Complete Guide to Hotel Email Marketing

Ever since its onset, emails have been an evergreen marketing strategy for any business. As it’s the most direct and effective way of cultivating relationships with your leads and customers (For hotels, it would mean guests).

Though seems simple and easy; email marketing is really a vast topic.

In this blog, I’m sharing a complete guide to hotel email marketing. It includes:

What is email marketing?

Putting it in simple words, email marketing is the art of using emails to promote your products or services.

Moving on to a broader definition, it is all about using emails (promotional or transactional) to cultivate relationships with prospects, and keep current customers updated on your brand.

So, email marketing for hotels would mean; nurturing your booking inquiries to confirm bookings and engaging with your existing (and past) guests to keep you remembered – through emails.

Why do hotels need email marketing?

Because, 94% of internet users use email. Suffice to say, emails are the most common means of communication currently. And they’re not going to lose their charm for a long, long time to come.

Here, I’ve listed some benefits and uses of hotel email marketing.

1. To spread brand awareness

Everything aside, the primary goal of hotel email marketing is branding. You are reaching out to your email list, engaging with them and nurturing them to book with you.

Of course, not all emails may convert into bookings. But your emails will keep you in the recipients’ minds for sure. Even if they don’t choose you at the moment, they would remember you when they wish to visit again.

“The key is to have an informational approach rather than promotional.”

Share your blogs, region’s history, guided tours, recent updates, events and everything related to keep your guests informed.

Once your brand is known to provide value to guests, add promotional elements subtly – which will eventually get your readers to prefer booking with you.

2. To keep your existing and past guests engaged

Emails add a personal touch to your engagement, making your guests feel valued at every stage – from booking to even after the departure.

I’m throwing some light on how you can engage with your guests through email at each stage.

  • On booking: Effective booking confirmation emails are a great start to the guest’s journey with your property. Highlight your specials, suggest them an upgrade; and leave a memorable first impression on your guests. (READ: A guide to designing attractive booking confirmation emails)
  • Pre-arrival: Your guests would be visiting for a myriad of reasons. Address those reasons before they arrive and give them a chance to explore your region. Make them aware of what you have to offer to make their stay memorable. Do not forget to mention your pick-up and drop-off services if you’re providing them.
  • On arrival and during-the-stay: Acknowledging their check-in would showcase your agility and quick response to their arrival. Emails during their arrival and their stay can talk about the current events in and around your property and quick suggestions to improve their day.
  • On departure: Similar to their on-arrival emails, your emails on guest’s departure should include their total bill, acknowledgement of the payment; and most importantly – your gratitude for them choosing to stay with you.
  • Post departure: Emails sent after their departure play an important role in bringing your guests back at your property. Send them updates of your property regularly, birthday and anniversary wishes, offers you’re running and festival greetings.

It’s absolutely important that you focus on email marketing at all stages of a guest’s life cycle. Your hotel’s brand awareness will improve as a result.

3. To convert probable guests

Probable guests include all the booking inquiries you’ve received up till now – whether from social media or from your website or even on phone.

Cultivate a practice to collect email address, phone number and basic details from those inquiries. This will help you be in touch with those probable guests over time and have a higher chance to convert them into bookings.

Promotional emails work best for this type of recipient. They’ve already expressed an interest in booking with you. So, a little push and they may turn into a loyal customer.

4. To get higher ROI

Surprisingly, email marketing can get you the highest ROI. (Yes, even more than any other channel).

If we look at the stats, an estimated ROI of £30 can be achieved for every £1 spent with email marketing with conversion rates going 3 times higher than social media.

That is because it does not need much effort or investment to run once you’ve begun. And, if planned and executed wisely, email marketing can definitely give you desired results.

In addition to all of this, email marketing for hotels is a powerful medium to communicate with guests and keep them interested in their property.

How to start email marketing for your hotel?

Email marketing includes a lot of elements; small yet important to get it up and running for any business. You miss one element, and you won’t get desired results.

So, here, I’m listing a few mandatory requirements to kick start your hotel email marketing.

PREREQUISITE: Subscriber’s box

Ask yourself a question. What’s required to send emails?

Email addresses. Obvious.

