Last spring, I wrote Seven Digital Media Tips Every Travel Agent Should Follow because I really believe social media is a great way for travel agents to attract prospective clients.
But travel agents rely heavily on repeat business and social media isn’t the best way to do that. When you want to stay connected to former customers it is hard to beat the consistency, simplicity and affordability of email.
Here are seven tips to better email marketing.
The first thing you need to do is start collecting email addresses TODAY. Even if you think you may not be ready to start your email campaign for a few months or even a year, don’t let another day go by. Every time the phone rings, every time you have an interaction with clients and prospects, ask for their email.
Add a sign-up box to your website, add a download landing page where you trade email addresses for unique content and collect, collect, collect.
What not to do: Do not upload membership lists from every organization you have ever belonged to, buy lists or add everyone you meet at a networking event to your email lists. Permission-based email marketing works because the people on your list really want to hear from you. When you randomly add people, not only do your risk alienating them, you are in violation of Federal CAN-SPAM laws.
What you should write about
What should you write about? The simple answer is to write about things you know about that your readers don’t. Write about unique destinations, off the beaten path experiences, what to pack or best travel apps to add to your phone.
Your emails do not need to be long 250 – 300 words once a month is fine. You should always include one beautiful photograph, a little information and a strong call to action.
Today more than ½ of all emails are opened from a mobile device. Keep this in mind as you design your email. Select mobile responsive templates, big buttons and break up the text with headlines for easy scanning.
A better subject line will improve open rates
No matter how clever or interesting your email is, if it doesn’t get opened, it won’t do any good. Spend as much time on your headline as you do writing a blog post or newsletter. You have to sell me or I will skip it. So there is a lot hanging on just a few words. Don’t take the easy route “New from Travel Agent” or “Travel Agent News.” If your headline is boring, I assume your email will be as well.
The challenge is to be interesting in just 4-7 words, or a maximum of 50 characters. Why? Most email devices will truncate longer headlines. One way to squeeze a bit more out of a headline is to use pre-header text. This is the first line of text in your email that displays just under the subject line on some mobile devices. On some tools like Constant Contact you can actually customize your preheader text.
Test your email delivery time
When is the best time to send an email? Every list is different but in general we see high open rates for business communication between 11am and 2pm while leisure customers vary more and tend to open their emails in the early evening. Also more than fifty percent of your email opens will occur within one hour of sending.
In order to answer the initial questionof how to know when the best time is to send your email, you need to test, test, test. Divide your list in to equal parts sending some emails mid afternoon and others around dinner time. Then study your open rates and clicks for clues as to when you have the best results.
Repeat the study looking at the day of the week. Try Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday first as these days tend to get better open results than the weekend or Monday morning.
Once you have found your best day and time, set a schedule and stick to it. While surprises are good in some types of marketing, building a habit so your customers expect to hear from you on a specific day and time will improve your open rate.
Personalize your email marketing campaigns
We are not living in a one size fits all world. 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. While it takes more work than just sending one generic email marketing campaign to everyone on your list, there are huge payoffs in a more personalized approach.
Divide your list by people who like to travel in the US or Europe, people who like cruises, walking trip or weeks filled with art and wine. While some campaigns will work for everyone, other more focused communication 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.
The bottom line
Email marketing 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 mail campaign.
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Roundpeg is an Indianapolis content marketing firm.