Good old fashioned email is still a great marketing channel, allowing direct, personalised communication with your customers in a place where they still (for better or worse) spend plenty of time–their inboxes!
Automated email (otherwise known as email autoresponders) is a great way to put some of that activity on autopilot.
With automation you can send pre-written emails on a predetermined schedule, timed to reach each subscriber at just the right time.
Used properly, this tactic can make email a major component of your customer journey, i.e. the path to purchase that people follow before making a booking with your company.
When people first subscribe to your mailing list, they may not be ready to book. You can use email automation to ‘drip’ emails into their inbox, gradually giving them the information they need to make a decision and book.
There are several big advantages to this approach:
- You can split big messages into smaller ‘bite-size’ emails, and drip them out over time. This prevents overload and avoids people zoning out.
- It helps keep your brand at the forefront of people’s minds for an extended period of time.
- You get total control of the delivery and timing. Social media channels in comparison make it much harder to reach the right people at exactly the time you want.
This is especially powerful in travel marketing. We know that it takes time for people to move from the “inspiration and dreaming” stage of the customer journey down to actually making a purchase.
Email autoresponders are a smart way of priming new subscribers and moving them through this process towards the “purchase” stages of the travel purchase decision. You can use an email sequence to start with trip planning content, and gradually get more specific about particular experiences and tours, before finally ending the sequence with an offer.
And what’s more, it’s fantastically easy to set up! Most email service providers (ESP) offer email automation features that are intuitive and straightforward to use.
Email automation best practices
Getting people to read an entire sequence of emails is a pretty big ask. Before you do anything, think carefully about what you want to send, and why. For it to be effective it needs to offer genuine value to your audience, beyond just getting them to book a trip. Empathise with their needs and interests and use your expertise to provide content that they’ll enjoy and value.
Make sure people know what they’re signing up for, and that they can expect to receive a sequence of emails. Be clear on the duration of the sequence (so they know it won’t last forever!) and clearly explain the purpose of the emails. Show them where and how they can opt out.
You’ll usually get better mileage from more, but shorter and simpler, emails. Each email should pivot around a single issue or question that is relevant to that phase of the purchase decision.
One approach may be to frame each email in FAQ style, with each email answering a single question from ‘real life’. You could even include an element of user generated content (UGC) from your previous customers–take the questions or concerns most commonly fielded by your sales team and answer them in these emails.
This allows you to put a ‘human face’ to your emails–real questions from real people. It also lets you demonstrate your expertise and credibility with well thought out and compelling answers.
It’s all in the timing
You need to find a balance in your email timings. Too frequent and you’ll just annoy people, too infrequent and they’ll have forgotten all about you when the next email comes around.
Generally speaking the first ‘welcome’ email should come immediately upon sign-up. After that you can move onto an email every two or three days.
Aim for just one action or outcome from each email. The ideal action is either a reply or a click to your website. Give people just one thing to do–if it’s click, give them one link to click on. Don’t dilute the objectives with lots of different objectives.
Test and optimise
Email automation metrics fit into two categories: email performance/engagement and conversions (leads, enquiries, etc).
Performance is easy: your ESP will give you open, click and reply rates. You can use those to benchmark each email performance and compare with industry averages.
You should be constantly evaluating your email performance and testing variations in things like your subject lines, images, headlines, and body text to improve your numbers.
To fully understand the impact that your email sequence is having on the bottom line (enquiries and bookings) you’ll need to tag your URLs for Google Analytics to know where the clicks are coming from.
This is straightforward enough using Google’s URL builder. You’ll also need to have goal tracking configured in Google Analytics. (Give us a shout if you need any support with this.)
Setting up an email autoresponder sequence is very easy. But perfecting and optimising your campaign takes time and effort. Start by putting yourself in your audience’s shoes and thinking about what sort of emails they might appreciate. Once you’ve solved that, you’re halfway there!
Questions? Need some help? Get in touch any time!