There is much talk these days about getting Facebook fans and Twitter followers. An often neglected tool for marketing your property is email. You likely collect the email address of each of your guests, but how often do you email them? Do you have a regular newsletter?
One of the reasons email is such an important tool is due to the sheer number of email accounts out there. While many guests are on social media, everyone who has a computer has an email account. The Radicati Group reports that there were 3.9 billion email accounts in 2013, which will increase to 4.9 billion by 2017.
Compare this to 3.2 billion social network accounts in 2013, expected to rise to 4.8 billion by 2017. The two forms of communication are neck-and-neck by adoption. One major difference is that guests use social media for personal communication, and email for business. Every social media account requires an email address to create. Indeed, a study by the University of British Columbia shows that guests check their email, on average, 15 times a day. Conversely, Edison Research reports that Facebook users check Facebook 4 times a day on average.
Social media is something a savvy hotelier will invest in. Ignoring email is missing an even larger opportunity. It used to be time consuming and difficult to get your business setup with sophisticated email software, but today it has never been easier or cheaper. If you have email addresses in a spreadsheet, you can start an email newsletter for your guests.
Here are 5 inexpensive but powerful email management systems for you to consider:
FanBridge was designed for musicians and public figures, but anyone can use it. It is one of the cheapest email marketing tools out there for what you get. For $15 a month, you can send up to 20,000 email messages per month, which is more than enough for most hostels, B&Bs, and independent hotels. FanBridge also posts messages to your social media accounts, working as a social media manager.
In my opinion, the interface is a tad clunky. They only have 10 “premium” email templates for you to choose from (and dozens of other old templates that are pretty ugly). They have a drag-and-drop email template builder, (which sadly comes with a few glitches that make it difficult to work with at times, but you can still make pretty nice templates with it). They also support custom HTML messages.
One benefit to FanBridge is that they don’t force you to send out a confirmation email to every email address you add to your database. Many of the other managers I mention below have this requirement. The reason this is an issue is that most of you have already been granted permission from your guests to email them. Sending them an email asking for permission to email them again will likely lead to some of them un-subscribing.
Email analytics are a basic, and important, part of email marketing. FanBridge provides you with basic analytics, including how many times your email was opened, and they offer you open and click percentages. If you want anything more than that, you need to upgrade from their Silver plan.
FanBridge has a few issues, but it works, and is an excellent option for hoteliers on a budget.
MailChimp is one of the oldest and most popular email management systems. They have many excellent email templates that work on both desktop computers and mobile devices. Their pricing is a tad confusing.
They have a “forever free” plan which is excellent for hoteliers who want to send only a few emails per month. The free plan is limited to 2,000 email addresses, and 12,000 emails a month (meaning you can send 1 email to all 2,000 guests only 6 times a month). If your database of email addresses is larger, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan.
Their cheapest paid plan at $10 a month gives you unlimited messages, but restricts your email list to 500. Sending unlimited messages to a guest database over 2,000 will run you $25 a month.
They also have a “pay as you go” plan, where you can purchase “email credits” to spend on emails you send. $9 will get you 300 credits, and $150 will get you 7,500 credits.
As I said, there is a lot of math involved in their convoluted pricing plan, but MailChimp is a solid piece of software that is very popular.
AWeber has been around for years, and is a favorite email marketing tool by professional web marketers. Like the others, they have hundreds of professional, responsive email templates. They also include over 6,000 pieces of stock photography you can add to your emails to spice them up a bit.
Their cheapest plan is $19 a month, which gives you unlimited emails sent to a max of 500 subscribers. To get to 2,500 subscribers, your fee goes up to $29 a month.
AWeber sports a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can test them out for a month before committing.
Constant Contact is the go-to email platform for businesses, and has been around for years. They have high-touch customer service, which is great for hoteliers who have never done email marketing before. They can help you create your first email newsletter, and they even offer custom design services. They have hundreds of included themes to choose from, 9 of which are designed specifically for travel and tourism.
They have an “email plus” product, which includes a toolkit that helps you create surveys, offer deals and coupons, manage events, and help create Facebook promotions. However, these features do not justify the additional cost, in my opinion.
Pricing starts out at $20 a month, restricting your database to 500 emails ($45 a month for “email plus). To get past 2,500 subscribers, the price jumps to $35 a month.
iContact is a capable email management system with nearly 700 of different themes, conveniently categorized by industry. (They even have 37 “travel and tourism” themes). Not all themes look amazing, so be sure to choose a theme that looks modern and works on mobile devices. They also offer custom email design services for an additional fee.
Like FanBridge, they support a drag-and-drop email template builder that works well. You can upload your own HTML template, and it comes with email analytics.
iContact has a lower pricing starting point than the other ones I review here. For $10 a month, you can have up to 250 email subscribers. To get 2,500, you need to pay $29 a month. However, they do have a 15% discount if you pay annually, which works out to $8.50 a month for the lowest tier plan—the cheapest paid plan I have seen.
Many of these email management tools have similar features and prices. The important thing is that you choose one of them, and start reaching out to your guests via what is arguably the world’s most popular form of communication: email.
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