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The biggest mistakes hotels make in email marketing

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective high-ROI forms of marketing out there—at least when executed correctly. In reality, a lot of hotels hugely limit the success of their campaigns by consistently making a number of major errors.

The following post outlines some of those errors in detail, including tips on how hotels can transform their email marketing by implementing a number of proven tactics for success.

1. Not including a clear call to action

It might seem obvious, but every email you write needs to have a clear call to action. It needs to explicitly ask your customers to do something.

That might involve asking them to book a special offer, sign up for your loyalty program, or inspire them to browse sister properties in your hotel group. Without a clear call to action, you give people an easy opt-out: an invitation to read your email and then forget about it.

Importantly, you should focus emails on one primary call to action, with secondary calls to action designed to boost the primary one. For example, in this example email from Starwood, the primary call is to book a trip to one of their Italian properties. Underneath, they have provided supporting links to help the guest imagine the type of Italian getaway they would like: grand views, indulging in the Italian way of life, or enjoy Italy with family.

Starwood email promo example

2. Sending emails to everyone on your list instead of segmenting

A scatter-gun approach to email marketing will almost always bring limited results. It’s not enough to produce a generic offer and hope for the best. Your emails need to be personalized and relevant to the unique needs, interests, and preferences of different sections of your audience.

To begin with, take a look at your guest data to get a better understanding of who your audience is. You might predominantly attract families, but also attract a decent proportion of business travelers or older couples. In that case, emails can be segmented to each group by using specific perks and offers they’re most likely to find appealing.

You can also segment your list using a host of other factors, including geolocation, past spending habits, or behavior on your website. Looking at how often different people open your emails can also be helpful to devise a campaign aimed purely at re-engaging inactive users.

Email marketing companies such as MailChimp come with pre-built segments that allow you to segment different audiences based on these kind of variables, helping to create highly targeted content that stands a greater chance of delivering results.

3. Not designing for mobile devices

According to the latest figures, 54% of emails are now opened on mobile. That’s a huge number that comes with an important takeaway for hotels: to maximize the impact of your marketing, your emails have to be responsively designed.

A responsive email means the font size, column layouts and buttons will all be designed to fit both to a smartphone and desktop, offering the best possible user experience no matter what device. Instead of having to pinch the screen to zoom in on text and images, the content is seamlessly displayed for the screen the email is being viewed on.

It’s an investment worth making: according to MailChimp, responsive design can increase email click-through rates by as much as 15%. Scaled over the course of months and years, that kind of uplift can have a big impact on your bottom line.

In order to check your customers are viewing content as intended, it’s worth carrying out tests on different email clients and devices. Attention to detail like this early on can make a world of difference to the long-term success of your campaigns. Email clients like Mailchimp (shown below) allow you to preview emails in both desktop and mobile version before sending them out.

Example of mobile responsive check on Mailchimp

4. Not taking time over the subject line

Too often, the subject line of an email is considered as something of an afterthought. In reality, it’s arguably the most important part of your email. In a crowded inbox, subject lines fight for attention. And if your subject line doesn’t instantly sound interesting, your email could end up being deleted without ever being opened.

What tactics can you apply to craft a winning subject line? According to a study by Experian Marketing Services, personalized subject lines in the travel industry result in a 40.8% uplift in open rates. So by simply using the name of each person you address, your content is much more likely to be seen.

Example subject line with personalization

The subject line should also be short, specific, and have a compelling reason to be opened. Studies have also found that adding urgency into a subject line can lead to a 22% higher open rate. A subject line such as “Save 25% off room rates” can be made instantly more appealing with a specific end date. And of course, the shorter the window to act, the more compelling the offer becomes.

Subject line example with urgency

It’s also worth A/B testing different subject lines to see the impact of different variations. You can then use this data to see how things such as word choice, use of numbers, and the length of subject line alter open rates, making adjustments accordingly.

5. Not using a clean or permission-based list

Paying for lists to acquire a larger potential base of prospects is ultimately a false economy. Nobody appreciates receiving marketing emails they never asked for, so you’ll end up frustrating most and potentially harm your reputation in the process.

Aside from irritating those who don’t wish to be contacted, email spam laws mean you could be penalized if you’re caught harvesting email addresses and contacting people without their permission. And many email clients, including Gmail, have built-in spam filters that will hide your email from the main inbox, all but ensuring that this guest will never see your email to begin with.

Instead, make sure your email list should is only populated by those who have willingly chosen to be contacted by you. In the end, it just makes sense to save your time by emailing those who are most likely to be receptive to your marketing in the first place, including past and future guests, and those that have subscribed to your list or signed up for a promotion from your hotel.

6. Not using metrics and A/B testing to improve campaigns

Measuring the response to every email campaign is crucial to maximizing future success. However, most hotels only rely on narrow metrics to determine success. The focus often revolves around booking and revenue numbers.

To really improve campaign success, a more nuanced approach is required.

Along with the big numbers, you also need to consider other email metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, bounce rates, and the number of users unsubscribing. Each of these metrics will tell you how engaged your audience is and reveal specific areas where adjustments can be made.

For example, if you had an email campaign that generated a lot of bookings, but also had a relatively high unsubscribe rate, you might want to look at your segmentation process. Perhaps your content wasn’t relevant to a large portion of your audience. This would be the likely reason you saw a higher than normal unsubscribe rate.

Taking another example, a high open rate but low click-through rate would suggest your subject line was effective at generating interest, but the offer might not have been compelling enough, or perhaps the email had a weak call to action.

Ultimately, the devil is in the detail. Knowing exactly which elements of your emails work and don’t work is the key to making them more effective.

Unlocking the potential of email marketing

In a crowded inbox full of competing marketing messages, the fight for consumer attention is a battleground where relevant and well-timed content always stands out.

By avoiding the six common mistakes outlined above, you’ll be taking a significant step towards unlocking the full potential of email marketing, increasing the chances that your emails are opened, read, and drive action among your audience.

Nancy Huang

Nancy Huang

Nancy is the Senior Marketing Director at Pegasus 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.huang@pegs.com.

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