A Comprehensive Guide to Effective Email Marketing For Hotels

Catriona Ward
19th Apr 24 . Catriona Ward . Hospitality

The Importance of Email Marketing in Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Email marketing, like many aspects of digital marketing, plays a pivotal part in your overall marketing strategy. Over 320 million emails are sent per day across the globe, and with 1 billion users, email is not going anywhere. Although it’s been around for decades, email marketing is evolving and, with Google’s announcement of the scrapping of 3rd party cookies, inbound marketing is set to become even more critical in reaching your audience. An effective and fine-tuned email marketing strategy has never been more important than it will become this year.

At its core, email marketing is based on trust - your sign-ups are trusting you with direct access to their inbox, trusting that you’ll deliver them content that’s relevant to them, high quality, and just the right frequency. You can use email marketing to build bonds and forge connections that will take the user from email onto other digital marketing channels for the relationship to continue to flourish elsewhere.

Still trying to figure out where to start? Read on for all the information you need from segmentation to design to ensure your email marketing is checking all the boxes and landing in the right inboxes, at the right time. And, don’t forget, we’re on hand to discuss your options if you’re interested in email marketing for your business.

Finding Your Audience

Segmentation in Email Marketing

The process of segmentation means splitting your contacts up in your CRM, or on your lists, into other groups depending on several factors. Age, location, demographic, engagement level and previous booking behaviours should determine a segmentation group. How you segment your groups is completely up to your business and your goals, and can be customised as much as you would like. Segmenting your contacts allows you to target specific people with special offers, post-stay content and more, meaning you will have a direct line of inbound marketing to those contacts. For example, say you had a guest stay for their anniversary, if you have the data, you can send another email to remind them that the date is coming up again and encourage them to book a room. This can easily be set up with automation, which we will touch on later.

Regardless, segmentation should not be missed for more effective targeting. This not only delivers the right content to the right people but ensures your click-through rate and authenticity do not suffer from spam reports or mass unsubscribing. To allow for some testing, try splitting your contacts into two or three simple groups, by age or location for example, and see what the results are. Did you see an increased open-rate, or did more users click through to your site from your CTA? It’s all about experimenting to see what your audience responds to in a positive way.

To allow for better segmentation, consider adding more fields to your email sign-up forms and using drop-downs for options instead of text boxes that may contain typos, meaning you will lose that data when segmenting. An easy way to segment your hotel guests is to offer them what lists they would like to sign up to. If you have a restaurant, spa and a golf course at your resort, you could include checkboxes to allow users to sign up to different newsletter lists e.g. hotel, dining, spa, and golf.

Building an Effective Email Marketing Strategy

Defining Your Goals

As with any marketing strategy, the initial step is to decide what your goal is. Is it more bookings, better brand awareness, or brand health? Whatever your goals are, they must be set before you can consider the planning stage of your email marketing. You’re trying to tell a story as a brand, and what story is complete without an ending? Your ultimate goal is your happily-ever-after in email, so sit down, hash it out, and make sure you have clear goals for your campaign.

Choosing the Right Email Marketing Platform

There are many, many options out there for your email marketing campaigns. From MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, ConstantContact, and HubSpot, there are plenty of options to forge your space in email marketing. We always recommend you choose a platform with CRM integrations alongside your Email Service Provider (ESP). Not only does this mean you can segment much easier, but it also allows you to keep your lists clear, clean and compliant. We recommend our partner, ForSight, as not only do they have CRM management but their email marketing tool, For-Email is very user-friendly with all the tools you need to take your email marketing by the horns.

With your goals in mind, research the ESP before committing to ensure they align with your goals, can present accurate data on your KPIs, and have all the features important to your campaign.

Delivery and Permissions

Deliverability is the likelihood that your email is going to be delivered to a subscribed email address. Your deliverability in email marketing should be as high as possible, with no outstanding issues to ensure that your email makes it into as many inboxes as possible. You might find that, even with perfect deliverability, your emails may hard bounce or soft bounce. Hard bounces indicate that the mailbox is no longer in use and these should be auto-cleansed from your lists each month by your ESP. Soft bounces, however, are temporary and are affected by WiFi/data connections, and other elements related to the user.

