Meetings industry marketers often shy away from it, however, because many of their Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs) don’t interface with email software or they may not have the technical and creative support. Email marketing is not quite as cut and dry as sending an e-mail.
Yet there are enough third-party, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) systems to overcome the “I-don’t-have-a-system” excuse: Constant Contact and MailChimp at the low end, and more sophisticated, full-service marketing automation software, like Pardot, Eloqua and Marketo, at the high end.
Email marketing works as long as you use it wisely. Wesson presented six points in this infographic, which in our opinion really hit the mark. Here they are below, along with examples of how a hotel, CVB or other meetings industry marketer should use email marketing:
- Create Compelling Content: It’s tempting to focus your e-mail marketing on rate or promotion-driven campaigns. But do these packages offer value to your customers? If it’s just about you, your hotel or destination, you’ll be quickly tuned out. Make sure your content is informational and helpful for the recipient. (See our Sept. 4 blog, Six Tips to Successful Content Creation). One of our clients sends two types of e-mails on a monthly basis: a promotional offer and an enewsletter with tips to help “occasional planners” plan better meetings. Although promotional offers bring in leads, the tips and best practices build trust and strengthen relationships, as shown by the fact that these almost always generate a higher open rate.
- Use the Right Tools: If you don’t have a programmer like we’re fortunate enough to have here at Greenfield, look for software that offers you a WYSIWIG Editor (a user interface that lets you change the layout in a word editor versus actually hard-coding). But you will want to find a tool that offers you utility as well. Things like the ability to view WHO opened their email, who clicked through on links and who opted-out. This functionality will allow you to determine the success of your campaigns globally and with which prospect. You may even tie your email marketing deployment to a follow-up phone blitz to call people whose emails bounced, for instance. That way you’ll keep your database clean and you’ll get to forge relationships with new contacts right away.
- Test Your Deliverability: As Wesson explains, “Even the best email in the world won’t be effective if it never reaches your audience.” If your message isn’t landing in your prospect’s inbox, they could easily forget about you and book their business elsewhere. So how do you test deliverability? “In three simple ways, Young Padawan,” replies Jeff, our programmer (yes, he’s a big Star Wars fan):
- Compatibility: Your email tool should enable you to test your message in every browser and mobile platform. While it’s difficult to make it look great in ALL systems, you should aim to get it right in the main ones.
- Format: All e-mails should be also have a text version, so if a client has disabled HTML he/she will still get your message. Jeff mentioned this in last month’s blog in point #2.
- Spam Analysis: Your e-mail marketing software should alert you to potential spam triggers. This includes using exclamation marks, ALL-CAPS, the word free and other practices that may inadvertently flag your message as spam. For more tips on this, see Hubspot’s Ultimate List of Email SPAM Trigger Words.
- Segment Your Audience: Consider splitting your audience depending on their needs, geography and, in some cases, purchasing power. Hotel chains often are at a disadvantage here. For instance they may be running a promotion for a particular area, such as a rate offer for their properties in Arizona. But because they can’t readily access their clients’ destination preferences in their CRM, they blast out to everyone in the database, upsetting recipients who think they "should know better," causing them to unsubscribe. In this case it may be better to make promotions less specific, or to include at least one educational or valuable reference, regardless of destination preference. Also, set up a preference centre landing page so your prospects can tell you what they want and when.
- Get Your Timing Right: Stay informed about open rates and email traffic through research from organizations like Marketing Sherpa or Mashable. If the lowest open rate is reported to be at 4pm on a Friday afternoon, would you really want to be e-mailing then? Look at different sources and establish a baseline for yourself by splitting your list and send at different times. See if it makes a difference. Make sure to check the dates of major events in your industry. You don’t want to get caught sending an e-mail during a big trade show when everyone is out of the office!
- Track, Analyze & Adjust: Tracking is a very important step in the process, but it doesn’t stop at just looking at what your email message is doing. It’s being accountable to make changes and try new things. Think through ahead of time that, “If we have not achieved X by Y we will do Z”. This will help you ensure you don’t fall into the trap of doing things by rote.
This post is by Jeff Chabot, Web & E-Marketing Programmer and Doreen Ashton Wagner, Chief Strategist, at Greenfield Services Inc.