In today’s digital age, there are so many different ways to market your destination that one of the most basic methods often gets overlooked – email marketing. When done effectively, a thoughtfully planned, well-researched and well-executed campaign can mean a significant return on investment. Just last year, Sales Force reported that nearly 80% of marketers considered email to be a core component of their business practices. And among those surveyed, almost half directly linked their business’ primary revenue source to their email efforts.
It can be tempting to write off destination email marketing as a waste, assuming that many recipients simply write off your efforts as spam. But, in a 2016 survey conducted by MarketingSherpa, 60% of respondents identified marketing email as their preferred method of communication. Furthermore, nearly 68% of teenagers and 73% of millennials said they prefer to receive business communications via email (Adestra, 2016).
With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few simple steps you can take to shape effective email marketing efforts for your destination.
Cultivate Your Audience
The quality of your email database is one of the most important contributing factors to the overall success of your marketing efforts, as is the software you use to manage it. There are many software options out there, but some more advanced tools like Act-On, Campaign Monitor and several others will provide you with insights that help you track open rates, click-through rates, conversions, and more, allowing you to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of each campaign.
As for list quality, factors such as how the list was compiled and whether or not permission was granted (did they opt-in?) will also affect your success. Your list should consist of real people who are interested in your content, not unknown email addresses from a purchased list or scraped from a website. Consider segmenting your list in order to provide relevant messaging to each specific target audience – at the most basic level, these segments would be leisure and business travelers, meeting and event planners and industry stakeholders. Breaking these segments down even further can allow you to continue to make your campaigns more relevant (and in the process more effective). And even though you should have your stakeholders in a separate segment (for emails that need to be just directed to them), it is a good idea to also include them on your other outbound email marketing efforts so they know what and when you are communicating with consumers – keeping them “in the loop”.
The below email example featured a community in Northwest Florida and received a whopping 42% open rate and a 7% click-through rate (average open rates are 20% and average click-through rates are 2%) in large part because we cultivated a very clean list of permission-based, previous vacationers and interested travelers.
Create a Compelling Message
It should go without saying, but the content of the email must be of interest to the recipient, and the degree of relevance will greatly affect the success of email campaigns. Including a competitive offer such as discounted event tickets, free hotel nights or attractive packages will entice recipients. And packages should include accommodations, attractions and culinary offerings to maximize time spent in your destination.
Pro Tip: As a rule of thumb, as the audience relevance of your email content increases, recipients are incrementally less likely to consider your email spam. This usually translates to a lower unsubscribe rate and should decrease the likelihood of being reported as spam – which you definitely don’t want.
Another method of communicating with DMO target audiences is through e-newsletters. There are two basic e-news formats, one directed to travelers (ideally featuring curated blog content) and one directed to industry stakeholders featuring stats like the number of meetings held, visitors to the welcome center and upcoming events, groups visiting the market, etc.
Strive for a Clean and Organized Design
Quality imagery and graphic design is critical in successfully marketing your offering. We can’t say enough about using quality photography and professionally designed graphics in all of your marketing efforts, including email. Read more on building authentic imagery for your destination. The email below features photography not only from the area, but also of accommodation amenities captured with an on-location photoshoot.
Have a Compelling Subject Line
Lastly, your subject line is one of the most important factors that contributes to a successful open rate. If it isn’t compelling, recipients will never open the email to see the valuable offer or message you may have. Consider words that create a sense of urgency (offers for a holiday or availability for a limited time), but be extra careful of using spam triggers that can get your email caught in a filter and never make it to the intended recipient’s inbox!
If you would like Stamp to evaluate your destination’s email marketing efforts or need help creating a plan for your destination email marketing program, reach out to us.