In today’s ever-evolving landscape of vacation rentals, one thing remains constant: the need to effectively market your vacation rental to potential guests. Vacation rental email marketing and email capture have emerged as indispensable tools for holiday home owners, Airbnb hosts, boutique hoteliers, and property managers looking to boost bookings, nurture guest relationships and stay ahead of the competition.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the what, why and how of vacation rental email marketing - equipping you with the knowledge and strategies needed to reach out to potential guests, build relationships and drive direct bookings.
- What is email marketing?
- Why email marketing is vital for small businesses
- Is email marketing worth investing time in?
- Is email marketing effective?
- How to build a winning email marketing strategy
- How to ace vacation rental email marketing
- Effective email marketing example
- Vacation rental email marketing templates
- How to collect guest emails and grow your email database
- Additional email marketing resources
What is email marketing?
Email marketing is a targeted digital marketing strategy that involves sending personalised, relevant and engaging emails to a carefully curated list of recipients, with the aim of promoting products or services, building brand awareness and nurturing customer relationships.
In the context of vacation rentals, email marketing is an invaluable growth tool. Property owners, managers and hosts can use it to engage with potential guests and past visitors to promote your vacation rental, announce special deals, share travel tips, or simply keep in touch to stay top of mind when guests come to book their next trip.
Why email marketing is vital for small businesses
Small businesses, including vacation rental owners and Airbnb hosts, can particularly benefit from email marketing. It levels the playing field, allowing you to compete with larger property managers in the industry.
Vacation rental email marketing offers a cost-effective way to target and engage potential guests, ensuring your property stands out in a crowded marketplace.
Perhaps most importantly, when you send emails to people who've asked or chosen to be on your marketing list, you know they will see what you send them. This is in complete contract to what you share on social media, where the platform algorithm determines who sees what! And as your email marketing skills improve, the results of this activity will too.
Is email marketing worth investing time in?
Email marketing boasts a staggering return on investment (ROI), making it a cost-effective and high-impact marketing tool. According to Hubspot’s 2023 report, email marketing generates $36 for every $1 spent - that’s a whopping 3,600% ROI!
This compelling ROI arises from the ability to reach a targeted audience, create personalised experiences and establish long-lasting connections with guests.
Is email marketing effective?
Absolutely! Amongst the growing number of digital platforms and tools, email marketing remains a powerful force, and continues to outperform other marketing channels, including social media. With a well-crafted email strategy, vacation rental owners can captivate their audience, drive direct bookings and enhance their brand’s visibility.
Direct communication: email provides a direct line of communication to your guests. Unlike social media, where posts may get lost in the algorithm, email lands directly in your audience’s inbox, increasing the likelihood of engagement.
Personalisation: email marketing allows hosts to tailor messages to specific groups or individuals based on their preferences, behaviours and past interactions. This personal touch can significantly boost conversion rates.
Cost-effective: compared to traditional advertising methods, email marketing is extremely cost-effective. There are numerous email marketing platforms available that offer affordable plans (or that are completely free to use until you've established a database of hundreds). It really is accessible to even small-scale vacation rental owners.
Analytics & tracking: email marketing software provides valuable insights into the performance of your campaigns. You can track open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates, allowing hosts to refine your strategies for better results.
How to build a winning email marketing strategy
Building an effective email marketing strategy is crucial for the success of your rental business. A well-crafted strategy will help you connect with potential guests, nurture relationships and ultimately drive bookings. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you create a winning email marketing strategy:
Start by clearly defining your objectives. What do you want to achieve with your email marketing efforts? Common, measurable goals include:
- Increase bookings
- Fill last minute availability or orphan nights
- Boost repeat bookings
- Drive recommendations
Less tangible goals include:
- Build brand awareness
- Enhance the guest experience
- Promote special offers and events
Having specific goals will guide your strategy and help you measure success.
2. Segment your email list
Not all guests are the same, so don’t treat them as such. Segment your email list based on criteria, such as:
- Booking history (e.g. first-time guests vs. repeat visitors)
- Guest preferences (e.g. family travellers vs. solo adventurers)
- Geographic location (e.g. domestic or international guests)
- Engagement level (e.g. subscribers who open emails vs. those who don’t)
Segmentation allows you to send personalised, relevant content to each group, increasing engagement and conversions.
