Over the past few posts, we’ve been discussing how the right content invites visitors to your site where you can then connect with them to turn them into leads. Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing methodology indicates that closing is where a lead is transformed into a customer. In the case of B&B Inns, this is where a lead is transformed in a guest. From inbound marketing’s tool chest, email marketing is a prime tool to help you achieve this transformation.
Close with Email Marketing
Did he just say email marketing? He did. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about financially supporting the deposed Prince of Nigeria. Also, I’m not talking about herbs that make you feel stronger and younger. I’m not talking about cheaper pharmacy medication. I’m sure you’ve seen any or all of those emails, and if you’ve got a good email client, they’ve probably been pocketed in your “junk” or “spam” folder. And rightly so. Most of those types of emails are striving to get you to click through to a dangerous site to gain private information or to download some malware.
When I say email marketing, I’m actually referring to targeted, intentional emails meant to educate, help, and entertain the leads that submitted contact forms (during the “convert,” or as we’re calling it, “connect,” phase). Chances are, if you’ve ever submitted a contact form via a landing page that you’ve received this type of email.
In my previous post on conversion, I explained segmentation of contact lists. You get a bunch of email contacts, and you break them up into logical groups so that you can follow up with uniquely tailored, relevant content to each group. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool like Highrise or an email marketing tool like Constant Contact can help with this process.
But now we go a bit deeper with just exactly how you tailor email marketing to nurture those leads and turn them into guests at your Inn.
Match the Interest
Sounds simple, right? You’d be surprised to learn that this often goes unnoticed in the world of email marketing, even though those who send it to you might try to convince you that it’s relevant. Which is why I consider a lot of email marketing I receive to be spam.
For instance, let’s have individuals Joe and Jane Smith. Joe and Jane are interested in getting away to a B&B Inn where there are lots of local attractions, as well as good food and wine to be had. Whilst Joe is at work, Jane decides to do some “shopping.” She has already visited several B&B websites, but followed you on Twitter when she saw you post some great photos of your breakfasts. When she clicked through to your site, she was presented with a landing page that offered a free recipe book for download, and so she submitted her contact info and downloaded it. Now gone from a site visitor to a lead, she has already cooked one of the meals, and both she and Joe were so delighted that she planned to cook another very soon. You then use your CRM to segment Joe and Jane into a “food” category for your email marketing campaign. But then you also place them in “beer” because you find that there are often times a correlation between individuals seeking fine food and craft beer. So, you follow up with emails to them about food and about local craft breweries, home-brewing recipes, etc. After a few weeks and no decision yet on where they’ll stay, Jane begins to get annoyed at the beer-oriented emails. She really likes the emails about the food, but feels put off by the emails about the beer and doesn’t like them cluttering her inbox. She begins to place your emails in her junk folder and continues her search for the right B&B Inn for her and her husband.
So, what went wrong?
Notice that Jane as a site visitor converted to a lead when she submitted the contact form through the free recipe book download page. She was obviously interested in things food related, particularly recipes. She was interested in the follow-up emails you tailored to her about food and recipes. But not about beer. That’s where you lost her. You interrupted her with things in her email inbox that were not relevant, interesting, or helpful to her.
How do I avoid this blunder again?
Know Your Audience
Here are some methods for maintaining a successful email marketing strategy:
- Zero in on the lead’s interest and nurture it: Because Jane was interested in food and recipes, send her emails that offer her additional downloads of recipe books, expert tips on food preparation, and even short e-books that feature photo albums of various dishes. Further zero in on Jane’s particular food interest by using click-through rates (available in tools like Constant Contact) to determine what pieces she found most useful in the emails you sent. This can help you refine how to approach Jane (and other leads like her), and to improve the quality and nature of the content you offer. You might be thinking at this point: Gee, seems like I’m offering up a lot with little return. Transform that thinking into this: Gee, I’m working hard at building a relationship with a potential guest and a potential advocate through email marketing.
