Top 5 Marketing Automation Tools 2017

Marketing automation platforms are designed to manage and automate repetitive tasks for marketing professionals and organisations. As a hospitality business owner or marketing employee, we know that correctly structured marketing plans require forethought and a long term strategy. Much of this can be planned, scheduled and actioned using a marketing automation software tool.

Common capabilities include management of social media and scheduled posts, email marketing, digital adverts, lead generation tools and insightful analytical reporting systems.

Below are five of LeadDigital’s preferred marketing automation software platforms in 2017:

Pardot by Salesforce | Pardot.com

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Pardot is the popular B2B marketing platform brought to us from the huge CRM provider Salesforce. Pardot focuses on the lead generation side of marketing automation, and is structured towards creating more meaningful conversations with existing and new clients. Going beyond features, if you’re a Salesforce CRM user, this platform is ideal given its air-tight integration with the CRM.

Pro: All the features you could need. Tight integration with Salesforce.

Con: Doesn’t play well with others, few additional integrations. At the higher price end for a marketing automation platform (standard £800/mo).

ActiveCampaign | Activecampaign.com

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ActiveCampaign are a much more affordable marketing automation provider, perfect for small hotels or events venues. They may be less known than some other platforms, but it’s very hard to critique AC. They have a huge feature collection including the ability to create automated workflows and the various integration possibilities.

Pro: Cost effective, from around £15/mo for their basic package. Lots of features and a strong focus on email marketing.

Con: Some areas of the tool feel outdated, such as the email builder, when compared to alternatives available.

Act-On | Act-on.com

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Act-on believe their niche comes in the form of “outstanding experiences for customers“. Much of their marketing automation capabilities are around lead nurturing, and their support for clients is very highly rated. We would like to see some improvements to their reporting features, but otherwise this is a strong, easy to use contender.

Pro: Flexible platform, built for marketing teams not developers/engineers.

Con: Reporting is somewhat limited, some tools can be quite basic.

Marketo | uk.Marketo.com

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If you’re somewhere between the small hotel and enterprise-sized corporate events company, then Marketo could be the right tool for you. It’s not for the faint hearted, but is very intuitive and offers solutions that go much deeper than many of its competitors. We particularly like how current they are, regularly developing new services to match the digital landscape.

Pro: An industry leader, huge range of solutions, always updating services.

Con: In the higher price bracket, considered to have limited reporting & analytics abilities.

HubSpot | Hubspot.com/Marketing

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HubSpot is very features rich. It’s a platform that can do basically everything, and in our opinion, does it all to an incredibly high standard. Although they do offer HubSpot Marketing as a separate platform, when combined with their CRM and Sales tools this software becomes an all-in-one tool for complete business management.

Pro: Easy to use, designed for small businesses, lots of support and educational learning facilities available. Always trying to help clients get the most from the platform.

Con: Expensive compared to alternatives. Some features only available at additional costs, and often there are lower cost software options that provide the same functionality.

Conclusion

Whilst we only name five platforms here, there are various other tools available online today which can serve the same or similar marketing automation tasks. The important thing to consider is what your hospitality business actually needs, what you will actually use, and choosing a platform that fits.

At LeadDigital we have experience working with a wide range of marketing automation software tools for various clients, so understand the best ways to get more from the software.

 

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Top 5 Email Marketing Services in 2017

We are often asked about the various email software platforms available today and with so many options out there, how should you decide which is best for your hotel or venue? In this blog I’m going to give an overview of LeadDigital’s Top 5 recommended services for Email Marketing.

It’s easy to be tempted by all singing, all dancing services like Infusionsoft (discussed below), but these are often overcomplicated, and require a significant investment. We’ve all heard the saying “Don’t try to run before you can walk”. In this case it’s better to start simple and select software based on your needs today. It’s easy to upgrade as your requirements become more sophisticated, but it’s very difficult to go backwards!

So without further ado, lets get started:

AWeber

“All The Tools You Need To Send Emails The Right Way.”

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Established back in ’98, AWeber is one of the original email marketing platforms and is considered a great starter option for people new to email. It’s very simple, offering most of the core features a small to medium hospitality business would need, without overloading you with too many tools.

Pros: All the basics are covered, simple reporting and functionality and it offers a useful WordPress plugin for quick website sign-up forms.

Cons: The subscriber importing capabilities are quite limited, no ability to build landing pages, overall it can be quite limiting for more established businesses.

Cost: Today you can get a 30-day free trial followed by $19 (£15) per month for up-to 500 subscribers. Standard pricing then peaks $149 (£120) per month for 10,000-25,000.


MailChimp

“Send Better Email. Sell More Stuff”

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If you want to design awesome looking emails without needing a web designer on-hand, MailChimp is the tool for you!

