Hotel email marketing – How and why to get started now

Think about this for a moment: How often have you bought or booked something after getting an email from a brand or company?

Probably several times…

And you’re not alone. Many people do so on a regular basis because it’s easy and fun. That’s why email marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels today, according to the Wall Street Journal

Take advantage of this to promote your hotel. Get creative and leverage the guest contact data you already have in your system.

From saving on distribution costs to growing brand awareness and scaling your outreach to new and repeat guests, discover the benefits email marketing can offer your hotel. 

Hotel email marketing

What is email marketing?

Broadly defined, email marketing is a form of direct marketing. It means sending promotional or commercial emails to people who have given you permission to do so. In the marketing world, these contacts are known as your list, your subscribers or your email database. 

Why is email marketing a powerful tool for hotels?

Research shows that email is the most effective marketing channel today with an average ROI of 36. That means for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can generate an impressive $36 of revenue. And yes, that beats all other types of promotion including social media or paid ads. 

There are several reasons why email performs so well. First, it’s a highly accepted form of communication among all demographics from Baby Boomers to GenZ. That means you can use this single channel to reach a wide variety of age groups. 

For many people, email feels less invasive than cold calls, SMS or social media marketing. But since you regularly get right in front of your target audience in their inbox, emails offer a powerful way to build and nurture relationships

Email is also highly customisable and flexible. You can schedule and automate it to reach the right person with the right message at the right time during their customer journey. For example, after sending your usual hotel confirmation email, you can follow up with a hotel pre-arrival email full of special offers and useful information.

Finally, you can create targeted campaigns for different guest segments (e.g. repeat clients, one-time guests, new subscribers, various age groups…) to promote specific deals to certain target groups. 

All this makes email extremely effective at driving qualified traffic to your website and generating more commission-free direct bookings. 

Finally, let’s not forget the data and analytics side. With email, it’s easy to test new promotions or message styles. Results are clearly measurable and offer insights into where you’re doing well and where you should improve. 

The increased relevance of email marketing today

Overall demand is still lower than pre-pandemic in many markets, partly because international travel has not returned to pre-Covid levels. It will likely stay that way for a while since many people are still keener on travelling closer to home. 

In this situation, it’s especially important to leverage the connection you have with past guests. Particularly loyal clients who live nearby and can come by car or train are an invaluable source of business today. 

Use email to stay in touch with them and build a stronger relationship with people who have expressed an interest in your hotel. This creates chances to generate more high-value direct bookings that will help get your business through these tough times. 

Here, the high ROI and comparatively low cost of hotel email marketing has another enormous benefit. Since this form of promotion is so cost-effective, it remains viable even if you’re working with a slashed marketing budget. 

How to get started with email marketing at your hotel

A good email management system lays the foundation for your email marketing. It allows you to keep your list organised and to control your email marketing campaigns. 

A generic provider like MailChimp or Mailerlite can be good when getting your feet wet. While these cost-effective email marketing tools offer important basic capabilities, they’re limited when it comes to leveraging the guest data saved in your PMS. Since this is the key to creating highly personalised and targeted campaigns, a more sophisticated solution is needed if you want to get serious about email marketing. 

This is where a specialised customer relationship management solution (CRM) for the hospitality industry comes in. 

It automatically pulls guest data from your PMS via a two-way integration. This includes information such as the number and length of previous stays, which package or rate code they booked, their birthdate, age, party size (e.g. couples or families with kids) and any other relevant details. 

With this data, you can implement a targeted email marketing strategy, segment guests and ensure they only receive relevant emails. This leads to increased open rates, more engagement, boosted email conversion rates and a higher return on investment. 

How to gain more subscribers for your hotel

You probably already have a lot of emails saved in your PMS from past and current guests. They can form the base of your email list. 

Next, it’s time to grow your list of subscribers. Here are a few easy options to consider:

  • Add sign-up boxes to your website and offer site visitors a perk (e.g. a small discount for their booking or a destination guide) for sharing their email address. This works well among people in the planning process but not for current or past guests as they rarely return to the hotel’s website. 
  • Set up a Wi-Fi restriction. Ask for a person’s email address when they sign in to your hotel’s public Wi-Fi and add a checkbox that lets them sign up for your list. This helps you get sign-ups from both in-house guests as well as outside clients visiting dining venues or the spa. 
  • Have your receptionists ask guests if they want to subscribe during check-in or -out. While this can bring results, the manual data entry means more work for your team. Here, it’s also hard to prove that the guest opted in unless you store the paper form. 
  • Save time and energy by gathering emails with a CRM. Set it up to automatically propose a sign-up during the online check-in, in upselling offers, as part of the directory or while requesting guest feedback. This cuts back on manual work, gets more eyeballs onto your opt-in and makes the subscription process easier for guests. 

Managing your subscribers

Finally, a quick note on email database management and keeping subscribers happy and engaged. 

  1. Use powerful, interesting subject lines and body text. Hint at what guests might find inside your email to build curiosity and boost your open rates. Keep it up in the email itself. Present special offers in an intriguing way to drive conversion rates and keep readers wanting more. 
  2. Follow the rules. Ensure that you follow the current email marketing and data protection guidelines in your country, e.g. the EU’s GDPR. This protects your guest’s interest and shields you from potential legal issues. 
  3. Don’t overdo it. When guests trust you with their email address, they expect you to be respectful of their inbox. Don’t bombard them with endless promotions and irrelevant messages. Instead, leverage segmentation to send a few special offers and updates at appropriate intervals. Ask yourself if you’d be happy to receive each email before hitting send. If so, that’s your green light.
  4. Accept farewells. Seeing people unsubscribe is part of email marketing. Respect when someone opts out and don’t contact them again unless they request it. While it may seem unpleasant, your unsubscribe rate is a valuable metric. Monitor it to spot shifts and see if you need to improve your segmentation or email content. 
Brainstorming

Ideas for different types of emails to send to your list

Email marketing encompasses several different types of emails. Below you’ll find the three main kinds that are relevant to email marketing for hotels plus some ideas to inspire your next email marketing campaigns. 

  • General newsletter: an informative email you send out at fixed intervals, e.g. monthly or every two weeks. 

Share news about:

  • The hotel (e.g. awards, renovations…)
  • Current or upcoming events and promotions
  • Other details that add value for your readers
  • Seasonal or limited-time promotion: a standalone email to promote one specific offer. This could include:
    • Flash deals 
    • A last-minute sale, e.g. to drive business on shoulder days
    • Your summer weekend special for local guests
    • Referral bonus for past guests
  • Targeted campaign: one or several emails you send to a specific group of guests to promote an offer that’s relevant to them. 

Here are some ideas:

  • A special family deal
  • Preferential conditions or exclusive offers for your regulars 
  • Couples’ getaways
  • Any other offers that are geared towards a certain segment

In all cases, the goal is to build or maintain brand awareness, nurture your client relationships and drive sales. That way you stay at the front of people’s minds and they think of you first, when it’s time to plan a trip. This is a fantastic way to drive repeat bookings from past guests and benefit from their low acquisition cost. 

As you can see, email marketing has many benefits for hotels. It’s cost-effective and it offers numerous ways to drive business all while nurturing the relationship with your guests.

And with the right tools, you can take advantage of all this without adding hours of extra work to your day. 

Now, what do you think – how much could your property benefit from this?