6 Emails You Should Definitely Be Sending to Your Guests
A couple of weeks ago I put a poll out on my Facebook group about Welcome Packs.
I asked if you provide them for your guests, and if so, when, and in what format.
In that other world we once knew, our Welcome Packs were probably beautiful, printed creations that could be leafed through pleasurably as part of that wonderful settling-in-to-room-and-holiday-mode half hour.
Now the virus has intruded our psyche, we no longer feel the same pleasure in flicking through something that was in someone else’s hands. This may be temporary, but it is still a reality.
Welcome packs have gone online. To be fair we can’t actually blame the virus 100% for this move because increased environmental impact awareness has slowly been reducing our printing habits for quite some time now. The virus provided that extra push.
Pre-arrival information is more important than ever right now, and much of what was available in a “traditional” Welcome Pack is now considered essential information to receive pre-stay, and even crucial to the decision-making process to actually book.
Your online presence – the information on your website, OTA profiles, Trip Advisor, social media posts etc – needs to be super slick, informative, and reassuring to get potential customers to press that “Book Now” button.
So, you did an awesome job to get them to book. Now you have their trust you can begin to exceed expectations with thoughtful pre-arrival content.
Your guest will have questions that come to them a week or two before their stay. You also have answers to the questions they didn’t even know they had.
It is a strange paradox that you can actually personalise your service better when you have created more generic content.
You may remember in a previous post I talked about the power of adding a blog to your hotel website. If you have started doing this by following my tips to answer questions from your target audience, you will see that you soon begin to build up a library of engaging, informative and valuable content.
Your pre-arrival emails are just one of the many places where that content can come in really useful.
This is a great time-saver because it means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time, you can just share the URL to your blog. When you guest asks a question about ideas for places to stop off along the way, you can send a wonderfully written blog with your Three Insider Off-The-Beaten Track Tips around [name of your location], and you can also add in that one about a seasonal event that is happening somewhere along the route too.
Of course, you must take the time to personalise the email with something like “Great question, I am so glad you asked. Here is the link to one of our blog posts that gives detail on our favourite three places to stop off when you are coming from [name of their home city]".
It is super powerful it is to be armed with all this content, it is well-received by your guests and it cuts down on your time when you can just refer back to your own “content library”.
You get to serve your guest in the best possible way, aaaand Google LOVES it when you get more and more hits on your site. In turn you will be rewarded with more chances of showing up higher and more often in organic search results on the topics you write about. Win win!
So, here goes with the emails that you should be sending to all your guests:
1. The Confirmation Email
Sending the confirmation email is of course a given. You want your guest to know you have received their information immediately after they have booked. Remember one of the reasons why OTAs win bookings is because everything is confirmed at that very moment and the guest receives detail that their payment has gone through straight away.
Your direct booking engine for sure will have this facility but do make sure you personalise the emails to avoid just sending the standard confirmation that comes with the system.
If they book via phone or email, I have no doubt you already have a template email that you personalise and send out immediately too.
Even if they book via an OTA, you should always follow up with your own branded confirmation.
Confirmation emails have a high open rate, so why not take advantage to collect some important information about your new guest while you have their attention?
Yes, it takes extra time. Yes, you may have to train someone to do this. But the benefits to your business are huge. You are setting the scene for what they can expect during their stay. A lax or careless confirmation email that instils even the slightest feeling of disappointment is not a great way to start.
You can add a couple of questions to your email asking about dietary preferences, or the age of their kids. You can even go a little further and add in a survey (free to create on Google Forms) to go that bit deeper.
Remember that confirmation emails have one of the highest open rates. DO NOT MISS this opportunity.
Of course, not everyone will answer or complete the survey. But you have asked and given them the chance.
2. The Preference Email
This email should be sent 7 to 10 days before the arrival date.
Using the information you received from the confirmation email create a standard mail that you can then modify for each guest. Even if they didn’t respond to your questions, work with what you have got and know about them from their booking information.
If you know they live 2 hours away, they will probably be travelling by car. You can send them that link to the blog of the 3 Insider Tips of Great Things to Do Enroute to [name of your location].
You can even just tell them about a car park that has a bathroom, a really cool playground, and an ice cream stall at the side. These don’t have to be first class stops, but they really show you care, and they help parents immensely.
What about sending your blog link about your favourite car games that you played on road trips when your kids were small. These are tiny things, but they make your guests feel special and you begin to develop a relationship with them through the quality content you share.
How about partnering up with a local business to offer something of value to the customer? This can be as simple as free ice cream for the kids with a minimum spend. You push people their way and they will do the same for you.
I won’t go into the value of partnerships in your local area here as it is the subject of a whole blog, but the more you support other small businesses in your area, the more they do the same, and the more you help money to stay in the local economy. This is one of the principles of Responsible Tourism, which in a nutshell is helping to create better destinations to live in, before catering for tourism.
3. The Upsell Email
This email should be sent 3 to 5 days before arrival.
The upsell can be anything that works according to what they have told you, or what you already know about them. If they are a couple alone, what about free bubbly when they eat at your restaurant on the first night of their stay. Or pre-reservation for a family river rafting adventure + bbq.
