Email Marketing For Hotels

April 20, 2020
Email Marketing For Hotels
email marketing for hotels

Can Email Marketing Be One Of Your Hotel's Competitive Advantages?

Why bother thinking about email marketing for hotels? Is it really worth the effort?

As we’ve said before, if you want to grow revenue, you need to increase sales. To do that, you need to increase your leads. Unfortunately, the hotel industry, (though giant at $500B a year), is also one of the most competitive spaces in the world when it comes to generating awareness and leads. Companies like Expedia and Booking.com spend billions of dollars a year on digital advertising, so how can you compete with that while maintaining profitability?

One of the highest performing and most affordable forms of digital marketing for hotels is email marketing. Studies have shown that email marketing returns roughly $38 for every dollar spent, which is a fantastic return on investment. Email marketing for hotels can work even if you have no budget at all with free services like mailchimp providing all of the functionality you need to get started for free. When done correctly, email marketing can help you generate leads, build relationships with past guests and help you to stand out from the competition. To be successful with email marketing, you’ll need a strategy. That starts with great planning and a clear set of goals, action items and measurements for success. We’ll provide all of that for you in this post so that you have everything you need to get started.

Why Email Marketing?

Email marketing is one of the only forms of digital marketing that you can use to create authentic and ongoing communication with your leads and guests at scale. When done right, an email marketing campaign feels less like your classic spammy, generic marketing messaging and more like a personal email from a colleague. It’s a fantastic tool to build relationships and keep your hotel on top of your guests’s minds. Email marketing enables you to provide your guests with fantastic hospitality while giving you leverage. You don’t need to personally message every single prospect and hotel guest, instead you can let marketing warm them up until the next time they need somewhere to stay.

Email Marketing Can Help Your Hotel To:
  • Connect with guests to build stronger relationships
  • Turn prospects into warm sales leads passively
  • Boost your guest’s loyalty to your property (increase retention)
  • Drive direct bookings (less reliance on OTAs)
  • Upsell guests to drive incremental revenue
  • Increase word of mouth awareness in your community

The key to being successful with email marketing for your hotel is to provide relevant, valuable information to past, present and future guests. When creating the messaging for your email campaign, remember to continually ask yourself: “what would create value for my guests?”. Make it about them, not about you and they will reward you with increased business. After all, isn’t that the essence of what true hospitality is all about anyways?

Hotel Email Marketing

How to build an effective email marketing strategy

As we said earlier, to be successful, you need to start with a plan. We’ve outlined an 8 step process that will make creating a successful email marketing strategy easier on you. Simply follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to generating an increase in leads, awareness and guest loyalty.

Step 1 - Create a Buyer Persona For Each Of Your Guest Types

The first step in email marketing for hotels is to create a buyer personal for each of your guest types. Start by writing down all the types of guests that typically stay at your hotel.

For each one, you’ll want to create a buyer persona. An example here could be a Corporate Traveller. Take a few moments to write down 10 key points about them.

To make creating a buyer persona easier, we recommend you try to answer questions about them like:

“Why do they stay at your property?”

“How long is their typical stay?”

“Where do they book with your hotel?”

“What other local services do they purchase when they visit?”

“What common questions do they ask before, during and after the booking?”

“Where do they find information about hotels in your area?”

“Do they book the hotel themselves or does someone else do it?”

“What is most important to them? -> Location, Price, Amenities, Reviews, Loyalty Program or something else?”

Step 2 - Set Goals For Your Marketing Campaign

Pretend for a moment that you already have a big list of prospects for your campaign and your emails are all written. You have already selected the email marketing software you are going to use (also called a Hotel CRM) and the emails have all been sent out. The campaign has been delivered fully and completely.

With that picture in your mind, ask yourself: “What does success look like?”

Try to set some goals for how you will measure the success of your campaign.

We recommend these goals for each of the emails in your campaign:

-15 to 20% email open rate

-3-5% click through rate

Also ask yourself what the goal of each email is. We recommend including one CTA (Call To Action) in each email that goes out.

Step 3 - Create An Email Sign Up Form To Grow Your List

In order to start email marketing, you need to build your list of contacts to send the emails out to. You’ll need a form to do that. We recommend using a simple form that connects to your email marketing software. Almost all email marketing software programs come with built in forms that you can put on your website, blogs, landing pages, ads and social media posts where people can sign up to receive emails from you. Before you start writing any emails at all, ensure you have picked which form you will use (along with the email marketing software you will use) and make some notes about where you want the form to show up online. Remember that once you setup this form, it will still take time to grow your email list. Be patient and realize that just like anything, you need to plant the seeds first before the tree starts to grow. Over time, if you treat your subscribers well and remember to put them first when writing and sending content, you will begin to see your email list grow to generate leads and revenue for you.

hotel group sales ebook
Step 4 - Identify Your “Hotel Guest Journey”

Typically, guests don’t just search a hotel online, book their room and then check out, though it may appear that way. There are instead some additional, more subtle steps they go through as they go along what is called a “guest journey”.

