Adam Stambleck, Movable Ink
Travel agents across America are improving their website SEO, purchasing Facebook ads and launching Google Adwords campaigns. But the workhorse of any strong travel agency’s sales lead generation is its email marketing.
Travel industry emails average a 20.5% open rate and a 2.3% click-through rate, according to Mailchimp, which each month reviews email campaigns to 1000 subscribers or more. (These figures were for campaigns reviewed through Aug. 1, 2016, including Mailchimp customers ranging from one-person startups to Fortune 500 companies.)
“The bottom line is that email will take a little time, but it is a powerful way to stay in front of your customers for significantly less than the cost of one direct [snail] mail campaign,” said Lorraine Ball, owner of Roundpeg, an Indianapolis-based digital marketing firm that specializes in serving travel agents.
At Movable Ink, a digital marketing company that provides contextual technology for corporate email campaigns, senior vice president Adam Stambleck believes the power of email can be seen in the fact that open rates have remained flat the past few years, despite the fact that more companies are sending out more emails.
“Marketers have to work a little harder to get rates to stay flat,” Stambleck said. And that means sending more personalized emails.
“The result is a flood of emails in your customer’s inbox every week. Your mission is to stand out, get read, and be remembered,” Ball agreed.
Get personal and get the sale
Stambleck helps manage 400 clients globally, including Fortune 500 companies using technology to customize emails versus the conventional, generic, blast emails. Four years ago Movable Ink invented technology that pulls custom content for an offer at the moment a client’s email is opened.
“Marketing is moving into a world of understanding behavioral data and customizing offers simultaneously,” Stambleck said. Travel inventory and pricing are updating real time, he noted. “It’s so important that when you’re sending an email, it is as up to date as your website, so the customer is always seeing the most relevant information and up-to-date pricing and inventory.”
The more you can make your customers feel as if the information was written just for them the more likely they are to click through for more information, Ball concurred. “While it takes more work than just sending one generic email to everyone on your list, there are huge payoffs in a more personalized approach.”
Smaller firms not able to hire a company like Movable Ink should be looking at which links email subscribers are clicking on, Stambleck said, and bringing that back to a lead conversion.
Ball recommends dividing up distribution lists by customer interests, separating those who like to travel in the United States or Europe, “people who like cruises, walking trips, or weeks filled with art and wine. While some campaigns will work for everyone, one more focused communications about a walking tour through the art galleries of Prague is more likely to hit home with five people who are really interested in that type of trip.”
Success builds on itself
The benefits of relevance and targeting grow exponentially, Stambleck noted. As “you start to train your audience that ‘these emails are very interesting to me,’ click-through rates will start to go up.” But making offers is especially important when you first obtain a new subscriber. “You’re making a first impression. If that email is relevant, you’re off to a very good start. That kind of nurturing stream is so important.”
Lorraine Ball, Roundpeg
Ball offered other tactical initiatives that travel agents can use to supercharge their email campaigns: