I have written it before, but it bears repeating again, and again, and again: Email works! Point blank—if you do not have an email marketing program, get one! It will be one of the best investments you will make for your business. It does not matter if it is AWeber, Constant Contact, Emma, MailChimp, Marketing 360, or even the one offered by Go Daddy. Just get one.
They may be free (yes free) to inexpensive and worth every dime you pay. Sure the freebies are designed to move you onto a paid version—no different than moving a client from an inside cabin to a balcony! All of them are very similar and most price themselves based off the number of email addresses in your account—so initially, it may be free for you.
The beauty of an email marketing program is how easy it is to reach your prospects with the products you are looking to sell. Remember, with email they have given you permission to talk to them. This is not like someone browsing in a store. So, use it. Talk to them!
All of the programs offer an auto-responder (it may go by a different name) which makes things very easy and moves the prospect along the sales funnel. When they sign up initially, they will need to confirm that they indeed do want info from you. From there, why not send a responder introducing them to your agency and your specialties? Include a link to a form on your website to gather more information (travel tastes, names, phone numbers, etc.).
For those that do give you additional information, send them a follow up highlighting some of the trips you have done that match their styles. It gets them thinking.
If they did not respond, have an auto-responder follow up in a week or so with a bit about you (or your staff) highlighting your years in the industry, certifications, experiences, and education. Give them another reason to make sure they call you when the travel bug bites.
Finally, create a third auto-responder that lets them know why they need to use a travel agent. Highlight some horror stories (link to reputable sources). Let them know your business is not just about one-off vacations and that groups, incentives, and honeymoons are all within your realm of expertise (if they are).
And finally, let your monthly (or whatever frequency) newsletter take over the communications. I prefer a monthly newsletter because it is not too much. Unless you have a specific need to communicate with a business on a daily or weekly basis—it is too much. Monthly gives you an opportunity to touch them a dozen times a year and keep you on the top of their list when it comes to planning travel!
As for the content for your monthly newsletter—do not sell. We all hate to be sold. We all love to be informed. Right now, there is no dearth of content. You can talk about Brexit, safety in Europe, safety in America, the latest cruise trends, the closing of a popular resort, an emerging destination, or what an “old faithful” destination is doing that is cool, new and exciting. They all will be subtle sales pitches (of your expertise) but not the “BUY NOW!!!!” message of a hard pitch. It is certainly appropriate to use a “check out our specials” or “call/email us to discuss your personal plans” as a call to action. But the key in your content is to sell yourself, not your product.
As a tip, I find that whatever content you use does best when there is a personal introduction. This could be a paragraph, a sidebar, or the top piece of content. It is a simple message from you saying hello—let them know what you have been up to, give them an opinion, maybe an amusing joke, tease about the content in the newsletter encouraging them to read more. Think of this as the post-it note on a clipped newspaper article to a friend!
After your broadcasts are sent, follow up and look at the numbers. All of the programs will have an analytic program with them letting you know how many received the emails, how many opened them, and who clicked where on the links. Use this information to follow up. If thirty people clicked on a luxury cruise link, send them a follow up broadcast when you have a promotion that might interest them. It really is like fishing in a barrel.
And finally, also use their analytics to keep your list tidy. It is not about the number of names on the list but how engaged they are. Query the list and delete people that have not opened up an email in the last six months—you’ve lost them and are probably already marked as spam. I have a list that consistently sees a 45% to 50% open rate with a 25% to 30% CTR because it is refined monthly. Look at who clicked on the types of travel and divide the list into cruisers, landlubbers, and high-enders.
I have found that most people who do have these programs, do not use the features that are included. This is a critical mistake. You are paying for the service and you are doing yourself a huge disservice to not use the tools available.
Go forth and email. You will not regret it!
PS: About price—investigate it yourself. I am paying $69/month for up to 10,000 email addresses. Over 10K it jumps to $149/month but gives me up to 25K addresses. I have been culling my lists to keep them below that threshold—again, no sense in sending emails to people that are not interested in my product!