Sender Reputation

Sender reputation is a score that your Inbox Server Provider (or ISP) assigns to your organisation based on the emails it receives from your brand. The higher the score, the more likely your email will be delivered, and the more people will see it. The impact of sender reputation can be impacted by several things, such as:

  • The frequency with which you send emails and how many per month
  • The number of emails that hard bounce
  • The level of negative interactions your email receives, whether that be unsubscribes or marked as spam
  • The amount of positive engagement, such as clicks, opens and replies
  • Whether your company’s domain is listed on impactful block sites meaning your emails will automatically land in the spam/junk folder for some users

Having excellent deliverability will not only help with clicks and opens, but will also help your campaigns continue to grow, alongside an up-to-date DMARC record.

DMARC Records

In simple terms, your DMARC record is essentially a layer of security for your email domain. It helps prevent phishing attempts, increases deliverability scores and builds trust with receiving mail servers. Having active DMARC records lets users, and their mail providers, know that you’re a legit sender for your brand which can, in turn, help prevent your email from landing in spam. DMARC records can also provide insights into your domain, alerting you of anyone else attempting to use it, and letting you take action to gain back control of your trust.

Brands should always ensure they have a DMARC record alongside their email domain to prevent any issues with their campaigns.

Permissions - Implied vs Explicit

All your email contacts must provide consent in some form when subscribing to your marketing emails. Whether this comes from a checkbox under a booking confirmation, contact form, or directly from a sign-up component on your website, the permission must be recorded for the user to receive your emails. When a user opts-in and permits you to contact them for marketing purposes, they are offering you trust as a brand. Trust that you won’t abuse the power, inundate their inbox with spam messages and protect their information at all times.

There are two types of consent in email marketing; explicit and implied. Implied is when the user gives you information to contact them for a business purpose, such as a room itinerary or reminder of a booking. Often booking engines will have a pre-checked box for marketing purposes that, if not unchecked, will opt in the user for marketing. This isn’t compliant and may often lead to more unsubscribes or spam complaints than normal. A way to combat this is through double opt-in, or explicit consent.

Explicit permission, or consent, is when you directly ask to send marketing material to an inbox and it is agreed upon. Further to this, double-opt-in should be confirmed as best industry practice. This entails contacting implied consent users to confirm the permission before you add them to your email campaign lists. Remember to keep in mind that consent may expire.

Like when handling any user data, GDPR should be complied with at all times, giving the user the option to opt out, withdraw their information or request their information at will. Failure to comply with GDPR can result in hefty fines for the brand as well as affecting your sender authenticity and reputation.

Creating High Performing Email Campaigns

Utilising Personalisation and Automation

Never undervalue the importance of a friendly greeting - in a real-life scenario or in your newsletters. If your ESP allows this personalisation to be set up, it might be a good move for your brand. Personalisation can be a powerful tool for engaging with your contacts individually and at scale. Not only does it make the reader feel more included but having a simple line such as “Hello Tom,” is a fantastic way to gain more engagement. By this we mean, users are much more likely to open an email if it’s addressed to them and take action from the email such as clicking links. Personalisation creates a feeling of familiarity and relevance, making the email feel like it was created with the specific user in mind - which, sometimes, it might. This brings us to automation.

There are several advantages to automation, one of which is time. Within your ESP, you can set up workflows to automatically trigger certain emails to specific users or lists after an event has taken place. For example, say a guest has just booked a table for Christmas Eve at your hotel’s restaurant. With automation, you can send them an email after their table booking has been confirmed with information on your rooms, offers or events. Sending timely, relevant emails at these critical moments keeps your brand top-of-mind and guides users towards some sort of action.

There are many ways in which you can use automation in your email strategy, so align your automation with your goals and see improved engagement and conversion with this powerful tool. Another popular automation is offering a birthday gift. Simply capturing the user’s date of birth at the point of sign up will allow you to create a trigger to send a special offer at each birthday.

The Impact of Design

The look of your email may have a big impact on its performance, affecting metrics such as open rate and click-through rate so this important aspect shouldn’t be overlooked. Essentially, email design is the cover of your book so it should reflect what readers can expect inside and also align with your brand identity. This means elements like brand colours, style and typography should be carried over to your email campaigns. Not only does this add to the overall story your brand is telling but it also will help your email stand out to those already familiar with your brand. The goal of your design is to support your overall message with consistent brand messaging. Keep in mind things like where did your email user come from, and where are they going next? If it’s to your website, do the brand colours, font and style all match? For a smooth user experience, and to encourage conversions to other channels, these things should be kept in mind when designing your email templates.

