On average, email marketing generates $42 in return on investment (ROI) for every $1 spent.
There are very few (if any) other marketing options that offer that kind of ROI. And that’s rather bizarre when you consider how old email is.
Against a backdrop that’s dominated by social platforms, short-form video and cookie tracking, you’d be forgiven for thinking that email really isn’t worth your time as a hospitality operator.
That simply isn’t the case. Email marketing remains one of the best ways to turn strangers into brand advocates and increase direct business. Consider this your definitive guide to email marketing for hospitality.
What is email marketing?
At its most basic level, email marketing is the process of promoting your business via email to a list of ‘subscribers’ who have opted in to receiving marketing communications from you.
But if we expand that definition a little, it becomes clear that email marketing is about far more than that. It’s the process of building relationships with customers which offer value for them and a profitable line of income for your business.
Email marketing has two jobs within a modern hospitality business:
- to cultivate relationships with new guests; and
- to keep existing guests up to speed with your latest news and offers.
You’ll probably hear the word “nurturing” mentioned a lot as you look into email marketing in more depth, and in hospitality that’s a pretty simple concept:
Hospitality email marketing nurturing flow
Booking enquiry > confirmed booking > pre-arrival > post-arrival > return booking
Why does your hospitality business need email marketing?
Whether you’re running a hotel or restaurant, you can benefit from the fact that, by 2024, nearly five billion people are expected to be actively using email.
That easily makes it the most common form of digital communication, and it’s the main reason you need to implement email marketing if you haven’t done so already.
However, there are a few more reasons that are definitely worth exploring.
Spread brand awareness: email provides a route to a defined end-point for existing and potential customers - their inbox. That means you can put your brand right in front of their eyes, and their eyes only (and they can easily forward it on, too).
Keep past guests engaged: waving goodbye to a guest after their first stay or dining experience shouldn’t be the last time you see them. Email marketing enables you to make them feel valued long after they’ve departed - and that’ll probably encourage them back.
Convert, convert, convert: email marketing is one of the best tools you have to convert new business. How many other forms of marketing enable you to nurture a relationship which starts with a sign-up to your newsletter and ends with a profitable three-night stay?
Most importantly, email marketing has a very low cost of entry. Obviously, you’ll need to use an email marketing platform, but they’re more affordable than ever these days, and the only significant investment you’ll need to make is that of your time.
Getting started with email marketing in hospitality
There’s no recipe for overnight success with email marketing - it takes time and patience to get right and you can never really take your foot off the gas once things get going.
However, if we take a step back and look at the process for running a successful email marketing strategy, it becomes clear that it can be broken up into clear, actionable steps.
Step 1: Build your list
There’s no way around it - you have to build your list ethnically if you’re going to be successful with email marketing. Purchasing lists is a no-go, and you certainly shouldn’t attempt to side-step any GDPR requirements when adding people to your list.
That means you need to add plenty of email newsletter sign-up forms to your website (with clear opt-in requirements and no ambiguity) and encourage guests to sign up to your list for future updates.
You can do this by making it clear they’ll be missing out if they don’t. ‘FOMO’ really does work with email marketing, so don’t be afraid to play that card as hard as you can.
Recommended guide: How To Be GDPR Compliant (Checklist Included)
Step 2: Segment the list
One great big list of subscribers is pretty inefficient. To get the most from email marketing, you need to slice it up into strategic chunks.
You can do this based on demographics, past booking habits and pretty much any other datapoint which enables you to send targeted offers and news to the right people.
Segmentation takes time and your ability to do so will increase as you gradually collect more data about subscribers, but it’s worth every second of time you put into it.
Step 3: Pick an email marketing tool
There are plenty of great options out there for email marketing. Of course, Beambox has its own email sender that sits at the heart of the Interactions panel. Other popular providers include the likes of Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor and Aweber which have a slightly higher barrier to entry if you’re just starting out.
Step 4: Brand your emails
Don’t skimp on this step. As tempting as it might be to use generic templates, remember that you’re operating in an industry where image is everything.
Make sure your emails are branded with your logos, colours and the same look and feel as your website. The more branded your emails are, the sooner your business will begin to stick within the minds of your subscribers.
Step 5: Always create a landing page
You’ll need a separate landing page for pretty much every email campaign you send.
This might sound like a huge amount of work, but it actually just means that you’re not directing people to your homepage with every click of an email. You may have a booking page, or a new blog post etc. These are your landing pages.
Directing people to the exact thing your email references ensures you deliver on your promise and create a clean, intuitive journey for the subscriber to follow. It will result in far more conversions than simply throwing them onto the homepage of your website when they click a link on the email.
Step 6: Analyse
Like any form of marketing, email marketing needs to be constantly analysed if you’re to learn from your mistakes and capitalise on your wins.
Thankfully, today’s email marketing tools offer a wealth of easy-to-use reports which provide all the insight you need.
Reporting is another area in which email shines very brightly. Unlike other forms of marketing, you can obtain detailed metrics which relate to the way in which every single subscriber interact with your emails. You’ll know who opened them, who clicked, and exactly which links were the most popular. This powerful data shouldn’t be ignored.
5 email marketing campaigns you should be implementing
There are all sorts of great campaign ideas you can send as a hospitality business, but let’s look at five in particular which you really should be sending to guests.
1. The confirmation email As soon as someone books a room or a table, you have a golden opportunity to send an email which welcomes them into the fold and begins the process of getting them excited about what’s to come. You only get one chance to make a great first impression.
2. The upsell email If someone has placed enough trust in your business to place a booking, who’s to say they won’t go a step further?
A well-timed upsell email may well tempt this new (or return) guest to dig a little deeper into their wallet and upgrade their forthcoming experience with you.
3. The pre-arrival email This is your chance to remind the guest of what to expect on arrival and confirm any important details they need to be aware of.
The more helpful you are at this stage, the more likely you are to plot a course for an enjoyable experience when they finally walk through your doors.
4. The post-stay email Once the guest has departed, you can use email to say “thank you” for their custom but to also begin the process of cementing your brand in their memory.
Just like the confirmation email, it’s a formality, but the post-stay email is also another crucial step forward in the nurturing process.
5. The feedback email Asking a guest to leave a review might feel like commercial suicide, such is the overriding fear of reviews in this industry, but it’s another opportunity not to be missed.
Time it right (no more than 24 hours after their time with you) and you’ll gain invaluable feedback - good and bad - from that guest.
How can you ever improve the experience you’re delivering without genuine feedback from customers? You can’t trust them to leave it without a little encouragement, after all.
Email marketing checklist for hospitality businesses
Email marketing needs a steady, careful hand if it’s to be used effectively and with your subscribers’ best interests in mind.
So, here’s a checklist which you really will need by your side during your email marketing journey.
- Never purchase a list of email subscribers - they’re not subscribers
Send emails at the right time - always check your stats to see when that is for your audience
Always personalise your emails by addressing the recipient by name and by including any other information that’s pertinent to them
Avoid spammy tactics such as including words like “FREE” and “This isn’t spam” in your subject lines
- Spend more time on the subject line than any other part of the email
Get the frequency right - don’t email people too often, but don’t leave it so long that they forget who you are
- Test your emails before sending them
The last item above is vitally important. Test, then test and again and, for good measure, give it a final test before pressing that big, red ‘send’ button.
Email marketing is a huge topic, which we’ll revisit soon. However, this guide should act as the perfect starting point for any hospitality business which is yet to fully exploit one of the web’s oldest and most trusted forms of marketing.