If you’re an independent hotel operating in the digital economy, you’ve got some stiff competition. There’s no getting away from it. Potential guests have smorgasbord of choice.
The rise of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) has been meteoric. And, their seismic budgets enable them to all but take over Google search listings.
It can be disheartening and frustrating to see your search rankings slip while your OTA commission bill rises, but there could be a brilliant trick you’re missing.
Email marketing is a great way to engage with potential hotel guests. Providing you build your subscriber lists ethically and in accordance with the new GDPR rules, you’ll create a list of people to whom you can market your property and encourage the most important thing of all – direct booking.
Here’s some of our favourite hotel-ready email marketing tips to get you started!
Segment based on guest type
One of the most powerful pieces of information you have at your fingertips about guests is their type.
Often, this is split into two very simple categories: business and leisure. But, you can go much deeper if you feel like running some targeted email marketing campaigns. Here’s a few more guest types you could segment into separate marketing lists:
By segmenting your database this comprehensively, you immediately gain access to groups of guests to whom you can send highly-targeted emails. Families, for instance, might only be interested in weekend breaks that include twin rooms and discounted tickets to partner attractions. Tourists, on the other hand, may react very nicely to the offer of a guided tour as part of their hotel stay.
Don’t leave your customer database as one great, big lump of names and addresses. It simply won’t perform for you like that.
Take cues from the OTAs
Love or hate them, OTAs provide an invaluable service for hotels. They introduce new guests who can be wooed and tempted with direct booking for their next stay.
They do this by absolutely nailing their marketing strategies. They’re brilliant at it. And that’s good, because it means you can take cues from what they do and build their tactics into your own email marketing campaigns.
If you’ve ever used Booking.com, for instance, you’ll know how great they are at tempting you back to their website after you’ve researched a hotel, and they’re even better at re-engaging you once you’ve checked out.
Take a look at the emails you receive from OTAs and put your guest hat on. What is it that inspires you about them? What makes you click on the call-to-action (CTA)? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning from these guys; it works for them and if guests react positively to OTA emails, they’ll react positively to yours.
Send personalised offers
With your email list segmented, it’s time to send some personalised offers.
We’ve already suggested a couple, but you can get much more creative. If you start to look at the demographics of your database, you’ll get a feel for how you can raise engagement with particular offers. Younger guests, for instance, might react well to an offer that includes a discount at the bar and taxi booking into the town centre. Business guests, on the other hand, will love an offer that includes inclusive dinner, because it’s one less expense receipt to worry about.
The trick is to send emails that appear as though they were intended for the recipient only and no one else. Make them feel special and wanted, and you’re likely to see far more clicks of that all-important CTA button!
Remember that potential guests might have stayed before!
A potential guest is just as likely to be one who has stayed before – they’re not always complete strangers. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any easier to engage them – you still have to work hard to get them opening, reading and clicking.
With that in mind, you can think about how best to engage someone who has already experienced your property and service. Take a look at their past choice of room and package, and what they spent their money on during their stay. If you can build a new package for them based on those past habits and add a slight discount, you might just tempt them to return.
This will take a little bit more work. However, it’s worth putting the time in if you want to re-engage existing guests and prevent them from heading to the competition.
Use original Hotel imagery
There’s nothing worse than receiving an email from a hotel which features stock imagery or closeups of tableware and bedspreads.
This is why investing in professional photography is so important! Why should people stay with you? What makes your hotel different?
These questions can be answered by original imagery of your property. Emails are at their best when they feature photography that immediately captures the eye. Provide a glimpse at something people will want to investigate further. That could be your newly-refreshed bridal suite or a snap of your super-busy restaurant that recently won an award.
Whatever you do, don’t skimp with images when it comes to email marketing.
Produce a video – yourself
Emails don’t just have to contain text and images – why not spice yours up with some video, too?
Video is one of the web’s most powerful, engaging mediums, and it’s a great partner for email marketing. Best of all, you no longer need a huge budget or truckloads of equipment to produce something that people will watch and act on.
If you’ve got a modern smartphone, it’ll be capable of recording full HD video, and if you spend a bit of time recording a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what goes on in your hotel, or of that newly decorated bridal suite, you’re likely to gain far more opens and click-throughs for your email campaigns.
Translate your content
Are you translating your emails for foreign guests? If not, you’re missing a simple trick to engage them.
There are plenty of free translation services online, and if you segment your customer database by country, you’ll be able to speak directly (literally) to the potential guests who may not be from these shores.
And finally – there’s only one CTA you need
Last but not least – the call-to-action. It’s the most important part of your email, but so easy to get wrong.
As a hotel wishing to attract more direct bookings by engaging guests before they head to the OTAs, that means one thing: make your CTA the book now page of your website; send them straight there and nowhere else.
We hope these tips help you raise guest engagement and gain lots of profitable bookings. We’ve only scratched the surface, but this should get your email marketing efforts off to the best possible start!