And where will you get those email addresses from?

Yeah, you have email addresses of your past guests and maybe those of your upcoming guests as well. But do you want to limit it to just that? That’s why, the first requirement for email marketing is a subscriber box.

If you don’t have a website, collect email addresses from inquiries coming through phone, social media and even in the guest registration cards when guests are checking in.

Step 1: Build a list

Before you start sending out emails, you need to build a strong list of contacts (emails).

That sounds easy, sure; but how do you actually create a great email list?

Start with your subscribers and guests. Secondly, filter your email list regularly (say every 3-4 months). This will ensure that your emails are sent to relevant audiences, and limit your spam or unsubscribe ratio.

Use metrics like open rates, bounce rates, and engagement to filter your list (more explained later).

I’d recommend NOT TO DELETE those contacts. You can remove them from your email list, but do keep them in your contact list so that you can engage with them through a different channel.

Step 2: Segment your list

Your current list must be having emails of your existing guests, new ones, subscribers, booking inquiries and many more.

But, one thing to consider in your hotel email marketing is – you cannot (and should not) send the same emails to different kinds of audiences. Because all of them are signed up with you for different reasons. Few may be on the verge of booking, others may be considering your competitors; while the rest of them would be just exploring.

That’s why, segmenting your list is a must.

You can have the following segments:

  • Domestic and international travelers
  • Luxury and business travelers
  • Preferences
  • Frequency and duration of visits
  • Deals and specials signups
  • Guests who have cancelled a booking

Once you have the segments ready, it becomes easy for you to send relevant emails.

Step 3: Choose an email marketing tool

If you want to send emails to a lot of people at once, then an email marketing tool is the best way to do that. These tools have gained quite a fame in the past years. They’re extremely easy to use, are reasonable; and some of them even have a free plan which suits small to mid sized businesses.

Here’s a list of few email marketing tools you can use:

  • Mailchimp
  • Sendgrid
  • Campaign Monitor
  • Aweber

Most of these tools also help you schedule your emails and even help in segmenting your list effectively. If you don’t have that big of an email list, you can start with GMass or MailMerge to send bulk emails from your GMail account.

Step 4: Ensure that your emails are branded

Do keep this in mind for ANY email you send out.

Your emails should tell the recipients about you. They should be able to identify with the sender and connect with the email.

So, do not forget to add your logo, your property’s name and address and reply-to email in your emails. Keep them added in your templates, so that you don’t miss them.

Step 5: Have a landing page

If I have to explain in simple words, a landing page is a web page that is created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign. It’s the page where visitors ‘land’ after they click on a link in an email, ads, social media, or anywhere else. The landing page is supposed to convert your visitors to leads – with information presented in a precise way to get the visitors to fill a form.

Here, for hotels, the landing page can be their booking page. If you want your visitors to book with you, your booking page should be attractive and engaging enough to make the booking or at least, make an inquiry.

Your promotional emails must include a link to your landing page (booking page or contact us page). For other types of emails, you can share relevant links which can be your homepage, your blogs, amenities, hosted events and such likes.
ADD ON: Try to expand your email list

This is something which can be done after your hotel email marketing is all set and running.

Try expanding your email list apart from your guests and subscribers. Consider getting email addresses of guests booking through OTAs, run ads, try getting inquiries if not bookings. This will definitely build your email list, and give you a quality audience.

Now that you know where to start email marketing for your property, let me share the type of emails hotels can send.

What types of emails can hotels send?

Well, if I have to say, then there’s nothing as versatile as emails. They have the power to make or break your brand’s image. There are promotional emails, educational emails, announcements, updates, and so many which you can explore.

For hotels though, these types of emails would be most beneficial.

1. Promotional emails

Emails are the most effective way of letting people know about the special offers, discounts and promotions running at your property.

These emails usually convey a sense of urgency, and focus on the benefits and inclusions of your promotions.

You can combine such emails with festive days like Valentine’s day, Mother’s day; as well as your regional festivals. You’d know best when people visit your property, so make the most of that knowledge.

2. Highlighter emails

While most of your emails would highlight something or the other, send these types of emails where you can remind people about your beautiful location, local gourmet food and experiences, services and amenities. You can also add about local attractions, seasonal delights if there are any.

