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You welcome your guests and make sure they have an amazing stay while they’re with you.
You also do your accounts (when you absolutely have to), order supplies to keep the accommodation well stocked, deal with staff issues and occasionally get to enjoy the amazing area where you live.
You’re pretty good at running a holiday business.
And you know how lucky you are. You live in a beautiful place that people pay big money to visit every year.
But when it comes to online marketing, you feel like you’re just winging it all the way.
This is why I’ve put together the ultimate guide to sending your first email marketing campaign, to walk you through setting up and sending your first email, even if you’re a newbie.
Does this sound familiar?
You have no idea what most of the latest social networks are, are a bit of a dead loss when it comes to “apps” and don’t have the time or technology to find out.
How can you possibly keep up with everything that’s going on at Facebook when you’ve got 50 cream teas to bake for your guests arriving this afternoon?
You can’t – there are hundreds of social networks and marketing tactics that you could explore but it can take hours, even days or weeks, to learn everything you need to know and it can take months (even years) to convert a cold prospect to a confirmed booking.
How about instead you could concentrate on just one thing that would bring you bookings, recommendations and happy customers?
Enter… (pause for dramatic effect) Email Marketing
Email marketing is one of the best ways to connect with your customers – there are currently three times as many email accounts as there are Facebook and Twitter accounts combined, and we check our inboxes multiple times every day.
(I checked mine before I even got out of bed this morning. I know. Sad, right?)
Email marketing is personal and I scan every single email I receive, even if it’s just the subject line.
But social networks are noisy. I miss 99% of the tweets that appear in my feed. Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm means I miss loads of posts from people and pages I’ve followed.
Let’s take a closer look at Facebook – the world’s largest social network has changed its algorithm over the years so the updates we publish on our business pages are often seen by just 1-2% of ‘fans’.
All that hard work you put into growing your ‘likes’ on Facebook is potentially wasted if no-one is seeing what you post.
Have you ever had that dream where you’re yelling at the top of your lungs and nothing’s coming out?
Yeah, it’s like that.
Compare this to email – research shows your message is 40 times more likely to be seen via email than social media.
Now that’s worth a second look.
But to be that effective you need to do it right.
We’re all busy – right now my to-do list says I should be:
- writing a guest blog for a client
- planning my e-marketing campaign for this week
- recording a video for a new course I’m writing
- scheduling my Facebook posts for the pages I manage
- and checking my accounts in preparation for the end of year (ugh).
I don’t have time to waste on marketing tactics that aren’t going to work and I’m sure you don’t either, so instead focus your precious time on doing what works.
How to send your first email marketing campaign
This guide walks you through exactly how to set-up your first email marketing campaign, from creating your branded template, crafting professional graphics, adding content, sending your first email and tracking the results.
Step 1: Research
There are three main reasons people want to receive email from you:
1. It benefits them with a discount, special offer or exclusive deal
Let’s be honest here – there are people who will only join your list to enter your competition where they can win a holiday or get 20% off their booking.
These people aren’t necessarily interested in your brand values, your story or your holiday business – they subscribe for the freebies.
2. It educates them to do something better that makes their life easier
We all have problems – doing the tax return (have I mentioned my love of accounts?), planning a fancy dress outfit for the kids on World Book Day, eating healthily, saving money, having a strong relationship….
If you can help solve some of these problems, the phenomenon of reciprocity kicks in and your subscribers feel they owe you something.
Last minute deal, anyone?
3. It makes them feel good
Bob Burg is reportedly the first to say that:
People buy from people they know, like and trust.
…. so being real before being a salesperson is essential to success in your e-marketing.
Consider these motivations when you’re growing your list and writing content for your regular emails – each message should benefit your reader in some way, whether by rewarding them, making their lives easier or entertaining them.
Research the market
Now you’re starting to understand the motivations of your audience, you can start to dig a little deeper into what other emails are already out there.
Do you subscribe to anything?
Look at your own inbox – which branded emails do you always open?
And what motivated you to type your email address into that box on their website in the first place?
And also consider which emails do you regularly delete without even opening?
As well as your own inbox, take a look at what others are doing.
1. Visit competitors’ websites
How are other holiday businesses gathering email addresses? Where is their newsletter sign-up button? What benefits are they promoting to subscribers?
This sign-up form on the Watergate Bay Hotel website invites people to subscribe to receive the latest news and special offers.
Similarly, the Gilpin Hotel (above) encourages web visitors to sign-up to receive information unavailable elsewhere.
Seeing how others do it should get your creative juices flowing.
