A Tourism Marketer’s Guide to Getting Started with Email Marketing

A Tourism Marketer’s Guide to Getting Started with Email Marketing

By Paige Rowett
Published on February 14, 2022

One of the fundamental marketing tactics for every tourism business should be the development and implementation of a regular enewsletter to engage current and potential customers.

The Benefits of Email Marketing

As you know, it is easier to retain customers, than find new ones - and the best way to retain your customer base is to communicate to your customers regularly... and businesses can so this by using email marketing software programs.

1. Email is ‘Pull’ Marketing

The reason why email marketing is so powerful, is because it is permission based. This means that people on your database have purposefully 'opted-in' to receive your updates, and therefore are more engaged in your brand than say those who 'like' you on Facebook.

This means they are further along the buying funnel, and have a higher propensity to purchase. And, while not everyone is on social media, nearly everyone has an email address, and it’s because of this that your customers are more likely to see and read an email than a social media update.

2. Email generates leads & drives people to your website

Email marketing has the potential to be a huge driver of traffic to your website, as all of the information you share in your email updates SHOULD be redirecting people to your website.

For example, in your email updates you could share your latest blog post, new news, or a sales promotion, of which you would share a snippet of the information in the email update, and then refer them to your website to read the full ‘story’.

3. Email drives sales

When people sign up to your database, they are expecting to hear about special deals and sales promotions - it's half the reason why they signed up in the first place! So, email is a targeted way to let people know about your latest sales promotion or campaigns.

As mentioned above, once on your database, the likelihood of a person purchasing from you increases as they are engaged in your brand.

This is where you can really start to see the fruits of your content marketing strategy come together as a driver of enquiries and sales.

4. Greater + Cheaper Reach than Social Media

Email reaches 79% of the people you send it to (this is the global, average inbox placement rate). In comparison, Facebook’s average organic reach has sits at about 1-6%, depending on your total number of followers.

5. Email is personal

Beyond reaching its intended targets, email marketing is also effective because you can personalise the message to what your customers are interested in, which makes it much more likely that a recipient will open and take action on your email.

6. People are checking their emails more thanks to smartphones

Email is a key channel to communicate with your customers with most people reading emails on smartphones, and checking emails on mobile multiple times a day. So, it makes sense to be talking to your customers where they spending their time.

7. Think of it as Social Media 'insurance'

Your email database is online real estate that you 'own', in comparison to your social media profiles and pages which you 'rent'. As a result, you don’t own your social media likers and followers contact details, so if something happened to your social media accounts, or Facebook continues to make it harder for your content to be seen by your fans, you have no way of maintaining contact with your social media followers.

Encouraging your social media followers to sign up to your email database is a good way to collect your social media followers contact details, therefore establishing a Social Media insurance policy.

Getting Started with Email Marketing

So, in this article I've jotted down a few steps to help you create a relevant and engaging enewsletter.

1. Strategy First

It is essential that all brand marketing activities are executed in a strategic manner. So, to ensure your effort reaps rewards for your business, be sure that you have the time and energy to commit to the process of delivering an email strategy (including research, development, implementation and measurement).

2. Email Marketing Service Providers

There are literally hundreds of email marketing service providers (EMSPs) available online. Which EMSP you choose for your business will depend on what you want from your software program, and how much you are prepared to pay. Research is essential.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing an EMSP.

Does the service provider offer:

  1. A freemium subscription service with a minimum number of subscribers and email credits, with the option of paid service for larger mailouts;
  2. The ability to customise the enewsletter design (import custom design templates, or to totally customise provided templates) and that the software has templates that are mobile compatible;
  3. The capacity to upload required amount of subscribers and offers comprehensive list management services;
  4. The ability to send out personalised emails to customers using custom merge fields;
  5. Competitive rates for emailouts (should be between 1-2cents per successful email);
  6. Detailed reporting on enewsletter engagement and therefore return on marketing investment; and,
  7. Comprehensive online training and customer services options available.

Mailchimp is a great starting point for majority of Tourism Brands, as it's well supported and covers all of the above, and the service is free for first 2000 subscribers. But there are lots of other options available with varying prices – so you need to do your homework.

If you have a larger customer database, have more complex systems and want to do more advanced email marketing in addition to customer relationship management (CRM), you could talk to your web developer or industry colleagues as a sounding board before choosing your solution.

Can I use outlook to send out mass marketing emails?

It is advised that tourism businesses don't use Microsoft Outlook to manage email marketing strategies.

The reason for this is:

  • Outlook can not provide businesses with any measurement or penetration and engagement of email campaigns
  • There is no automatic way to track hard and soft bounces, therefore not ever being able to have a truly clean database (which questions your database's relevance and influence anyway)
  • There is no automatic way to subscribe to, or unsubscribe from receiving email updates through Outlook (which doesn't adhere to new email marketing compliance laws introduced in 2018 - see below)
  • Email servers will start to identify the bulk sending and users might mark the email as spam. This will cause email servers to block the sender’s email address, domain, and/or mail sent from the entire email server, as Outlook is not programmed to adhere to CAN-SPAM Act.

