Most Bed and Breakfasts don’t do email marketing, or they do it sporadically with no rhyme or reason behind content, consistency or branding.
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post, Email Marketing for Bed and Breakfasts and I find myself over and over again when asked by B&Bs, what are some things that B&Bs need to do for marketing and over and over again I recommend email marketing, so I thought it was time to revisit this.
Why do I say B&Bs need to Own email marketing? Because until they own up to the fact that it’s one of the best ways to retain past guests and convert lookers to bookers, they will continue to spend time, and money on non-targeted marketing that brings them a fraction of the return on both time and money investment.
Yes, I teach social media for a living, so yes I am a big fan of social media marketing, but I also help create and assist with email marketing campaigns for B&Bs and other businesses and I know without a shadow of a doubt that email marketing is one of the very best investments in time and money that innkeepers can spend time on online doing.
Yes, it can be time-consuming (but so is changing sheets and cooking breakfasts).
Yes, it’s a pain to be coming up with new ideas and content (but so is coming up with the same for social media including blog posts).
Yes, there can be a learning curve learning the online channels for email distribution like Mail Chimp and Constant Contact among many others (but it’s not a huge one and all of the online offerings have extensive help pages many including videos).
Yes, starting from scratch can be daunting, especially if you don’t have a base of legitimately sourced emails to start with, (but with so many places to get emails, asking guests if they would like to be added, adding an email subscription form to social media and to your website/blog among other things it doesn’t take much time to build up a decent list).
Yes there can be an expense, (but even using paid offerings (Mailchimp is free for 2,000 Contacts and 10,000 email sends per month, Constant Contact $20.00 on up per month to start as examples) the cost and return of email marketing far outweigh Facebook ads and Boosted posts and pretty much any other social media advertising as well as Google PPC ads).
Having the mindset (and the time) to sit down and tackle doing email for a B&B is what most innkeepers tell me is the biggest challenge. And so they don’t do them. They almost always say, “we know we should be doing them”, but they don’t do them.
I say this to Innkeepers, put a price tag on your time. If you start out with an email list of only 200 people, if you title the email subject line enticingly and put some decent content in, the odds that someone will book a room or an upcoming vacation is exponentially higher than putting some posts out on Facebook to your page with 600 likes (of which under 3% of the people who have liked your page will see the post unless you pay to play, i.e. Boost a post).
If it takes you an hour to write and distribute your email blast and your time is worth to you $50.00 an hour, even $100.00 per hour, and you get 2 bookings for it isn’t it worth it? Once you are comfortable sending emails out, the time it takes decreases dramatically. Once your email list grows, the amount of bookers you get from hooking them in from an email also increases dramatically. This is your time = incoming reservations.
If you haven’t done email marketing before and you have just dabbled, before you jump in headfirst, do some ground laying.
Looking for ideas? Start subscribing to other email newsletters, not just other B&Bs, hotels have some terrific ones they put out (remember they have huge marketing teams working on them), so do other lodging types as well as many other types of businesses. I’ve seen some excellent emails and subject lines from online retailers, similar to hotels, these guys have huge marketing teams as well working on them, lurk and learn, lurk and learn, and stalk thy competition (if they do email marketing),
When you start getting emails in (and yes I know it’s more email) but it’s also market research so well worth it. Make sure you eyeball these on a smartphone as well, some emails look dandy on a desktop but not so good when you are trying to read it in 3 X 6 format, even mobile-friendly templates sometimes don’t render well if photos or text is too small to read easily.
Step one is categorizing them. In Gmail for example, I have a folder for B&B’s newsletters, I have another for Associations, another for restaurants, another for misc. interesting email newsletters and quite a few more. Pretty much all email programs hosted online and off (Outlook etc.) let you put in emails in folders or categories, but these doesn’t get utilized much for marketing research purposes.
Step two is making some notes. Do you like the layouts, do you like the color schemes, what color schemes and layouts can you do that will be in line with your already developed online branding. Don’t read them one by one as they come in, as they come in, just stick them in the folders and look at when you have more then a few to review. You will start to see some trends, some good, some bad, learn from both.
Step three is writing down and bookmarking Subject lines, they don’t have to be B&B related, start keeping track of the emails you get, especially ones from businesses and jot down “why” the subject line got you to open it if it was a marketing email. Did it pique your interest? Did it make you go, “I want to learn more?” Did it make you want to agree (or disagree) with something? Keep track of articles and blog posts too. Bookmark them. A local spa’s email titled last year, “The Secret to the Best Massage You Will Ever Have,” can easily be revamped and re-tweaked. “The Secret to the Best Vacation You Will Ever Have”.
