Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. But there's an art to getting more clicks and driving more bookings.

In the travel industry, consumers are bombarded with deals and special offers every day. The main goal of your emails is to avoid getting lost in all that white noise by being more creative, strategic, and patient.

The ROI for this extra effort can be huge.

Instead of always going for a quick win, great email marketing involves cultivating year-round relationships, implementing conversion-focused tactics, and understanding the psychology and personal preferences of your audience.

1. Tap into their emotions

Logic is overvalued as a marketing tool. Studies show that the vast majority of purchases are driven by emotions, and that appealing to the subconscious is a more effective way to influence decision-making.

This is highly relevant to travel — an industry where decisions are rarely about logic and largely motivated by more deep-rooted desires. To appeal to the emotional motivations of your audience, storytelling and sensory-rich language can be the ace in your pack.

Let's say your hotel's beachside location is your major selling point. Use this fact to spark the imagination of your guests and mentally transport them to your destination. Like this:

"Imagine warm sand between your toes on a barefoot stroll. Imagine the salt-air scent of the ocean, miles of beach sprawled before you, and the prospect of an ice-cold cocktail waiting at our rooftop bar, served just the way you like it."

Here, a specific image is conjured up that taps into some of the emotional reasons for choosing your hotel — escapism, relaxation, and personal service.

These simple few lines can be used to preface your main marketing message. In doing so, you'll prime your audience to convert by putting them in a more suggestible state of mind.

2. Make it personal

The potential benefits of personalizing your emails is huge. Personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened, and marketers have found a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns.

It's far easier to fire off an email to your entire subscriber list. But customers don't want generic emails aimed at everyone. They want to receive content that chimes with their unique needs, interests, and preferences.

There are plenty of ways you can segment your audience, but one approach is to think about pain points.

Let's say your hotel attracts a significant amount of weekend travelers. A potential pain point of this demographic is time. On a 48-hour trip, they haven't got much of it.

To make their lives easier, you could create a bespoke 48-hour itinerary that they can download and use throughout their stay. Highlight the best places to eat, shop, drink, and the must-see sights. Include tips on the local transport, and mention the specific distances to everything from your hotel.

While it's clearly not realistic to devote so much time to each email, personalizing your content can be as simple as making a relevant recommendation or addressing common pain points shared by a certain demographic.

3. Market across the travel journey

A report by McKinsey found the typical accommodation journey involves 45 touchpoints. During that time, travel shoppers are looking for inspiration, researching different destinations, consulting review sites, and looking for suggestions on social media.

In short, they're not always looking for a hotel. They're moving through different phases of buying intent. So your email marketing needs to address the different needs of your customers at different points in their travel journey.

To do this, you could:

  • Create a downloadable guide packed with must-see sights in your destination (top tip: include experiences and sights that aren't in all the guidebooks. You'll position yourself as an expert insider).
  • Promote upcoming festivals and seasonal events (e.g. gourmet food markets, music concerts, art exhibitions).
  • Feature an interview with locals or your own staff with personal recommendations (e.g. the best spots for sunset, favorite hiking trails).

Instead of a hard sales messages, these examples all involve a gentle nudge towards your ultimate goal. By inspiring and helping your customers at the right moment, they'll be more inclined to choose you when they're genuinely ready to book.

4. Craft a unique tone of voice

A lot of travel brands are afraid to sound different. In an attempt to appeal to the masses, they adopt a neutral tone of voice that comes off sounding bland and forgettable.

To stand out in a hyper-competitive marketplace, your email marketing needs to have a distinct tone of voice. That tone could be sophisticated, edgy, playful, or adventurous. Whatever tone you choose, it needs to be consistent with the rest of your marketing and accurately reflect the personality and experience you offer.

Start by looking at the language used by your typical customer. How do they talk about your brand? You can find this information by looking at posts on your social media channels or review sites. Adopt a tone that's in keeping with your audience's expectations and preferences and your message will have a far greater impact.

5. Optimize for mobile

According to eMarketer, 51% of travelers booked a trip using their smartphone or tablet in 2016 — an increase of 8% from the previous year. Given that mobile users are often distracted and on the move, your email marketing needs to be punchy and easy to read.

Use a bold and attention-catching headline to create instant intrigue and motivate your audience to read further. You can then use a snappy sub-headline to build on this information, followed by a short amount of copy that dives into the specifics of whatever it is you're promoting.

Here's a great example of this approach from Virgin Hotels:

The Essential Email Marketing Tips Every Hotelier Should Know About — Photo by Richard Holmes freelance copywriterThe Essential Email Marketing Tips Every Hotelier Should Know About — Photo by Richard Holmes freelance copywriter
The Essential Email Marketing Tips Every Hotelier Should Know About — Photo by Richard Holmes freelance copywriter

The "Breakfast For Two Is On Us" headline instantly communicates what's on offer, followed by a bold "Book Now" button to drive action. The curiosity- piquing sub-headline, "You know You Want To See The Big D" then leads into a short amount of copy that neatly summarizes the deal.

6. Use data to understand your audience

If you want to supercharge your email marketing, you need to get into the heads of your audience. Why do they travel? What do they expect from a hotel? What kind of experiences are they looking for?

This is where data is your friend. To craft more effective emails that speak to the needs of your guests, consider the following data-gathering techniques:

Guest surveys: Send your guests post-stay surveys that ask them what they liked and didn't like about their experience with you. Knowing where you're going wrong can be just as important (if not more important) than where you're going right. Keep your survey short to maximize response rates.

Review mining: Look at guest feedback on your social channels and review sites. Are people raving about your in-town location? Loving your rooftop bar? Do parents mention how much they appreciate your family-friendly pool? Bingo. Use common feedback to sell your biggest perks. Just remember to segment your audience where appropriate when you do this.

7. A/B Test

Finally, test. And keep testing. This is the key to optimizing your email response rate. By split testing your emails, you can see how a single change impacts your results. For instance, you could experiment with the subject line to see which variation gets the most click-throughs. See how including different images changes the conversion rate. Or test copy variations on your call-to-action.

After generating two versions of your email, split your subscriber list in half and send out a different email to each. Once you've found the version that performs best, you can keep trying to optimize the same element or test other critical parts of your emails to optimize things further.

Ready to get more clicks from your emails?

In the travel industry, the battle for consumer attention has never been so fierce. To leap out from the crowd, it's all about short-term versus long-term thinking. Your email marketing needs to have a solid strategy — backed by data and crafted with an intimate knowledge of how your customers tick.

If you send timely, relevant, carefully crafted messages that chime with the needs of your audience, you'll instantly position yourself ahead of the competition.

Richard Holmes
Freelance Copywriter
Richard Holmes freelance copywriter