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Dear Hoteliers,

Let’s talk about email marketing! We should start by pointing out that there are products out there that are obviously great, like Mailchimp, Sendinblue, and Sarbacane. With their extensive features, these software solutions meet most companies’ needs.

The key idea of this article is to compare the use of these general solutions with the use of hotel-specific email marketing software that focuses on the specific needs of our industry.

Those of you who are longtime readers know that I try to remain objective and give useful advice. It so happens that today’s topic is close to my heart, and there is a dedicated app available. This is a solution that I love, and I’ll use it to explain the differences between the two types of solutions.

10% that makes all the difference

Let’s get down to the topic at hand.  

A general solution like Salesforce is a veritable machine that can do everything. It meets 90% of the needs of the overall market. But for a highly specialized business like in the hospitality industry, it is missing about 10% of the functionality we need. That 10% can lead to a major difference in your company’s revenues.

Looking closely, the important thing is not to have so many options that you get lost. Rather, it’s to use a solution whose functionalities are fully focused on your needs. That said, Mailchimp, Sarabacane, and Sendinblue are all excellent software, but in my opinion, they are not the best fit for your business. This is based on my experience and conversations I’ve had with many hoteliers.

Through my contacts, I frequently hear the same thing over and over: “Email marketing doesn’t work. It’s completely useless!” When I hear this, I respond that email marketing isn’t the problem. The problem is actually the tool or method they are using. Let’s take a closer look at the tool, and we’ll talk about methodology in a future article.

Connectivity to your hotel’s PMS

Time savings

Unlike a general email marketing solution, email marketing software designed for hotels connects to your PMS. As a result, data is shared automatically, without you having to export your data and then import it into your email marketing system.

Cleanliness

Another good point has to do with keeping your database clean (click here to read a full article about this topic). Right now, if you want to exclude some customers from an email you’re sending, you have to remove them manually from your list. For a modest-sized hotel, this might take the greater part of a day to set up your email. With dedicated software, everything is done automatically. Even before you choose who to send the email to, the software cleans up duplicates and consolidates your data.

These two steps alone demonstrate the significant time savings possible. But let’s keep going.

Improved performance

Consider the common mistake of cross-selling with yourself. For example, Pierre-Jean (nicknamed PJ) booked a single room for €100 in your hotel for December 31. Now, let’s say that you send an email to your contact list with the subject line “December 31: Superior double rooms for €100”. If PJ sees this email, there’s a good chance that he will cancel his reservation so that he can take advantage of the offer he just received. Everyone agrees that this customer should never have received this email. But can you be sure that this won’t happen with a general email marketing solution? Hotel-specific software will make sure that a customer who has already booked their next stay will not appear in the database used to send new deals.

Email segmentation

By default, your PMS contains almost no segmentation. Most of the time, a hotel’s PMS will somehow indicate the customer’s language, whether their stay is for business or leisure, and that’s about it.

This means that, when it’s time to send a series of emails, the only option is to send the message to the entire contact database. A hotel CRM is designed to create interactions with your customers and gather data. The database therefore has more information available, like the customer’s date of birth, special requests, fellow travelers, regular visits, customer satisfaction, and more.

All of this information makes it possible to market directly to specific segments. Let’s say that there is a festival taking place in your area that is popular among people between the ages of 20 and 30 years old. You could send a targeted email to customers in that age range by creating a targeted deal based on the festival.

The simple act of targeting the email to specific customers can increase your ROI by a factor of 5.2X. That’s why I believe that email marketing works, and it’s often the tool being used that creates problems.

What about angry customers?

As you know, no matter how prestigious your hotel may be, a guest may be unhappy with their stay. When this happens, the worst thing you can do is to send them lots of promotional emails that serve as a constant reminder of how bad their experience was. Surely, you can understand how this would be annoying. It might even lead to negative reviews on TripAdvisor or Google My Business. That’s why we need to avoid this at all costs.

