You may not realize it but email marketing is probably the most cost effective channel for marketing your tours and travel packages. If you are not doing email marketing of some type I am willing to bet your not making many sales. This blog post covers why you should take the time to build several segmented email lists and invest in email marketing.
Sending emails costs literally nothing unless you are sending 1000’s every day and even then its far cheaper than advertising on search or social. It’s a very cost effective way to reach out to people you know are already interested in your services. A recent study by marketing guru Neil Patel shows that company’s engaged in email marketing had a return of $40 for every dollar spent. That’s far better than any other type of digital marketing. Not only that, but email is a great way to engage on mobile devices.
Image by: NeilPatel
I admit that when I first started with email marketing I found it a bit overwhelming and the results were poor. For one thing my list was quite small and a lot of work was going into designing great emails that were going out to just a few hundred people. However, I sat back and convinced myself to try to add at least 200 emails a month to my list knowing that in a few years I could be looking at an email list of 10,000+. The hardest part is often just staring so keep your eye on the big picture.
1. Build Your Email List
There are plenty of ways to effectively build your email list. Here are some of the most effective methods. For each every list that I am building I will collect the email and name of the person on a google sheet as well as other relevant information such as whether the person booked already or what tour they were interested in. Don’t make adding contacts to your list too time consuming or you won’t do it. Here are some quick tips on adding those first emails to your list.
- Any leads that you have that are not currently interested in booking are good candidates for your email list.
- Any one has sent you an email with questions on your products or services from your website.
- Any business partners or potential partners
- Any past guests that you have emails for.
- Optimize your website to collect emails. Put a pop-up on your blog to collect e-mails.
- Drive Facebook and Social Media traffic to great content with a pop-up to collect emails. Here is a good article on how to set up a pop-up on your blog (click here).
2. Segment Your List As Required
It’s best not to send the same email to everyone. For instance, you might want to send different emails to your past customers that you know personally as opposed to potential guests who have not booked. You might also have a list of other agents who resell your tours that also deserve a different email. At the end of the day it’s better to send everyone the same email than to not send any emails at all.
3. Create Great Email Content.
Whether you are sharing on social media or crafting an email, the content you share with your viewers is the key to long term success. In my experience our lowest engagements rates are those emails that just promote tours and packages. However, they are also the most valuable engagements in terms of driving sales.
Emails with actual content that informs the reader do much better in terms of engagement. For example check our recent newsletter on Tracking Gorillas. Compare this to a newsletter promoting several tours (click here). Newsletters with more information that engage the reader tend to do better and generate more interest. I suggest developing a blog for your website and syncing your email content with your new blog posts. Also, you might alternate the email templates you send with some being content rich and some being promotional so you’re adding value and not always just selling.
4. Email Design Ideas
Your inbox is probably full of nicely designed emails with great graphics and logos. These types of emails can be effective but they are also expensive if you don’t have an in house team to manage it for you. The good news is that short and simple text emails that add value can be just as effective if done right. Here is a good article from Square2marketing that goes over the pros and cons of sending simple text based emails (click here).
5. Test Before You Send
If you have a sufficiently large email list testing is always a good idea. I might make two different templates or test two different subject lines and send them to a small portion of my list to test effectiveness. Once you see which email has the best open and click thru you can send that version to your complete list. This is worth doing even if you have a small list. Keep your testing simple and just try different formats and approaches on each email you send and track the results. Learn from what works and improve.
Another way to test is via the website Mail Tester. Mail Tester will scan your email and give you a score based on different ratings that detect spam. If you have a low score it identifies important changes to the configuration of the email you will need to make.
6. Sending Emails to Your List
There are a number of free online tools that you can use to create your email templates and that will allow you to upload your list and start sending emails. I usually recommend Mailchimp.com which has tools for building templates and allows you to upload a list of 2000 subscribers and send out emails for free.
7. Make Sure its Mobile Friendly.
48% of emails are opened on Mobile devices so it’s important to test that your email looks good across all devices. You might think about using a tool like Litmus for this and they offer a 5 day free trial. At the very least send the email to a couple of your friends with different mobile devices and have them open it.
8. Subject Lines Are Important
Numerous blog posts have been written on this single topic and the general rule is that no size fits all. The most important thing here is to write subject lines that inspire readers to open your email. Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient and ask yourself if you would open the same email with the same subject line. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Keep Subject Lines Under 60 Characters
- Make Subject Lines Attention Catching
- Subject Lines Should Convey The Content of The Email.
Make sure not to use keywords in the subject that are associated with poor quality emails and will likely end you up in the spam box (Check a list of spam Keywords here).
Another thing to keep in mind is that the first few characters of your email will appear also in the inbox summary. These should be something that intrigue the reader.
9. Track Your Results
If you use a program like Mailchimp it will automatically track opens and clicks. If you’re not using an email program with tracking I suggest you add tags to the links in your email so you can track clicks in Google analytics (about adding tags). If adding tags sounds complicated you can make a new landing page also on your website that is only llinked to from your email and track hits on it fairly easily.
10. Respect People’s Privacy
It might be tempting to buy an email list online or even get one from another tour operator. My experience is that this is not only illegal but it does not work either. People don’t like spam! Make sure that everyone who is in your list has opted in to your list and has a way to opt out of your list. If you’re using a program like Mailchimp it automatically adds an opt-out for you. A clean email list of people who have opted in will have the highest open rates and is less likely to end up in spam. If you send junk emails to people who have not opted in it won’t be long before your blacklisted. Here is a good review of the rules (Opt-in Laws).
Expert Tip: You might also consider adding the opt-out in your header via the tool List Unsubscribe. By placing it in the header you will reduce the number of readers who report your email as spam and we have had favorable results with it.
11. When not to add an Email to Your List.
I don’t suggest adding active leads to your email list. If you’re currently emailing a potential guest about a tour you don’t need to confuse them by sending them emails with general offers. Wait until you’re sure that someone is not going to book before adding them to your email list.
More Articles on Best Email Practices for Tour Operators.