Guide to Email Deliverability, Part 1: Dos and Don’ts

As one of Revinate’s Hospitality Marketing Strategists, I work closely with our Revinate Marketing customers on the most foundational aspect of email marketing – deliverability.

What is deliverability? It’s a way to measure the success of a message arriving in the recipient’s inbox as intended. Multiple aspects affect deliverability, such as campaign content, quality of email lists, volume and cadence of sends, spam reports, and recipient engagement with messages, to name a few.

Nowadays, more and more hoteliers realize that the deliverability of their emails impacts how they perform overall. The logic is simple: The more emails delivered, the more opens you get. The more opens, the higher the conversion.

When a customer approaches me with deliverability concerns, I always share the below tips and best practices. In part one of this two-part series, I’m focusing on fundamental approaches that will get your hotel email marketing efforts off to a good start.

1. Database Quality

The quality of your contacts is the first thing mailbox providers look at when assessing your sender reputation. If there is even a small doubt regarding the quality, you are at serious risk that none of your emails will be delivered and your reputation as a credible sender will be damaged.

When talking about database quality, I am not just talking about the number of hard bounces. Just as important is the quality of your deliverable emails. Spam traps, role account emails, malicious addresses, and typos result in significantly more deliverability issues than even high bounce rates. Therefore, it’s critical to think about building your database correctly.

Building your Database Correctly

To get started on the right track and ensure a healthy database, consider the following database-building tips:

  1. Any missing emails should be collected at the front desk. To make this even more effective, incentivize your front desk agents to gather as many legitimate, active emails as possible. Some hotels practice WiFi access with the password that is sent to a guest via email to encourage the guests to provide their “real” email addresses.
  2. “What’s in it for me?” Give the guest a clear understanding of the benefits of subscribing to your mailing list. Perhaps it is exclusive loyalty offers, “booking direct” best rates, birthday discounts, or an interesting newsletter with unique content.
  3. Encourage your guests to visit and sign up for emails on your website. Send an opt-in email to confirm that your guests actually want to receive emails from your brand. Have an industry standard opt-in process.
  4. Although having a long email list is nice, avoid purchased email lists, shared lists, and scraping emails. Even if you have an amazing looking and sounding email, it’s useless if the audience is unengaged. Although it’s not easy or fast, the best method is to organically build your email list. The goal? Get real emails connected to real people so you can communicate real, relatable offers to them.

Keep in mind that it’s about quality over quantity. Even with a small but clean and data-driven audience, you’re setting yourself up for success with quality data.

2. Segmentation and Subscriber Engagement

Segmentation is a tried and true way to increase guest engagement. If you’re not sending relevant content, you’re increasing your chances of being ignored or receiving complaints. Segment your lists using data found in your PMS to create personalized messages based on your guests’ locations, rate codes, or stay dates, for example.

In Revinate Marketing, once you have a segment created, you can quickly create a campaign with the click of a button. Remember these helpful tips as you create your campaign for a specific segment:

  • Call out segment specifics in the subject line, such as “Thank you for your loyalty” when the Smart Segment is “Loyal Guests.”
  • Include the segment specifics in your content as well, such as “Book Loyalty Offer” as your CTA for “Loyal Guests” segment. If you’re sending an upsell email, remember that a CTA with the word “Upgrade” generates a 17% higher CTR.
  • Make sure the images in your campaign match your audience’s persona.

I recently had one of my customers experience the power of segmentation, improving their deliverability and open rates tremendously. Once segmentation was implemented into their email marketing strategy, Hotel on Rivington saw their open rates increase from 2% in April 2017 to 17% in just a few months. They also saw an impressive increase in their click-through rate and revenue per recipient:

Hotel on Rivington example of segmentation and deliverability

Subscriber Engagement

Mailbox providers, including Google, look at user engagement to determine the inbox placement. When it comes to a spam filtering checklist, Gmail looks at primary engagement metrics such as open, click, and forward rates, the time between receiving and opening an email, and the amount of sender and recipient interaction. Basically, if a few subscribers read the email but most ignore it or complain about it, Gmail sees that as spammy behavior and filters your next send to SPAM for all recipients. So, it’s critical to track subscriber engagement as it helps your sender reputation.

One best practice around recipient engagement is the “sunset policy” – the practice of not emailing anyone who has not stayed at your hotel in the last two years. These contacts are considered inactive and will most likely mark your email as spam, thus negatively affecting your sender reputation. I recommend that you add a filter for “Check-out date in the last 2 years” for all your segments to avoid low engagement.

Another related technique that can positively affect your engagement rate is sending campaigns to contacts who have opened any of your emails in the last year. This practice is particularly helpful for those suffering from poor Gmail inbox placement.

3. Sending Practice

Email deliverability best sending practices: volume and cadence

Two of the most important things in deliverability are sending volume and cadence. In order to establish and maintain a positive reputation with mailbox providers, you need to create a regular, consistent email schedule. The less often you send emails, the more likely you are to face common deliverability issues such as complaints (or SPAM reports) and an increase in bounce rates and unknown user rates.

We find that the ideal send volume is one promotional campaign a week, although we understand this isn’t always realistic for hotels. As your occupancy rate varies month to month and season to season, it’s hard to maintain the same volume and cadence of email campaigns. Still, the more consistent you are, the better. For example, try to send one to two promotional campaigns a month plus a quarterly newsletter.

With these three best practices, you’re ready to create tailored emails that will increase guest engagement and conversion. In part two of our deliverability blog series, we provide more detailed recommendations on how to drive open rates and revenue through your email marketing efforts.

If you’re interested in learning how to create and send more targeted email campaigns, don’t hesitate to contact us. After all, it’s our favorite topic!

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