Email Marketing- an essential weapon for the Hotel Marketer

Emailing. An ‘ancient’ communication tool that has helped to shape the way humans interact throughout the rise of the digital era. Initially, a simple messaging tool from one computer to another, this technology has since been developed and adopted by the marketing world and allowed instant, interactive and personalised messages that are forever increasing consumer reach.

Some would argue that this has become an ‘overused phenomenon’ across consumerism and is now seeing the end of its days in a constant battle of new and evolving digital capabilities for the marketer. I, of course, disagree. Focussing on the hospitality industry, the email still holds informative and communicative importance that even the likes of social media would struggle to compete with for the hotel consumer. Arguably, this is due to the factual requirements, confirmation content and insightful knowledge of their stay that is one of the few welcomed emails in the modern-day consumer's inbox. However, this initial advantage should only be the beginning of communication between hotel and guest, and it’s the marketer’s job to analyse and develop this relationship, through guest behaviour and insights that data allows us.

Data and the oh-so-familiar ‘GDPR’

With the 2018 GDPR regulations now firmly in place, companies across the country have seen the end to their extensive data lists, now stripped of hundreds of thousands of opt-out individuals. But is this really a bad thing? Sure, the time for strategic, insightful and engaging content has never been more necessary for the success of email marketing campaigns, but this does now mean companies are engaged to the most active, interested consumers for their brand. This brings me onto my first point; Quality over quantity.

As a hotelier, your email database needs to be fluid. Think gradual growth, with constant replenishment. Email addresses change, people lose interest, move to the other side of the World, or just don’t want to hear from you anymore. These can become a segmented group of individuals to attempt to lure back in for the future (we will get to segmentation in a bit), but this cleanse ensures that your hotel is targeting the right individuals who are engaged with your brand in the most active way. The more engagement, the higher the potential for successful goal conversions your brand sets in place.

This cleanliness is also vital in an environment where tightened laws are making email marketing that ‘little-bit’ more restrictive. Keeping your data up to date and focused on active addresses will avoid any spam highlights and issues with your Email provider.  The cleaner the data, the less mess in the long wrong.

So how do you tackle this newly cleaned database? The answer is simple; segment or perish.

 Gone are the days of sending out E-shots to an entire database with generic messaging. Unless your hotel has gone through a complete refurbishment, a re-born brand identity, changing ownership or closing, it’s a no. It’s now about specifics. Specific messaging for specific audiences. This is where strategic planning of your email campaigns become vital for a successful performance. The most valuable step to segmentation is defining and categorising your audiences to the email content plan you are wanting to devise.  An ideal set up that can easily be followed by hoteliers looks something like the below:

  1. Newsletter/Blog Signups
  2. Deals and Specials Signups
  3. Guest Who Booked a Room
  4. Guests Who Cancelled A Room
  5. Guests Who Gave Email at Check-in
  6. Guests Who Gave Email at Check-out
  7. Guest Who Used Food & Beverage Outlets
  8. Guests Who Used Meeting Spaces
  9. Guests Who Used Spa Services
  10. Referrals

A lot of these on the list are self-explanatory when needing to segment, as this can be done at the time of sign-up. But for a deeper dive, metric dashboard tools are also extremely reliable for when it comes to understanding audience activity and segmenting data depending on multiple factors, including gender, age, location, high click-through rates, low click-through rates, loyal customers etc… 

‘Knowing your customer’ is one of the oldest, and arguably the most obvious tricks in the marketer book, but this can be easily lost in a sea of digital capabilities that have caused many to overlook such a basic requirement. So, our biggest advice; Don’t let data overwhelm you; use it to your advantage. The above will allow you to do this learning leg work, whilst helping to formalise a strategy plan to approach each segment in the best light. 

Deals are great.  Cheap is not.

Everyone loves a deal, a cheap getaway, a last-minute steal, but we also like luxury and the feeling of entitlement. Getting the balance right between deals on your hotel rooms and full-priced service has a fine line that needs to be walked on. The best advice for this? Don’t be your own Groupon! Special discounted email codes should not be the one reason to flood the inbox. This can cause questions: What’s wrong with the hotel? Why did I pay full price when the rooms are so cheap? Why are they so keen to get me back on a discounted rate? 

Yes, discounts and sales are notoriously good at bringing the sales in but don’t lose brand identity and the magic of the hotel experience in a swamp of deals. Have more to your email campaigns that can inform, inspire and entice in more articulate ways. Just remember, people, are offended way too easily.

Get the frequency right

The frequency of emails sent will differ from business to business. Target audience and intentions will differ (business trips, family holidays, romantic getaways...) and you know your hotel’s target market better than me.  But it is key to not only get the content and tone of voice right but the frequency that you reach out to your database. This, like most things digital, is a trial and error process that will never mirror out a perfect methodology. But there is a principle you can keep to: Don’t miss more than two months in a row, and don’t give the receiver an excuse to unsubscribe. 

Right people right time zone

This one is super important for the hotelier and goes back to the previous point of customer segmentation.

 You may see trends in nationalities visiting your venue.  Make sure you are targeting these people at their right times geographically (if overseas tourism is your thing). If you’re a local getaway, keep it small and specific. Also, make sure you are sending emails in the user’s time zone.  Emails sent at 3am will be lost in the inbox sea by the time breakfast comes.

In conclusion, the key to email marketing success for hotels comes down to two main factors: targeted segmentation and a high standard for content. With these two strategies intertwined, open rates and interactions are guaranteed to see an increase in performance. Utilising these capabilities email provides for the marketer will therefore not only improve the relationship between business and consumer but help define a strategic way for crunching the dreaded database.