By Linda Pashaj
Is email still relevant in the age of texting and online chat? Maybe not for teenagers, but they’re not the ones booking hotel rooms. For everyone else, email is still very much a part of daily online life.
In fact, the number of people using email worldwide is expected to grow to 4.6 billion users by 2025, according to Statista.
If you’re not using email as part of your digital marketing strategy, you’re missing out on opportunities to use this highly effective and cost-efficient marketing tool to drive revenue and profitability for your hotel business.
What is hotel email marketing?
For the hotel industry and all types of accommodation, email marketing is the use of email communications to keep guests (past guests and those with an upcoming trip) informed of deals, specials, upgrades, activities, local attractions, and more in an effort to generate revenue. Whether you’re looking to fill rooms for certain dates next week or to build up occupancy for next summer, email is an economical way to boost bookings.
Even better, there are no advertising fees or commissions to pay; the only costs are your time and any email marketing tool or marketing automation software you use. And because most bookings are direct, it can be a highly profitable marketing channel for hotels.
Hotel email marketing shouldn’t be confused with email communications like booking confirmations and post-stay feedback requests.
To learn more about using email as a guest service tool, check out 4 Email Templates that Build Better Guest Relationships.
Types of email marketing campaigns for hoteliers
Typically, hotels create marketing campaigns that use a variety of channels to drive awareness and revenue, including email, the hotel website, online travel agencies (OTAs), paid advertising, and social media marketing. What makes email especially powerful is recipients are already familiar with your property, having stayed before or subscribed on your website.
An email campaign can involve a one-off email or a series of emails over time. Here are the main categories of an effective email marketing campaign:
- Promotions and special offers. This might include a seasonal promotion, a staycation or workcation package, or a special offer on suites.
- Special events and occasions. These campaigns focus on celebrating special events such as spring break, New Year’s Eve, or Valentine’s Day and special occasions like birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. They might feature a romance package, including a welcome bottle of wine, or a couple’s spa treatment.
- Pre-arrival emails. In addition to assisting hotel guests in planning their stay, these emails can generate incremental revenue by inviting guests to request a room upgrade, reserve a table in the hotel restaurant, or pre-order an amenity, tour, or activity.
- In-stay emails. Welcome emails to in-house hotel guests can be a non-intrusive way to invite guests to join local events and activities such as happy hour, a round of golf, or Sunday brunch.
- Post-stay emails. These emails are sent to guests as a follow-up after their stay to entice them back. For example, an incentive to OTA guests to book directly on their next stay.
- Email newsletters. A monthly or quarterly hotel newsletter can be a great way to engage guests and generate bookings, combining news and promotions with special features like a recipe from your kitchen or a link to the latest blog post.
10 steps to build the perfect promotional email for your hotel
Writing your first promotional emails can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these steps to craft a successful email marketing message.
1. Start with an appealing topic.
What will entice people to book a stay at your property? It doesn’t always have to be about discounts, although they certainly help. Give them a good reason to click “Book now,” whether it’s the last chance for spring skiing or a kickstart to summer beach season.
2. Identify your target audiences.
Will you send the message to everyone in your database or is it more relevant to certain guest types, such as locals, business travelers, or loyalty program members? The more targeted your messaging, the better the results.
3. Enter an email subject line.
Make it short and catchy but not so sales-y, or it can trigger spam filters and negatively affect your email’s deliverability. For example, go easy on the CAPS and punctuation, as well as the use of certain symbols like dollar signs. Give a compelling reason why the recipient should open the message to find out more.
4. Add a logo and image.
Post your logo at the top of the email body, followed by a large, striking image of your property, destination, or activity relevant to the offer.
5. Add the body copy.
If you can merge the email with your database, personalize the email content with the guest’s name. Add a concise description of the offer that creates a sense of excitement and urgency, in a style and tone that reflects your brand.
6. Include a call to action (CTA).
Add a “Book now” button with a link to the offer on your booking engine or landing page. Make it stand out with a special color or large font.
7. Add contact details.
End the email with your property’s name, contact details, and logo (again), as well as links to social media profiles and an “unsubscribe” option.
8. Send a test email.
To avoid embarrassing typos and formatting errors, send a test email to yourself and a colleague or two for proofreading. View the message on a mobile device as well as a desktop computer.
Double-check all the details (and links) one last time to ensure everything is perfect. Then you’re ready to press send.
10. Monitor results.
Use email marketing software to track how people interact with your email, how many bookings and upsells it generates, and all your email marketing efforts.
Hotel email marketing strategies and best practices
To make your promotional emails as effective as possible, try following these recommendations.
Build a data-rich email database. The more contacts you have and the more you know about them, the more targeted your messaging can be. Add guests to the database with every new customer reservation, display an email subscription form on your website, and build guest profiles over time by recording contact details, activities, and preferences.
Get permission. In many regions, privacy regulations require businesses to receive consent from recipients before sending promotional emails. For example, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has strict rules on how the hospitality industry and others can collect and contact email subscribers with hotel email marketing campaigns. Even if there are no laws in your area, it’s a good practice to ask guests for permission to receive promotional emails. You can do this within the reservation confirmation email by adding a check box confirming their consent or in person at the time of reservation or check-in.
Plan ahead. Rather than scramble at the last minute, prepare an email marketing plan for the year, detailing email frequency, times, and potential topics. This will help ensure you send the right messages to the right guests at the right times.
Be targeted. Instead of sending the same generic, transactional emails to everyone, create email lists based on subscriber demographics, interests, and booking behavior and send them personalized offers. You’ll be sure to get higher open rates this way. For help, see 5 easy ways to identify your hotel’s target market.
Craft compelling copy. Distinguish your emails by taking the time to write quality, professional copy. Think about why guests stay at your property and what they rave about in reviews. Bear in mind that people often skim email on a smartphone, so keep it short and visual – they can click to find out more.
Use quality imagery. Feature high-quality (but low-res) photos that elicit an emotional response such as yearning, a sense of fun, or nostalgia. You can supplement property imagery by investing in a few good stock photos, but try to avoid images that look overly staged or cliché.
Time it right. According to Campaign Monitor, the best days to send promo emails are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and the worst days are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. That said, only you will know when your emails are most effective, and you’ll only find out by experimenting with different days and times.
Don’t overdo it. When guests unsubscribe, you may never get them back. Your unsubscribe rate will provide a good indication of whether you’re sending too many emails or can amp up the frequency. In the travel, hospitality, and leisure sectors, the average unsubscribe rate is .2%, according to Campaign Monitor.
Track performance metrics. In travel and tourism, the average email open rate is 30.42%, and the average click-through rate is 1.33%, according to Constant Contact. You should be able to easily beat these benchmarks by keeping a close eye on your metrics and using A/B testing to see which emails have the highest conversion rates.
Email marketing software tools
Managing email campaigns manually can be a lot of work. Fortunately, there are tools to do the heavy lifting for you, from off-the-shelf platforms like Mailchimp and Constant Contact to multifunctional CRM (customer relationship management) systems and providers. Use Google Analytics to track website referrals and email campaign conversions.
With the Cloudbeds Hospitality Platform, email marketing and automation services are built right into your property management system (PMS), allowing you to streamline communications across the customer journey.
Here are just a few of the features and benefits:
- Take advantage of professional email templates you can customize with your property’s branding.
- With automated emails like confirmations, pre-stay messages, and post-stay feedback requests, you’ll never forget to send guests important information.
- Rather than switch between multiple software tools, use one directly integrated system with your PMS and offers integrations with other applications via the Cloudbeds Marketplace.