As I write this, summer is coming to an end (except in our Phoenix location) and all of our marketing efforts are now shifting towards the upcoming Fall and Holiday Season.
More so than at any other time of the year, grabbing your visitor’s attention during the Holiday Season requires wit, whimsy and careful attention to timing. Hotels are sitting on a gold mine of data, and email can empower marketing teams to actually transform that data into revenue. When properly utilized, data in your property management system (PMS) allows you to send customized campaigns based on a guest’s travel habits, spending behavior, and personal preferences. Since targeted campaigns have higher open and click rates than generic blast emails, these are more likely to increase direct bookings and incremental revenue.
A Brief History of (Email) Time
Originally, email marketing consisted of drafting one piece of content and sending it to a large, varied batch of recipients. Today’s email marketing is personal and should feel more like one-on-one communications with your guests. Campaigns are now being created from dynamic content personalized to an individual user. In fact, the majority of marketers surveyed this year, stated that their email campaigns are dynamically focused on user behavior. This means that their email sends will populate with content based on the actions a person has taken online.
10 Goals to Keep in Mind for Your Email Marketing Plan
1. Increase Brand Awareness
Want more people to recall your brand or have it top-of-mind? Raising brand awareness is about driving visibility and staying in front of guests when they’re not on property. The more guests are exposed to brand-centric designs, imagery, messaging, and overall brand voice, the more they are likely to remember your property when it’s time to make their next booking to your destination.
Brand awareness campaigns are typically aspirational in tone and centered around powerful photography. The email shows prospects what makes the hotel or brand unique, educates them about the offerings of the property, and captures what makes guests want to stay there. While an offer may be included, it’s not necessarily needed or appropriate with these awareness campaigns.
2. Drive More Traffic to Your Website
Traffic campaigns are measured based on how many unique users click a link within the email body. Represented as a click-through rate (CTR), this is a primary metric marketers use to measure the success of email campaigns. It’s also easy to compare across campaigns.
When driving traffic to a website, it’s important to also create website goals in Google Analytics, such as time on site, action taken, and conversion. And remember, your booking engine is not your website. So when looking to drive traffic to your website, make sure you are linking guests to a landing page and not the booking engine.
3. Driving Direct Bookings
With hotels feeling the ever-tightening squeeze of the OTAs and paying outrageous commission fees, it is more important than ever to have an aggressive strategy for driving direct bookings. Email marketing is one of the best ways to lessen a hotel’s dependency on OTA business, but if campaigns are not easy to develop, deploy, and measure, it can be a daunting task that often gets cast aside.
The difficulty with conversion measurement is tracking a user from an email through the booking process and knowingly attributing revenue to that specific email. For example, when someone clicks an email and books, is that moment a conversion? Or would you allow them to book within five days of clicking on an email? Attribution in marketing is always one of the most complex and sometimes controversial topics.
4. Develop an Email Marketing Calendar
Hoteliers with well-performing email programs all share one common trait—they are proactive. An email marketing planning calendar is important for a few reasons. First, consistency and frequency of email plays a large role in deliverability. Second, a calendar ensures that campaigns are strategically executed according to major events and demand generators. Finally, calendars ensure marketing team coordination, i.e., that one-off emails aren’t being sent too often, or to the same segment.
Your Email Marketing Calendar should include different types of objectives depending on your particular location. You should consider “Peak Season” promotions, “Low Season” offers and “Shoulder Season” for the period in between Peak and Low seasons.
5. Create Compelling Subject Lines
Did you know that 35% of Email recipients open emails based on subject line alone? One of the hardest parts of putting together any email campaign is coming up with the perfect subject line. You only have so many words to capture the recipient’s attention in a crowded inbox. Take inspiration from magazine or web portal headlines to see how they create compelling titles to entice visitors to click on their stories.
6. Don’t Forget Your Preview Text
Nearly as important as the subject line, preview text presents an opportunity to expand on the subject line before users click. Most email clients will display preview text below the subject. If you don’t have preview text set, it will be pulled from the beginning of the email. When creating preview text, you can apply many of the principles suggested for subject lines. Just keep in mind that every email client is different, which is why it’s important to preview how your email will look before sending.
7. Text-To-Image Ratio
When thinking about the text-to-image ratio in your emails, you should know that sending one large image or many images with little text can be hallmarks of spammers. Stick with the 60/40 rule for image/text and ensure that you use a minimum of 500 text characters per email. In addition, always use alt text behind the images. Many email clients don’t display images by default, so a recipient may only see a blank box where the image should be. With alt text, they’ll get a description of what the image should be, like a hotel lobby, deluxe king bed, Bar and Grill, etc.
8. Your Call-to-Action (CTA)
When your objective is to drive revenue or action, it’s important to get your CTA correct. A best practice is to include a CTA ‘above the fold’ of your email, so users don’t need to scroll to see it. Also, ensure the design of your CTA button stands out. It is common to reserve certain colors for CTAs and make the text compelling enough to drive action. Remember that a call-to-action must be actionable. “Menu” or “Reservations” does not ask the recipient to take any action.
9. Be SPAM Compliant
Abiding by all anti-spam laws is critical. Spam compliance differs by country and applies to where the email is being delivered, not from where the email is being sent.
So if you’re a hotelier in New York sending a promotion to a resident in Europe, you have to abide by the European Union’s spam laws, specifically the Global Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR). As the sender, it is your responsibility to ensure you are within compliance.
10. Review Your Reports
Your email campaign doesn’t end the moment you hit “send.” On the contrary, that’s when the real analytics work starts. We always recommend using UTM tags to track conversion within Google Analytics with whichever model you prefer. A UTM tag is an extended piece of code at the end of URLs that allows Google to accurately track your campaigns. The campaign results will show up within the e-commerce campaigns section of Google Analytics.
Now is the time to analyze and prepare your upcoming Email Marketing Campaigns for the holiday season. Contact our MGR Team and work with a group of professionals that already design and program responsive emails for most major Email Marketing Services including Acxiom, Wunderman, Bronto, Revinate and Navis to name a few.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR)
Sources: AdRoll, Bronto, Oracle, Revinate