This Newsletter Is The Consumer's Ticket To Cheap Travel Deals

Scott’s Cheap Flights, a popular travel newsletter, first began with a $130 round-trip flight from New York City to Milan, Italy.

Soon word spread to friends and co-workers eager to be in the know the next time Scott Keyes discovered a travel deal like that. 

“I just started a free little email list instead of trying to remember everyone who asked to be updated,” says Keyes. “The furthest thing I thought at the time was that this would turn into a business. It was just the easiest route to convey this information.”

Scott’s Cheap Flights has since grown into a travel deal newsletter with more than 900,000 subscribers. The newsletter has two tiers: a premium and free list. One out of every three travel deals that Keyes finds goes to the free list, while the premium list receives every deal he finds 30 minutes earlier.

Open rates for the premium list average between 40% and 45%, while engagement for the free lists range from a still respectable 20% to 30%, according to Keyes.



Email campaigns need to offer subscribers more than just a sales pitch in order to be successful. Scott’s Cheap Flights does not have any affiliate links or kickbacks, although Keyes could easily make additional revenue that way.

“Instead of putting money into ads, we’ve invested in human capital to create positive interactions and positive experiences,” he says. Keyes also makes sure that every email subject line is contextual and precise. “Unlike other places where headlines are provocatively written, we put the whole story in the headline,” he says. “Our incentive is to write headlines that give people all the information they need so they can tell right away if it’s right for them or not.”

Being more vague, Keyes says, might initially lead to higher engagement rates, but would eventually lead to higher unsubscribes.

Keyes credits customer service and email with propelling Scott’s Cheap Flights' fast growth.

Scott’s Cheap Flights has a zero-dollar marketing budget, with resources instead being funneled into customer service. Some subscribers sign up for multiple travel alerts, so they receive multiple emails a day. This high email volume could easily label Keyes as a spammer, so he turned to marketing automation company ActiveCampaign in early 2016 when he reached 100,000 subscribers. He is now closer to one million. 

“Our volume of email send is very high," says Keyes. “On a given day we’re sending out at least 700,000 emails, if not more.”

Using ActiveCampaign's marketing automation and tagging capabilities, email subscribers are tagged with attributes, such as whether or not they are paid subscribers, immediately upon signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights. This helps Keyes automate his email sends to the correct recipients.


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