A fan favourite for many, MailChimp is a popular option for most email marketers given its powerful functionality and user friendly interface. Whether you’re adding new subscribers, creating new email campaigns or looking for advanced automated email options, MailChimp is a solid all rounder.

Pros: Integrates with hundreds of web services including e-commerce platforms, huge collection of templates to design from, quick to get started.

Cons: MailChimp use a unique language for features & processes, they only allow for one opt-in form per list, reporting whilst informative can be less comprehensive than competitors unless managed by a MailChimp expert.

Cost: Up-to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month you can sign up for free, however this only gives access to the most basic features. To access all functions including autoresponders, pricing starts from £8 per month for <500 subscribers, then £65/mo+ for over 10,000 subscribers.


Drip

“Quick And Easy Email Marketing Automation Software”

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Marketing automation is the ultimate dream of most email marketers. The ability to take insights you have on customers and turn them into personalised & automated outreach campaigns, makes for the perfect recipe to succeed in email marketing.

Drip take that one step further by building their entire platform around the premise of drip marketing. Intelligent workflows allow users to automate the entire customer journey, with sophisticated rules based on interactions helping you get the most engagement from each subscriber.

Pros: Specialists in drip marketing, advanced visual workflows & event triggers, automate everything, access to marketing automation normally reserved for only high end expensive email software.

Cons: Still quite a new software platform so constantly seeing changes, integrations are less available and can be complicated.

Cost: Free for 100 subscribers, or get 2 months free when buying an annual package. £39.50/mo for up-to 2,500 subscribers, £120/mo+ for 10,000 subscribers.


ConvertKit

“Email Marketing For Professional Bloggers”

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Like MailChimp, ConvertKit offer many of the essentials needed for hotels, venues, restaurants and other hospitality businesses. Its advantage over competitors however, is that it uses ‘tags’ rather than ‘lists’. List based systems store subscribers (email addresses) on a per list basis, such as ticket buyers or competition A entries. If one subscriber is in both lists (tickets & competition), you could get charged twice!

Alternatively a ‘tag’ based system like ConvertKit looks at all subscribers together as one. Using customisable event tags, segments are then created and personalised emails can be sent to a select audience only, without the risk of double charging!

Pros: Tag based software, easy to use, simple to create sign up forms, offers a basic landing page builder.

Cons: Reported information and email testing functions can be quite limited and the email composer is somewhat basic.

Cost: 0-1,000 subscribers is £23 per month, £64/mo for up-to 5,000 then custom price for above 5k subscribers.


Infusionsoft

“Build Better Connections With Leads And Customers”

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If your subscriber numbers are above 50,000, you’ve got everything you can out of platforms like MailChimp and need to step it up a notch, it’s probably time to look at Infusionsoft.

This is a marketing automation, CRM and sales platform all rolled into one, and is big, powerful and perfect for complete email marketing dominance! It has every feature you could imagine and more, but does also demand a significant investment in time and money so can’t be taken lightly. Its abilities extend way beyond just email marketing, so you’d likely see this service become part of every aspect of your hospitality company.

Pros: Ultimate tool for much more than just email.

Cons: Too expensive for most business owners, very complex.

Costs: £160/mo for 2,500 subscribers plus you have to buy a kickstart package from £804 up. Thats not including the cost of training and additional staffing this system would require.

In Summary

There is a huge range of email marketing services to choose from in 2017, and this list only scratches the surface, with other services like ‘ActiveCampaign’, ‘GetResponse’, ‘Constant Contact’, ‘Ontraport’ etc… equally deserving of mention.

So how do you choose? Stop. Down tools and just ask yourself one question – what do I actually want to achieve with email marketing? Be specific.

The right software is vital, but even more so is the right email marketing strategy. This is the point when you should talk to LeadDigital. We have over 20 years experience in email marketing and only serve businesses within the hospitality sector – with our team creating bespoke email strategies designed to increase bookings and sell more events!

 

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3 Email Tactics For Customer Retention

In hospitality, success depends heavily on repeat custom. Many marketers forget this and put their focus into gaining new ticket sales or bookings; however when 25-40% [1] of most business revenue comes from repeat custom, this channel cannot be ignored. Studies by Bain & Company state a 5% [2] increase in retention can lead to profit increases of 25-95%!

A sell-out event full of new customers is an amazing quick win, but what is your venue doing to ensure they visit again?

It’s likely that your hotel, restaurant, bar or events venue will have a basic database of information on past customers. This means you have the capability to reach people on a personal level; which can be used to increase loyalty and repeat custom through strategic email marketing.

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At LeadDigital, it’s our opinion that email marketing is far from dead. In fact with the number of worldwide email users now topping 3.7 billion [3], plus the growth of email on mobile, it’s actually flourishing. How can email increase repeat business? Read our top 3 tips here below.

 

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1. The Personalised Approach

How well do you know your customers? Say for example, a person attends an event at your venue. Sure you have their name and contact details from the event booking, but what else?

