This is the fourth in a series on “digital marketing made simple” by Constant Contact’s Ron Cates.
Despite all the hype about social media, email is still our predominant communication vehicle. Email is also an exceptionally powerful marketing medium – but only if you do it right.
Here are 10 tips to help travel sellers get the most out of their email communications.
1. Target what you send.
One of the most exciting things about email is that travel agents can easily target what they send by creating multiple lists. Lists can be comprised of customers, prospects, people who have shown an interest in a specific service, etc., and you can send a different message to each group that matches their exact interests.
Try that achieving that with any form of traditional marketing! How about television advertising? Even if you could afford to shoot 30 different commercials, there's no way to send a specific commercial to a specific group of homes.
2. Use an email marketing service.
Sending bulk email on your own is nearly impossible. Plus, email marketing services with good reputations and high standards get incredibly good delivery rates. I work for an email marketing service (the very best one, but there are dozens), so this may appear self-serving, but the reality is that on your own you cannot come close to achieving the results that an email service delivers.
Another advantage of email services is their tracking capabilities – who opened it and when, who clicked on what, which links were most popular – something you could not build on your own. The fees for email marketing services start out at around just $15 per month. If that's not in your marketing budget, you don't have a marketing budget.
3. Make it easy to subscribe.
Permission-based email marketing, where a subscriber opts in to receive email from you, is the only email marketing worth doing. Subscribing is usually done through a web link, so put the link everywhere you can on your website – on every page and in a prominent location (upper left). Put it on your Facebook page, on your regular emails in the signature line and Tweet it on occasion.
4. Make it easy to opt-out.
It might sound counterintuitive, but the fact is that the easier you make it to unsubscribe, and the more often you include the unsubscribe link, the less likely subscribers are to opt-out. What’s missing in a true spam email? A way to opt out. Show your subscribers you don’t mind them opting out if they’re uninterested, and they’re more likely to stay. Besides, a huge list of uninterested subscribers isn’t as valuable as a smaller one filled with hot leads.
5. Use a real name in the ‘from’ line.
Sixty percent of recipients decide whether to open your email based on who it's from. That means the ‘from’ name and the ‘from’ email address had better clearly indicate who you are. A real email@example.com gets opened more than anything else, even if they have no idea who the person is.
6. Use a smart subject line.
The ideal subject line is challenging to write – but not impossible. It will be 40 characters or less, including spaces. It will never be more than 49 characters, or open rates drop and click-throughs plummet. It will include your brand name again, even though it's shown in the from line, and it will have a call to action. Why should I open this right now?
Want in on a big secret? The very best subject lines, the ones that get opened the most every time, are the ones that tell exactly what's in the email.
7. Make it easy to forward.
Your recipients won't forward your email unless you ask them to and make it easy for them to do so. Place a forward button in multiple locations in your email. Try a polite command, instead of a generic ask. "Forward email" is boring. Try instead: "Please forward to 3 friends."
8. Make it socially shareable.
Some email services allow the recipient to share their email via social media. We are seeing a 40% to 60% increase in reach with this capability. The average return on investment with email is already incredibly high, so imagine the results when you increase the reach by this huge amount.
9. Send at the best time.
Send when your recipients are most likely to read it. For most of America, that means Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I love 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., but your results may vary. If I owned movie theaters, I'd send late Thursday afternoons to make sure recipients buy their movie tickets from me before spending their money elsewhere on the weekend.
Want to find out what's best for your travel agency? Cut your list in half, send at different times and see which gets opened the most. Email services track this for you, so it’s easy.
10. Look at clicks to see what's working.
If my email contains three articles, all with a “click-to-continue” link, I can see which articles were clicked on most. If Article A didn't get any clicks, I won't do content like that again. If Article B got a ton of clicks, I know which content resonates with my recipients.
Digital marketing expert Ron Cates, director of new market development for Constant Contact, is a popular presenter on the topics of social media and email marketing, as well as host of Email Marketing Radio and Social Media Nation.