NOTE: Click-through rate is basically the percentage of the number of times your email registered a click through compared to how many times it was opened. For instance, if 60 contacts opened the email and 6 contacts clicked through, your click-through rate is 10%.
- Don’t flood the lead’s inbox with email: Marketing with email doesn’t mean sending email to a group of contacts every day. To the contrary, it’s all about timing. For instance, any more than once a week is probably too much, especially for your target buyers. By watching click-through rates, bounce rates, etc., you can quickly determine the best timing and frequency for sending emails. By analyzing with actual data, you can learn when your target buyer is more likely to open an email and also when that buyer is also likely to click through.
- Mix it up: Don’t be all business. If all you’re sending are email specials with only footnote sections about your target buyers’ interests, you’re not likely to earn any guests. Preserve specials for once a month, or in the case of inns, perhaps seasonal. Announce local events in e-newsletters, but don’t bombard the lead with tons of email every month about special events. Remember to marry up these ideas with the content of interest to your lead, and also timing the email with when they’re liking to either open it or click-through.
- Don’t guess at the lead’s other, unexpressed interests: In Jane’s case, you guessed that she might also be interested beer. But that was wrong. She gave you no indication based on her visit that she was interested in anything other than food. For your target buyer, always go with what you know about them. Remember that, if you were talking to the individual in person, you wouldn’t bring up beer in the middle of a conversation about food. That’s neither tasteful nor helpful, and represents poor conversation etiquette. Treat your email marketing as if it were a real-time conversation with the individual. Focus on talking only about what that lead’s interests.
- Offer content that will shape a positive perception of your B&B Inn: Suppose you threw together a bunch of recipes in a MS Excel spreadsheet, didn’t format it, set it to be downloaded, and then invited a lead to click-through to it. What percentage of success would you guess you’d have in transforming that lead into a guest? Approximately zero. Because there is now high quality content to be found on the internet, you must take care about the quality of the content you offer. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the lead just wants something. If a lead has gone as far as giving you their contact information to gain a piece of downloadable content, it is highly unlikely that the same lead is just interested in downloading any old content. Strive for quality and usefulness to get the best results from the content and information you offer in your email marketing. Contact us for more information about the content creation services we offer.
- Don’t cast your pearls before swine: Have you been sending emails for months to one or more contacts, but with zero opens? The answer to this problem is simple. Stop sending the email. It’s a waste of time and is unlikely to net any results. It’s possible that down the road you could come back and re-market to that individual(s). But for now, stop sending the emails because it’s going to skew your view of your email marketing campaign’s success.
Close as Marketer, Close as Salesperson
At this point, it should be clear that the email marketing is meant to be both a form of marketing and a form of sales. It’s a form of marketing because it continues to publish resources and knowledge to your lead. It’s a form of sales because it seeks to help the lead make the decision to stay at your Inn.
In the B&B Inn industry, relationships are key. Hospitality overall is a unique service to offer, and B&B’s are set apart from mainstream resorts and hotels because they offer a very individualized, personalized, and tailored experience that larger hoteliers can’t and don’t. The B&B experience begins and ends with relationships. Innkeepers who seek to develop relationships tend to have more success than those who don’t because the target buyer is often interested in a warmer transaction than, say, with a ten-story hotel. Recently, the Chef For Feng blog published a case study demonstrating was the importance of good phone sales skills, particularly with regard to cultivating a relationship.
Your email marketing is about a relationship — it goes back to the conversation I referred to. Engage and talk about what the lead wants to talk about. Answer questions, offer entertaining and informative content, and be available both as a person and as an innkeeper.
Many business feature a marketing department and a sales department. The marketing department furnishes leads to sales. In your role, you are both marketer and salesperson, bringing in the leads, nurturing them, and then closing the sale, which transforms that lead into a guest. Our next post will delve into how you delight your guests, even after they’ve left your inn.
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