The 7 Steps In A Hotel Guests Journey:
  • 1. They get inspired or identify that they have a need - this is where they first realize they want or need to book a hotel room
  • 2. The begin doing research - typically they look at hotel reviews, photos and videos as well as pricing
  • 3. They book the room - usually direct, through a travel agent (OTA), your website or the brand’s website
  • 4. Before they arrive - They may check the weather, directions, places to eat, things to do or they may think about upgrading their room
  • 5. On-Property - They arrive at the hotel and check-in to their room
  • 6. Post-Stay - They check-out of the hotel
  • 7. Retention - This is the beginning of the relationship you have with the guest after their stay
  • To be successful in marketing your property, we recommend you think about how you can add value to your guest at each of these 7 steps. You can help them become inspired with great photography of your property and rooms for example. Email marketing is a chance to control the guest journey. So instead of hoping the customer will find excellent photos of your hotel online, you can include them in your email marketing. Instead of hoping their post-stay check-out goes well, you can include a survey.

    Email marketing here allows you to control the guest journey and test how your guests feel about the information you are presenting to them along each step. When you improve the emails you send during the guest journey, you improve their experience and make their life easier which adds value. This increases the chances they will book with you and will continue to book your hotel in the future. Any chance you provide your customers with additional value, you are differentiating yourself from the competition.

    Step 5 - Design Your Email Campaign From A High Level

    There are a few different ways you can design an email campaign. Decide on the “voice” you want to use in your email campaign as well. Do you want to sound professional? Modern? Old world? Luxury? Business class? Also decide on the top 3-5 types of emails you will regularly send out that you feel will add value to your guests.

    We recommend you think about the look and feel of your email campaign as well. Take a moment here to think about the visuals inside your email campaign. Do you need to hire a photographer or graphic designer? What would make your emails really stand out from the crowd? A small investment here can often go a long way to presenting your hotel as polished, professional and modern.

    Step 6 - Write The Copy

    Now that you have identified the steps in the guest journey and have chosen a voice, we recommend that you write down 2-5 ways you can add value along each step. Just write down 2-5 valuable points that you can offer for each of the 7 steps of the Guest Journey. Next, open up your hotel crm and turn each of the 7 steps into an email, inserting the 2-5 value adds into it using the voice you identified in step 5.

    If you’ve taken the time to understand the buyer persona and the guest journey, this step should come fairly easily now. Note, we recommend that you do this entire process for each different buyer persona. Do not use a one-size fits all email campaign. A business traveller will have a different guest journey than a family on vacation for example and you certainly don’t want to send them both the same email campaign. Try to segment and personalize each campaign for each guest type.

    Note: You should end up with 7 emails total for each of your buyer personas. You can add additional emails later if you’d like, but we recommend 7 emails for each campaign so that you have one email for each step in the buyer journey. If you had 4 buyer personas, we recommend that you write 28 emails (4 personas X7 emails).

    Step 7 - Schedule, Send and Measure Results

    Make a schedule for when you’d like the emails to be sent out, including the frequency at which you want to contact the email marketing audience. Tell the guest up front upon joining your list so that they know what to expect (for example, “sign up to our monthly newsletter”). We recommend emailing them no more than once every 2 weeks and no less than once every 6 weeks. You can set the schedule of when the emails go out in your email marketing software.

    When scheduling your emails, look over the entire year on a calendar and consider how seasonality could impact your email campaign’s performance. For example, you may want to limit campaigns during busy seasons because deals and discounts could bring you the wrong types of business. Around holidays and other important dates (like key local events), you might want to generate awareness a few weeks or even months in advance. Since every market is different, you’ll need an understanding of when and why guests typically book at your hotel by market segment. Build your campaigns around that calendar, with a different calendar for each buyer persona. If you can, bring your Revenue Manager and DOS into the meeting too so that you can have as much information as possible so that you are maximizing the right kind of business at the right time.

    Next, you’ll want to measure the impact of your email marketing campaign. The easiest way to do this is to track the campaign against your goals.

    Step 8 - Review

    Set a meeting cadence to discuss your email marketing metrics. We recommend that you meet with your team to discuss how each segment of buyer persona’s is performing along the email funnel. Track your actual progress against your initial goals and then brainstorm how to improve the process. Many people working at hotels think of email marketing as an after-thought, but it is one of the most powerful and affordable ways to build relationships with your guests. If you keep it top of mind and regularly adjust, you will see results. Be patient and commit to the process and you’ll slowly find that email marketing becomes part of your competitive advantage and a key to your winning strategy.

    In Summary:

    Email marketing for hotels is a proven and scalable digital marketing channel.It can be a great way to boost awareness about your property and keep it top of mind. It can help you promote offers, deals and promotions for various market segments at specific times so that you are driving the right types of revenue at the right time. Effective email marketing is all about your guest, not about you and if you do it correctly it will help you create prospects, turn those prospects into leads, turn leads into bookings and turn past business into repeat guests and ultimately word of mouth referrals.

    Studies show that two thirds of customers make a buying decision as a result of receiving email marketing. As well, only 20% of leads that go to sales teams are typically ready to book. This means that email marketing is a great way not only to generate awareness but also to warm prospects up for your sales team. We recommend you try email marketing as part of your hotel’s digital marketing strategy to nurture both leads and past customers to build long term relationships that keep them coming back. If you make it about them, not about you, we can almost guarantee this will give you an edge over your local competition.

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