Therefore, it is highly advised that if you are wanting to undertake email marketing, that it is undertaken through a EMSP as it will ensure your ticking all of the developmental and compliance boxes for sending out mass marketing emails.

A few EMSPs for your consideration

Here's a complete list of Email Marketing Service Providers for your perusal... I can highly recommend looking into MailChimp (that's what we use, easy and free for small businesses who have less than 200 subscribers, and that only send out a couple of emails a month). Other EMSPs that I have heard good things about are Aweber, InfusionsoftConstant ContactiContact and Vertical Response.

3. Compliance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a legal framework that sets guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information of individuals within the European Union (EU). It came into effect in May 2018, and all tourism brands who collect user data from individuals in the EU need to comply with these guidelines.

We recommend you read Vision 6 blog post which summarises what you need to do to be email marketing compliant in Australia. Additionally, we suggest reading the comprehensive information from the Australian Direct Marketing Association about Australia’s Privacy Laws.

4. Building your List

One of the most imperative points in developing an email marketing strategy is the creation of your list. Your ‘List’ is simply a database of customers who have given you permission to communicate with them on email, and who you send your email updates to.

Without a list of past and potential visitors to communicate with, it makes it much harder and more expensive to reach your marketing goals, as you have to rely on less targeted and more expensive paid advertising tactics.

If you don’t have a list of customer emails who have agreed to hear from you via an email update (and unfortunately you can't add past customers to your list without their permission), you will need to build one from scratch. This can be a slow process, however it is completely worth the effort, and is a very important investment in the success of your marketing!

Tourism brands should be communicating different information to different stakeholders. These could include:

  • Past Customers (your advocates... but make sure they have given permission to be on your database)
  • Potential Customers / Visitors
  • Trade
  • Media
  • Residents
  • Industry

Segmenting your Database

Based on the need to communicate different messages to different audiences, it's important that you segment your database. For example, for your 'Potential Customers/Visitors' segment, you may like to ensure your signup forms collect a little more personal information, such as:

  • Their travel interests (what sort of holiday they are looking for)
  • Additional travel information (such as when they are planning on travelling)
  • Where your subscriber lives (postcode / city / country)
  • Personal Information (Birthdays)

This additional data will help you to personalise and tailor the messages in your enewsletters, which will help you to share more engaging content relevant for your subscribers, which could result in a higher converting newsletter.

Below is an example of how Tourism and Events Queensland have segmented their database.

5. Content

Sharing relevant and interesting content is key to the success of an online emarketing campaign. Businesses may like to communicate the following things in their enewsletters:

  1. New product/service offering
  2. Updated/changed product/service offering
  3. News from their region (eg. by promoting your region you may stimulate demand for visitation, and potential visitation to your business)
  4. Competition or business promotion (eg. offer subscribers to your enewsletter an exclusive promotion, whereby only those that receive the enewsletter can partake)

Also, don't forget when writing your enewsletter to make it short, sharp and conversational, not corporate marketing jargon... take the opportunity to really engage with your customers on a one-on-one level (as you would with your social media platforms) as people prefer to be communicated to like individuals... not as a mass market.

6. Email Template

With 55% of all emails opened on Mobile Devices, it is essential your emails are designed using a mobile responsive template.

The great news is your email service provider will have a number of different mobile responsive templates you can choose from.

Choose a simple, clean layout that has the elements you want to be able drag and drop in, such as text and images, text only, and headlines. Once you have set up one email newsletter, you can then replicate the template over and over again.

7. Frequency + Timings

Depending on the content that you are delivering, it is normally acceptable to send an enewsletter once or twice a month.

If your enewsletter is a special, time limited deal, then send whenever it is applicable... however, if it is a general update on the services, or sharing information, then once or twice a month is pretty safe.

According to CoSchedule, the best day to send email is Tuesday-Thursday, at either 10am, 8pm, 2pm or 6am.

8. Social Integration + Sharing

If you already have a captive social audience, it is important to try and convert those 'likers' and 'followers' to actual subscribers.

This can be done by:

  • Sharing your enewsletter on your social profiles
  • Sharing your enewsletter 'signup form' on your facebook and twitter profiles
  • Adding a signup form to your website (like at the bottom of this blog article) in an attempt to generate new database subscribers from your website
  • Adding social share buttons and email forwarding options on the bottom of your enewsletter to encourage sharing.

9. Measuring Campaign Success

Finally, no marketing activity is worth undertaking if you can not measure its success. Most EMSPs will have tracking capabilities, which will offer your business insight into email opens, unsubscribes, subscribes, URL clickthroughs, etc, and will also delve down as far as which subscribers are most actively engaged with your enewsletter too.

Paige Rowett

Paige is a tourism marketing specialist and co-director of Tourism eSchool. After growing up on a farm on Eyre Peninsula, and now managing a mixed farming enterprise with her family in the Clare Valley in South Australia, Paige has a genuine love and drive for developing thriving local communities. She is passionate about educating stakeholders in the value of the Visitor Economy and supporting tourism businesses to build sustainable businesses they love.