Crafting effective hotel email marketing campaigns

Hotel email marketing campaigns are intended to engage at multiple touchpoints throughout a customer’s journey, from targeted booking offers and pre-arrival promotions, to post-stay email surveys and requests for hotel reviews.

No matter the form, email provides the chance to learn about guest preferences, establish trust, and form valuable long-term relationships.

But there is an art to create an effective marketing email. There are two major elements: first, understanding the basics of crafting email campaigns, and second, deciding what the email content should be.

Email marketing tips to boost open rates and click-throughs

There are certain techniques that go into crafting the types of email that get opened, read and responded to more often. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here are a few tips to consider when writing any email. For more comprehensive tips, check out this pre-flight email checklist created by Campaign Monitor.

Write an irresistible subject line

The singular most important element when writing your emails is the subject line. After all, the best email ever written counts for nothing if it doesn’t get opened.

In a crowded inbox, the subject line needs to instantly grab attention.  So, how can you ensure your subject line increases those all-important open rates? Start by keeping things short and simple. The subject line should be no longer than 50 characters.

For the most part, being clear and concise is the best strategy for subject lines. And used sparingly, creating a sense of urgency can also be highly effective.

Save 50% at our luxury spa when you book TODAY” gives the reader a clear and compelling reason to open your email and act now.

That said, there are times when being slightly mysterious can work in your favor. Want to promote your renovated suites with brand new beds? Go ahead and declare to your email list “The best night’s sleep you’ll ever have.”

Craft a unique tone of voice

Whether you’re writing a sales letter, website copy, or marketing email, the same rule applies: write to your audience. Crafting emails that consider how your core customer likes to be communicated with will have far greater resonance than writing in a generic tone aimed at pleasing everyone.

A great example of this is Graduate Hotels, a new chain aiming to evoke the carefree spirit of student life (with a few grown-up comforts included) at their collection of funky properties in U.S. university towns.

Marketed largely at graduates and returning students, their website copy is young and playful with insider references to the universities they are located near—an approach they also follow through with in their emails. This consistency of communication helps build familiarity, while their unique tone creates a distinct brand feel.

graduate-hotel-madison
A snippet of copy from Graduate Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin.

While not all hotels have such a distinct brand persona, a warm and chatty tone in email often works best. Think of email as a one-to-one conversation with your customers to help create a light, engaging tone that builds rapport. Keep things light and friendly, inject personality into the copy, and your emails will be far more likely to build lasting customer relationships.

Include a clear call to action

It’s imperative to end every email with a strong call-to-action, essentially an obvious “next step” that you want people to take. This might involve asking them to book a room, reserve a table at your restaurant, or upgrade their accommodation option.

The point is, every email should ask the audience to do something. Leaving things open-ended leaves the option for a potential guest to delete the email and completely forget about it. If that happens, chances are your message will quickly be forgotten.

A call to action should also be highly visible in your email with a link that takes a person through to the relevant landing or booking page on your site.

Optimize for mobile

In the restaurant and hospitality sector, 52% of emails are accessed via mobile. As this number grows, it’s imperative to check your emails are optimized for all devices.

If an email isn’t optimized correctly, the user experience can be pretty frustrating. Text appears much smaller on the screen, requiring the recipient to pinch and zoom to read the message. Images also end up getting cut off from the body of the email.

These mistakes can be costly!

In the digital age, when attention is fleeting and competition fierce, a poorly rendered email is all the excuse someone needs to send your mail to trash. After all that hard work producing the perfect email, ensuring people can easily read what you’ve sent them just makes sense.

Email marketing platforms like MailChimp allow you to create mobile-responsive emails, with one design specific for desktop, and an adapted design for mobile that has font sizes, column layouts, and buttons adapted specifically for smartphones.

mailchimp-responsive-email
Optimize email campaigns for mobile screens

The results are significant: mobile-responsive templates increased click-through rates by up to 15%, according to MailChimp’s data. Check out their guide to smart mobile-responsive email design for more tips.

Types of hotel email marketing campaigns

As well as mastering the structure of emails, it’s also important to devise a content plan. This is where you decide what types of email to send throughout the year to keep your hotel top of mind with new and existing guests.

While there are countless options, here are 4 types of email that can play a strategic role in your marketing efforts.

