Email Marketing in the Off-Season
Some experience providers don’t enjoy much downtime throughout the year, which I imagine can be a blessing and a curse. But for many, there’s at least a small portion of the year where ticket sales are seasonally down. For others, there’s a clear off-season, a no-fly zone, when the only option to continue working is to prepare for the upcoming season and plan accordingly. Whatever the downtime involved, don’t miss the chance to spend at least a portion of it on advanced email marketing opportunities. Not just any email marketing, but thoughtful, in the moment story telling that will help maximize the upcoming rush. Here are five ways to invest in advanced email marketing in the off-season.
There’s never a bad time to collect leads and prospects. These are those potential customers residing quite a bit higher in the sales funnel. They haven’t booked with you yet. Some operators underestimate the possibilities when it comes to collecting and utilizing a prospect’s contact information in a meaningful way.
If you have on average a 2% conversion rate, you have 1000 subscribers in your email list, and you’re selling a tour for $100, this translates to $2000 attributed to your email campaign. If you double the size of your list by collecting leads, this number, on average, doubles as well to $4000.
But how do you collect email addresses on leads? There are a few ways.
The first, and we feel the best way, is with a popup form on your website. And this is even better if you offer a lead magnet, i.e., a piece of useful information in exchange for an email address. This could be a drink recipe, restaurant list, trail guide, etc. Once you collect the information, if you have the right tools, you can then send a browse abandonment campaign – a tasteful email when the prospect peruses your site but doesn’t purchase.
Another great way to gather lead information is by attending festivals or events, and collecting email addresses with a contest. The award could be a giveaway for one of your tours, or even something as simple as a T-Shirt. These are often high quality leads. You won’t be able to do browse abandonment with these immediately, but you can drop them into targeted campaigns. Because these are likely locals, a newsletter may make sense here.
The final, and perhaps least effective way is to purchase a list from a CVB or other outlet. We don’t recommend this unless you’re really sure of the source. CVB lists can be stale (Elvis has already left the building), or just plain old don’t match the personas for the people who take your tours. If you do go this route, be sure to test the list by putting a few hundred subscribers into a campaign rather than a few thousand and building from there. Unsubscribes are the enemy of email marketing.
As we said, there’s never a bad time to start collecting leads. Why not put some of this in place while you have some down time? Many prospects are planning their itinerary months before visiting.
Setup Cross-Sell and Up-Sell Campaigns
Most experience providers have at least some customers who plan their trip itinerary weeks, if not months before visiting. If you generally have bookings coming in during your offseason, this step is for you.
Spend a little time setting up cross-sell and up-sell campaigns on these existing customers. This could be cross-selling another tour or up-selling a private tour or merchandise. Or you might develop affiliate relationships with other experience providers in your area. Money is money, especially when you can automate the process.
It’s even better if you can trigger the campaign to take place just prior to the visit, and not just after the booking is placed. This type of “sweet spot” marketing is more effective because it meets the customer in the moment. They may not be ready to book a mountain bike tour that takes place in June based on a kayak tour they booked in January.
If you make a portion of your revenue through Business to Business transactions, i.e., working with corporate event planners, schools, summer camps and the like, it is possible to automate at least a portion of this sales funnel. Businesses tend to plan events well in advance. You can collect these email addresses with a popup on a special events page on your site or by importing a list. An initial conversion with one of these addresses may be something as simple as scheduling a meeting with your staff through Calendly.
Concierges, another important B2B category, may benefit from welcome series and educational campaigns that keep the relationship going and fresh, putting you top of mind, even during downtime.
Newsletters for Locals
While we don’t put newsletters at the top of the list, they do make sense in the right circumstance, especially if you’re fairly sure the prospect is a local or visits frequently. You can determine the customers and prospects relationship with your locale with a survey during the booking process, or a survey on a separate page on your website.
The offseason is a good time to keep in touch with these locals, first with a welcome series to initiate the relationship and make sure they opt in (or at least don’t opt out), and then with an ongoing newsletter. Be careful here – don’t send trash newsletters. The communication should be engaging, interesting, and tell a story, hopefully related to your area of expertise. If done right, these newsletters will keep the relationship going with locals or frequent visitors even during a time of the year that you don’t offer tours.
Newsletters do take moderate effort. Not just building the content, but the automation required to collect leads and determine their relationship with your city or region. Why not do this when you have a little more time?
Campaign and Subscriber Maintenance
Lastly, if you’ve been at the email marketing game for while (and we hope that you have) this is a really good time to check in on those lead magnets and set-and-forget campaigns you’ve created to make sure they’re fresh. Refreshing content and trying out different images and subject lines can go a long way.
And because email marketing tools almost always charge per subscriber, make sure you’re not hanging on to email addresses that aren’t doing much good. If they haven’t been engaging with you through opens, go ahead and inactive them and save yourself some money. With the right tools there are automated ways to make this happen.
Email marketing, if done correctly, can be such an effective way to increase revenue and direct bookings. We’re aware that your off seasons are typically not filled with hours of free time to do whatever you want. You’ve got pre-season planning, hiring, education, preparing venues, and other marketing activities to deal with, among many, many things. Consider giving advanced email marketing a place at the table. We’re talking hours and days of effort, and not weeks or months. We like to encourage experience providers to put one set-and-forget campaign in place per month. Use your off season to kick off this valuable effort.
If you’re looking for tools and training to help you with email marketing during the off season, we can help.
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