Jot down how you might incentivise visitors to subscribe – once you’ve done that, it’s time to turn detective – grab your magnifying glass and let’s get sneaky…
2. Subscribe to some competitors’ newsletters
Join the mailing list of your competitors and pay close attention to how the sign-up process works. Particularly look at:
- What welcome message you receive once you’ve subscribed
- How often they send emails
- What types of content they feature in their e-newsletters
- What images they include
At this stage you are simply looking to understand what’s possible.
Once you have an idea of how others are communicating with their audiences, you can start to identify what works and what doesn’t.
3. Visit some of your favourite websites and subscribe to their newsletters
Ask yourself similar questions about how these companies are making web visitors aware of their e-newsletter – what benefits do they offer subscribers?
Does their website feature a pop-up box (like the one by Frugi, above) encouraging you to subscribe?
How do they grab your attention and encourage you to subscribe?
4. How can your e-marketing be different?
This question should be easy to answer once you’ve done that initial research into others’ e-marketing tactics, design and content.
What can you do that will make your email better than theirs?
Which parts of the sign-up process made you go “huh, that’s clever” and which bits made you cringe.
What content could you create that your readers would love to receive? What content did you receive that made you yawn and hit delete?
What design elements will make your email look attractive and fit with your brand?
Step 2: Getting started
Now you have some idea of what your emails are going to include and how they might look.
But before you can start firing them out to your eager subscribers you need to have a professional system which makes it easy to craft your emails, distribute them, and monitor the results.
I love Mailchimp and it’s free for your first 2000 subscribers so let’s use that as a tool to get started.
1. Create a Mailchimp account
Visit the Mailchimp homepage and click ‘Sign up for free‘.
Complete the fields and click ‘Create my account’.
2. Activate your account
Check your email inbox and click the link in the activation email to activate your account.
Follow the ‘activate account’ link and complete your business information – now you’re ready to upload your list of subscribers and start growing your list and sending emails.
3. Create your list
Once you have written your email within Mailchimp you will be sending it to your subscribers.
You may have a list of previous guests who have stayed with you before who will go in one list (they must have given you their permission – check the rules here on who you can or can’t add to your email list).
You will also want to encourage people to join your mailing list via your website (more on this in a future post).
Let’s say you want to add previous guests to your Mailchimp account – to get started, click ‘Import your list’ from the Starter dashboard, as shown above.
Hold fire a minute – you need to make sure you have a spreadsheet ready to upload that Mailchimp can understand.
Here’s how to create your list of subscribers to upload to Mailchimp:
- Create a new Excel spreadsheet
- Paste in the first names of your subscribers in column A
- Paste in the surnames of your subscribers in column B
- Paste in the email addresses of your subscribers in column C
- Ensure each column is named clearly in the first row
- Save your Excel spreadsheet (call it something you’ll easily remember) to your computer
- Now save it as a .csv (comma delimited) file
Now you’re ready to head back to Mailchimp….
- Return to Mailchimp
Click ‘Import your list’ and fill in the fields as requested.
The “Default ‘from’ email” field should be your name or the name of your business so recipients know who is emailing them. You also need to write a description of why they’re receiving email from you.
Finally, choose how often you’d like to receive notifications about subscriber activity such as unsubscribes and new subscribers:
Then click “Create List and go to Import”.
Select the top option of “CSV or tab-delimited text file” then click “Next” in the bottom right of the screen.
Click “Browse”, navigate to the easy-to-remember .csv file that you just created and double click to start the upload, then tick the box and hit “Next”.
Mailchimp will now match the columns with headings to make sense of your list:
Click ‘Save’ for each field then click “Next”.
The next screen is a summary of what’s being imported so if you’re happy, click “Next” to finish up.
Great job – you now have your first list of subscribers and are ready to create your first email!
Step 3: Creating your email template
Mailchimp, and most other large email marketing services, offer a wide range of templates you can choose from when creating your first e-marketing campaign.
Some templates are packed with individual boxes of images and text, others feature one single offer in the opening followed by a number of small stories, while others are text only.
Let’s take a look at some examples…
This one from Moo showcases some of their latest offers but also includes a free ebook on branding and a customer case study (click the image to see it properly):
This one by Costa Coffee features one single special offer (again, just give the image a click to take a closer peek):
While this from Premier Inn features a special offer and the company’s latest news.
As mentioned in step 1, the content you include in your emails is critical to the success of your e-marketing, and the format of your emails is part of this process.
When choosing your email template, there are plenty of formats to suit your needs, depending on how many stories you will feature in each email:
It’s a good idea to stick to just one template once you’ve chosen and customised it, rather than changing it every week.
Tis is easier for you to manage but also builds up a familiarity with your audience where they instantly recognise your email from its design as soon as they open it.
