How to Choose Email Marketing Software For Your Hotel
Did you know that the number of email users is predicted to reach 4.3 billion by 2023? ¹
The ROI of email marketing is huge, with an average $42 expected return for every $1 spent ²
We can safely say that email is far from dead.
You have read again and again why you should start building and nurturing an email list right?
For the accommodation industry, this has taken on greater importance during the recent enforced pivot towards domestic marketing.
One of the main advantages of email marketing is the opportunity to build relationships and nurture interest in a bid to cultivate loyal (and repeat) customers. That was by default harder to achieve with an international clientele.
With a focus on your national market, this is one of the most critical actions you can take for your business right now.
So, you are finally convinced to invest some time into getting started.
You have thought of an idea for an attractive hook – maybe an ebook about the best walks in your destination, your favourite eateries, volunteering ops or a prize giveaway.
Now you need an email marketing platform.
You Googled it and you hoped the answer would jump right out. But no ☹
You looked at the first page and saw loads of options as well as dozens of blogs that list the top 10 options. Still not really too helpful.
Panic no more.
When I began this research for my own use, my shoulders too drooped when I realised how much more I needed to know.
Now I want to share what I learned with you. This is not just a summary of what I have read. I understand 100% what you need to get your ebook or offer out there with as little pain and cost as possible.
I know because I have done it for my hotel clients.
Read on for a step-by-step plan, along with what tech you need to get going.
1. Identify and research your target customer
2. Define your offer i.e., a traveller sentiment survey with prize, or an attractive and informative e-book
3. Create a unique landing page with details of your offer
4. Add the text for the thank you/success page that automatically appears when someone enters their name and email. (This tells them to check their inbox)
5. Design the email that includes the link to your survey or the download to your e-book. (This is what is automatically sent to anyone who enters their name and email)
6. Add a 7-mail nurture sequence to your automation that offers value to your target audience. (Your intention here is to educate, inform, entertain, and guide, not sell. You are building trust through authenticity)
7. Start marketing your landing page URL via Facebook groups, blogs, your website, email signature, and social media profiles. (Investing in paid ads will significantly increase your reach)
8. Continue nurturing and segmenting your email list with periodic newsletters including interesting information about your area, destination, and property
9. Review, analyse, segment. Create new content, personalise, repeat
This might sound like a lot, but don’t be put off just yet.
It can be set up in very little time by using the right kind of email marketing service.
Also, don’t forget that the beauty of using email software is in the automations.
You only set this up ONCE! When it is done, it runs automatically and forever, until you choose to stop it or change it.
You will of course continue to invest time in learning more about your target market and creating additional email texts that nurture them according to their needs, but again, these templates are designed only once and can be re-used and modified at any time.
What tech do you need for all of this?
Looking back at the list above, if you choose to create an e-book in Step 2, that can be created using a free graphic design tool such as canva.com. Read my blog on How to make Canva work for your hotel here.
Surveys can also be designed for free using Surveymonkey or Google Forms.
As for Steps 3 to 6, they are all done within one email marketing software account. This is why you need to choose wisely!
So, here goes.
I have narrowed the noise down to two really great options, and I use both frequently.
Dum roll….. here are my top two….
MailerLite and Active Campaign
Free is always good right?
You are testing this out, you don’t know how much you are going to like it or even if you are going to be good at it.
Therefore, my first choice is Mailerlite.
Here is why:
It is the ONLY free email marketing software that allows for up to 1000 subscribers and unlimited sending of emails, as well as full access to automations, landing page and pop-up creation. Also, their customer service is incredible and available to everyone on the free plan too.
Oh, and Mailerlite was just voted # 1 for email deliverability in the most recent March 2021 Email Tool Tester comparison.
Are there any cons?
Of course, there is always something. The MailerLite free plan has no access to newsletter templates, but you can get around this by creating your own in the drag and drop menu, which is very easy and intuitive to do. You must also have an email that is connected to your domain - email@example.com and not just firstname.lastname@example.org for example.
Also, on the free plan, you cannot use custom domains and the Mailerlite logo will be appear at the end of your emails, but these are small prices to pay when just starting out.
When you really get into the whole thing and your confidence grows, along with your email list, you can easily upgrade to a paid account, which activates all of these features.
When you do reach the need for a paid version, Mailerlite offers competitive pricing as you can see here:
What about my other alternative?
Active Campaign is my first choice if you already have some knowledge of the capabilities of email marketing software.
Active Campaign does everything that MailerLite does, with added elements of complexity. It is a more robust platform that allows you to develop your skills and take full advantage of the CRM (Customer Relationship Management). This means that it will be easier for you to send offers to your “hot-leads” list based on any preferences you have learnt about them during your nurture process, or from the results of a survey they have completed for example.
Active Campaign is outstanding when it comes to segmentation. By that I mean, you can tag your list according to endless variables such as room preference, number of children, ideal activities etc.
Deliverability is also great with AC and split testing allows for more targeted results.
There is no free plan available at Active Campaign, just a 14 day free trial. The lowest tier is the Lite plan (see pricing options here). Also, no landing pages are not included on the Lite plan, and Active Campaign does have a steeper learning curve than the slightly more user-friendly MailerLite.
So, in summary, if you are just starting out, want to have a go and don’t want to invest anything other than your time, MailerLite is a great option. You can sign up for a free account here.
Active Campaign is a pro-option for those who are already familiar with email marketing and what it can do for your business. The Lite plan, when paid annually, can cost as little as US$ 9 per month for up to 500 contacts. You can sign up here.
Just an aside before I finish, I often get people asking what I think of Mailchimp as an alternative.
I know a lot of people have heard of it and maybe even already use it. I have no real problems with it, apart from not really liking the monkey logo at the bottom of emails (MailerLite’s logo is so much less intrusive to the eye).
However, the reason I do not suggest it is that the free plan does not allow you to create an automated nurture sequence (you only get one free welcome automation), and the segmentation capabilities are not clear to me at all. It has also been reported as having sketchy deliverability, and that of course is a core feature you don’t want to compromise on.
Having said that, mails from most email software providers can often drop into the Promotions tab in Gmail. While this is of course not desirable, it is not a huge issue, because you can add a note on your thank you page and emails to Gmail users that says “to make sure my emails reach your mail inbox next time, just drag and drop this mail right into your inbox”.
So, that's it from me. I hope this has saved you time and that you are super excited to get going on your email marketing journey!
Take a few minutes out of your day and check out my Top 5 Consumer Travel Trends to get your jump started on your journey towards selling more room nights and increasing your hotel revenue. Click the image below to gain access.
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