For one you can probably assume their sex, potentially their age, and it’s likely you’ll have some insight into their interests based on the type of event they attended.

When it comes to email marketing, savvy marketers take this information and use it to personalise every interaction. You may even have experienced this yourself if you’ve attended an event and later received a ‘thank you for visiting’ style of email, addressed to you directly.

Sending a masculine-styled email to ‘Tim’ referencing the rock gig he attended 6 months ago & inviting him personally to a similar event, is much more likely to result in repeat business than a generic promotional message.

Personalised email communication enables more than just contact with existing clients. It also grants the ability to strategically target what you send, when it’s sent, and to who; maximising the return on each email. More importantly, regular personalised emails help maintain relationships with a group of people you know have bought services from you already!

2. Let Software Do The Hard Work

Automate Everything! Okay maybe not everything, but modern email marketing software does give businesses the ability to automate emails sent to existing customers. By utilising these features correctly, Hotels, Restaurants, Bars and other event venues can develop drip marketing strategies that increase repeat business.

What do I mean by drip marketing? Imagine a scenario where ‘Lana’ books a birthday party at your bar.

  1. First, you send Lana a personalised email confirming her booking.
  2. Next you remind Lana of her booking a week in advance and wish her a happy birthday.
  3. Two days after the event Lana receives another email, thanking her for choosing your bar and asking for feedback on her party. You learn she had a great time and particularly enjoyed the cocktails available.
  4. A few months later Lana receives an email, inviting her to an exclusive cocktails masterclass at your bar.

In this example, as she knows your brand, remembers her great party and loves cocktails, Lana books the masterclass event – job done, another repeat booking!

All of the above emails can be automatically sent, having been designed and scheduled well in advance – making email marketing scalable as your business grows. Working with an email marketing expert the right strategy can also save hospitality business time & money, that otherwise could be wasted on less effective marketing initiatives.

3. Make Existing Customers Feel Special

Leading on from the personalised approach above, email gives you the ability to make customers feel special, like they’re getting exclusive ‘backstage’ access to your Events Venue, Restaurant, Bar or Hotel.

People are becoming increasingly selective on who they give their email addresses to. When a customer gives you permission to contact them, they’re also telling you they have an active interest in your business. By picking up on core booking information and interactions, you can develop relationships that result in repeat business.

Wedding venues for example, know it’s unlikely they’ll get a repeat wedding booking from a recent bride. However that bride will have spent months comparing your venue with alternatives before booking, so clearly LOVES your location.

Email marketing gives you the perfect opportunity to make her feel special and remembered. People who feel valued, are both likely to book on another occasion and recommend your business! For example, how about emailing the bride just before her wedding anniversary, inviting her to an exclusive dining experience to relive their special day?

Exclusivity is a big deal in hospitality email marketing. At LeadDigital one of our clients is the luxury London private yacht company, Woods’ Silver Fleet. Their brand is associated with hosting luxurious functions & celebrations on the Thames, and LeadDigital are responsible for their email marketing strategy. Our greatest email successes for Silver Fleet have come from targeted, personalised invites which make previous clients feel remembered and important.

Conclusion

Email marketing for repeat custom can generate impressive revenue returns for your hospitality brand. Making your past customers feel special and taking a personal approach to communication builds trust & loyalty, resulting in more ticket sales, bookings and event enquiries!

LeadDigital are officially recognised email marketing experts, with over 20 years email marketing experience, specialising in strategies that increase revenue and grow customer loyalty. Need to improve your email marketing profit, then speak to us – we can audit current processes, develop a bespoke strategy and help you get the most from email!

 

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References

[1] The Importance Of Repeat Customers. SumAll. 5 April 2013
[2] Customer Retention Is King. Forbes. 21 January 2015
[3] Email Statistics Report 2017-2021. The Radicati Group. February

Why You Need An Email Marketing Strategy

Strategy is the foundation upon which a business is built. Without a clear strategic framework in place, it is impossible to effectively manage or develop a hospitality company. How can you reach your business goals and ambitions without an actionable plan for fulfilment?

Strategy-Chess-336230-edited

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Jack Welch, retired CEO of General Electric.

When looking at email marketing for your hospitality business, the same rules apply.

Whether you’re a hotelier, own an events venue or are a restaurateur – successful email marketing starts with a carefully crafted email marketing strategy.

Why Is A Structured Email Marketing Plan So Important?

Email is one of the most effective channels for hospitality businesses that are looking to make profit through marketing and engage with their customers. Email marketing can reach a large audience of people already interested in your brand, whilst allowing you to target and personalise your messages on an individual level – vastly improving the customer experience.

However, in a world where [1] 269 billion global emails are being sent daily, it’s easy for your emails to get ignored if not setup correctly and sent as part of a thought out, actionable strategy.

So Why Is This So Relevant To Hospitality Businesses?