Besides this, these emails can mention your newly added services or amenities at your property which can help the readers know what to expect when they visit your property anytime.

Besides, you can even couple this information with offers before the holidays. This will make your guests excited to visit your hotel.

3. Event emails

Use emails to tell your audience the different kinds of events that will take place at your property – festivals celebrations, parties, conferences, seminars or some fun workshops.

In addition, do keep a tab on global and local events happening in your city like Tomorrowland, La Tomatina. You can then highlight these events, past year’s pictures and other details in your emails.

Later on, subtly ask them to book their stay with your hotel, if they are planning to be a part of such an event.

4. Festival greeting emails

Make a list of important festivals in your region and mark them on your calendar. Now, it is NOT mandatory to combine a deal or offer in your festival greeting emails. They can be simple – sharing only happy thoughts and wishes.

Schedule such emails beforehand, so that you don’t miss these opportunities. Showcase your property’s festive decors, celebrations happening if any; give them an idea of your property’s environment during these festivals.

These greeting emails also include birthday and anniversary wishes for your guests. This is a great way to make them feel valued and special.

5. Loyalty program (Reward) emails

Now, loyalty programs are a powerful tool to increase your repeat customers and increase brand value. Add email marketing to that, and you’d rule at running those programs.

If you have segmented your existing (past) guests well, then you can easily send them emails about your loyalty programs. Mention about your program, its benefits and how they can enroll for that. Do not forget how they can redeem their reward points, and how much can they save once they enroll.

You need to build really attractive loyalty programs to have your guests join in, and equally attractive emails to go for it.

6. Feedback collection emails

This is probably the most important email for hotels. You’ve welcomed your guests, provided them a great experience and now it’s time to get feedback on that stay and service

Keep your emails simple with a mention of gratitude for staying with you, and welcoming them again at your property. Such emails can either include a quick survey or a link to your TripAdvisor, OTA or social media profiles where they can leave you a review.

7. Emails for abandoned bookings

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

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

Here, timing matters. A study by SaleCycle revealed that the most effective abandonment emails are sent out within 20 minutes after a cart has been left.

These emails should be short and to-the-point, influencing the visitor to finish the booking. You can send them an offer, a coupon code or a discount on the booking itself, or on an in-house extra such as a spa treatment, free room service, or a meal in your hotel’s restaurant.

So, these are a few types of emails you can include in your hotel email marketing. Do note that these are not the same as the pre-arrival, on-arrival and during-the-stay emails we talked about previously. These topics are PURELY to improve your branding and nurture your guests.

Now, we’ve seen how to start email marketing for your hotel, and what kind of topics you can cover. Let’s move on to the MOST important aspect – writing effective emails.

How to write effective emails for your hotel’s email marketing?

Gone are the days, when the guest experience used to begin at your hotel premises. These days, tech-savvy guests (READ: Modern) observe every single detail. Be it the booking confirmation email that you’ve sent, or even the feedback email – YOU HAVE TO NAIL THEM.

“55% of hotel guests are willing to receive personalized offers or promotions in exchange for personal details.” Oracle

Let’s see how you can write good emails.

Step 1: Choose your audience

The very first step is to choose the audience you want to send emails to. Understand their purpose of subscribing with you. Think about what they would like to receive from you.

Your audience selection will help you further decide the topic of your email campaign.

So, choose your audience wisely.

Step 2: Select an email topic

Once your audience is finalized, start thinking about what they’d like to hear from you. Would they like to hear about your promotions, or new additions to your property? Or would they be interested in an event you’re hosting?

Ask yourself – why do you want to send an email?

  • To promote your festive offer
  • For upselling your new amenities
  • To acquire more bookings in your weak season
  • To share about an event

Or it can be anything from the topics I mentioned in the previous section. It is not necessary that your email should focus on any one topic. You can combine multiple topics (yet relevant ones), and ensure that each of the topics is given equal importance in your email.

Step 3: Have an attractive subject line

There’s a reason emails have gained popularity over the years. They reach right in your recipient’s inbox, and almost everyone checks their emails every day.

