Your Emails Are Failing Your Hotel’s Guests. Here’s What Needs To Happen.

by Pete DiMaio

Hoteliers love to brag about the size of their email database and often attribute near-magical powers to the ability to send a message to tens, or hundreds, of thousands of potential customers. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should. In fact, we would suggest, that as a rule, you shouldn’t. Spamming (and we do mean spamming) your entire database in an effort to drive occupancy is not only poor marketing, it’s causing you to alienate your potential guests and push them to unsubscribe from your emails.

There are three main reasons why hotels may have a high unsubscribe rate (0.1% or more) on their email marketing, and it all comes down to one main point: Your emails are not relevant to the customers’ needs or travel habits.  

The reasons below are not absolute and every email database is different. What works for one database may be a disaster for others. However, if you’re guilty of one or more of the mistakes below you can improve performance by getting back on track with your hotel email marketing.

Reason #1: Your “spray & pray” email style is not what subscribers want

As marketers, we’re the worst in terms of finding a great tool and then using it to exhaustion. We’ve found that hoteliers are particularly bad about sending frequent messages to their entire database, in true “spray & pray” style, hoping something will stick. One example, a property was sending out a message promoting rooms for a conference that was happening in their market… to their entire database… regardless of their guests’ past stay behaviors. Another property was sending out a weekly email to their entire database promoting a quick getaway. This might work, but they ignored the fact that some guests were already booked, some had just checked out, and some were hundreds of miles away.

Anytime a hotel forgoes personalization and targeting, they run the risk of hurting their email performance, and ultimately, their success. If you see your unsubscribe rate starting to creep up, this is the most likely culprit and one you should address immediately.

The Fix:

The fix is simple: exchange quantity for quality. It has been proven time and time again. You can retain and improve your overall revenue and bookings generated by limiting an email just to those who are likely to book. Follow these suggestions for a more targeted, healthier database:

  • Every message should be personalized in terms of audience targeted and creative/content sent. There is rarely a case, if ever, you should tee up a generic message and send to everyone. At a bare minimum, suppress current reservations from your offer messages.
  • Create segments of the smallest viable audience for a message. For instance, in the example above of the property sending a last minute getaway. Segment your list to only include those who do not already have a reservation, those within a certain radius of the property, and those who have booked with a short lag time in the past. By focusing your send, you will not only improve performance but also avoid unsubscriptions by bombarding thoses who won’t find your offer relevent.
  • Only send when you have something worth sending. If your offer or message is not compelling or timely, perhaps it could wait for a later date.
  • Test your send frequency to find what your list, and if possible each person on your list, prefers. Some guests love to have weekly messages. Some only want messages leading up to their stay. Some may want to have their emails limited to transactions only. Start testing to discover what is best for each guest on your list.

Reason #2: What you’re delivering is not matching what your guests expect

You made some type of promise to your subscribers when they decided to join your list. It may have been special offers, news, contests, or something else. Regardless, you always need to check yourself and ensure you’re delivering on your promise.

If your actual messaging is starting to deviate from your promise, you will absolutely begin to lose subscribers.

Another consideration is your messages may just be boring. If you’re a resort destination, planning is part of the fun of travel, and you want to convey that excitement in your messaging. If you’re missing the fun, people will start missing your messages.

The Fix:

Deliver on your promise to entertain and provide valuable information to your subscribers’ inboxes. Look very closely at your analytics and make sure your messages are getting opened, clicked, and shared. If you find that your CTR is starting to drop, odds are you’re boring your potential guests or just not delivering compelling, relevant content.

You should be creating fun content that works for your property, and here are a few surefire successes:

  • Exclusive deals: Reward your email subscribers with the best possible rate or early access to the best rooms & specials.
  • Fun Content: Photos, guest stories, and videos are great ways to engage and drive clicks. If all you do is sell, sell, sell – you’re missing out!
  • Personalization: Response rates always increase when you make content more relevant through personalization. Simple personalization such as a name is good, but deeper personalization such as tailored images or past stay information is better.
  • Contests: People like winning things and you have people on your list. A monthly giveaway or contest is an excellent way to drive great open rates and build good will.

Reason #3: Perhaps you have subscribers who should never have been on your list to start with

List size doesn’t matter! Performance is what matters. Too many hoteliers have jammed as many records as possible into their lists, records that most likely shouldn’t even be there. Getting a list from your local chamber, trade show attendees, or a partner’s contest may pump your numbers, but it does nothing for your performance.

If you don’t have an active opt-in process and don’t respect your subscriber’s inbox, you’re going to have high unsubscribe rates and even higher spam complaints. This hurts your overall deliverability and also can put you in hot water legally as it relates to CASL, CCPA, CAN-SPAM, GDPR, and countless other privacy laws.

The Fix:

Adopt the best practices for email delivery by clearly opting in subscribers on the site and sending a welcome message to every new subscriber. Ideally, you will have a double opt-in policy where a subscriber must respond to a confirmation email to be included in your list. This is not yet required in the US and we have not seen it widely adopted by hotels… yet. At the very least, we recommend that to stop sending to anyone on your list that doesn’t have an explicit opt-in.

Bonus Tip: Offer to make things right before someone unsubscribes

Sometimes a subscriber doesn’t want to unsubscribe, but you leave them no other choice. Of course, we want everyone who is subscribed to our hotel’s email to always be ready to travel, but odds are this isn’t the case. Most subscribers only want to receive a limited number of messages or would like to only receive messages at certain times.

If the only option to customize their messages is to either subscribe or unsubscribe, your guest is likely to just opt out of your messaging.

The Fix:

Follow email marketing best practices and give your guests the option to customize their communications with you. Spotify does an excellent job of this on their notification settings. Before you can “unsubscribe” from their messages, they give you the opportunity to tailor what you receive. They even offer the option to receive push and text messaging, something you should consider as well.

Your email platform likely already has these capabilities. Here’s what we suggest:

  • Ask users to update their send frequency and what types of messages they would like before unsubscribing.
  • Adjust the frequency on inactive subscribers yourself through proper segmentation. If a subscriber has not opened a message in six months or more, consider putting them on a limited message track. Limit messages for these subscribers to once a month or even once a quarter. This way they’re still seeing you in the inbox, but you’re not bombarding them.

Follow these three tips, and the bonus, for a better email marketing program, happier guests, and greater revenue opportunities.

Need help with your email marketing? TravelBoom has proven success in turning email marketing campaigns into more heads in beds. Using triggered emails, list management, A/B testing, and more, we know how to add a boom to your bottom line with our Email Marketing Services!

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