Alongside branding, attention should be focused on the overall aesthetics of your templates. The design should be easy to manoeuvre but stimulating and attractive to a user. Consider designing it for its purpose. For example, do you wish for users to browse rooms, and facilities and then book a stay? If so, consider using eye-tracking patterns such as zig-zag and column depending on your needs. Consider using contrasting colours of elements to make specific parts stand out such as offers or your call-to-action (CTA) buttons.

For a better user experience, use images under 200 kilobytes and include alt text on all your assets to aid in accessibility. In addition, ensure you use descriptive hyperlinks on your buttons instead of just “Click Here”. Telling the user where they are going gives them an idea of what they can expect and can help with conversions to the website.

Optimising For Mobile

During your design phase, ensure you’re considering the experience of the reader from all devices. Your ESP will most likely have an option for previewing, or testing, in different device modes to permit this. According to Drip, a staggering 46% of all email users access their inbox through mobile devices so optimising for mobile should not be overlooked. In your design, consider image and text sizing as well as components. Your ESP may have options to remove certain sections for mobile to improve the overall look and help the email load quicker. Make sure you’re familiar with all the capabilities of your ESP to allow for customisation between devices.

Email Copy - Perfecting Your Storytelling

Copy in email marketing is all about being enticing, evocative, and encouraging action. Like other digital channels, it involves an aspect of story-telling. As much as you are trying to sell your hotel experience, avoid copy that sells only. This can often be off-putting to users and may result in a higher unsubscribe rate which, in turn, affects your deliverability. Copy should be thoughtful, and deliberate and add to your overall message.

Persuasive copy should be the focus of your copywriting for your hotel marketing campaign. This style of writing takes away the often off-putting sales aspect of your writing and instead gently encourages the reader to take action based on the image your persuasive writing sweeps them up in. For hotels, this often means using descriptive imagery that paints a picture of the experience guests can expect at your property. Focus on things like location, scenery, seasonal aspects and the atmosphere of your hotel. As an example, consider the below two pieces of copy - one focuses on info-dumping and more product-focused copy and the other on persuasive writing:

Which one do you think a reader is going to be more interested in? Although both have their functions - the top one might work for a paid social campaign, for example - the second option is going to help immerse the reader in your email and add to the story of your business that you’re trying to tell them. With consistent persuasive language that includes the reader, showing and not telling them what you can offer, you can create a narrative for your email campaigns that will help with engagement and conversions to your website.

Subject Lines and Preview text

Your subject line is the hook into your email and is, arguably, the most important part of your newsletter. Alongside preview text, these sections must grab the user's attention and encourage them to open your email. Your subject line should be short and sweet, about 30 characters at the most and should urge the reader to open the email, whether that’s through a direct action prompt like “Open for your summer stay” or something less direct like “A special offer, just for you”  Your preview text should be around 140 characters and can include an emoji, but keep in mind that not all email providers and/or devices will display it correctly. You should avoid repeating a word in your subject line and preview text and stay away from exclamation points and question marks.

A/B Testing, Timings and Optimising

Identifying Patterns with Testing

As with any digital channel, A/B testing factors into email marketing in a big way. Testing different subject lines, CTAs, assets or copy can give you valuable insights into the style your audience prefers, the action verbs that make them convert or the things that turn them off to your email. Below are some key variables you can test in your emails to gain insights into what your audience likes to see from you and what performs well. Remember, for clear results, only test one variable at a time:

In addition, consider testing different email content to different groups. For example, do you have a list of guests who booked a spa session? Consider sending them an email on a dining offer or overnight stay package to see how that audience, who are interested in spa, may respond to a dining or accommodation offer. This testing can be so helpful in finding out which lists, or which content, performs well.

Experiment with Send Times

Another aspect that you can experiment with is the timings of your emails. According to HubSpot, the best day to send an email campaign is Tuesday, at 10 am or 1 pm - times when people typically arrive at work or are on their lunch break. However, this may vary depending on your target audience so experiment with the timings and see if you can find a pattern that you can use going forward for more opens and an improved click-through rate.

This may also apply to your automated workflow emails. Consider how long after a signup or booking you send a follow-up email with offers or information on your facilities. This could be crucial to getting the user into the conversion funnel at the right time.

How We Can Help

So there you have it - everything you need to know about email marketing to see continued growth from this channel. If you need an expert touch for your inbound marketing, we can help. As a team of dedicated digital experts, we know hotels. Get in touch and chat with us about our services and how we can help you elevate your email marketing.

Case studies

Our portfolio speaks for itself; whatever the objective, we work as an extension of your team to optimise your website, and get your business found in search engines.

Cut through the noise and
make your mark.