At the end of 2017, Marc Heyneker, Revinate’s Co-Founder and CEO, and Erica Rich, the Sr. Hospitality Marketing Strategist, sat down with John Albano of Lodging Leaders to discuss the role that email marketing plays at hotels today. You can find the entire podcast on the Lodging Leader’s website, but we wanted to provide the key takeaways in an easily digestible and shareable format.
Albano: Revinate got its start as an online reputation management software provider. Why is the company now tackling email marketing?
Heyneker: The hospitality industry is changing. Hoteliers used to manage room inventory. Today they manage customers. There used to be a focus on top line revenue. Now there’s a focus on profit. Costs are going up and hotels are giving up revenue to OTAs and the sharing economy. It has never been more important for hotels to drive direct revenue.
We saw a void in the market for a specialized and easy-to-use software platform that would enable hoteliers to do great marketing. And doing great marketing today means having guest data and being able to segment it in a way that allows marketers to send personalized communications at every step in the guest’s journey.
Rich: I have been working in the hospitality industry since college. When I think of my own experience, the email marketing services that I used were cumbersome and archaic. I was doing marketing for four hotels, three restaurants and one spa. There was simply no way to do it all and do it well with the software I had. Revinate saw this pain and figured out a way to automate the process and make it easy to use so that anyone could be successful. It truly is designed for hoteliers by hoteliers.
Albano: Why email over social?
Rich: Social media provides really interesting opportunities for hoteliers to engage with guests but email marketing is still the number one way to drive revenue. And we want to help hotels generate more direct bookings. We can do that with Revinate Marketing.
Albano: For folks that are brand new to email marketing, where should they start?
Rich: Step one is to think about the customer journey, which includes inspiration, reservation, pre-arrival, check-in, on-property and check-out. If you look at all the tools in a marketers tool chest, email is the only tool that works across the entire journey.
I like to advise our clients to focus on pre-arrival since the audience is most captive before the stay. Great pre-arrival marketing can set the tone for the trip and also provides a great opportunity for upsell and upgrades.
Albano: What might a pre-arrival email look like?
Rich: We advise that the pre-arrival email go out three to seven days before arrival for the best open rate, which averages 58%. We also know from our data that if you include ‘room upgrade’ in the subject line, your email will get a higher open rate. In the email itself, we recommend saying, ‘We look forward to welcoming you’ and providing a few ways to enhance the stay with, for example, spa options, room category upgrade offers, etc. Pre-arrival is a great time to upsell a guest and hoteliers need to leverage the opportunity.
Albano: How do you measure the success of email?
Rich: We look at a few different metrics. First, we look at email open rates. Of all the email types that we send, pre-arrival open rates are the highest. We also look at click-through rates, which typically average 1-2%. But upgrade emails can be as high as 30%. We also look at resulting reservations, room nights, and revenue booked. Because Revinate Marketing is integrated with the PMS, we can easily see how emails convert to revenue.
Albano: How much email is too much?
Rich: I would say that it depends on relevancy. If emails are personalized and relevant, people won’t mind receiving them once or twice a month. But if the emails aren’t targeted, recipients will start to ignore your emails. In other words, content is more important than frequency. In fact, we have some hotels that send two pre-arrivals emails and each one does well since it’s information that is targeted and that guests will care about.
Albano: How does automation help?
Rich: There is no doubt that hoteliers are incredibly busy and resource constrained. That’s where automation becomes important. We can automate pre-arrival emails, birthday campaigns, ‘we miss you’ campaigns, etc. In fact, I heard a great story from one of our clients that experienced a ton of staff turnover during a certain period but emails went out as normal so there was no impact on communications or revenue.
Albano: What are the steps to putting together a good email program?
Rich: First, as I mentioned, you want your marketing automation platform to be integrated with your PMS, allowing you to segment your emails and track the success of your campaigns. Segmentation is so important in email marketing. Just blasting a huge database with the same message will hurt you in a couple of ways. First, you won’t get you the results you want because the message won’t resonate with everyone. Second, your deliverability will certainly suffer and your email will end up in your recipients’ spam folders.
We want hoteliers to forget about the overall database number and instead focus on the customers that actually want to hear from you. For example, don’t email anyone that hasn’t been on property in 2 years. These folks probably don’t want to hear from you.
Hotels have so much great data on their customers and, with some thought and tools, could put together incredibly relevant emails based on guest behavior, but emails from hoteliers are too often not personalized at all. As an industry, we are behind. We can do much better and Revinate Marketing can help.
Albano: What are some upsell and upgrade ideas?
Rich: Lead with a room upgrade offer. As I mentioned earlier, mentioning ‘room upgrade’ in the subject line boosts your open rate. The number one offer that we see being redeemed is flowers and rose petal turndowns. Also popular is breakfast, champagne and tickets to local attractions or events.
Albano: What do you see as the benefits of a good email marketing program?
Rich: I see four benefits of a good email marketing program. First and foremost, email drives revenue and puts heads in beds. Second, email drives traffic to the website and, as a result, drives SEO. Email also enforces brand identity. I like to advise clients to ‘sell, sell, fun,’ which means it doesn’t always have to be about selling. Every third email or so can be about fun – – a new attraction or an iconic spot to visit. Finally, email presents a great opportunity to reward your most loyal guests.
Albano: What’s one piece of advice that you can give email marketers?
Rich: What I love about email marketing is that you can fail fast and course correct fast. It’s ok to try something new and see if it moves the needle. The beauty of email is that you can test and measure everything. Learn from your failures and try something new. I think all email marketers get nervous about hitting the send button since emails feel very high profile. But email is also very forgiving so take some chances.
Albano: How much does Revinate Marketing cost and where can hoteliers find out more about it?
Heyneker: There are two version of Revinate Marketing depending on what a hotel needs. The cost ranges from $500-$1000 a month. It’s a simple configuration for the software service plus we include service options for teams that might want extra support. We are proud that Revinate Marketing more than pays for itself each month. But more importantly, we are proud that we let hoteliers unlock the power of their guest data. You can learn more about Revinate Marketing at Revinate.com.