Things to think about when choosing your template:
- How many “stories” will you create in each email?
- How much of your email will be text and how much will be images?
- Where will your emails send readers? To your website, to your Facebook page, somewhere else?
This part shouldn’t take long so don’t spend hours deliberating over two columns or three – choose a simple layout with two stories and just start.
Now you have your empty template you can start adding images and text, but we need to make sure it’s branded with your logo and social media accounts first.
If you’re not a designer and don’t own Photoshop, Canva is a fabulous tool that you’re going to love (if you don’t already).
It’s a free online tool that makes it super easy to create professional graphics for your social media accounts, blog posts and e-marketing messages.
To create your branded header, which we’ll add to your email template, set-up your free account at Canva.com then create a design using custom dimensions.
I find 800px x 200px works well in Mailchimp but you may want to make yours deeper/higher if you’ll be featuring a message or a large image at the top of each email.
Now you have a blank canvas that needs your logo and perhaps a tagline adding so you need to upload your logo and any images you’d like to use.
Click the ‘Uploads’ tab in the left menu then the green ‘Upload’ button, navigate to the file (either .jpg or .png) on your computer and then double click it to upload.
Once it’s uploaded to Canva, simply click it to add it to your blank header.
You can see from the image above that you can resize the logo from the corners if you need to make it smaller.
Below you can see Lakeland’s header simply includes their logo and details about delivery and “click & collect” services.
Let’s add some text to your header:
Click ‘Text’ in the left menu then choose to add a ‘Subheading’:
Click the name of the font in the grey bar above your subheading to choose your font:
It’s a good idea to choose just two standard fonts and use them across all your marketing materials to build brand recognition.
Consider the familiarity of the Disney font:
We know it’s Disney, even if it doesn’t read “Disney” because the font is everywhere.
Look at the colours and fonts used here by Natwest:
This combination is used in the bank’s materials displayed in their branches as well as in their direct mail, website, social media accounts and television advertising.
This builds a subconscious familiarity.
Take a moment here to look through the fonts available in Canva and choose two that you will use in all marketing materials (if you already have a corporate font, use that but let’s assume you’re just getting started with a consistent corporate identity).
Once you’ve chosen your font, type the words you’d like in your email header, then drag the text box to your chosen spot.
You’ll see dotted lines appear to show you how it lines up with your logo, and to show you when it’s in the middle of your header.
Add more text boxes as necessary, changing the font to your ‘corporate’ font to maintain brand consistency.
(Feel free to do a little dance at this point, or to publish a post to Facebook bragging about your new professional corporate identity).
With some fonts you can also choose whether the font is bold, italic or underlined – simply click the drop down arrow in the grey box above the text to edit:
Here you can also make the text left, centre or right-justified (just like in Microsoft Word).
This email header from Premier Inn features a larger image with a strip of colour (in their corporate purple of course) along the top and a strong marketing message inviting me to ‘Book‘.
To create this sort of graphic, you will need to create a larger template (I’ve used 800px x 600px below) then upload the image and add a strip of colour.
Upload the image in the same way you did your logo – once it’s uploaded to Canva, click the image to add it to your header, then resize so it reaches the edges by dragging the corners and moving it so it’s central:
Need some stock photos?
If the image is hiding your logo and wording, simply click ‘Back’ in the great floating menu bar until the image is on the bottom and your logo is on top.
Now to add a strip of colour to the top – click the ‘Elements’ heading in the menu on the left:
Choose the first square by clicking it:
Now resize using the black dots around the edges to the box fits across the top of the image:
You can change the colour of the box by simply clicking the white circle in the floating grey bar.
Again, you will need to click ‘Back’ until you see your logo and the text boxes on top of the coloured shape:
If you need to change the colour of your text boxes so they show up against the coloured box, simply click the coloured circle once you’ve highlighted the text you’d like to edit, and choose the new colour:
Once you’re happy with your header, give the file a name so you can find it once it’s saved then click ‘Done’:
Now your branded email header is ready to download and add to Mailchimp.
Click ‘Download’ in the top bar and select ‘Image: for Web (JPG)’:
Now wait a moment:
When prompted, save the file to your computer.
Head back over to Mailchimp.
Add your newly created header graphic to your email template by clicking anywhere in the header image and then clicking ‘Browse’ in the grey box:
Click ‘Upload’ and navigate to where you just saved your JPG file:
The ALT text will show to users whose email programmes don’t show images – they’re also used to help visually impaired users understand what is on the screen – so choose something descriptive for this.
Hit ‘Save & Close’ when it’s uploaded.
