Email marketing isn’t the new kid on the block and it doesn’t get the attention and hype that social media does but it’s still one of the most powerful and cost effective media that you can use to promote your Bed and Breakfast inn.
As with any marketing tool, you want to start by identifying how it fits into your overall marketing and promotion plan: what you want this marketing channel to accomplish for your innkeeping business and how you plan to measure its effectiveness.
Some common goals for email marketing include:
- Building a database/list of prospects and guests who have previously booked with you
- Increasing guest loyalty and encouraging repeat bookings
- Staying ‘top of mind’ so that when your followers are ready to book, you’re the logical choice
- Establishing yourself as a local travel expert so that your followers learn to trust you
- Highlighting special promotions and stimulating bookings
That first goal is really important! As I’ve said in previous articles, while social media is a great tool to connect with fans and followers, the database of names and emails on those sites belong to the service provider. If for some reason your fan page gets deleted, or Facebook changes its rules, you can lose access to all those fans and followers that you’ve worked so hard to acquire. That’s why it’s imperative that you create a database that you own, maintain, and control.
While email marketing is less expensive than say, print mail, it still requires resources in planning and execution so you want to make sure that it’s actually accomplishing what you want it to do. Some common measurements for you to consider are:
- Open Rate: The number of recipients who actually open the email message
- Click-Through-Rate: The number of people who click on a link in the email which takes the reader to your web site
- Referral rate: The number of people who forwarded the email to someone else, making it viral
- Opt-out rate: The number of people who un-subscribed from your list
Speaking of Opt-ing out, they first must opt-in. That’s the first commandment of ethical email marketing. You want to get permission from your prospects and guests to market to them; otherwise you cross the line from marketer to Spammer. “Spammer land” is not a fun place to be!
One way to avoid “spammer land” is by using an email service provider as opposed to creating a distribution list in your personal email account. Email marketing tools such as Constant Contact and MailChimp have permission built in to the way you use their service. Multi-purpose marketing tools like Aweber and Infusionsoft do also. They give you the ability to ask for permission to continue sending email to an individual subscriber and give them an easy way to unsubscribe simply by clicking a link at the bottom of the email.
To stay out of trouble, always ask for permission as opposed to adding people to your list automatically. If you want to add all of your guests to your mailing list, simply include a notice in your guest intake process. It might be in your booking confirmation email: “Thanks so much for booking with us and welcome to the family! We’ve added you to our monthly newsletter list sent via email where we share news about the inn, local events of interest, and booking specials. If you would like to be removed from the list, simply click the unsubscribe link that’s at the bottom of each newsletter”.
The first rule of powerful email marketing is get permission. According to one statistic, we’re bombarded by over 300 marketing messages every day and we’re particularly overloaded with email. The first thing I do when I open my email in-box is to browse the sender name and subject. If I don’t recognize the sender or if it’s something I haven’t requested, the email goes into the ‘read later’ category or gets deleted right away without being opened.
On the other hand, if it’s something that’s interesting or useful for my business or personal life, I’m going to open it right away.
Full disclosure: Fully Booked Inn uses both Constant Contact and Aweber and we are business partners with them. The links provided above are affiliate links which means that we may receive compensation if you use the links to purchase the service.