3. Create valuable content
Content is king in email marketing. Craft emails that provide value to your recipients and give them a reason to act on what you've sent them. Remembering the note above about goals, if you have a goal in mind when writing emails it'll be easier to pull them together and recipients will be more likely to engage.
Content idea include:
- What's new - local recommendations and travel tips
- Exclusive offers and discounts (not advertised elsewhere)
- Stories or testimonials from satisfied guests
- Updates about your property (e.g. renovations or improvements)
- What's on - upcoming events or attractions in your area
Ensure your emails are visually appealing, easy to read and mobile-responsive (meaning they look good and the font size is legible when read on a mobile phone as well as on your desktop).
4. Transactional emails and automation
Depending on the type of email you're sending and its purpose, it'll either be a one-off email send (sometimes called a solus email), or it'll be an email you can schedule to send automatically.
You'll save time and deliver timely messages by setting up automation workflows. Some key automated emails include:
- Welcome series: automatically send a series of emails to new subscribers - people who've signed up to your email database via a form on your website (or in your digital guide) - introducing them to your property and services
- Booking confirmation: confirm reservations and provide important details about their stay
- Pre-arrival emails: send tips and info to help guests prepare for their trip (check out our Guest Communications Planner for ideas)
- Post-stay thank you: express gratitude, request feedback and reviews, and encourage future bookings
After people have completed your welcome series they'll expect to receive a regular email newsletter from you. And if your guests aren't already on your email marketing database, ask their permission to include them and keep in touch.
N.B. The emails you send between booking confirmation and thank you are classed as transactional emails because they're associated to the booking. These are not marketing emails.
5. Choose the right email marketing software
Select an email marketing platform that suits your needs and budget. Popular options for small business owners and vacation rental owners include Mailchimp, Mailerlite, Constant Contact and SendinBlue. Ensure the platform integrates seamlessly with your vacation rental management tools, if you use any.
6. Measure and analyse
Regularly track the performance of your email campaigns. Doing so will quickly tell you what's working and what's not, in other words whether or not your audience are enjoying or benefitting from what you send.
Key metrics to monitor include:
- Open rates: the percentage of recipients who open your emails
- Click-through rates (CTR): the percentage of recipients who click on links within your emails
- Conversion rates: the percentage of recipients who take a desired action, such as booking a stay
- Unsubscribe rates: the percentage of recipients who opt out of your emails
Use these insights to refine your strategy and improve future campaigns.
7. Test and optimise
Continuously test different elements of your emails to optimise their effectiveness. Experiment with subject lines, visuals, calls to action, and send times.
A/B testing can help you identify what resonates best with your audience. This is when you send a slightly different version of your email to half your audience, e.g. 50 per cent receive subject line A and 50 per cent receive the same email but with subject line B.
Most email service providers offer A/B testing tools as part of their functionality, so you don't need to be an email wizard to do this either!
8. Compliance and privacy
Ensure your email marketing practices comply with relevant regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines (if applicable).
When collecting email addresses, obtain explicit consent from individuals before sending marketing emails, and always respect unsubscribe requests promptly.
9. Engage and inspire
Engage with your subscribers beyond promotional emails. In other words, don't make every email a sales email!
Share informative and entertaining content that keeps them interested and connected to your brand - nurture them and they (hopefully!) keep you in mind for their next trip or when talking holidays with friends and family.
And it goes almost without saying... always respond swiftly to enquiries and feedback.
10. Review and refine
Regularly review your email marketing strategy to adapt to changing trends, email performance, and guest preferences.
Stay up-to-date with industry best practices and adjust our approach accordingly. More on that below...
How to ace vacation rental email marketing
Now you have a solid email marketing strategy under your belt, it’s time to implement it! Follow these tips for a successful email campaign:
When to communicate via email
It’s important to communicate at the right time. Don’t bombard your subscribers with emails - instead, send them emails at times when they’re most likely to be interested in what you have to say:
- Pre-stay: we recommend keeping in regular contact with guests between booking and arrival. It keeps your brand front of mind, and it keeps their holiday planning and excitement alive (and you a part of that).
- Post-stay: follow up with guests after their stay to request reviews and feedback. We've gathered heaps more tips on pre-, mid-, and post-stay in our article on guest communication.
- Monthly: we'd recommend starting with a monthly newsletter, but settle on whatever frequency works for you and your email database. Just be consistent! If people come to expect an email from you on the first Sunday of the month, stick at it and continue to delight them with a new month of treats in their inbox!