Remember this is the template, so don’t add any text here – you’re simply creating a blank template to use each time you want to send an email to your list.
The only other section to edit in the template is the footer, where hopefully you can already see some social media icons:
If they aren’t showing, simply drag the box entitled ‘Social Follow’ from the right into your footer – these icons need to link to your social media accounts so click the pencil above the box to add your own links:
Then head over to your different social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest) and copy the URL from the browser bar for each, adding them to Mailchimp one at a time:
Save & close once you’re done.
Your template is finished!
You should only ever need to do this once so pat yourself on the back and give yourself a chocolate medal for finishing this crucial step.
Ready to create your first email?
Let’s crack on…
Click ‘Save and Exit’ in the bottom right hand corner of Mailchimp, then click ‘Campaigns’ in the header menu to create your first email.
Step 4: Creating your first email
To get started, click ‘Create Campaign’ and select ‘Regular Campaign’:
Now you will be asked which list you’d like to send your email to – choose the list you uploaded earlier and click ‘Next’.
Now you need to give your campaign a name – make it something meaningful, perhaps including the date for your own reference – and you need a subject line that is going to encourage recipients to open it.
Crafting subject lines that get opened:
The subject line of your email is the single most important part – it makes the difference between being opened and being chucked straight in the trash.
The worse subject lines focus on the company, not the reader, or are ambiguous and vague.
Spring Newletter is not a good subject line – why should I take time out of my busy day to read your company news?
Compare that to (NSFW) A 3D-printed near-naked Lucy – this initially caught my eye because my name was in it, but it also caught my eye because it had the word naked in it – ARGH! Was it spam?
Weird, I know, but the subject line worked because of the personalisation (and the informal use of internet slang – NSFW – Not Safe For Work – which is intriguing).
This arrived a week before my birthday – yay! An early birthday present – don’t mind if I do….
This level of personalisation makes a real difference to standing out in a busy inbox and there is a sense of urgency to claim my discount before it expires.
Within Mailchimp there is also a wide range of emojis available to use in your subject lines – from smiley faces to four-leaf clovers and cute bunnies, these can help your email stand out in inboxes.
But use with caution as not all email clients will display emojis so make sure your subject line works without them.
Here’s a selection of email subject lines from promotional emails I’ve received recently:
General good practice and subject line inspiration:
- Keep it short – 50 characters or fewer
- Use merge tags to personalise your email subject lines (Pack your bags, Lucy)
- Use emojis creatively (like Pizzahut have below)
- Ask a question (Do you have this awesome new feature?)
- Tease an interesting article (5 Common Mistakes Etsy Sellers Make)
- Promote scarcity (Just 1hr until your discount code expires)
- Promise a desirable benefit (Discover the perfect dress)
- Announce a sale (Save up to 40% in our Big Bake Sale)
- Invite entries to a competition (Win a VIP Glastonbury Experience)
- Give an instruction (Stop wasting your Adwords $)
- Inspire the reader (No weekend plans? Let us inspire you)
Once you’ve written your subject line, click Next to begin creating your email and choose ‘Saved Templates’ to choose the design you created earlier:
Click ‘Select’ to get ready to add content.
You now have the bare outline of your email, with your header, an introductory paragraph, your social media icons on the footer, and space for a story and photo.
Mailchimp will display helpful messages as you set-up your first campaign, explaining the different elements and features available.
Create your email by adding relevant text, headlines, images and links – to edit any blocks simply click the Pencil icon that appears when you hover your mouse over the text or image.
You can change the font, size and colour, and add any styling such as BOLD text or Italics, using the text editing options on the right.
Remember to save your work as you go by clicking ‘Save & Close’ at the bottom of each editing box.
Don’t forget to add some introductory text to the field at the top of your email – this shows in some email clients to give the recipient an idea of what the email contains, so think of it as a ‘teaser’.
You will also probably want to add links to your email, perhaps to a landing page on your website, a blog post or a sales page.
Every image you upload can link to an external website – to edit an image and add a link, click the image, then select ‘Link’ below the image title and paste in the relevant URL.
Don’t forget to also add that ALT text – this shows up in email clients which don’t automatically display pictures, so should describe the content of the image.
You can also add links to text by highlighting the relevant text (see ‘Find out more’ in the screengrab below), then clicking the link icon in the formatting toolbar, then paste in the URL of your choice.
Once your email is complete, you need to test it to check the links, formatting and styling before distributing it to your list.
Click ‘Preview & Test’ at the top of the Mailchimp window and select ‘Send a Test Email’:
Enter your personal email address and click ‘Send Test’. The email should arrive in your inbox immediately for you to check.
