Gathering email addresses is one of the most profitable things you can do as a business.
Or, well…Gathering does nothing. You need to actually send the emails too. Preferably good emails.
Most hotels and resorts send some sort of email to their audience- perhaps a newsletter, a receipt after purchase, or a discount every now and then. That’s great, but you can do so much more.
In this guide we will go through more advanced strategies for email marketing automation that has the potential to blow your sales through the roof. But first, the basics.
Email marketing is easily forgotten in this world seemingly dominated by social media and blogs – but numbers don’t lie.
Email has an average return of $38 for every $1 spent. (Data & Marketing Association)
And on top of that, it’s easy to measure results with email marketing. You can tell if your campaign is effective by looking at how many subscribers are opening your emails, clicking your links and booking with you.
In the recent decade, Email has become more relevant than ever. Part of the reason is that spam protection is better, so subscribers receive a larger proportion of the emails that they actually want to read – hopefully yours.
Because email is about building a relationship with your audience. You are sharing travel advice that is relevant to them. You are providing opportunities and benefits exclusive to them. Also – the people on your email list are there by choice.
These people are your VIPs.
You do NOT want to send the same bulk email to your whole audience. That’s not a VIP treatment and frankly it’s a waste of your customer’s attention. They will unsubscribe and subsequently not book with you. You need to be smarter than that.
Why Email Automation?
Regular newsletters, discounts and travel tips are good. But with automation we can personalize the emails we send out according to a system of rules.
The goal of email marketing automation is to send the right message to the right person at the right time to ultimately increase your sales. All without increasing the amount of work you do.
Avg. Increase in Orders – Automated vs Bulk Email
Done well, automation feels like you read your customer’s minds. They will appreciate what you send them because it’s exactly what they were looking for. VIP treatment.
Also, the relationship with your customer should deepen over time, but regular email marketing does not account for this fact – with the same email sent to both new and old customers. Marketing automation engages with your audience the right way on every step of their journey (literal and metaphorical).
Now, email automation setup will take a lot of work and thought, and sometimes you will need to tweak the automation or add new emails. But once the groundwork is there it takes very little work compared to the results. It’s pure magic for your customers – and your bottom line.
You should also know also that you don’t need a big email list to start seeing results from email marketing automation. You simply need a plan that works.
So which kind of emails should we send and when? Your perfect plan starts with understanding that your emails should always be sent with one of five purposes.
The 5 Purposes of Email Marketing
The ultimate purpose of sending emails to your customers is to increase your sales. But to do that you want to send emails that they will appreciate. To that end, all emails you send will have one of the following five purposes:
- Indoctrinate – Teach them who you are, build interest
- Engage – Get them to express interest or buy something small
- Segment – Learn what they want to buy next
- Convert– Get them to buy something you know they want
- Re-engage – Bring them back to buy again if you’ve lost contact
(Credit to Ryan Deiss for his thoughts on this here)
Before you automate, you need to know why you send each individual email series and how to measure success. Each email has a purpose – sending your audience along a journey personalized and optimized for them. Remember:
- A new visitor will not be ready for an email meant to Convert.
- A loyal customer will not appreciate an Indoctrination email.
- A first-time buyer will not need to go through the engagement phase again.
So, let’s go through these 5 purposes.
Purpose 1 – Indoctrinate
Goal: To introduce them to your brand. To show the value of your service. Get them excited and build a relationship. To learn more about their interests and budget.
Do: Provide hotel profile, background, educational content, links to blog, local stories, videos and images.
Don’t: Try to sell rooms or tours, nor give specific details of your products/services
During this stage, subscribers are strangers to your brand and company. They need to learn about who you are and what you stand for. This is your opportunity to start building a relationship with them.
Since new subscribers don’t know anything about you yet they won’t appreciate sales materials. Instead, you should demonstrate the quality of your service through free, inspiring content that benefits them even before they choose to book with you.
You need to send them valuable things or free, and make them feel grateful. After all, the buying journey of a customer in the travel industry is often complex – sometimes people take months or even years before booking a trip. And people come back. Recommend places to their friends. Write reviews. So we want to be building long-term relationships.
After Indoctrination, you want your new subscribers to have formed a bond with your business. In particular, you want to have answered the following questions in their minds:
- Who are you?
- What do you stand for?
- What kind of services do you offer?
- Why are you different?
- What should they expect from you and your emails?
- What should they do next?
All new subscribers will receive the indoctrination series only once.
Once you’ve indoctrinated your prospect you should move them into an Engagement series.
Purpose 2 – Engage
Goal: To convince your subscriber to purchase something small, call, download a brochure, or otherwise show more interest before selling them something bigger. Or re-engage customers who have fallen out of touch.
Do: Talk about the benefits of your service, show off your services, offer discounts and promotions, find smaller investments in terms of time or money that they can make as a first step.
Don’t: Overwhelm them with pushy sales talk.
Engagement emails bring subscribers closer to booking a full vacation at your place.
At this point in your email marketing automation, you can start talking about specific tours and services, or invite them to join you on other social networks and competitions. Focus on building excitement rather than just explaining and selling.
