The data shows that, when used correctly, email is by far the most effective digital tactic for driving customer acquisition and retention. And, across industries, research shows that email continues to drive at least 4x higher ROI than all other marketing formats.
But, generic blast emails, or those that you send to your entire database, are actively hurting your ability to communicate with your guests. According to a Hubspot survey, while 68% of consumers merely delete unwanted email, 58% of consumers will also unsubscribe, reducing the size of your email marketing database and removing your ability to contact those guests in the future. Even worse, 49% of consumers will mark unwanted email as spam. If your communications receive spam reports often enough, this will hurt your sender score, which affects your email deliverability.
In other words? A smaller guest database equals less potential revenue from loyal, repeat guests. And, if your emails are attracting enough spam reports, this can actively hurt your ability to communicate via email with anyone at all.
OTAs are Owning the Relationship
In addition to generic blast emails, hotels have another problem: with the consolidation of the OTA market and emergence of new channels such as Book on Google and TripAdvisor, hotels are paying more than ever in booking commissions. While OTAs are great for acquiring new customers, because they are actively working to build relationships with hotel guests, hotels may soon see fewer direct bookings and end up paying more in OTA commissions. Unless hoteliers take action now, middlemen will soon own the relationship with their guests.
The Future of Email Marketing
The news isn’t all bad. It’s not that your guests don’t want to hear from you – it’s that your emails aren’t relevant to them because the messages are too generic. Consumers today overwhelmingly prefer to communicate with brands via email. But, they expect more. They expect every communication to be relevant to their interests.
So, what actions to hoteliers need to take in order to keep their past guests engaged, loyal, and booking direct every time?
1. Engage in segmentation and targeting
One way to increase direct bookings is to target messaging to guests who have previously booked with the hotel in the past. By engaging these guests, you can give them special incentives. Keeping active subscribers (guests who have recently opened or clicked in an email) is also critical for maintaining and improving both engagement and deliverability.
By creating audience segments based on information in your CRM, you can more closely engage your prospective guest. For example, you can segment by recency of stay (i.e. guests who have stayed within the last six months, 6-12 months, and 12-18 months). You can also segment by other attributes like gender, guests who booked direct versus those who booked through an OTA, or those traveling for business versus those who stayed with their families.
2. Humanize your sender
Some hotels send messages from “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org” for email marketing automation purposes. Some also signing messages with “Best respects, [Hotel Name].”
In other words, the personalized factor is missing. Since personalized emails are more effective, you should be sending out messages from a real person–one who represents your hotel’s brand, as well as the appropriate message you’re trying to convey.
For example, an email asking a guest to leave feedback could come from the General Manager of the hotel. Or, an email advertising a spa special could come from a favorite masseuse. It’s all about conveying a sense of the personal touch in your communications.
3. Create subject lines with C.U.R.V.E. appeal
With 64% of people opening an email based on the subject line, this little one-liner holds a lot of weight in the success of your hotel’s email marketing efforts. Your subject line needs to stand out as a personal, relevant conversation with your guests in order to stand out amongst all the other marketing messages in their inbox. A good subject line should tap into at least one of the following: Curiosity, Urgency, Relevancy, Value, and Emotion. (To learn more, read our article on Alex Williams’ C.U.R.V.E. formula.)
4. Be mobile friendly
With a full one third of all emails being opened on mobile devices, it is critical for every email your hotel sends to be responsive and mobile-friendly. If your offers are not easy to consume and book on a mobile device, your guests are likely to ignore or delete your email.
5. Design with focus
Think about the goal of each email campaign, and the specific action you want your guests to take when they open the email. Once you have a solid understanding of what you want to communicate, then you can think about how you can convey that with your call-to-action, copy, and the design of the email itself.
The key is to clearly communicate what you want your guests to do when they open your email with a strong, primary call-to-action.
6. Be Opportunistic
Think about this scenario: Your hotel has a big group cancellation and you need to fill rooms in a short period of time. For example, you might send a special offer to past guests who live within driving distance – those who are most likely to respond. Do your systems allow you to communicate to a specific segment of guests on short notice?
Ultimately, generic blast emails are a thing of the past. The good news for hoteliers is, the technology exists today to create relevant communications for each guest at scale. You can see how others have done this with our Email Campaign of the Month series. If you’re interested in learning more about email marketing for hotels, we’ll be hosting a series of certification courses in 2017. Sign up here to receive updates on upcoming courses.