If you don’t have an email marketing strategy in place, you are missing out on the highest possible return on investment of all the tools in the digital marketing ecosystem. Despite what you may have heard or read, email marketing is not dead. In fact, it’s more alive than ever. But you need to do it right.
In a world of ever-changing social media followers and algorithms to which you do not own or have direct access, building, nurturing, and growing your email marketing strategy must be a key pillar of your digital marketing efforts to see long-term success. But, like most aspects of life, you need to build a strong foundation before strategizing.
We believe your email marketing foundation starts with two basic steps: 1) identifying a person to take ownership of your email marketing and 2) choosing an email service provider (ESP). If these are not considered, you could waste time and money.
Who Will Lead the Charge?
Whether it’s someone on your team or an external partner, identifying and enabling the appropriate resource to manage your email marketing strategy is crucial to its success. An email campaign should not be thrown together last minute by a random employee. When someone is specifically designated to take responsibility for this part of your marketing efforts, it allows for thoughtfully curated and well-planned emails. This person should be organized, understand your business and goals, be deadline-oriented, and be aware of the other strategies on your marketing calendar. This helps maintain consistency with your messaging and mailing schedule. Once you have chosen a designated resource, they should always be the main point of contact for anything related to email marketing.
When considering who this email marketing resource will be, you must consider your budget. This will help you decide what can be handled in-house and what can be outsourced to a professional agency. An employee familiar with your business and market paired with an email marketing professional who understands email marketing best practices usually produces the most effective final product.
What Email Platform Do I Choose?
The software you use to send emails to your list is called an ESP. The ESP you choose is crucial to your email marketing strategy, but most people don’t know what to look for when considering the multitude of different platforms. Here are the most important considerations when it comes to choosing an ESP.
What good is putting in the time, effort, and money to send an email if no one reads it because it gets lost in their spam box? An important part of your deliverability is authenticating your sending domain (which is tech talk for proving that you are a reputable provider that deserves to be in someone’s inbox, not their spam box). Most ESPs don’t provide outward information on authenticating your sending domain or tell you it’s incredibly important to your deliverability, so they don’t make it easy for you to do this.
If you cannot figure out how to authenticate your sending domain, reach out to your ESP’s support team. Every ESP should be able to support you with this. Don’t be afraid to ask!
When comparing the costs of different ESPs, don’t just think about your current list size. You want to consider growth and how that will affect your cost. You need to determine if you can afford to grow with this service. Some services charge by list size, some charge per recipient, and others have a split model of both size and recipient. That said, it’s important to understand your email marketing budget and growth goals.
Integration and Automation
When choosing an ESP, you need to consider other important internal investments like property management software and your website. An ESP that integrates effectively with your PMS will allow you to grow your email list, save time, and drive more direct bookings.
When you connect your PMS to your ESP, important information can be automatically added to your email marketing list. Having reservation data associated with a specific email address pushed directly to your ESP allows you to take advantage of more detailed segmentation with little to no effort. This improves the relevance and timing of your communications with current and past guests. It also allows you to set up “life cycle” emails. These automated emails are triggered based on reservation dates and can provide guests with valuable information before, during, and after their stay.
Another investment you want to consider when choosing an ESP is your website. This is the face of your brand and a place where potential guests go while they are in the discovery phase of their vacation. In this phase of the guest life cycle, they are likely to visit multiple sites and interact with different brands. While they are on your site, you should provide capture points that allow you to collect their email address. If those capture points are integrated properly with your ESP, your list will grow exponentially without any manual effort, and you will be able to trigger automated emails. These automated emails are the perfect way to get your brand in a potential guest’s inbox and remind them why they should book with you.
Segmentation is important to the success of your email marketing strategy as your list begins to grow. The more you understand your audience and the more targeted and relevant information you can provide in your emails, the better ROI you will get from each campaign. The segmentation possibilities are endless with the right ESP in place and integrated with your PMS and website.
If you have any kind of contact form on your website, you will want the capability to send transactional emails. Transactional emails are essentially confirmation emails, but not to be confused with your welcome email, which is automation. Transactional emails support business operations, such as property inquiries and booking information, while automated emails support marketing efforts.
Think of email marketing as an extension of your website. When someone opens your email, it should feel that they are still on your website, even though they aren’t, as this subconsciously builds trust and connection.
When choosing an ESP, consider your skill sets. If you are a beginner, you’ll likely need to use a drag-and-drop editor. In this case, see if you can browse through templates to ensure one feels on brand with your website. If you are more advanced, you might want to consider whether or not an ESP has the option to import custom HTML. Note that some ESPs may require you to be on a more expensive plan to use custom HTML.
Performance Tracking and Management
Once you have your email marketing up and running, you will want to make sure you are consistently analyzing your reporting, identifying opportunities, and pivoting when needed. Utilize your ESP to analyze inbox reporting, such as opens, clicks, and click-to-open rates, and utilize Google Analytics to analyze your revenue and, most importantly, track the ROI from your email marketing efforts.
Phew! That Was a Lot!
Before you even start building your email marketing strategy, there is much to consider. Take your time, understand your business needs, and plan appropriately while considering your goals and budget.
Michelle Freiberg is an email marketing manager at Switchback Email Marketing.
Alisa Justice is the vice president of sales at Silicon Travel.