Email marketing is a direct revenue opportunity for hospitality businesses, interacting with past, present and future customers. Whether used for branding, personalised communication or for promotional purposes, few other marketing options allow for such a targeted approach. Keep in mind, in most cases all email subscribers will be customers, or at least interested and aware of your brand.

For an example of hospitality email strategy, see online hotel booking site Expedia; or more specifically, how they used a carefully crafted and personalised strategy in their automated email marketing [2].

Expedia’s goal was to increase bookings from logged in website users who started the booking process, selected dates, but didn’t complete the process.

  • In step one of their fulfilment plan, an automated email pulls in the name of the specific city that person was booking, with email content focused on booking a package deal.
  • Step two, the city name from step one stays in the subject line, but now it’s also used in the emails title, body copy and in the

This strategy successfully aligns what the customer was thinking about completing, with a relevant email and subject line that would get their attention and likely lead to a booking. Focus, Goal, Tactic, Action.

Or as another example, imagine how impressed you would be as a customer if:

  • You booked a restaurant table, and immediately received a personalised booking confirmation email.
  • You then get a reminder two days before, including details on the restaurant’s location and best places to park.
  • One week after the meal you receive an email thanking you for visiting – then one month later you get offered a return diner promotion.

The customer journey has never been more important in the hospitality industry, and engaging with customers at every point of interaction ensures you’re always on their mind.

What Makes A Great Strategy?

A great email marketing strategy for hotels, venues & restaurants can be summarised with four core steps;

  • Set Goals
  • Decide Tactics.
  • Action.
  • Learn, Optimise & Repeat.

Each step is equally important, however step four brings the process full circle and gives you the vital information on subscribers, required to tailor future goals. Being able to learn from results (data) and adjust tactics accordingly, is the difference between a basic marketer and expert-level email marketing strategist.

How Can My Hospitality Business See What Works?

Email marketing service providers offer hospitality brands the tools to create, personalise and analyse their email campaigns. At LeadDigital we recommend using the online software platform MailChimp, due to its wide range of features, extensive history and affordability.

For more on why to choose MailChimp, Click Here.

LeadDigital are also officially recognised MailChimp Experts, and have the knowledge and experience from over 20 years of email marketing to craft bespoke email strategies for your hospitality business. We start by auditing all aspects of your email processes, and lead on to setting goals and suitable tactics, removing any guesswork and maximising your return on email investment!

 

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References

[1] Is Email Marketing Dead? LeadDigital. 20 Mar 2017.
[2] 7 Lessons from top Performing Drip Email Campaigns. Shopify.

Is Email Marketing Dead?

Let’s start with the facts. Right now, according to a report by The Radicati Group, 269 billion emails are being sent daily. This figure is set to grow by 4% over the next four years, with the number of worldwide email users in 2017 now topping 3.7 billion.

So email itself is still flourishing, but what about email marketing?

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Here is LeadDigital’s top 5 for what your hospitality brand can achieve with effective email marketing.

1. Inform & Engage

There are few better ways to connect with people interested in your hotel, restaurant, bar or events venue than by email. Your list of email contacts will include people who’ve stayed in your hotel, attended an event or shown an interest in your hospitality business. These are people who want to hear from you and have given permission to be contacted.

Although our inboxes are inundated, people don’t dislike all email – just the messages they don’t want to receive!

Strategy-led email marketing provides a direct opportunity to engage with people interested in your brand. LeadDigital can work with you to define your strategy and tailor your approach for different types of customers. This could be new subscribers just starting to explore your services or long-term customers.

2. Increase Retention

Your venue has run a large event, sold thousands of tickets and collected email addresses from everyone who attended. How do you then make sure those event goers buy from you again? Email marketing.

An experienced email marketer can craft content that directly reaches out to your customers, and builds a desire to recreate or relive a moment in time. This could be a hotel re-engaging with a couple who’ve celebrated a special occasion with a return visit offer. Or, perhaps a restaurant, inviting someone who’s booked a table four times in the past year, a discount on their fifth visit.

This is known as drip marketing. LeadDigital are MailChimp Experts, and can use the MailChimp platform to automate a wide collection of email messages, which saves you time and money.

Read more about MailChimp automation.

3. Affordable Marketing

Many hospitality businesses get drawn towards social media, print, tv & radio marketing and whilst these do offer their own benefits, none are as cost effective as email marketing. For example, an article on McKinsey.com suggests, email is considered nearly 40 times more effective at acquiring customers than Facebook & Twitter combined! – with average order values 17 percent higher!

This is down to two things – reach and engagement.

Say your restaurant or venue has 10,000 email subscribers and a sent email reaches 7,900 of those subscribers (79% according to a report by returnpath.com). As per benchmarks set by email marketing software brand MailChimp, 1714 people (21.7%) of those subscribers who received this email would likely open it, and 23 people (1.33%) would click a link.

