As we begin this new blog, we’ve committed to bringing you the best advice on how to market your hotel, hostel, or B&B online. We thought it would be appropriate to start with a very basic tool that everyone knows about, almost everyone uses, but only some use properly. Introducing … EMAIL for your lodging business.
Email, or e-mail as some dictionaries prefer, is ubiquitous. After all, this is the 21st century, and we’re talking about last century’s technology. Think of the automobile, a late 19th century invention. Well, how many of us were driving a Model T Ford in the last ten years. This is the concept. Technologies advance, and like the automobile, so has Email.
For hotel and lodging technology, Email can practically make or break your business. But, Email is really simple technology, right? Well, in many aspects, yes. But knowing how to use Email to advance your business, especially your online marketing, is really key. If you follow the advice in this article when using Email, you will make surprisingly great strides in increasing your profitable use of online technology.
Here are some BIG Don’ts if you use Email for your small hotel, hostel or bed and breakfast:
- Never use challenge/response spam filters for email addresses you use to promote your business. This includes email addresses that you advertise on your website for guests or prospective customers to contact, as well as emails you submit for online services, like booking services. We’re not saying that spam is not a problem, or that you should ignore it. But, consider what a challenge/response spam filter does. Every time someone new emails you, they receive an automated message requiring them to go to a specific webpage and type a code on the page. Unless they successfully complete this step, you never receive their email. Now consider that guests are finding your website, and emailing you to make reservations (in other words, unsolicited people are contacting you with the voluntary intention to pay you money). Your system then sends them an automated message requiring them to complete some basic copying and typing exercise. You are guaranteed to lose interest from at least 50% of the people who are trying to contact you, and 25% never receive your automated message due to their own spam filters. Of those that receive your automated message, most will just ignore it and move on to book at your competitor’s lodging. So here’s the basic rule on spam filters: use simple spam fighting tools that will not discard your emails or require senders to complete challenge-responses. The best method is to have your filter send suspected spam to a separate folder which you can periodically scan for any important missed mail. This may only take minutes a week, but can save you a tremendous amount of lost business. Oh, and one final tip. Don’t use emails with challenge/response filters when you join online booking services or other online marketing services. The whole process will break down as soon as the service’s system tries to send you important notifications about your membership, including passwords, instructions, etc.
- Never use free email services (e.g., hotmail, yahoo, gmail, aol, msn, et. al.) for your business’ primary online identity. Nothing shouts “amateur” or “unprofessional” louder than when a guest or business partner receives an email from joes_BandB@aol.com or email@example.com. Most travelers searching for travel and tourism online have become quite savvy. When a guest or business partner emails you about how your payments work, or potentially sending you money as a deposit, they want to know that you have the credibility and expertise to handle the transaction. Guests will not want to send money to someone who identifies themself as joes_BandB@aol.com. They will also be questioning how professional or well-run your establishment is, if your email communication is not up to the most professional standards. Presumably, you have a website to advertise your property. It’s best if your website has a private domain (e.g., http://www.yourdomain dot com). If so, then the appropriate email to use will look something like firstname.lastname@example.org. The additional cost of hosting email on your private domain is minimal.
- Don’t send confidential personal information in email. This especially includes guest credit card information. While the risk of fraud from some hacker intercepting your emails is relatively low, your guests will appreciate your high security standards when dealing with their personal information. Again, your standards and courtesy when dealing with online communications will reflect your guests’ opinions of how well you run your hotel, hostel, or B&B. Ignoring guest privacy and security when sending or replying to emails, and you are likely to make some of your patrons very upset. As a tip, if you find yourself in the situation of absolutely needing to send a credit card number by email, simply split the number in two parts, and send two emails. This will provide an adequate level of security for your recipient.
- Don’t use autoresponders. Unless you have to direct senders of email to an alternate means of communication, or tell them that you will not be able to respond to their email in a timely fashion, autoresponders should not be used. This means don’t use autoresponders like the ones that tell your guests that you’ll get back to them soon, or will read their email within 24 hours. With the ubiquitous nature of email today, it is practically understood that, if you use email for your business, you will be reading it and responding soon. If you do not, the sender will be communicating sooner with your competitors, and you’ll lose their business anyway. Autoresponders are also likely to be eaten by the sender’s spam filter, and may even get your email address blocked by their email system. By removing your autoresponders, you will also help reduce the overabundance of unnecessary electronic transmissions around the globe, and likely contribute to a greener Earth. Think of it this way: if an emailer wants to absolutely know that you have read their email, then they will use the return-receipt option when they click send.
- Never use slang or crude language in an email. Like everyone else, you’re going to encounter some not so pleasant discourses on email. Just think of that disgruntled guest. The one who could never be satisfied. Some people just need to complain about everything. Remember to always maintain composure when writing emails, and pay attention to cultural diversity. Avoid responding to threats or profane communications. An email is a written record that can be stored indefinitely, and transmitted effortlessly to a multitude of recipients.
And, now some Do’s to consider to enhance your business with Email:
- Do use automatic signatures. An email signature is an automatic footer that will be used on all email you send. When you reply to guests and business partners, you can include your name, address, phone numbers, and some alternate means of communications. This is an unbelievably simple yet effective way to save time, and give your patrons alternate means of communicating with you. As a tip, consider including a link in your email signatures to your online booking page. This will maximize your opportunities for new reservations.
- Do use private domain emails. After reading point #2 under Email Don’ts, you know that your email identity goes a long way in establishing your professional credibility. Always use private domains to host your email (e.g., like email@example.com). This will speak volumes to your email recipients, that you had the foresight and knowledge to spend the $50.00 or so per year that it might cost to host private domain email for your business.
- Do use spam filtering tools, but, use them wisely. As we already said, spam is a problem no one can ignore. But, if you’re going to use spam fighting technology, make sure you understand how it works. Otherwise, you’re better off turning it off altogether. Your goal is to use Email wisely to enhance and grow your business online. This means you don’t want to miss out on 50% of the prospective business that comes your way through email. Use spam filters blindly, and your will lose that 50%. We recommend using a decent spam filter on a “medium” setting. This means that you will block out most of the obvious spam, while not blocking too much desired email. Also make sure your spam filter simply transfers suspected spam into a special folder, and doesn’t delete it. This way you can spend a few minutes each week scanning your spam folder, and pulling out the important emails you missed, while discarding the rest. Again, don’t obsess over every email you receive or lose as spam. Email is supposed to make your life easier, not more difficult.
Whether you operate a hotel, youth hostel, or bed and breakfast, if you practise these simple tips when using Email for your business, you are likely to experience a growth in your online marketing efforts. This translates to an easy increase in profits from a relatively simple and low-cost technology.
For more tips and services for your online marketing effort, check out www.InstantWorldBooking.com.
Want to make sure you’re able to receive emails from important senders? Check out how to add email addresses to your Safe Senders List.