Written By Cris De Souza, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Nexion LLC
Email is an effective way for travel professionals to market to potential and existing customers. It’s immediate, cost effective and can be personalized. It’s also an excellent way to develop long-term relationships with customers, as you market to them again and again with valuable, personal touches.
Yet with so many emails landing in our inboxes (269 billion sent/received this year!), it can be challenging to stand out from the crowd. In just the travel arena alone, you’re competing with online tour sellers like Expedia and Travelocity, as well as emails sent directly to consumers from suppliers.
Following these 10 best practices for writing effective emails will certainly help your message get your clients’ attention, keep your agency top of mind and have your phone ringing in no time!
1. Think of the PURPOSE of your email in one or two sentences. Before you start writing, think:
- What am I trying to communicate and to what audience?
- What do I want the reader to learn and do?
- What action do I want them to take?
- What positive news can I give to the reader (whether current or potential customer)?
2. What’s in it for THEM? Make it effortless for them to know what they get (this is your value proposition). Write in terms of benefits to them as travelers, so they want to click through to learn more.
- Be interesting! You’re not the hero of the story; your customer is. Most businesses tend to focus their entire marketing strategy by talking about their product or service, the features they provide and their pricing. However, no matter what you’re selling, customers care more about the why than the what. If you make it about them, they will listen; they will read; they will convert; and they will come back.
- Always put the customer first. Customer-centricity is becoming more critical as the customer has more control and less attention.
- Create a sense of urgency, and persuade them to take action.
- If you’re including supplier information/promos, ensure to emphasize what is unique or different about each supplier, such as awards, balconies with every stateroom, etc.
- Trigger emotions, tug at their hearts and use words to bring out the hidden travelers from your readers.
- Travelers want helpful information and personal recommendations of where to go and what to do. With your experience, you do this well, so share it! Give customers something of value, such as useful travel information, suggestions for places they can visit and tips for traveling safely and comfortably.
3. Keep it SIMPLE. When writing your email, keep it specific, short and to the point.
- Don’t be redundant; watch for over use of certain words (Do a search/find.).
- If your email has an offer/promotion, keep your offer to one, or two at most. Also ensure your offer is specific.
- Use direct language, so there’s no room for misunderstanding, while keeping it conversational.
- Do not use business jargon or acronyms the reader may not understand.
- Don’t get too casual and use too much slang, such as “hey” or “ain’t.”
- Have an intriguing subject line and headlines.
- Keep words simple; it’s recommended to write to a fourth grade level.
4. Keep it ACTIVE and CONSISTENT.
- Write in one voice and present tense (i.e. first person if from you).
- Use action verbs and positive tone.
- Use YOU, not guests/travelers so reader can imagine themselves enjoying the trip.
5. Keep it ORGANIZED.
- Use bullet points, bold headlines and subheads to make quickly scanable.
- Provide content the reader can interpret at a glance.
- Make it easy for the reader to do what you want them to, with prominent email address, phone number, name and your agency’s physical address, if applicable.
- Use standard fonts such as Arial or Calibri. Avoid multiple fonts and multiple sizes.
- Provide legal terms necessary, such as terms and conditions to protect your business or anything related to supplier promos.
6. Use your email signature line for added marketing advantage.
- Offer some information of value, such as “for a complimentary copy of How to Pack Light AND Bring All the Essentials, send a return email to xxxx.”
- Ask for/remind about referrals.
- Include all of your contact information. Your customers should be able to get in touch with you easily if they need to. Include your full postal address, phone number, web site, clickable social media icons that link to your relevant accounts and any other contact information your customers can use. A photo of you is also ideal, as it makes the email more personal.
- If you have an online profile, add a link to it. For example, Nexion members have access to a robust lead generation program called Agent Profiler, so linking to this profile increases your exposure.
7. Pay attention to your SUBJECT LINE.
- Make subject line complete so the reader can make an informed decision on whether the content is interesting.
- Do not use the word “free” in the subject line or pre-header text, or it will go to SPAM folders and your reader will never see the email.
- Less is more – a shorter subject line is better than a long one. Keep your subject line under 50 characters.
- Avoid all capital letters and excessive punctuation.
- Don’t be tricky or pushy.
- Describe the subject of your email – be direct and straightforward.
- The subject line should also speak to the value proposition and what’s in it for the reader. For example, “Travel Somewhere Special for Valentine’s Day” is stronger than “Valentine’s Day Travel Specials!”
8. Pay attention to the FROM email.
- Use an email “from” address carrying your company’s branding. You are presenting yourself as a professional, not as “Betty7a@gmail.com.” Everything about each effort must look professional. Using an obscure email address will also lower your open rate.
- Your from line should include your name, your travel site’s name or the name of your travel agency.
9. PROOFREAD and do a final CHECK before you hit send.
- Make sure names are spelled correctly.
- Ensure brand standards for your suppliers are followed.
- Read your copy out loud to allow your ears to hear things you may have missed.
- After you write your email, edit it to only the most essential words necessary, visualizing yourself as the reader. Put yourself in their shoes; how do you think they will react? Recognize yours is one of hundreds of emails they will receive that day.
- Use spell check.
- Write, then walk away, do another task, come back to it proof again. Watch for “to” versus “too;” “their,” “there” or “they’re;” “its” versus “it’s.” Spell check won’t catch these errors, but your reader probably will.
- Look for missing words or letters, such as “you” versus “your.”
- Watch your S p a c e s and use only one space between sentences. (e.g., using two spaces instead of one after periods, which is from typewriter days.)
- Before you send the email to everyone, send to yourself first as a test.
10. Segment clients, and don’t SPAM.
- Don’t send too many emails and become a spammer. Always target your emails by segmenting clients into different demographics or niches. Send each group an appropriate, unique message.
- Always think before hitting send, “is this information relevant to this client?”
- Email marketing is all about permission-based marketing. Focus on getting the proper permission from your list members.
- Keep your list clean! Remove bounces, SPAM complaints and unsubscribes right away.
BONUS TIP: Ask your host agency or consortium what marketing programs they have available for you as part of your membership. For example, Nexion members have access to several print, digital and social media marketing programs with their membership, including Engagement and OnTarget. Send your clients personalized emails using templates, images and supplier content, all housed in an easy-to-use widget.
Remember, travelers book with travel agents they know and trust. Email marketing goes a long way into establishing a strong relationship with your customers, so they’re more likely to book with you.