Your subscribers should never stop receiving engaging content, even after purchasing. But the purpose might shift towards segmentation (purpose 3), rather than pure engagement.
Once a person has engaged with something you offer it’s time to convert them into customers. To do that, we alternate between Purpose 3 – segment, and purpose 4 – convert.
Purpose 3 – Segment
Goal: To personalize future emails, to make future sales, to send content they will love.
Do: Send inspiring content and track who clicks what, send surveys, integrate website browsing data, collect manual feedback.
Don’t: Send general offers that you’re not sure they are interested in.
The goal of the Segmentation is to get your prospect to raise their hand (open, click or opt in) and show interest in a destination, activity or specific offer. Ideally, you start gathering this info on this already from the very beginning in the indoctrination phase.
When your subscribers do engage with something, they will then be placed in an appropriate conversion series to sell them a service related to their interest.
To segment, you need to use appropriate email automation software and set up the right kind of rules. Popular choices include Active Campaign and Mailchimp, but our choice is Replyify.
You can create amazingly complicated segments. Here are some suggestions:
- Demographics (origin country specific holiday promotions, eg “Autumn break in Sweden – 20% off for all Swedes”)
- Past Purchases (Amount Spent, Interests, Time Since Last Purchase, eg “Book the same room as last year!”)
- Type of Customer (lone traveler, Interests, group, family, Frequent Buyers, One-time Customers, eg “book three rooms get one free”)
- Website Actions (Behavioural website segmentation: Pages people visited, Pages they didn’t visit, People who visited one page but missed another related page)
- Email Actions (Behavioural Email Marketing, eg “Thanks for reading about x, here’s another related article”)
Sending a single segmentation email to your list can set off a chain reaction of sales – if you have the right conversion emails set up, which brings us to purpose 4.
Purpose 4 – Convert
Goal: To make sales, up-sells, build loyalty and repeat business.
Do: Send detailed itineraries, Follow up abandoned carts. create a sense of urgency to book right away. Connect with your loyal customers, keep delighting your customers with awesome content and service, offer special up-sells to repeat buyers.
Don’t: Send general offers that you’re not sure they are interested in, Don’t stop sending inspiring content.
Now your email subscriber knows who you are and what kind of rooms and experiences you offer. But, more importantly you know what they want. Finally, we get to drive sales.
Ideally you create automated email sequences for all possible bookings, tours and services that you offer, and just flick the switch in the email automation software when the time is right.
This takes some time to set up, but it’s worth it.
For every offer you make there is some percentage of buyers that would buy more.
That’s why you should think about what else a customer might want to buy after having bought. This is called an up-sell. It might be an upgraded hotel room, a drone photo service, pick-up and drop-off, or a related experience geographically nearby. These emails can be automated too.
When your subscriber has bought something, you want to enroll them into purpose 3 – segment again until you know what else they want to buy.
If they stop opening your emails, you need to re-engage them, which is the 5th purpose of email marketing.
Purpose 5 – Re-engage
Goal: To re-energize disengaged subscribers, to inspire loyalty.
Do: Send discounts, continual reminders, ask for feedback
Don’t: Keep sending convert & segment emails to them – because something clearly isn’t working.
What happens when once loyal customers stop opening and clicking on your email?
If your answer is nothing, you’ll probably lose many of your customers, needlessly wasting a lot of your prior marketing efforts.
You need to re-energize disengaged subscribers and bring them back into a conversion or segmentation series so they might become customers again.
To do this, you want to give them offers they can’t refuse and basically tell them that you’ve missed them.
However, sometimes it’s time to cut your losses. Leaving disengaged subscribers on your list damages the deliverability of your emails. By reengaging subscribers, or removing hopeless cases, you make sure your other emails avoid the spam folder.
Before removing them from your list, send one final email telling them that you’re about to do so unless they act. Sometimes, if they have appreciated the value you have provided in the past, they will choose to interact with you once again upon seeing such an ultimatum. It’s worth a shot.
Landing Pages for Email Campaigns
Of course, no email campaign would be complete without optimized landing pages. This is a special webpage that’s built around that particular email.
Once you have put in all the work to automate your email marketing, it only makes sense to optimize what happens when subscribers click on the links in your emails too. This is a whole other topic though, which I will cover in the future.
How do I get started with Email Marketing Automation?
Personal emails will always have their place in your business, and can be sent with a regular email client like Gmail or Outlook. But these automated email marketing campaigns need to be managed using specialized tools.
MailChimp, ActiveCampaign and GetResponse are popular choices that will not set you back more than the cost of a few hundred dollars per year. But more than the cost of the tool itself is the writing, analyzing and updating of all these automated email campaigns.
It really starts with a quick calculation of what each new customer is worth to you, what your average customer life time value is and how automated email marketing can help you maximize that. After that, it’s just a matter of devoting enough budget and time to see results.
To make sure you set things up right, and don’t waste your time – we can guide you in the right direction.
Get in touch about email marketing: firstname.lastname@example.org