- Special occasions: Send holiday greetings, anniversary offers or birthday discounts to past guests. Remember to store guests' stay dates (and perhaps even the time of year they booked) along with their email address - then you can send emails at times you know they've previously been looking at booking trips, and "remember when..." emails to remind them of their previous stay with you. If you ask them for the day and month of their birthday either on your email subscription form or as part of the booking process, you could then send birthday offers too.
Touch Stay digital guidebooks include a free guest messaging tool called Memo, which allows hosts to schedule automated and personalised emails as well as text SMS messages to guests pre-, during and post-stay!
Email marketing frequency
Finding the right frequency of your email marketing campaigns will depend on your goals and your audience. If you're trying to generate bookings, you might send emails more frequently. If you're trying to stay in touch with past guests, you might send emails less frequently.
Stick to a consistent schedule, whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, but be mindful of not overwhelming your subscribers with emails. And always ensure you provide valuable content in each communication.
What to communicate in relation to bookings
When communicating with your subscribers about bookings, it's important to be clear and concise. Let them know when their reservation is confirmed, when they need to pay, and what to expect on the day of their arrival.
- Pre-booking: share information about your property, local attractions and booking process.
- Post-booking: send confirmation emails and (if you're using one) share a link to your digital guidebook, including check-in details and restaurant recommendations. One particular tip is to add a warm welcome video in your digital guidebook introducing yourself and your property - send an email linking to that part of your guide and encourage your guests to explore what other tips and recommendations are included.
- Mid-stay: every host wants the peace of mind that guests are settled and content - don't be shy, ask them! Then, to ensure that check-out is smooth and on-time, politely remind them the night before of the check-out time and anything you'd appreciate them doing before they leave.
- Post-stay: having become familiar with your communications (even if they don't reply!) guests will probably expect to hear from you after departure too. Use this time to remind them to write a review, but also to guide them on how to write it and reference what they loved about your place, the communication, your hosting, and any other highlights.
Download our FREE Guest Communications Toolkit here. It’s packed with tips, tricks and templates to help you to nail your guest correspondence and create happy, loyal guests!
How & when to keep in touch with past guests
Past guests are a valuable source of repeat business, so it’s important to maintain your relationship with them after their stay.
Keep in touch with guests by sending emails about exclusive offers, upcoming local events, and encouraging them to return by reminding them of the great experience they had at your property. As mentioned above, just ensure you have their permission to keep in touch!
Effective email marketing example
Studying successful vacation rental email marketing campaigns can inspire your own efforts. You may want to subscribe to the email newsletters of any brands you admire in the industry, or even the wider travel industry for broader inspiration.
A notable example we love is Airbnb’s personalised travel recommendations:
- Personalised and triggered as a direct result of the user’s behaviour
The user viewed this listing online, checked out the pictures and browsed some reviews. That behaviour indicated to Airbnb that the user was preparing to make a reservation. Because they hadn't yet made that booking an email was sent to the user a day later - and that user alone! How’s that for personalisation?
Let's be honest, this is advanced customer relationship management (CRM) functionality and something to aim for long-term, it's not email marketing basics. But there are plenty of other email marketing learnings from what they've done here that you can apply straight away...
- Features an eye-catching button with simple language
The large, bright call-to-action button simply says ‘Learn More’. It’s impossible to miss and avoids using direct sales phrases like ‘Book Now’ which might scare off users who aren’t yet 100% committed.
You can do this too!
- Includes a Plan B
Marketing emails usually only have a single focus, but in this case, Airbnb knows the user hasn’t booked yet and offers a selection of alternative vacation rental properties based on the user’s search history.
If you only have one property, perhaps your Plan B could talk about alternative times of year to visit or staying with different group sizes or types of friends.
- Addresses user anxieties
The email sign-off includes a warm message offering additional help if the user has any questions about the properties or website, as well as a handy link to the Airbnb Help Centre.
You could replicate this (and more personably) by referencing how you'll personally respond to any questions. You could also point them to a version of your digital guidebook 😉
- Includes micro-CTAs
CTA stands for call to action. It's the part of the email where you guide the recipient to take an action. We talked about the main CTA (pink button) above, but this email example also includes micro calls-to-action - links to their social media pages. If Airbnb can get the user to follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, they’ve opened up a new channel of communication with a potential customer.