It is so much more powerful if you look at the reservation information and suggest something that is not just generic but tailored to the couple or group.
Just a note about upselling. This is a powerful marketing strategy that can also be implemented at the actual sales stage. Most online booking engines allow you to create your own unique upsells during the booking process, and some also allow the options that appear to be tailored to certain details that have been entered into the system.
The OTAs do this super well by offering airport transfers and car hire. You have the opportunity to compete by personalising the upsells in your own booking process.
Regardless of whether you have the ability to offer upsells during your online sales process, you can still do it in this email sent just a few days before arrival when organisation of what to do during their trip is front of mind.
4. The Pre-Arrival Email
This email should be sent the day before arrival.
It should be short and not contain much more than a reminder of your check in time, location address with GPS coordinates (or a link to Google Maps), plus a contact number in case they get lost and/or have questions on the day.
You could add in here your digital welcome pack, or you can provide them with it when they arrive on a tablet or send it to their phones. Personally, I would love to have it to read in the car on the way there because I want to get on with enjoying and exploring when I arrive. More time to get on with enjoying your stay means more money spent in the destination 😊
One great way to take your Welcome Pack online is with this awesome software called Touch Stay.
Touch Stay’s website explains their product as:
“We store all your content in a single online location. Then we use a web app to package it up into an easy-to-use, beautiful welcome book format. Once it’s packaged up, you can share your welcome book with your guests by sending them a quick link (and they’ll never need to sign up or download anything!)”.
Communication during stay
In-house guest communication is evolving fast. On June 7th, 2021, Apple not only announced the launch of new features to make all our lives even more convenient, but they also introduced new ways the hospitality industry can leverage the power of the Apple Wallet. Now capable of storing IDs and digital hotel keys, it has been stated that this will inevitably lead to the demise of hotel apps in the not-too-distant future.
To find out more, watch this short video from minute 1:08
Of course, smaller properties will not have their own apps, but still, this is an insight into the future.
What’s App, SMS and email communication have been widely used during the pandemic as in-house communication tools during the periods when hotels were allowed to open in a bid to reduce personal contact.
What works best does seem to depend quite a lot on cultural preferences. You can of course ask at check in how your guest prefers that you communicate with them.
The more contact points you have can reduce complaints and not-so-great reviews post-stay. If you give your guests the chance to give you their feedback while they are there, you have the chance to act on what they tell you. For a little more about how to collect more in-house reviews, see the Feedback Request section below.
One element of engaging guests to share their experiences online is to ask them to check in and tag you in their posts. Don’t forget to remind guests of your social media channels names. Your hotel might be called Hotel Giorgio, but your Facebook page might be Giorgiobythelake for example.
5. Post-Stay Thank You and Receipt Email
This is a simple mail that is only necessary if you send digital receipts post stay. If you give the receipt to your guests in paper format then you can of course skip this one.
6. Feedback Request Email
Asking your guests to share their feedback soon after they leave is a great opportunity to leverage their great mood as the experience is fresh in their minds.
You probably already ask them to do this at check out, but at that point they don’t usually have their mobile phones in their hands to do it.
Between 12 and 48 hours post check-out is a great time to send this email. Thank them again for their choice and then direct them with a link to leave a review.
It is important to consider where you want to collect the most referrals and reviews?
Most people tend not to go around the net writing duplicate reviews of your property on different sites, so it is up to you to choose where to channel your energies.
To help you decide, a good place to start is to take a quick look at where your target customers have traditionally left reviews.
If you receive a large percentage of bookings from the OTAs and are happy to keep it that way, then direct people there. A lot of people still rely on OTAs for research, even if they do book direct, great reviews on OTA sites are (still) important.
Trip Advisor is of course a review powerhouse with a market share of 16% and still cannot be left out from your options.
However, if you are working hard to drive more direct bookings to your property then ask people to leave a star rated review and short comment on your Google My Business page. Google reviews are incredibly powerful and can help work the infamous Google algorithm in your favour.
One way around the question of “but, should I ask my guests to leave reviews on Google or on Trip Advisor?”, is to add in an in-house review collection strategy.
A great way to do this is to place cards with a QR code around the hotel for Google reviews. Then when someone is sitting there at breakfast or at the bar, they can scan the code and leave their review right then and there. You can even go the whole hog and make your coasters Google QR coded! You have to have a Google My Business profile. A blog on how to set your Google My Business profile up (or optimise the one that you have is) coming soon.
Here is the QR code generator I use. The ones without frames are free.
So, that’s a wrap with the 6 emails that you should definitely be sending to your guests.
But that’s not quite it.
You want satisfied guests to be on your database and in your Hotel Giorgio’s membership club!
There are various ways to do this, but to get their consent you can add a check box on their check-in form saying that you will send them information from time to time.
You can ask them to sign up at check out when they are filled with post-stay euphoria.
You can ask them to agree to being entered into your database in your Feedback Request email.
Yesterday was the best time to get started with your targeted email marketing strategy. The next best time is today. To find out more about how to build and grow a more resilient business using email marketing, take a look at this blog: How to Choose Email Marketing Software for Your Hotel
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