With segmentation, you can remove all the dissatisfied customers from your standard email marketing list and possibly group them in a campaign specific to them, with the goal of winning them back.

Language challenges in email marketing

We’ve talked about time savings, more sophisticated management of email marketing campaigns, and protecting yourself from common mistakes, but I haven’t yet mentioned a major challenge: languages.

These days, many companies do business locally or internationally using just one language. But when it comes to the hospitality industry, it’s a little more complicated. Lots of different languages may be used, which quickly creates a challenge when sending out emails.

For many, the only solution is to group all the English-speaking customers, create a campaign, and send it just to them. Then, you can group all the Spanish-speaking customers, create another campaign, and send it to them. And so on for all the other languages.

Another option is to send an email in English to your entire contact database. After all, “most people speak English,” right? Except that Jean-Louis Dupont, one of our French customers, can’t understand anything but “Hello” and “Goodbye,” so he decides to unsubscribe from your email list altogether.

In short, we can either set up multiple campaigns from A to Z, which is obviously time-consuming, or we can create a single campaign that some of your customers will not understand or simply ignore. You know that’s not ideal.

A hotel-specific email marketing software should allow you to carry out multilingual email marketing in a way that eliminates this problem. Like a traditional website, your emails will contain several flags so that the user can choose the language they want. This will also allow you to save the language each user selects so that it can become their default language. As you can see, this is a key tool for capturing your target.

Tracking your sales

Unlike an e-commerce site for a sunglasses store, which encourages people to buy their product immediately after their email marketing campaign, booking a room requires some planning time. On average, there are about 14 days between the campaign itself and bookings. Tracking profits is therefore a bit more complicated. Also, most people read their email on their smartphone and then book with their computer or tablet. Traditional techniques are not suitable for assessing the impact of a campaign.

To address this problem, we can observe that an email was sent to the email address belonging to X, thanks to the connection with your hotel’s PMS, and then see that X books a room within 30 days after the email was sent.

This feature allows you to study trends affecting your ROI, giving you specific numbers so that you can understand what works and what doesn’t work in your campaigns. And there is NO general software that offers this feature right now! 

We know that using a hotel-specific software offers an average improved return of investment of 23X to 32X per email. That’s what makes it the most cost-effective marketing tool on the market! In other words, a campaign sent to 10,000 people generates average sales of €15,000.

The big picture

Once again, this article is not meant to be self-promotion. My goal is to call attention to the benefits of email marketing as the most cost-effective tool on the market. Yes, the results are disappointing when you use the wrong tools, but if you focus on a business tool like ours, the opposite is true. 

Why do you think Booking.com sends so many marketing emails to your customers?

I’ll leave you with this little chart.

Thanks for reading!

Generic Email Marketing SolutionHotel Email Marketing Solution
Lots of features, but not really tailored to your needs.Fewer features, but tailored completely to your needs.
No connectivity with your PMS. Imports, exports, and cleanups must be done manually. Considerable time lost.Connectivity with your PMS. One-click contact transfers and automatic data cleanup. Significant time savings.
No segmentation (unless created manually by your teams). Risk of mistakes with cross-selling to the wrong people and sending emails to angry customers.Precise segmentation. Targeted campaigns and ROI increased by a factor of 5.2X. Protection against common errors.
A campaign for each language or a single campaign with a potential loss of customers.A single multilingual campaign to meet everyone’s needs.
No concrete view of ROI.A detailed view of trends thanks to a connection with your hotel’s PMS.
No certainty about cost-effectiveness.Guaranteed cost-effectiveness.
Tony LOEB
Author

Tony Loeb started his career in Hotel marketing in 2001 as a webmaster, then quickly became the Technical Director of a web agency specialized in the hotel industry. Passionate about the tourism sector and attracted by the idea of taking on new challenges, Tony took over the management of a team of hotel consultants until 2014, when he decided to make hotel marketing his core business. In 2014, he co-founded the company Experience Hotel and is now responsible for its international development and deployment, improving tools for automating and optimizing customer relations, from booking to customer loyalty.

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