On the other hand, Facebook posts reach only 1-6% of fans; so out of 10,000 fans, only 300 (3%) see a posted message, and then only 2 (0.07%) would actually engage with it (like or comment). Email offers both greater opportunities to reach people, and is more likely to engage with relevant customers.

More people, more relevance, more return on investment.

 

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4. Future Proof

Email is proving itself to be one of the pillars of digital communication. While people are moving away from desktop computers and onto mobile devices, email remains a key communication tool. With 44.9 million mobile users in the UK alone in 2017, being able to engage with mobile users is more important than ever!

Using an email marketing online software platform like MailChimp, your hospitality brand can create emails that not only look good, but successfully work across all devices. This can be tested carefully before even a single email is sent, never damaging your relationship with subscribers.

MailChimp Experts like LeadDigital, can develop specific email marketing strategies for mobile, taking into account how people interact differently on mobile devices.

5. Easily Sharable

With just the simple click of the forward button, subscribers to your hospitality brand can quickly share your emails with friends and family. This makes email marketing one of the best ways to gain more exposure for restaurants, hotels, bars, venues; turning your subscribers into brand advocates. Not only is sharing easy, it’s also a great way for your hospitality brand to build credibility. You’re much more likely to book a hotel room recommended by your best friend.

Conclusion

Is email marketing dead? Not at all, but the way businesses approach email marketing does have to change. Hospitality brands need to value and carefully manage how subscribers are obtained; and then develop tailored email marketing strategies.

At LeadDigital, we work with hotels, bars, restaurants and venues to refine their customer sign-up processes and create long-term email marketing plans that are based on their goals, using our expert knowledge of MailChimp.

 

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Why Choose MailChimp for Your Hospitality Business?

When considering email marketing for your hospitality business, it’s vital that you start with the correct structure and systems around you. Without these tools and resources, keeping control of subscribers to your restaurant, hotel or events venue can be a nightmare – and that’s before you’ve even sent your first email marketing campaign! Here’s five reasons why you should choose MailChimp for your email marketing;

MailChimp-Freddie

Why MailChimp?

1. A Brief History of MailChimp

Founded in 2001, MailChimp has grown to over $400 Million in revenue, with 15 Million customers and more than 500 employees.

They account their success to a unique customer first approach, an understanding of what competitors lack, greater customization and a loveable brand people connect with. They’re pioneers in email marketing, always developing new features, such as the recently released ability to include Gifs in emails.

2. The Infrastructure

When it comes to infrastructure, MailChimp have constructed brand-new, fit for purpose colocation spaces from the ground up in recent years. This is to handle the 10,000+ new users added each day, as well as 15 million customers sending over a billion emails every single day!

MailChimp is a large application so focusing on simplicity and proven technology has been their main engineering philosophy. (For more on infrastructure, see MailChimp’s engineering blog)

For email marketing users, MailChimp’s Cloud-based platform means no software downloads, no complicated installs and easy access for anyone, across any device with a browser!

3. The Features

Part of what has made MailChimp the number 1 email marketing platform, is the company’s ability to really appreciate the pain points email marketers face; and answer these with highly customizable features that can scale for any business size. The most prominent of these features include:-

Automation

Let’s say you’ve just checked out Mr & Mrs Smith from your hotel’s honeymoon suite. Two days later, the couple receive an email from your hotel thanking them for their stay, and asking for review. Four months later, in lieu of Mrs Smith’s upcoming birthday, Mr Smith receives an email suggesting a special rate at the hotel to celebrate the occasion.

Every interaction was entirely automated and scheduled by MailChimp. Intelligent data collection at each customer interaction point, forward planning and pre-scheduling in the MailChimp platform, can help your hospitality brand reconnect with customers and develop a greater customer experience, with minimal input.

A/B Testing

What’s the best day to send your venues latest events newsletter? Which subject line about your restaurant’s latest menu is most effective? Do more venue bookings come from sending morning or afternoon emails? – MailChimp helps you answer all of these and more, with precise A/B testing tools. You can build up-to three variants to test in each campaign, and MailChimp will take care of all the testing, letting you know what’s worked best!

E-commerce

Shopify and other similar platforms, offer the option to sync with MailChimp’s e-commerce features; allowing you to track orders, set up automated messaging (such as abandoned shopping cart emails), make product recommendations based on previous purchases, and much much more. It’s one of our favourite features of MailChimp, and if used well, can help generate revenue for your hospitality brand.

 

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Segmentation & Groups

MailChimp helps you send the right content to the right subscribers. It’s one thing to collect data on subscribers, but knowing how to use this data wisely and how to gain real performance insights, can be more complicated. Luckily MailChimp offer highly customizable segmentation options, allowing you to target email messages to the best subscribers, in every campaign. LeadDigital are MailChimp experts, so can help you refine complicated subscriber lists into actionable segments that work alongside your hospitality brand’s needs.

