Email Marketing 101: 8 steps on how to set up an email marketing strategy for your tourism business

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.

Not only is it a cost-efficient way to promote business/product news, but email marketing offers business several advantages, including:

  • It offers businesses way to target specific markets for specific messages
  • It provides a platform for businesses to share their knowledge within their field of expertise
  • It has the ability to drive sales through increasing brand awareness, and encourages loyalty and advocacy, and
  • Supports other marketing initiatives as an additional campaign tool

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.

So, to help you create a seriously good enewsletter for your business, I have jotted down a few steps to help get you started.


1. Strategy always comes first

It is essential that all business 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 enewsletter 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.

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 of penetration and engagement of email campaigns;
  • In most circumstances Outlook will only allow businesses to send an email to a small number of respondents;
  • At this stage, there is no automatic way to subscribe to, or unsubscribe from receiving email updates through Outlook;
  • There is no automatic way to track hard and soft bounces, therefore not ever being able to have a truly clean database; and,
  • There is a chance that the email will be tracked and marked as spam as Outlook is not programmed to adhere to CAN-SPAM Act.

Therefore, it is highly advised that if you are wanting to develop an emarketing campaign, that it is undertaken through a EMSP as it will ensure your business ticks 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. Content is king… but you already knew that!

Offering 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 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.

Most EMSPs offer the ability to personalise enewsletters by using the subscribers name as a merge field in the text too.


4. Designing a Winning Template

This is the perfect place to implement the KISS principle – try to keep the design of your enewsletter simple. There are a couple of ways to ensure your enewsletter design template reflects your branding requirements.

  • You can pay a graphic designer to develop a template for your business, which adheres to the template guidelines of you EMSP, or;
  • To keep costs down, you can use a template provided by your EMSP and just tizzy it up with your own brand identity and images… easy as!


5. Ethical Database Management

One of the most imperative points in developing an email marketing strategy is the creation of your database.

Permission Marketing

As explained in my previous enewsletter on social customer relationship management, as marketers, it is our obligation to ensure that our database remains ethical by offering our target audience the opportunity to ‘subscribe’ and ‘unsubscribe’ from receiving communication – this is called permission marketing.

Permission Marketing means that unless your business has specific permission (through an offline promotion where they have opted in knowing that their details will be used for this type of commuication, etc) to add a person’s contact details to a database, it is wholly and solely up to the customer to maintain their subscription to a particular database.

The best part about this process is that the customer will only subscribe to what they are interested in – which great as it allows businesses to deliver 100% customer satisfaction. This then results in high engagement, low bounce and unsubscription rates, and hopefully (just hopefully!) more sales conversions!

Segmenting your database

Also, if your business offers more than one product, then you may want to look at segmenting your database so that you can target your campaigns more strategically, which can be done by ensuring that certain customer details fields are marked as ‘required’ in the subscription process.

TIP. If I run a accommodation and tour business, then I would need to ask people when they signup whether they would like to receive information about accommodation, tours or both… therefore they can opt in to what they want to learn more about!


6. Frequency and 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.

The best days to send enewsletters to business people are generally from Tuesday-Thursday (Mondays and Fridays are a little too busy) and from between 10-2pm. Whereas, general consumers are more likely to respond to enewsletters on weekends… so it really depends on your Ideal Customer.


7. Social Integration and Sharing

If you already have a captive social audience on your Facebook and twitter profiles, it is important to try and convert those ‘likers’ and ‘followers’ to actual database subscribers. This can be done by:

  • Sharing your enewsletter on your facebook and twitter profiles
  • Sharing your enewsletter signup form on your facebook and twitter profiles
  • Adding a enewsletter signup form to your facebook page as a custom tab
  • Adding a signup form to your website (like I have in the right hand column of my website) 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.

It’s also a great idea to put an archive of your enewsletters on your website (depending on the content of your enewsletter) so that people visiting your site have access to the same information. We place my blog content in our enewsletters  increase the sharing of the information.


8. Measuring Campaign Success

Finally, no marketing activity is worth undertaking if you can not measure it’s 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.

Also, if you have your enewsletters posted on your website, you should be able to track how many times your website refers visitors to your enewsletters through your Google Analytics account.


About the author, Paige Rowett

Paige is the co-director of Tourism eSchool and a Tourism Marketing Consultant ( Paige is passionate about working with tourism destinations & operators to create sustainable marketing strategies, specialising in marketing strategy, customer advocacy, customer experience, content marketing, website strategy, search engine optimisation & blogging.

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