As travelers encounter more tools and avenues to book travel, it’s important to reinforce the value of doing business with your firm. One of the best ways to build a relationship with prospects and to tell them about your value is by using e-mail marketing. As you experiment with e-mail marketing for your travel business, it’s important to remember that your outreach can highlight all the great reasons to do business with your agency or office, but that won’t increase sales if your list of prospects is too small. Growing your list of prospect e-mail addresses is something you can do 365 days a year. It’s easy, but it takes a little dedication.
The start of a great list is one that is filled with customers and prospects who have said “yes” to receiving information about vacations, travel, or tours from you and who will be moved to action if the time and/or offer is right. Now that the economy is picking up, a lot of people will be eyeing trips they postponed last year. The key to success is that your list of e-mail addresses needs to grow if you want your business to grow. Asking for an e-mail address at the end of your phone call is a great start and there are several other ways to gather new additions to your list. Follow these 10 tips and you’ll soon find you have an email list that helps win business – and is the envy of your competition.
1. Ask for e-mail addresses at the point of sale. If customers book through you once, and you do a good job, there’s a high likelihood they’ll contact you about the next trip. Tell them they will receive notification about discounts on travel deals, exclusive e-mail-only specials and first notice of great fares by signing up for your mailing list, either online or in person.
2. Promote (or start) a loyalty program. A loyalty program with the promise of exclusive, members-only benefits makes customers feel special. You can tempt customers to sign up for yours (and give you their email address) with an on-the-spot discount or special offer.
3. Offer free information. You have a high level of expertise in your business or you wouldn’t have started it. What you may not realize, though, is that by sharing a little bit of that knowledge for free you can entice customers and prospects to give you their email information. For example, you can offer simple tips on getting seat upgrades, or highlight the top five sights to see in various destinations. And, all anyone needs to do to get that information is give you an e-mail address to send it to.
4. Conduct a poll or survey. Place a poll about something relevant to your business on your web site, such as “What is your most desired vacation spot,” or use cards and a box in a store location. Offer a free gift or discount as a thank-you for participating, which will be sent to the respondent’s e-mail address.
5. Hold a contest. Similar to the survey, you can offer a prize (or series of prizes) to anyone who signs up for your mailing list. In a travel office, you can put up a fishbowl to collect business cards for a drawing for something of value, like a free membership to Red Carpet or Admiral’s club, or whatever you wish.
6. Use social media to encourage sign-ups. If you already have Twitter followers or a Facebook fan page, ask your followers and fans to sign up for your e-mail alerts. Explain that the e-mails will include information and offers not available anywhere else. You can make it part of your loyalty program, or a separate benefit if you don’t have a loyalty program already.
7. Hand every customer a postcard. Customers may be squeezing in travel planning between other activities, and don’t have time to sign up for an email program on the spot. But they may if you hand them a pre-paid postcard that they can fill out and mail later. If you also offer them the option of signing up online instead you’ll greatly increase your chances of capturing their e-mail addresses.
8. Capture friends of friends. Every e-mail you send has the potential for a ripple effect – if you encourage the people who are already on your list to pass your emails along to their friends. This works great in travel because friends and family often fly together, and share travel destinations. You can ask people to do it to help their friends join them on the trip, or you can give them an incentive with the offer of a gift or other reward if the friend signs up and mentions them. It definitely helps to make great offers that are worth passing along.
9. Incent your staff. If you have employees, give them reasons to collect e-mail addresses on your behalf. Offer a small reward for each name collected, to be given out after the first e-mail is received to make sure they don’t ask to be taken off the list right away. Or offer a larger cash reward or other prize for the person who provides the most verifiable e-mail addresses at the end of each month.
10. Get out and mingle. If there are events in town, such as “Your Town Days” or a chili cook-off or a classic cars weekend, sign up to exhibit and be a part of them. Join the Rotary Club or other organization and become an active participant. For business-to-business owners, attend meetings of special interest groups or networking events where customers and prospects might be, get their business cards and ask if it’s ok to email information to them.
Those are just a few ideas to get you started. There are plenty of others out there as well. The key is to do something.
Get your list-building mechanism going and you’ll soon find you have lots of people to whom you can send your incredibly creative e-mails. It’s an investment that will help boost revenue and allow you to communicate the value your business provides.
Wendy Lowe is director of product marketing for Campaigner, the e-mail marketing solution that enables organizations to have highly personalized one-to-one email dialogues with their customers, measure how they respond, and analyze those responses to interact in a more intelligent, automated way - resulting in more profitable relationships. Campaigner is provided by Protus, provider of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) communication tools for small-to-medium businesses (SMB) and enterprise organizations, including my1voice, the cost-effective, feature-rich virtual phone service, and award-winning MyFax, the fastest growing Internet fax service. Wendy can be reached at [email protected].