MailChimp Designer

Graphic designers are not always available on hand to create custom HTML email designs every week, so for this need, you have MailChimp Designer. This feature provides the ability to quickly create fantastic looking emails, with incredible content and personalisation options. Using the builder, your hospitality company can create emails that reflect your brand – with preview and testing features available to ensure your email works correctly across all devices.

This is more important than ever, given 56% of emails are now opened on mobile devices. Being able to test and ensure your content appears as intended on mobile, tablets and desktop is vital, and could make the difference between an email’s success and failure.

Mobile App

MailChimp works on any device, however they also created a mobile application for IOS & Android. Many of the features available on desktop are also available on mobile; including the ability to view and send email campaigns, keep on track with performance analytics and monitor e-commerce revenue (if associated with an e-commerce provider like Shopify). There are also widgets available for quick performance updates.

4. The Integrations

MailChimp now integrates with hundreds of apps and services, including Salesforce, Eventbrite, Shopify, Facebook, Twitter and many others (the full directory can be seen HERE). Working with MailChimp experts including LeadDigital, your hospitality business can sync all these applications within MailChimp – simplifying your workflow and increasing efficiency. For example;

E-commerce

As discussed above, sync your Shopify data with MailChimp subscribers, track visitors, track orders, automate targeted email campaigns and gain greater insights.

CRM (customer relationship management)

Sync customer data between your CRM and MailChimp. Perfect for improving customer experiences of your brand and engaging with subscribers in new, more effective ways increasing sales opportunities.

Social Media

Sync with your social channels, grow your subscriber lists, share content and market to subscribers on their preferred social networks.

5. The Affordability

Cost for MailChimp is related to subscriber numbers; making it perfect for all hospitality businesses, from start-ups with small lists, to Enterprise’s with thousands of customers.

At time of writing MailChimp prices start from as little as £16 per month for over 1,000+ subscribers – going up to £28 per month for over 2,500 subscribers. There’s also the option of MailChimp Pro to access the more powerful MailChimp features.

Conclusion

When it comes to email marketing overall, there is a lot to be considered beyond just the MailChimp platform. This starts with creating a strategy for ongoing success, and then includes: management of subscriber lists, integrations with other services, campaign planning/design/scheduling/reporting, learning from performance data and adapting future campaigns, etc…

This is where LeadDigital excel. We are certified MailChimp Experts, meaning we have advanced knowledge of the platform, and have been proven to provide successful email marketing campaigns for our clients.

LeadDigital’s team work directly with our hospitality customers to develop long term marketing strategies tailored to your brand’s needs; whether that’s to gain more room bookings, sell tickets or simply improve customer engagement. We can design, schedule, send and report on every aspect of performance, with the experience to backup support provide.

 

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5 Ways to Improve your Customer Experience

Customer experience is everything. The way your customers feel, the interactions they have and their entire end-to-end journey with your brand define this experience.

This can refer to physical interactions (such as the cleanliness of your venue) and the non-physical (digital) interactions with your brand. We will be focussing on the latter of the two, looking at the Martech (Marketing Technology), which can support you in improving your customer’s experience.

How to improve hospitality customer experience

Customers demand a high level of personalisation, in every interaction with your brand. Employing a personal touch is what will place you above the competition. With the tools available today, there’s no reason you cannot also provide this level of personalisation on the digital front. Some platforms will even help your on-site staff, by personalising your customer’s experience even at your venues!

1. Website

Your website is likely to be the first real impression a customer has of your brand. It is therefore, essential to make a good first impression. Here are a few points to stick to with your website, to ensure an incredible customer experience;

Usability

Often referred to as UX or User Experience, it is critical that your website is well designed and easy to follow, for anyone visiting for the first time. It is essential to have clear and concise navigation that guides visitors through your site, to anything your potential customer could find valuable. This varies from information about your product/services, to pricing, or simply the booking process. It is also critical that your website is quick loading! In this world of immediacy, nobody stays on a website that slows them down.

Conversion Tool

A great website guides a visitor through a refined, thought-out conversion path. This may include making a booking, requesting more information, posting a recommendation or just finding out your location/opening times. While this sounds like the top requirement for you and your business goals, it’s also a requirement of your customer. Your website needs to make it easy for the visitor to do all of these things. Any friction, and they’ll leave your site and go to a competitor.

Aesthetics

Your website needs to make an impact visually, but also deliver an authentic representation of your venue and services. Hero images have become a great way to present beautiful imagery throughout your website and are likely to be the very first impression you make on your visitors. Make sure they are high-quality (not pixelated) and alluring. Photography is an art, be sure to use a professional.

Cross-platform friendliness

Today, people are visiting your website from a variety of platforms. According to StatCounter in a report towards the tail end of 2016, global mobile web browsing actually overtook desktop for the first time. Given this fact, It’s never been more important than now, to make sure your website is optimised for mobile devices. In-fact, you may even wish to consider a separate design that specifically caters to mobile visitors – rather than trying to make desktop content work on mobile.

