Email marketing is an essential tool for hotels. It does, however, involve a range of elements that can take some time to get right. The intention of any email marketing campaign is to engage the customer at multiple touchpoints throughout their journey. For hotel businesses, this includes everything from targeted package promotions to prearrival offers to post-stay surveys and reviews.
Successful email marketing is characterized by high deliverability rates. Technically speaking, this means that the right people receive your emails directly to their inboxes. It also refers to ensuring your customers and prospects engage with you in response to your emails. Getting all this right takes constant auditing, testing and improving to make email campaigns work harder for your business.
These five best practices will set hotel owners and hospitality companies on the right path to ensuring better email deliverability.
1. Optimize Your Recipient List
Your recipient list is key to improving your email deliverability. How you create and maintain that list is crucial. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that it stays in good shape.
Collect your own subscribers: You should never rely solely on third-party lists. These purchased recipient lists may contain information you’ll want to avoid, like unverified email addresses. Emailing these unverified addresses can result in spam complaints or spam trap hits—both of which will do your deliverability rate more harm than good. Rather than just buying contacts, try allocating resources toward building an organic recipient list using first-party data.
Ask people to opt in: An explicit opt-in request confirms the subscriber’s intent to join your recipient list. A double opt-in is worth doing when collecting email subscribers because it reduces the likelihood of adding fake email addresses to your list.
Say hello: A warm welcome email gets a new relationship off to a great start. It acknowledges the subscriber and shows that he or she is valued. It’s a simple thing to do, yet it can significantly increase engagement rates for future email campaigns.
Segment your recipients: A surprising number of businesses still don’t segment their recipient list. Segmentation is pure common sense. You don’t, for example, want to send a budget accommodation offer to your high-net-worth guests. All your recipients should not receive the same email because they all represent different demographics, buying preferences and purchase history. At the very least, start by segmenting your list according to those factors.
Clean up your mailing list: If some recipients have been inactive for a while, don’t keep bombarding them with emails. If you’ve had no engagement after roughly 10 emails, then it’s time to re-engage or remove these inactive recipients. A re-engagement campaign is worth trying first. Let the recipients know that you plan to remove them from your recipient list unless they are still interested in hearing from you. If that doesn’t get any reaction, then it’s best to remove them. You don’t want to run the risk of spamming people.
Make the unsubscription process easy: When subscribers know they can unsubscribe easily, they’re more likely to hang around. As soon as they feel trapped or manipulated, they hit the spam button. The number of unsubscribes is a far more useful campaign metric than spam complaints. The latter negatively impacts deliverability without helping you build a better email campaign.
2. Create Engaging Content
Once your recipient list is clean and tidy, you need to work on content creation. What message is your email campaign going to focus on? Every aspect of the email, including subject line, email text, URLs and email header, has a huge impact on its deliverability. In addition to being creative and ensuring correct personalization, here’s what you need to focus on.
The subject line: This needs to be really simple—but relevant. It has to sum up the main message of your email with a call to action. Make sure your subject line is consistent with the main body of the email.
Spam words: Avoid spam words in the subject line or the body of the email. Using phrases like ‘Buy one get one free!’ will only damage your email deliverability. A spam-checker tool like Spam Assassin can help you check the content before you hit send.
Clean HTML: Using clean HTML ensures that your email is accessible across different devices. No matter how confident you may feel, do some A/B testing to check for any glitches before you send your email out—and fix any errors quickly.
3. Test. Test. Test
Timing can be tricky. If you send too many emails back to back, the sudden spike in volume can cause deliverability issues like rejections, unsubscribes or spam traps. Try and stick to a consistent sending schedule with few, if any, deviations. If you’re communicating a particularly big campaign, time it over a few days rather than sending one sudden email burst. And pay attention to time zones if you’re targeting a global audience.
Overwhelming your recipients’ inboxes can lead to an increase in unsubscribes and spam hit rates. It invariably reduces your subscribers’ level of engagement and can cause them to switch off. You don’t want to send too many emails or too few. The best way to figure this out is to test and test some more. Create different groups or recipients and vary the time and volume of emails to see what works.
4. Metrics Matter
Don’t get too excited by a high "delivery rate." This only means that emails didn’t bounce. It doesn’t mean that they made it to the right inboxes! They could have very easily landed up in junk folders.
Marketers measure an email campaign’s success using a range of basic metrics such as open rate, click-through rate, bounce rate and complaint rate. It’s worth including more advanced metrics like spam trap hit rate and unsubscribe rate to get a more in-depth view. This information can help you build better campaigns going forward.
5. Safeguard Your Reputation
Here’s an interesting bit of information. Email service providers are far more concerned with the sender’s reputation than they are with the actual email. That’s not to say that email content doesn’t matter—of course it does, it’s just that your hotel’s online reputation carries more weight.
In other words, your reputation has a direct impact on whether your emails land up in the recipient’s inbox or junk folder. A good reputation can be undone quickly—all it takes is one bad email campaign followed by hard bounces, spam complaints and spam trap hits to negatively impact your email deliverability rate. Monitor your reputation with regular checks and always double-check an email campaign before sending it out.
Good email marketing is not just a nice-to-have. In the hotel and hospitality business, it’s a vital tool used to build positive customer engagement. It may seem challenging at first, but by following the above best practices, it will soon become second nature. What’s more, the results will be well worth the effort—a boost in email deliverability and engagement is a boost for your business.
Dietmar Burgfield is a technical account and deliverability consultant at digital integration company Celerity.