1. Special offers and promotions

This is already quite common in hotel marketing, but some hotels make the mistake by running offers too frequently or during a busy time of the year when many marketing messages get lost.

It’s about striking a balance and mixing the approach. If people receive similar offers every email, the sense of exclusivity will quickly fade and those “special deals” will seem that bit less special.

Seasonal promotions at strategic points in the year can obviously be beneficial, like this Valentine’s Day offer by Best Western. On a prime day of the year for hotel bookings, a well-timed email coupled with an attractive offer can entice bookings.

best-western-valentines-promo

But it’s important to compare yourself with the competition and market to your strengths. For instance, Best Western know that value for money is one of their key selling points, so they focus their email purely on price.

Of course sometimes, offer-based emails require a little more creativity. Outside of seasonal events, email promotions can be run to boost bookings at quieter times, like this offer by the four-star St Michael’s in Falmouth.

st-michaels-falmouth-promo-email

Without a specific event to promote, the copy has to work harder to persuade potential guests as to why they should stay with two specific offers and a clear focus on unique selling points.

2. Personalized guest experiences

According to the latest figures, only 8% of companies in the vacation/hotel/leisure industry use advanced segmentation to send out targeted emails, which represents a missed opportunity.

While general email offers certainly have their place, it pays to mix them up with personalized offers based on certain amenities or exclusive experiences tailored to the specific interests of different customers.

It’s a strategy that can be especially effective when using past guest data. For instance, if a guest dined at a hotel’s upscale restaurant and charged the bill to their room, that same hotel could use the information to incentivize future bookings.

For example, if there was upcoming gourmet food festival happening in the city, an email could be sent to that guest with a personalized package offer that combined a hotel stay with festival tickets or perks such as exclusive access to VIP areas.

3. Requests for reviews

Sending a personalized thank you email to guests after their stay is a great way to show you value their business. But it’s also the perfect chance to ask for a review.

As well as gaining valuable insights to improve service levels, reviews can help you build a strong online reputation. And they’re also great for SEO.

Using email for review requests can be done in a number of ways. You could aim for an instant snapshot of the guest experience with a simple one-click survey, like this example by Hilton Hotels.

hilton-guest-survey

Designed for minimal effort on the part of the guest, this approach is all about encouraging a high quantity of customer feedback.

Of course, reviews can go much further. Radisson Blu automatically sends a survey asking guests for feedback after their stay. But crucially, they also include an additional page near the end of the survey asking for a review on TripAdvisor. This approach is a smart way of getting extra feedback on the highly influential review site.

radisson-blu-email-survey

4. Abandoned booking offer

According to a report released by Boxever and Skift, abandonment rates in the travel industry are a hefty 81%. This represents a huge loss of potential revenue.

But an enticing follow-up email can help win back those lost customers and tempt them back to complete the booking.

Speed matters. A study by SaleCycle revealed the most effective abandonment emails are sent out within 20 minutes after a cart has been left.  These emails are short and sweet, making the incomplete booking simple to finish.

le-parc-suite-email-offer

This example from Le Parc Suite Hotel briefly reiterates key selling points. But crucially, it also features a clearly displayed “Book Now” button as well as two additional links, one of which takes the guest straight back to their originally selected dates.

Testing and retesting

When an email is crafted in just the right way, delivered at just the right time and optimized for the device it’s being accessed on, it stands the best chance possible of getting a response.

Very often, this requires experimentation. Conducting regular A/B email split tests in your email marketing can be hugely beneficial to help refine your approach. Sample different headlines and photos, change the color of your call-to-action buttons, and try out different offers. Just be sure to only test one element at a time, however, so you can actually measure its effectiveness.

It’s also important to consider specific industry trends. In the hospitality sector, the growth of mobile and an increasing demand for personalized experiences are two defining trends right now that hoteliers need to account for.

When these various elements are considered and implemented consistently throughout the year, email marketing can make a hugely influential impact on hotel conversion rates.

Nancy Huang

Nancy Huang

Nancy is the Marketing Director at Travel Tripper and expert in strategic communication, brand development, and content marketing. She is an admitted travel junkie and loves finding amazing hotel deals when booking direct. Contact her at nancy@traveltripper.com.

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