Alluring visuals, backed up by a smooth user experience – quick, easy to use, with clear and concise navigation, are all critical elements for your website and the experience of your visitors, alongside the information you provide. Additional content based around visiting your venue will also solidify your expertise within the customer’s mind – for example; Hotels might offer local sightseeing information, or restaurants may provide information on local entertainment venues. It all shows that you care about your customer having the greatest experience possible.

2. CRM

CRM platforms are all about leveraging data made available to you, given by customers as they progress along their customer journey; from strangers to brand authorities & promoters of your services.

A Customer Relationship Management system can benefit your Hospitality company, both in terms of the physical and digital experiences of your customers. On the digital side of things, CRM’s can log every visitor interaction with your company, adding their details to a centralised database. This makes it easy for your team to then personalise communications with potential customers!

However, a great CRM can also take it one step further, providing all this information to staff at your hotel or restaurant, for example, ahead of your customer’s visit. This enables a unique & personalised service that takes into account any requests and requirements, well ahead of time. Think about it this way, if you were to return to a hotel you had previously stayed at, wouldn’t you prefer to to be greeted with “welcome back” rather than the question “have you stayed with us before?”. It is this level of detail that can make a huge difference in your customer’s experience, by making them feel special in this way you also promote a sense of luxury.

Find out if Salesforce CRM is right for you here!

3. Email Marketing Automation

Email Marketing is an effective tool for reconnecting with your existing customers and extending their lifetime value. It is also a great tool for creating a personalised customer experience using automation. So how can something automated be personalised?

Automation is all about utilising the data that is available to you. Data such as name, date of birth, bookings and details such as reason for booking are all accessible if you have a centralised database CRM system. You can use this information as follows;

Name

You can use name tags to address your customer personally in your automated emails.

Date Of Birth

If acquired during booking process can be used to send Happy Birthday emails with special offers

Booking Details

If your guest booked a room or a table as part of an anniversary celebration, you can have an automated email scheduled to ping them the month before this date in the following years to prompt booking the same again or making a special offer.

If your guest booked a standard room in your hotel, you could have an automated email offer the opportunity to upgrade to a superior room or to book additional services that you may offer.

The opportunities to provide a personalised service to your customers via automated emails are pretty much limitless. You just need a strategy for acquiring these details and a system set up to make the most of the data.

For more information on Email Marketing, see our top 5 recommendations to enhance your email marketing campaigns.

4. Social Media Monitoring

Social channels like Twitter and Facebook are great for proactively promoting your brand and the services you offer, meeting your customers where they are. But, they have also become a great tool for customer service.

You can use tools such as Buffer or ‘Social Inbox’ within Hubspot, to monitor social media channels for mentions of your brand, or keywords relevant to your service. With social monitoring, you can get the inside track on what your potential customers are talking about and identify opportunities for engagement through social media channels. It can also be used to flag any mentions of your brand or products, allowing you to respond directly and with speed. With social monitoring you can turn negative experiences into positive ones.

Answering your customers, on the platforms they reside in, gives a personalised feel based on the direct response via their personal profile. It is important for the respondee to be sympathetic with the customers concerns (if negative) and try to resolve any issue quickly and to a satisfactory level.

5. Customer Survey

If you’re really struggling to find ways you can improve your service, you probably aren’t utilising social monitoring or a CRM system as described above. The best thing you can do is ask your customers directly via a customer survey.

Customer surveys work in two ways for improving the customer experience. Firstly, you will get actionable responses from your customers. They will tell you what you need to do to improve their experience! But, secondly and quite subtly, you will also show that you CARE about their satisfaction and are looking to improve based on their recommendations. Again, this feeds back to providing a personalised experience of your brand.

Conclusion

Today’s economy is starting to be driven by millennials who want experiences more than anything, as suggested by the Harris Research study commissioned by Eventbrite back in 2014. Advances in technology and the leveraging of data can support you in creating these experiences in both the digital and physical interactions you make as a brand.

Customers want to feel special and unique and this is what they are willing to pay for. A CEI survey revealed that:

“86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience” – Forbes.com

The points raised in this article are the foundations of creating first-rate customer experience. If you get these right you will be well on your way to improving your customer experience, retaining your customers and extending their lifetime value.

 

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Why Your Hospitality Email Marketing isn’t Working!

Email Marketing is a fickle beast. Fact.

You spend a mountain of time coming up with the perfect strategy, have meetings with management/clients/sales etc, to discuss each aspect of the email in fine detail, and then write the most beautiful piece of script since Shakespeare – only to send it, get barely any opens and feel utterly down-heartened. It sucks.

If you’ve found yourself in this situation, chances are your email WAS actually fantastic, but something about the full process wasn’t quite right!

