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Bringing newsletters to life in 2017

Newsletters are a great way of keeping in touch with your clients – but how can you keep them engaging, fresh and readable in 2017? Abra Dunsby finds out more.

TRFBLI
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Woman on computer
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We chat to some of the travel experts about how to keep newsletters engaging and fun in 2017

As consumers, we’re all inundated with emails every day, and that includes scores of company newsletters that we’ve signed up to, informing us of everything from breaking news to special offers.

Travel businesses rely on these newsletters to build relationships with customers and keep their company front of mind. The reality, though, is that most of them won’t be read – the average open rate for a travel-related email newsletter is 20.6% (according to Smart Insights).

While this might sound initially demoralising, especially for marketers whose job it is to carefully craft these communications, the truth is that when companies get it right, a newsletter can be an excellent way to boost sales and encourage customer engagement.

So how can travel agencies nail their newsletters and make sure they don’t end up in clients’ deleted items? We speak to some travel experts who have got it right.

Easy read

“Keep contact regular, with content that is relevant and engaging to your customers – and don’t just send a list of holiday offers,” advises Carolyn Hardy, marketing manager at Advantage Travel Partnership. The consortium produces monthly newsletters for 40 member businesses.

“We email a monthly newsletter to our members’ customers, which always has a theme – generally
a destination or holiday type,” Hardy explains.

She recommends that newsletters include copy that clicks through to a blog about the destination or holiday type on the agency website, while also incorporating a relevant holiday offer.

“We have recently introduced video content into emails and this has doubled the click-through rates,” she adds.

 

Travel agency Meon Valley Travel in Hampshire decided to redesign its newsletters two years ago to improve conversions, and today the marketing team constantly makes tweaks to colour schemes, content volume and typeface based on customer feedback to make them more readable.

 

Since the newsletter overhaul, engagement has more than quadrupled.

“Feedback from customers and suppliers has been extremely positive, to the extent that we’ve been approached by several suppliers for sponsorship,” says the agency’s marketing manager Ed Texier.

“We’ve found the most effective content has been linked through to blogs and video content. It seems that a lot of clients glance over deals and look for more interesting content usually associated with personal experiences, destination highlights or hotel reviews.”

Texier cites a Red Nose Day-themed newsletter and another containing a linked video of Symphony of the Seas that clicked through to the agency’s Facebook page as two examples with high levels of engagement.

Abbotts Travel in South Woodford has had similar levels of success with its newsletters since it started emailing them to clients in 2012, and it now counts 5,000 readers among its subscribers.

“Our newsletters focus on our monthly destination or experience feature, one of which always ties in with our monthly training, and then any major story or event such as a client night, an award achievement or a new feature on our website,” says Danny Sperling, the agency’s business development manager.

“We also try to feature at least one major client blog or contribution every month along with key blogs or social media posts from the previous month.

 

The posts cover what the staff have been up to by way of events, supplier visits or new achievements, plus new client testimonials, topical travel-related TV programmes or articles we have seen and think would create interest.”

While highlighting agency events is a real focus, Sperling adds that company newsletters will also shout about any local media coverage they’ve received, and promote special offers.

Favourite subject

Having a snappy, enticing subject line for their email is another crucial element for agents to consider. “The more engaging and interesting it is, the better the open rate,” explains Hardy.

“Make the subject line relevant to the content of the email, and also intriguing. We recently used the subject line: ‘Wake up in the land of fairy tales.’ Give your customer a reason to open the email.”

Sperling at Abbotts Travel agrees. “We always go for a different subject line when we have a suitably strange or compelling one to hand. This month we will do that with the phrase ‘really long thumbnail’, which comes from a Sri Lanka client blog.”

Once clients have opened the newsletter, keep their eyes on the page by using personalised content, which is not only far more relevant to the reader but will make them feel valued and help to build a sense of loyalty.

“Personalised newsletters will drive engagement and response,” says Hardy. Advantage’s newsletters, which it creates for its members, achieve a 30% open rate.

The consortium personalises newsletter offers with regional airport flights based on where the members’ customer lives, incorporating a relevant price point based on the customer’s previous holiday purchase behaviour.

Know your audience

Gemma Antrobus, managing director at Surrey-based agency Haslemere Travel, says that when composing newsletters, it’s all about using the right tone of voice. “We are a high street agency, so we don’t want to sound too corporate,” she says.

“It’s important to speak in the tone of voice that you do as a business, with your own message.”

Antrobus says the agency often includes content that relates to members of its team, who are well known and liked by readers.

Unless an agency has a real specialism, Antrobus recommends keeping content varied and far-reaching.

“Different clients will read different things, so one week we might devote a newsletter to skiing, and the next one might be all about luxury beach hotspots.

“People don’t always realise the extent of what we do, so we like to highlight this in our newsletters.”

While most travel agents are likely to include a low-value deal in the hope of securing bookings, Haslemere Travel is happy to eschew the trend from time to time. Antrobus says: “We do a ‘blow the budget’ newsletter.

It might not be relevant to everyone but it’s useful for some clients, plus it’s fun to read. It shouts about having access to something clients don’t, and about highlighting the value of service.”

It’s proof that a newsletter doesn’t need to secure a booking to be a success. “It can start a conversation with clients. Plus it’s a way of growing our brand,” says Antrobus.

So think outside the box and get creative – your agency newsletter could be the best thing your clients read all week.

Carolyn Hardy’s newsletter success tips

1. Drive traffic to your website by including click-throughs to relevant content, including destination features, blogs and videos.


2. Set up triggered emails to engage with customers at relevant times in their holiday purchase cycle – for example, “thank you for booking”, “have a nice holiday” and “welcome home”.

 

We’ve had positive feedback from members saying their customers really appreciate these timely emails, which allow them to offer feedback. The average open rate for these is 55%.


3. Include a strong call to action encouraging your customers to get in touch by phone, email and via the website.

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