You can do this too!
Vacation rental email marketing templates
Creating eye-catching emails to send as part of your email marketing campaign is essential. Luckily, there are plenty of excellent email templates available online for you to send newsletters, promotions and updates:
- Canva email templates: Canva has a huge selection of customisable email templates for a variety of purposes, including vacation rentals. You can access these templates for free with a Canva account.
- Mailchimp template marketplace: Mailchimp offers a variety of email templates for vacation rentals. You can search for templates designed for hosts and customise them to your needs.
- Etsy: check Etsy for a wide range of independent designers and sellers, many of whom specialise in email marketing, and offer custom email templates for vacation rental hosts.
- Constant Contact email templates: Constant Contact provides over 200 easily customisable and beautifully-designed email templates for every type of business.
When using these templates, make sure to customise them with your branding, property info and relevant content to engage your vacation rental guests effectively.
How to capture guest emails & grow your contact list
So, we’ve established that staying in touch with guests by email after their stay is an invaluable way to drive bookings, and you now have the knowledge and tools to create a winning email marketing strategy.
But we also know that gathering those oh-so-important email addresses can be tricky, especially if the reservation was made through Airbnb, Vrbo or Booking.com - because guest email addresses are locked away by the booking platform. So, how do vacation rental hosts grow their email contact list? Well, you’re in luck…
Touch Stay’s Email Capture topic has now made it easier than ever to collect guest email addresses in a friendly, non-intrusive way, so you can stay in touch and stay top of mind when guests come to book their next trip.
If you're already a Touch Stay user, click here to learn more about the Email Capture Topic.
How to persuade people to sign-up to your emails
There are two ways to use your digital guidebook to communicate with guests:
- after they've booked and you're sharing all the cool (and important) stuff about your place
- before they've booked, while browsing your website, discovering you on social media, your guidebook can help them delve deeper into the experience your place offers
However or whenever someone comes across the Email Capture Topic in your guidebook, here are some hints at how to use it best:
- Customise the topic content to explain what they'll receive, when and how often. E.g. We'd love to keep in touch via our monthly email updating you on all things fun and new at Beach Retreat (plus subscriber-only offers occasionally too!).
- Change the graphic to show-off your brand or one of your own emails. E.g. take a screenshot of one of your emails and either upload it directly to the Topic or use it to create a nicely designed graphic on Canva and upload that.
- Download your sign-ups either as they happen or on a set day each week, then create a welcome email that triggers once you add them to your email database. Instantly, you'll be back under their noses reminding them of all the wonderful experiences you have to offer.
Watch our quick Email Capture Topic walk-through video below, showing just how easy it is to use:
And check out this great example of email's role in a wider marketing strategy...
Touch Stay’s very own Queen of Guest Experience, Tyann Marcink, recently shared this customer journey on her Instagram, showing just how effective a well-timed email can be:
Additional email marketing resources
Email marketing experts to follow
Stay updated with industry trends by following email marketing experts, whose blogs and newsletters are treasure troves of insights:
- Neil Patel is a renowned digital marketer who offers valuable insights into email marketing through his blog and online courses.
- Amy Porterfield is a leading expert in online marketing, including emails. Her podcasts and courses provide in-depth knowledge on the subject.
- Seth Godin is known for his groundbreaking marketing insights - he's written 21 best-selling books - and has one of the most popular blogs in the world.
Email marketing books and blogs to read
Some of our favourite and most insightful books and blogs about email marketing include:
- Email Marketing Rules by Chad S. White - this book is a comprehensive guide to mastering email best practices.
- Email Persuasion by Ian Brodie - explores the best techniques to allow small businesses to connect with potential clients.
- Do Open by David Hieatt - discover how to stand out in a busy world and grow your business when you don’t have a marketing budget.
- HubSpot’s Email Marketing Blog explores various best practices - from creating a strategy, to building a list and tracking results.
- Mailchimp’s Blog offers excellent advice on creating and sending effective email campaigns.
This Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing and Email Capture highlights how important and effective email is to give your holiday rental business an edge in the competitive travel industry. With your new knowledge of how to create a winning email marketing strategy coupled with the effective email capture tools we provide with our digital guidebooks, there’s nothing stopping you from growing your email contact list to establish long-lasting connections with your audience and increasing your direct bookings!