But while it is important to stay in touch with your customers through emails, it’s MORE important to get those emails opened. And your email’s subject line is the first thing recipients will read.

Your subject line is the deciding factor of your email’s success.

How to create subject lines that get your emails opened?

  • Keep it short. The subject lines of 60 characters are visible on desktop and upto 25-30 characters are visible on mobile. So, the shorter, the better!
  • Personalization is a must. It improves your open rate by 82% (SaleCycle). Make sure that you emphasize more on such emails.
  • Generate curiosity through your subject lines. Ask questions.
  • Use the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) approach.
  • Include proof of concept – numbers that your guests would like to know.
  • Avoid using spammy words like FREE, OFFER and so on.

    If you are using an email marketing tool, a few of them will have an option of adding a preview text. The preview text is the text visible under your subject line. It is most useful for people reading emails from their mobile phones.

Step 4: Write proper content

A non-negotiable aspect – write proper, attractive and effective content in your emails. Your content should connect with your subject line and your purpose of sending that email.

When you create your email content, you HAVE TO consider following things;

  • Grab your audience’s attention from the very beginning
  • Keep the interest and engagement consistent throughout the email
  • End your email with a quick but compelling call to action (CTA).

Keep the purpose and goal of your email in mind, and ensure that it is met in your content.

Step 5: Add images for engagement

Do not forget to share beautiful images of your hotel, landscape, and amenities. The visuals impact your readers to a great extent.

“The average person remembers 80% of what they see and only 20% of what they read.” Medium

If the email topic is not connected to your hotel’s pictures, then add a generalized image reflecting the topic of your email. There are various sites online where you can find versatile images free-of-cost such as pexels, pixabay, unsplash, and more.

So, this was all about how you can write good emails.

Now, you’ve got all the elements ready to start your hotel email marketing. This would be a good time to consider a few important parameters while creating your email campaigns.

Email marketing checklist

Every email should be sent with utmost care. But I’ve seen and made my fair share of misses and mistakes in emails over the past years I’ve worked in eZee.

So, I am providing you an email marketing checklist which will help you ensure that you don’t make any mistakes and your emails are well received.

1. Timings of emails

While the “what” and “why” of sending emails is crucial, the “when” just cannot be ignored. You need to be very cautious about WHEN you are sending your emails.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while deciding your email timings.

  • Which day of the week?
    For instance, Mondays are generally busy for your receivers, and on weekends they would hardly glance at their emails. So, choose any day between Tuesday – Friday.
  • What time of the day?
    Avoid working hours when you send emails. You can try sending them during lunch time, but the best time would be in the morning or in the evening – before and after the working hours.

Do consider the timezone for your international guests. You don’t want to send them emails at an awkward hour.

2. Keep a check on recipients and sender

I know you must have an audience in mind while planning an email campaign. Make sure that you have selected the same audience when you’re about to send your email.

Similarly, your email’s sender is absolutely paramount. Your emails should be sent from your hotel’s official email address. This would make them look authentic and affect your email open rates. The email address can be your manager’s, your own, or even a generalized one (Example:

3. Add personalization

Personalization would mean – addressing the recipients by their names, adding variables like their preferences, their nationality, and other details depending on your email content. Such additions will make them connect with your email in a finer way.

“If we go by the facts, personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14%. “Demand Gen Report

That being said, with personalized emails, you’re increasing the likelihood of your readers engaging with your emails.

So, consider this factor a powerful one.

4. Avoid spamming

Oh, the most essential aspect of email marketing. As easy or straightforward email marketing sounds, it all comes down under the spam test.

Sure, you get to reach your audience’s inbox directly, but if your email content or the subject line has any spam element in it, all your efforts will go in vain.

few examples of spam words you can avoid are:

  • FREE
  • 50% OFF
  • Congratulations!
  • Compare rates
  • Save big bucks
  • Full refund
  • No hidden fees
  • This isn’t spam
  • Deal
  • The best rates

You can check out the full list here.

Avoid such words at all costs to send your emails in the inbox rather than spam.

5. Frequency of emails

Your frequency of sending emails has a significant impact on your hotel email marketing’s success.

When you plan out all the emails beforehand, you can be sure that you are sending emails at right intervals.

