How To Start Using Email Marketing To Promote Your Travel Business

The how and why of email marketing for travel
Two men drinking wine outside

You hate spam.

The last thing you want to be is that annoying business sending inbox-clogging junk emails to angry readers.

But . . .

You would like to stay in touch with guests before and after their visit. And it’d be nice to promote your destination to new prospects. And you’re starting to wonder. . . is there a way to use email marketing without becoming a dreaded spammer?

The answer is yes.

Consumers want to receive email from brands that they do business with

Back in 2015, MarketingSherpa conducted research that showed 60% of consumers prefer to receive updates from companies via email vs only 20% who prefer social media and 17% who prefer text.

Graph showing 60% of consumers prefer to receive marketing messages via email

The same study found that 86% of people surveyed would like to receive promotional emails *at least* monthly, with 15% saying they would like to receive promotional emails every day.

Graph showing over 80% of consumers want to receive email monthly

More recently Statista reported that 49% of consumers said that they would like to receive promotional emails from their favorite brands on a weekly basis.

Moreover, Litmus found that people sign up specifically for travel emails because they are interested in hearing about deals and promotions, loyalty offers, and new travel ideas.

graph showing deals and promotions is the #1 reasons people subscribe to receive email from travel brands

Besides all that, email marketing just plain works: 36% of travelers say that an email led to an immediate purchase that wasn't planned.

So stop being afraid of email!

Here’s how to start using email marketing to promote your travel brand and become the travel company your customers WANT to hear from.

Email marketing step 1: Get the opt-in

If there’s one thing—above all else—that separates an email marketer from a spammer it’s permission.

Marketing great Seth Godin explained the value of getting permission in his 1999 best selling book Permission Marketing:Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers.

"By only talking to volunteers, Permission Marketing guarantees that consumers pay more attention to the marketing message. It allows marketers to calmly and succinctly tell their story, without fear of being interrupted by competitors.” -Seth Godin, Permission Marketing

Today, permission marketing is the accepted norm, best practice, and legal requirement for email marketers around the globe.

The act of getting permission is known as the “opt-in.”

There are lots of ways to get people to opt-in to your email list: you can make it part of your check-in or check-out process, you can collect email addresses at a travel show, or you can have a newsletter sign up form on your website.

When simply offered the opportunity to sign up for an email list, however, most people will naturally say, "No, thank you." To overcome this, it's best to incentivize them by offering something in return.

"The incentive you offer to the customer can range from information, to entertainment, to a sweepstakes, to outright payment for the prospect's attention. But the incentive must be overt, obvious and clearly delivered.” -Seth Godin, Permission Marketing

Here are two examples:
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Email marketing step 2: Be honest and set expectations

"Permission Marketers are totally obvious about their objectives with the consumer.-Seth Godin

A spammy mistake that some email marketers make is assuming that getting permission to send one email is blanket permission to send whatever, whenever. It’s not.

People who join you for a webinar are not necessarily expecting your weekly newsletter. And subscribers to your newsletter may get irritated with frequent email promotions. (And people you connect with on social media definitely aren't giving you permission to add them to your email list, so don't.)

That doesn’t mean you should shy away from reaching out to your audience. It just means that if you want to be a welcome addition to your customer’s inbox, you have to be totally upfront about WHAT you will be emailing and HOW OFTEN.

The question of how often is a sticky one. As noted above, some subscribers will want to hear from you every day while others will grow angry if you show up in their inbox more than once a month.

So what do you do?

If you have the resources available, go ahead and produce multiple email messages that go out at varying frequencies (a daily update, a weekly roundup, and a monthly overview) then let your subscribers choose.

If that is not an option, decide how frequently you will be emailing your readers and TELL THEM. Even if you’re unsure how frequently you’ll be emailing, be honest. Because setting expectations is vital to earning your subscribers’ trust.

Set expectations with a welcome email

The easiest and most reliable way to set reader expectations is by sending every new subscriber a friendly welcome email introducing yourself and giving them a heads up on what comes next.

Sample welcome email
Sample Welcome Email From Travel Marketing & Media

Email marketing step 3: Delight your audience

Now that people are on your mailing list, you’ll want to keep them there. The only way to do that is to send emails that make them happy to hear from you.

How do you do that? Pay attention to what your audience cares about.

"Permission marketing is anticipated, personal, relevant.
Anticipated—people look forward to hearing from you.
Personal—the messages are directly related to the individual.
Relevant—the marketing is about something the prospect is interested in." -Seth Godin, Permission Marketing

For example, if someone signs up for your email list to receive updates on availability of overnight huts along New Zealand's Great Walks, it might make sense to follow up with that person offering backpacking tips, New Zealand weather updates, and information on other great hiking destinations. It would not necessarily make sense to send them information on motorbike tours in Ecuador or Black cultural travel in Panama.

This is called segmenting your audience and any email marketing software worth its salt will offer you dynamic ways to do this. You can and should segment based on:

  • How subscribers joined your email list
  • What they have purchased from you in the past
  • Where they're located and where they've traveled
  • Any other piece of information you have about their interests

Segmentation will allow you to send highly relevant and personalized messages that keep readers engaged.

Email marketing step 4: Multiply your results with email automation

It wouldn't be practical or scalable to hand-type personal emails to every person who joins your list. That's what email automation is for.

Email automation makes it possible to automatically send pre-written emails whenever specific criteria are met, such as when:

  • someone requests a free guide
  • someone fills out your booking inquiry form
  • someone makes a purchase from your online store
  • a customer has an upcoming embarkation date
  • a customer has checked in or checked out
  • a customer has an upcoming birthday or anniversary

This may sound very technical and complicated, but it’s not. With forethought and planning you can set up a variety of automations that increase customer satisfaction, staff productivity, and sales conversions.

A basic email automation might look like this:

  1. Someone signs up to receive a free ebook titled The Definitive Guide To Luxury Yachting Vacations.
  2. You immediately follow up with a welcome email linking to the ebook and letting them know you'll also be sending additional tips about yachting vacations.
  3. In the coming days you send emails detailing great yachting destinations, profiles of individual yachts, and a pricing guide.
  4. Shortly thereafter, you send a promotion for a $500 voucher off their first yachting vacation.

This does several things:

    1. It capitalizes on what you know the prospect is interested in.
    2. It demonstrates that you are a trustworthy source of information on that topic.
    3. It gives the reader a reason to consider booking with you.

This is what makes email marketing such a powerful tool for your travel business: The ability to reach your customers with the most relevant information at the moment they are most interested.

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