Keep Hitting Send

With social media successfully connecting consumers and brands, it might be tempting to cut email -- an older, less glamorous marketing tactic -- from next year's budget. But recent research findings caution against putting a travel brand's subscriber-based electronic newsletter, a high-performing workhorse, out to pasture.

More than 90% of Americans subscribe to at least one permission-based daily email and 70%  say they always open emails from their favorite companies, according to ExactTarget. Not only is email one of the most ubiquitous communications platforms, with 95% of U.S. online consumers using it, a New York Times-commissioned study revealed that because it's more private, email is preferred over social media as sharing tool. The Association of National Advertisers, which conducted the study, advises marketers to provide email content that enhances consumers' relationships with each another.



Since people love sharing vacation stories and photos so much, this bodes well for travel marketers. But you may need to rethink your email strategy to inspire more reader interactivity.

Here are three guidelines for making your electronic newsletter program more sociable.

1. Research. Survey your e-news readers to find out what topics they want to hear about from your brand. You can use your email platform to conduct a quick online poll and offer Facebook fans the opportunity to provide feedback, too. Ask readers about when and why they last visited your destination and what attracted them to do so. Inquire about how often they'd like to hear from you and what they'd like to see more of and less of in the newsletter.

Test concepts of potential new features like recipes that typically have a high click through rate but may not be in your content mix. Find out if newsletter readers also interact with your brand through social media. Make participation as easy as possible through multiple choice answers and reward people for providing this valuable feedback with a coupon, promotional code or chance to win a trip.

2. Refine. The readership study results may be surprising, as you may have thought people wanted to hear about X but they actually want to learn about Y. And that's okay! Use the findings to become a great content curator and retool your e-news strategy as needed, whether that's updating design, adjusting frequency or merely providing more opportunities for readers to recommend their favorite places and activities in your region.

Many travel brands are revamping their newsletters to make content more shareable by featuring large photos, short stories, discounts, special offers and user-contributed material. Infuse the same energy and character of your brand campaign and social media program into the revised email format, and look for opportunities to cross-reference information across online marketing channels.

For instance, feature vacation photos posted by consumers on your brand's Facebook page in your newsletter, and let Facebook fans know they may be able to see photos they post on the wall featured in the newsletter. (Don't forget to provide a link to the sign-up page.) Doing so will boost both communities' numbers and encourage fan-generated content on your Facebook page and e-news.

3. Recruit: Expand your reach by advertising on e-blasts written by popular content providers and social media sites. If you're targeting Gen X and Y visitors, check out trend-spotting daily emails like Daily Candy Travel, Thrillist or Urban Daddy. Promoting a weekend getaway package ideally suited to Californians? Advertise on Weekend Sherpa to increase visibility among potential new customers, directing readers to your relevant online content and, of course, newsletter registration. Facebook advertising linking to an e-news signup tab on your brand page is also one of the most effective and affordable methods of increasing awareness and acquiring consumers.

Email marketing is just as important as social media in the overall travel marketing mix. So don't write it off, simply rethink its role. Use newsletters as a promotional vehicle, satisfy consumers' interest in deals and provide shareable content to generate optimum results.

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