NB It may be sent to your ‘Junk’ folder if this is the first email you’ve sent so check there if it doesn’t show within a few minutes.
Things to check for when proofing:
- Broken links
Make any changes in Mailchimp as necessary.
Now you’re ready to send.
Click Next and scan the various fields to make sure everything’s in order:
If you haven’t yet verified your domain, now is the time. This simply proves to Mailchimp that you are the owner of the website and the email address that you are sending from.
Click ‘Resolve’ and enter an email address containing your domain (eg. firstname.lastname@example.org). Head to your emails and get the verification code to enter it in the box:
Once you’ve verified your domain, you’re ready to send. Click the blue ‘Send’ button at the bottom of the page, take a deep breath, and click ‘Send Now’.
Mailchimp’s big hand will hover over the big red ‘Send’ button, sweating profusely, just to help with any first time nerves you may be experiencing….. bite the bullet and hit ‘Send Now’.
After you’ve high fived Mailchimp a few times (click his open hand to give him a high five – or three), you can return to the Campaigns screen to monitor the results.
Step 5: Tracking your results
You can see almost right away how many people are opening your email and clicking the links, but for definitive results it’s a good idea to wait a few hours to give people time to see it, open it, digest it and respond.
When you’re ready to evaluate what happened after you clicked ‘Send’, head over to the ‘Reports’ heading:
Then click ‘View report’ next to your newsletter.
On the next screen, you will be looking for:
- open rate (how many people opened it when it arrived)
- click through rate (how many people clicked a link in the email) and
- subscriber rate (whether people have unsubscribed).
Mailchimp will include an industry average for the open rate and click through rate so you can see how you compare.
One of the most helpful sections of the report is the Links section, which shows which links were clicked and by how many people:
You can use this information to plan future campaigns as it’s a good indicator of what types of content your readers want to know more about.
Step 6: Creating your next email
Now you have set-up your template, distributed your first email, and monitored the results, it’s time to start planning your next campaign – yippee!
Thankfully, the hard work is done.
Instead of starting from scratch with your next email, you can create a copy of the first email and “just” edit the headline, images and text.
On the Campaigns screen, click the arrow next to ‘View report’ and then click ‘Replicate’. This creates a copy of your first email that you can edit before sending.
The first thing you’ll want to change once you’ve created a copy is the name of your campaign:
Don’t forget to also change your subject line before adding your next text and images.
Now you’re ready to repeat the process of creating your email, sending a test email to check links and images, then distributing to your list and monitoring the results.
You are officially on the road to e-marketing awesome-ness. Great job!
Step 7: Planning your email campaigns
You’ve set-up the basics – but you need a strategy, a plan.
You don’t want to send random emails as and when you think about e-marketing, with no consistency and very little thought.
You don’t want to have to start from scratch with content each time you sit down to create your email.
Having a plan will save time and effort, so let’s get that plan down on paper before you get distracted by a special time-limited special offer delivered by email from your favourite clothing retailer…
Creating an email marketing plan:
How often should you email your subscribers? Customers will most likely not be interested in receiving emails from you every day, maybe not even every week if you’re only selling to them, but perhaps a weekly email would be welcome if the content is right and you’re adding value.
Some companies email me every day, some once a week, some once a month, and others only when they have something to sell (I hit that unsubscribe button pretty quickly on these ones…).
If the content is useful and relevant I don’t mind receiving emails once a week from a company.
Why are you putting all this effort into e-marketing? Are you trying to grow your audience? Are you hoping to build loyalty with your readers? Increase reviews? Or are you just looking for bookings?
Your goal will impact on the content of your emails.
If you want to get bookings, your emails will be packed with late deals and crazy offers.
If you’re trying to build loyalty, you’ll tell personal stories in your emails to connect with your readers.
You’ll need to test what works best for your subscribers but make a decision and stick to it…
Have a look at your own inbox – which emails do you always read?
Why do they always get your attention?
The emails that get most attention are normally those that are going to benefit us in some way, so you need to consider this when planning your own content.
They often link to lengthy blog posts, but I read every word from top to bottom because they are insightful, practical, educational and informative and I always come away inspired to take action.
The emails that are deleted without even opening are salesy, repetitive, boring or irrelevant.
Planning your content:
What would your guests want to read about?
What common questions do you get asked again and again when people are considering booking with you?
What do guests want to know when they chat with you over breakfast in the restaurant?
What questions do they ask when they arrive back from a day out in the local area?
These are the topics that should feature on your email plan.
So now you’ve set-up your email template in Mailchimp, you’ve sent your first campaign and you have a plan of how often you’ll be sending emails to your list.