New is cool. I get it.
With the exponential growth of social media, mobile and all in between, many have prognosticated the extinction of print and even some traditional forms of electronic communication such as telephone and email. To clarify, I lump email into the traditional category because it has been around for more than 20 years now (time flies doesn’t it?)
Although some mediums have waned and usage percentages have shuffled, nothing has really died. These channels eventually find a new equilibrium of coexistence as older channels adapt to new niches and utilities. Mediums don’t die, they only evolve.
So, even with rampant Facebook messaging, tweets, blogs, forums and smartphones, email still has many justifiable uses, especially for hotel marketers. To start off our talk, though, let’s discuss mail of the more physical kind.
Direct mail advertisements
Direct mail advertisements hurt trees and hurt marketers’ wallets. With the advent of email both these problems are drastically reduced. But what prevents the total collapse of the snail mail machine? For one, its response rate year over year still delivers better results than many other consumer mediums—2% is often used to distinguish a good direct mail campaign, 4% or more is considered a runaway success.
Despite environmental protests and the dated persona, direct mail is going strong. Moreover, direct mail specialists are embracing reams of purchase data—previously too complex or expensive to analyze—to fine tune mailing lists to bolster their conversion rates.
Another channel allegedly on the down and out is email, but I deem it to be false. There is considerable evidence and competition to suggest email’s eventual decline (but not demise), particularly from somewhere in the domains of social media messaging and mobile-centric communication. In 2006, email marketing saw a rate of return of roughly $52 for every dollar invested, while five years later that same return on investment fell to more than $40 for every dollar spent. It’s less of a fiscal cliff and more of a pecuniary softening.
As it stands, email marketing is still one of the most effective and preferred ways to reach consumers, even more so than direct mail in a lot of cases. Rather than abandon email all together to stay ahead of the curve, why not evolve it to fit what’s out there and what’s coming?
Eblasts and enewsletters
I’ve always been a fan of eblasts or enewsletters. They combine the professionalism and simple eloquence of email with many of the artistic virtues of direct mail advertising. Use whatever spam label you deem necessary, consumers opt-in to this channel and tacitly want to receive your message—half the battle is already won. In terms of what’s out there, top of the list is obviously the proliferation of tablets and mobile. Don’t just think smartphone and tablet, also throw in the Kindle, Nook, Microsoft Windows-operating products and whoever else still uses Blackberry (as a Canadian, that pains me to write).
Essentially, what’s needed for adaptation to present times is a responsive e-newsletter. Just so we’re clear, when I say responsive, I’m referring to “response Web design,” the colloquial term describing the ability for a website to detect whatever device is accessing the information and automatically rearrange its layout. Responsive email design is a fancy and more encapsulating way of saying mobile friendly.
If you’re not wholly convinced about the imperative for responsive design, then perhaps some psychological musings can sway you. Consider how people use their various devices and how functions can be segregated between mobile and desktop or laptop. Standard computers are rapidly becoming the work machine where mobile is morphing into the play or quick peek counterpart. If a consumer opens your email while on their cell phone, they’re likely to be in a more receptive state of mind to better ponder your product, whereas while in work mode, people are focusing on other tasks instead of possible hotel room consumption.
As well, your brand identity can only be accurately conveyed on mobile if the enewsletter is mobile friendly. Otherwise it’s straight to the trash without any subconscious imprinting that brands need to proliferate. People are simply too busy to squint and scroll to decipher your message.
Problem: responsive enewsletters aren’t easy to setup nor are they ubiquitously supported by all firmware or email portal apps. This tech upgrade is on the cusp, and we’ll be seeing lots more chatter about it during the course of 2013. You also must be prepared to work with an expert to reconfigure your template programs and website for HTML5, the markup language most widely accepted for RWD.
The other primary concern here is cost. Think of RWD as a railway switch; crank it one way for a laptop, the other for Android OS and then another for iPhone. But separate tracks have to exist for the continuation of each possible route in order for the train to go anywhere. You must build multiple templates for the same eblast, equating to more time and money dropped for each letter. Along the same lines of maintaining your tech savvy status, it’s important to inquire about such auxiliary modalities as social media integration, video embedding and analytics tracking.
Once you have updated the context of your email marketing program, it will boil down to the content you deliver. People sign up for enewsletters because they see value in hearing your brand voice and potentially spending money with you. You’ve earned their trust and now it’s your job to not abuse it. If you don’t consistently deliver utility to your fans, then you might find yourself with a spike in unsubscribes. Monthly analytics checkups are a good starting point to assess which messages are working and which are duds, all for the inevitability of generating sales.
One tactic where I’ve seen analytics and consumer data put to outstanding use is in triggered emails. You know from your records that a guest visited you for a wedding, conference, honeymoon, golf tournament, birthday, anniversary or celebratory party. Why not send them an email triggered by such an event? This isn’t something exclusive to the hospitality industry, but it works so gracefully for us because of the versatility of events that happen at a hotel.
For now, be on the lookout for responsive design coming to an email near you. Then combine it with established tactics such as specific targeting, triggered emails and quality content, and you are due for greener pastures.
(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in Hotel News Now on March 14, 2013)