Here’s our top 5 recommendations to enhance your email campaigns:

Email-Marketing-993596-edited

1. Are you mobile optimised?

Did you know that on average, OVER HALF of emails are opened today on mobile devices – with this number only set to grow through 2017! It’s therefore more vital than ever, to ensure emails you create work for all subscribers, on both desktop and mobile. This is not just about the core design, but you also need to think about how text appears on different screens, the use of imagery (will it appear on all devices?), and the overall responsive layout.

E.g. if you use a photo in the header with text as-part of the image (rather than overlaid or above/below), but the subscriber’s device doesn’t open images by default, you’ll have lost your title and potentially, confused the message entirely. There’s a great article on the subject by Inc.com, click here to view.

2. Do you know who’s receiving your emails?

With email marketing, the most important aspect will always be your subscribers – or more specifically, the relevance and value of each subscriber to your brand. I’ve seen too many campaigns where companies have sent out entirely irrelevant email content, only to wonder why no-one is opening them. It’s because you’ve sent information about steak nights to vegetarians – just because they signed up to your restaurant’s website!!!

KNOW YOUR SUBSCRIBERS. If there’s just one thing to take away from this article, make sure it’s this point. Whether it’s by refining your subscriber onboarding processes, sending out surveys or simply splitting the subscriber lists you already have. Just don’t send vegans meat stories, they’ll never buy!

3. Are your subscribers even still active?

“I’ve got 3 billion subscribers on my email marketing list, therefore my brand must be awesome!” – say’s the same guy who buys Facebook and Twitter Likes just for ‘branding’. It’s all nonsense, especially when you realise only 10 of those 3 billion subscribers opened your last email campaign!

Don’t get complacent thinking that high subscriber numbers mean high engagement, and NEVER buy subscribers from 3rd parties – all you’ll end up with is a pile of useless email addresses who’ve never heard of you.

DO organically source new subscribers using newsletter sign-up forms on your website.
DO monitor how subscribers interact with your campaigns, and regularly attempt to reconnect with inactive emails; think about a “We Miss You” style process which could be automated.
DO use your social media channels to source new subscribers.
DO use paper media as a way to obtain sign-ups; think about receipts you give out, booking confirmation letters, guestroom information booklets etc…

4. Is 5pm really the best time to be sending out emails on a Friday?

Scheduling is a massive failing point for most email marketers, mostly because there is no one right answer. At LeadDigital I work with a brand who get their best open and click rates at 1pm on Sundays, but another similar company whose emails are entirely ignored at this time, and actually do best on Thursday mornings!

Most campaign scheduling can be done with simple logic, and from understanding how your subscribers have interacted in the past. For example, If you’re pushing a specific ticketed event, make sure you give subscribers enough notice (not just a day in advance) – but don’t send it weeks beforehand, or you risk losing the urgency to buy tickets all together.

You also need to think about the frequency with which you send emails; is once a week just irritating for subscribers? Does 1x email per month mean subscribers forget about you and ignore it?

Then there is matching email messages with the season; so a slow period could be boosted with a well timed special offer email. All of this comes from a deep understanding of your hospitality company and never being afraid to test new ideas, unusual times and different messages.

5. Does your email speak directly to each subscriber?

Last month Steve and his wife stayed at your hotel for two nights. During his stay he signed up to the newsletter proactively, but has since heard nothing from your hotel. Out of the blue he then receives a generic email from your hotel, talking about special rates for corporate bookings. Guess what, Steve ignored the email.

Lets re-write the story. This time, a week after Steve’s visit to your hotel he receives a personalised email thanking him for staying, which asks for feedback on his experience – offering a special rate on his next stay as a thank you. This email was sent automatically by MailChimp (our recommended email platform), but Steve doesn’t know that and is impressed, replying with comments about how much he enjoyed the chef’s fish menu.

Three weeks later it’s Steve’s birthday. He gets a lovely personalised email to wake up too, from your hotel, wishing him a wonderful day and suggesting a great event coming up in a few weeks time. Automated email, you know his birthday from the original booking.

A few weeks later Steve gets another email, this time inviting him and his wife to a unique couples evening, where you’ll be delivering a new fish menu which you know he’ll love! – This email was actually sent to multiple people, but he received it because you’d noted down his love of fish on the subscriber data and used first name tags to speak to him directly.

This is a particularly detailed process, but it’s all possible and reasonably automatable with some careful thought into your data gathering, campaign planning and automation processes. MailChimp is great for this level of customised contact with subscribers, whether it’s through the detailed automation options or the varied ways of filtering and grouping subscriber information. In reality, these five points are only the tip of the iceberg, but if you get these right first, your email marketing’s chances of success will greatly improve.

Know your subscribers, Speak to your audience, Be relevant and Make content that works on all devices – and you’re onto a winner!

 

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