A hotel is not a news publication, and nobody wants or is expecting a daily or weekly tap on the shoulder from you.

A monthly or even a fortnightly schedule is fine, unless you have something exciting to share. Never skip more than one month, as some people may forget that they signed up for your newsletter; and may not engage with your emails further.

Remember: Not too often. Not too late.

6. Test your emails before sending them

The last, and most important part of your email marketing checklist – TESTING.

It is always better to test your email before sending out the final copy. Send it to yourself and your team, and check the following things:

  • Grammar and spelling errors
  • Broken links
  • CTAs
  • Overall look and feel
  • Responsiveness of your email
  • The subject line

Testing your emails would help you ensure that you’re sending the right and proper content to your audience. If you leave any mistake in your emails, it will affect your brand value at a large extent.

Now that your email marketing is up and running, you’d like to see how your emails are performing. So, I’ll guide you on how to analyse your email marketing’s success.

How to analyse email marketing?

You’re investing a lot of effort and time in hotel email marketing. So, certainly, it is vital to analyse how it’s doing.

But the email marketing stats often overwhelm us and we get confused as to what actually makes sense. So, I’m listing down a few email marketing metrics that would help you to measure your performance.

1. Open rates

Your open rate is the percentage of your recipients who opened your email. This metric lets you know how many people find your email useful, and how many people are actually wishing to read your email.

“The better your subject lines, the higher your open rates.”

Additionally, the sender of your email would also affect your open rates. If people know that it’s sent as a generalized marketing email, then they may not open it.

Do consider unique open rates, rather than total open rates. Total open rates also include the email being opened again and again in case of a group email. Whereas, unique open rates give a unique count of people engaging with your email.

2. Click-through rate (CTR)

Your click-through rate is the percentage of email recipients who clicked on a link inside your email. Most of the time, getting your subscribers to click on a link inside your email will be the main goal of your campaign, so this is an important metric to measure.

“Click-through rate: Total Clicks * 100 / Emails Delivered”

DO NOT confuse this with the click rate which calculates the number of times your recipients clicked a link in your email against the number who opened the email.

Generally, your clickthrough rate is dependent on the following factors:

  • The anchor text on the link
  • Location of the link in your email body
  • No. of links in your email

This metric denotes the engagement ratio of your recipients with your email. The higher your CTR, the more attractive your emails are. Which is how you know that you’re hitting the bull’s eye.

3. Unsubscribe rate

Your unsubscribe rate is the percentage of your email recipients who unsubscribed with you through the current email.

“Unsubcribe rate = Total Unsubscribers * 100 / Emails Delivered”

There are many factors that can affect your unsubscribe rate. Unengaging emails, misleading content and subject lines, unknown sender, infrequent emails are a few of them.

Limit your unsubscribes by keeping the above factors in mind.

4. Bounce rate

Your bounce rate is the percentage of undelivered emails out of total emails sent. Basically, the higher your bounce rate, the more unengaged your recipients are.

“Bounce is of 2 types – hard bounce and soft bounce.”

Hard bounce means that either the email is invalid or it does not exist. Whereas, soft bounce would mean that the recipient’s mailbox is full or the email server is temporarily unavailable.

You should worry about hard bounces in your email marketing. If the hard bounce count is high, it means you NEED to filter your email list ASAP and validate those emails.

5. Conversion rate/Responses

The conversion rate is the percentage of email recipients who performed the action and met the purpose of your email.

If you wanted a booking, then the action would be a booking; if you wanted a website visit, then that would be your action.

“Conversion rate: Total Conversions * 100 / Emails Delivered”

This metric lets you know how conversion-friendly your email was, and the level of engagement it had with your recipients. In such cases, you also have to ensure that your website or landing page is equally optimized for conversions.

This metrics can reveal what you did right, which areas need improvement and which type of content performs the best.

Now, if you have good click-through rates but no conversions, it means your target page is not converting well. Whereas, if you have good opens, but low CTR; it means your CTA is not compelling your recipients.

Once you know what works, you can tailor your content accordingly, try to overcome the drawbacks, and improve the results.

That was all you needed to know to begin your hotel email marketing. I’m also covering some frequently asked questions to resolve any doubts you may have.