The subject line and pre-header are the keys to a good marketing email and to good open rates. You can spend hours, nay days on perfecting the perfect content for your email newsletter but if you can’t get someone to open the email in the first place, then all was for naught.
Step four is deciding the content, and by deciding content, figure out what things you are going to touch on, don’t write the content itself for it. Decide whether you are going to feature three topics (maybe four if you wrote a recent blog article you want to draw attention to) or more, I wouldn’t suggest too many more. So an example would be, One: your special offer for the month or a special for an upcoming holiday. Two would be a local event that gets a big draw (coinciding with the special offer you have) and three, a recipe (or another topic). Fini.
Once you have your categories in place, figure out your marketing schedule. 3 weeks to once per month sends seems to work well for B&Bs, 6 weeks between at the very most. Quarterly emails seem to have a much higher rate of unsubscribes because people actually forgot they were subscribed. I’d be cautious with sending out too many emails per month unless they are extremely targeted emails as people get email fatigue and it also leads to high unsubscribe rates unless you have truly excellent, useful content to share every single time. Get out your calendar and make a commitment.
Give yourself a week lead time to put it in your schedule so you can start working on your selected content and portion it out.
The Monday before the date you have scheduled to do the email blast, take 10 minutes and write up your special offer (it may already be written and posted on your website or blog). Make sure you have a good eye catching, legally sourced (or your own or your pbotographer’s) picture ready to go with it.
Tuesday, spend 5 minutes researching that event you are going to include (you may have already gotten the information for your website or blog as well, so you are already done with that aspect), Make sure you have a good eye catching, legally sourced (or your own or your photographer’s) picture ready to go with it, I always recommend buying photos from a legitimate stock photo site is recommended if you don’t have your own to use. I happen to like Dreamstime.com. If you are going to use a photo from the event page, make sure you get permission, preferably in writing.
Wednesday, make sure your recipe (with a photo) is good to go, or whatever other topic you pick. This can change but make sure you have a list of ideas for them in advance (as alternatives) that you can cherry-pick from, sometimes garnering that last idea for an email is what sinks many of them ever getting done.
Thursday, set up your email in a draft and spellcheck it, make sure the links work and send a test draft to yourself, also check the test draft on mobile as many people will be reading it on their smartphones.
Photos with too much detail don’t look great on smartphones so sending a room photo or food photo with too much small detail in it will not get the impact that a simple, clear well lit, uncluttered photo will gather.
Friday, gear up for a busy booked weekend and not have to worry about spending lots of time over the weekend (when you need to spend important time with guests and the actual physical running of your B&B) and be ready to send it out at the day and time of your choosing the following week stress free.
What’s the perfect time to send out a B&B newsletter? That’s a great question I don’t have a perfect answer for, it depends on your guest demographic and geographic bases. If you are an East Coast innkeeper and the majority of your guests (and email addresses) are from drastically different time zones, sending it out on Tuesday at 10 AM may land your email in busy email boxes of people who have not yet started the workday or perhaps arrived in the middle of the night.
A tip when asking for email addresses, get some location information from guests or signup forms (make sure you have a GDPR policy in place too) and segment your mailings.
- A few lodging email titles I’ve bookmarked over years that I just love:
How to Have an Awesome Vacation in 5 Easy Steps
Relaxation Trends for 2020
Tips for Choosing the Right B&B for Your Next Romantic Getaway
Breakfasts that We Love and Why You Will Love Them Too!
Ways to Get Away and Relax Without Breaking the Bank
Wrong Ways to Book a Room and How to Book it the Right Way
Key Benefits of Taking a Vacation in New England
3 Rules For the Making the Most of Your Vacation
10 Point Checklist for Getting Away and Getting Away from it ALL!
B&B or Airbnb, 10 Reasons why to stay at a REAL B&B
How to Create the Perfect Vacation and Remember it Forever
How to Save Yourself from a Terrible Vacation
How to Take Control of Your Time Off
Why REAL B&Bs Beat Airbnbs every time
How a Fabulous Breakfast can Inspire You To Embrace Life
How Our B&B Could Save Your Relationship (this was a hotel originally ?
What No One Tells You About about Vacation Rentals
Where to Find the Secret to Relax and Refresh Your Body, Mind, and Spirit.
Why Not All Vacation Getaways Are Created Equal
The Ultimate Vacation Cheat Sheet
Please innkeepers, go start a regular email blast to past-guests and new ones, you will find the return on it is well worth it.