set goals early in their marketing campaigns is so that they can track the campaign and ultimately measure it against the initial goals. This is the only way to determine if any marketing strategy is working, and it’s no different with email marketing.
There are a number of ways to track the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign. If you’re using a marketing consultant you can always ask them for a report. If you’re doing the email marketing on your own, generally the platform you’re using will have built-in tracking systems.
You can even include tracking devices, such as special codes, within the email and have customers present them at the time of action. This can tell you what email marketing campaigns are being effective, and which aren’t.
No matter what type of tracking system you use for your email marketing campaign, the important thing is that you do use at least use one. This is the only way to know when your campaigns need to be continued, tweaked, or changed altogether.