8 Steps to Get More Direct Bookings from Email Marketing

Sometimes one email campaign sent to your subscriber list doesn’t feel like enough when you are trying to build a relationship with your past guests. I mean, you could squeeze a lot of information into a monthly newsletter, but let’s face the fact that it’s a busy world and most people will only skim through the email.

You want more. You want your customers to actually read your email campaigns. You want to send updates about cancellations, availability, new properties acquired, upgraded units, seasonality, and the occasional special offer. You also want more subscribers added to your list, more traffic to your website, and ultimately more online bookings directly from your own website.

Get More Direct Bookings from Email Marketing

Here’s how to accomplish all your email dreams.

  1. Choose an Email Marketing Provider
  2. Import Your Current Customer List
  3. Create an Email Template
  4. Create a Lead Generation PDF
  5. Add Email Sign-Up Functionality to Your Website
  6. Set Up, Integrate, and Connect all the Tech
  7. Create a Series of Welcome Emails
  8. Create Monthly Email Campaigns

Step One: Choose an Email Marketing Provider

We recommend MailChimp. Among the dozens and dozens of options, you could choose Mailchimp, Infusionsoft, ActiveCampaign, Ontraport, or any other of the many email service providers.

But don’t get caught up on which one is the best or which one is the cheapest. As far as pricing goes, MailChimp offers a Forever Free plan up to your first 2,000 email subscribers.

The important thing is to make a decision and run with it. MailChimp is a really solid option. We use it for all our clients’ email marketing services and highly recommend it.

Step Two: Import Your Current Customer List

Once you have an email marketing service provider set up, you need people’s email addresses so you can communicate with them. The easiest way to do this is to create a list of current and past customers.

Your reservation software, whether it be RNS, Barefoot, Escapia, or another one, will be able to create a customer list in Excel. The file should include a minimum of three columns: First Name, Last Name, Email Address. You could also include state, date of the last stay, date added, or any number of other data points.

Be sure to remove duplicate email address as well as fix any email syntax errors. Once the list is ready to go, you can import the list into your email provider and start emailing them.

Step Three: Create an Email Template

Creating a branded template will help you provide the best brand experience to your email subscribers. Include your logo, brand colors, and links to follow you on your social platforms.

The content to include in the template should include information you want to share on a regular basis, such as vacation rental properties with upcoming availability, new blog articles published on your site, or even upcoming events or past customer testimonials.

Having a template will make the creation of each email campaign much faster. Having a smooth process to follow will ensure that you’re able to spend the majority of your time helping customers who are currently renting a vacation property.

Step Four: Create a Lead Generation PDF

The easiest way to increase revenue is to create repeat customers. And the best way to grow your business is to have a steady stream of potential new customers. That’s where the PDF comes in.

Gone are the days where people want to sign up for “special deals and news updates.” It doesn’t really matter how you word it; it’s all the same to a new site visitor and screams “newsletter.” Nobody wants to get more information in their inbox from a new business they don’t yet know and trust.

But they will sign up for something of value that they could instantly receive and implement. A 20% off coupon works great in many industries, but in the vacation rental industry, we know that’s not really a feasible option.

Examples of a Lead Generation PDF (also known as a “freebie”) might include a Travel Guide, a Moving Resource Guide, a Ski Slope Comparison Chart, a Moving Checklist, a Beach Packing Checklist, a Monthly Meal Planner, etc.

The key is to find something your ideal customer would be interested in. Solve an immediate problem for them. Even a 1-pg PDF is sufficient. But it can certainly be longer. The problem it solves is much more important than the length of the document.

The difference between people signing up for your newsletter (special offers, deals, and updates) and signing up for a value-packed PDF is astounding. Newsletter signups don’t even equal a half percent. You might be lucky to get 100 signups for every 250,000 visitors (or 1 out of 2,500). Whereas with a CTA button to a sign-up page for a Freebie, close to 25% of the visitors who click will sign up!

Step Five: Create a Series of Welcome Emails

After you create the Freebie PDF, write a series of emails that will welcome your new potential customer to your brand. These emails will be created inside your email service provider and saved as an automated series. When people sign up, they will automatically begin receiving these value-added emails, dripped every 2-3 days.

The perfect automation sequence includes a series of 5 emails.

  1. Welcome email with a link to the PDF Freebie.
  2. Acknowledge them as a valued addition to your business, simply by being interested in the area.
  3. Share some of your best content, whether it be from your blog or a tour of your best properties.
  4. Invite them to join you on social media, or to respond to the email by answering a question, or to read your blog.
  5. Make an offer. You don’t have to push a purchase. The offer could simply be to click and view all the beachfront properties or all the pet-friendly properties, or all the 3-bedroom properties.

The point is to warm them up and eventually lead them to buy your products and services. Over time, the ones who love your brand and feel valued as a person will take you up on your offer – a vacation with your rental company!

Step Six: Add Email Sign-Up Functionality to Your Website

Once you have something to give your new potential customers, you need a way to capture their email address and deliver the goods to their inbox.

You need to create a sign-up form and add a button that people can click on to access the form. In 2017, Google started punishing sites that used pop-up forms on mobile devices. While pop-up forms can be effective, most people do them wrong.

The best way to avoid jumping, shaking, flashing, or flying pop-ups is to create a “self-selected” pop-up that only appears when highly interested users actually click on the button. It increases sign-up rates, which in turn, increases your subscriber list.

While the number one purpose of your vacation rental site is to get more online bookings, you should really have a secondary call to action (CTA) for people who aren’t quite ready to take the leap and plunk down a few thousand dollars.

That’s the beauty of email marketing. Once you have someone on your list, you can continue to court them and show them tidbits of value all along their journey to becoming a happy lifetime customer.

There are a few places on your site to add the call-to-action button on your site: the navigation menu, above the fold on your home page, the blog sidebar, and the footer. The right-most link in your navigation menu should be a different size, color, and/or font, if possible. If nothing else, make it ALL CAPS to help draw people’s attention to it.

When you add this CTA to your site, you will increase the number of people you can talk to via email. The thank you page can double as an invitation to like your Facebook page. It can also be used in conjunction with Facebook ads to get even more signups.

Step Seven: Set Up, Integrate, and Connect all the Tech

While this step is super important, albeit 100% essential, we don’t have the bandwidth in this article to go into details on how to do it. But here are the basics of what needs to happen.

Use a lead generation software provider such as LeadPages or OptinMonster to create the pop-ups for your site. Inside the app, integrate everything with your email service provider so it can automatically collect any emails used to sign up for your Freebie.

Once created and all the tech is connected, use the link for the CTA button. That way, when someone clicks on the button, a sign-up form pops up and people can input their name and email to receive the Freebie.

Step Eight: Create Monthly Email Campaigns

By the time you get to this step, you will have already warmed up your new leads and they will gladly open your monthly email campaigns. The key is to consistently communicate with them. Share property highlights with upcoming availability, upcoming events, newly added blog posts, special sales or discounts, recipes, testimonials, or any number of relevant information. If you need help with monthly email campaigns, we’ve got some tips about that too!

RealTech Can Help

Some of our clients are using this advanced approach to grow their email list. We can help you get it all set up. Give us a call to get a customized quote. We’re here to serve, just like you.

About Christie Wild

In her spare time, Christie writes books for children, teaches online writing classes, and runs up and down the hills of NC training for her next 10k or half marathon.

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