Email Tips: Communicating With Your Clients During & After Coronavirus
As the tour and activity industry continues to adapt to the current situation brought on by the novel Coronavirus, it’s more important than ever to keep an open line of communication with your customers and make sure they are up to date regarding tour cancellations or any other changes to your business (for example if you remain open but on a more limited schedule). This applies to all points of communication including social media, your website and yes, email! As a relatively inexpensive marketing strategy, email marketing allows you to keep your business at the top of your customers’ minds and build brand equity while sending them important updates about your operations.
If you find yourself with additional unexpected time on your hands due to a decrease in travel caused by the Coronavirus, you can still make the most of this time to hone in on your email marketing skills. We at FareHarbor are happy to support tour operators through this challenging time by providing resources to help you weather the storm. This guide will cover what types of email communication you should be sending right now, and tips on how to prepare for a comeback as we all recover together.
What To Send Right Now
There’s no doubt that communicating via email right now is critical and it can feel tempting to reach out to everyone on your email list with information about how your business is handling the Coronavirus outbreak and to mention things like the (very important) reminder about hand washing. You likely feel a sense of responsibility to, and genuine care for, your loyal customer base. However, it’s important to consider that your customers are likely receiving dozens of similar emails from retailers, restaurants, and even places like their dentists’ offices. At this point, everyone is aware of the seriousness of the situation so use your precious email opens and reads to provide information that is meaningful towards communicating about your business. If you’re not convinced, consider that you may risk an unsubscribe, particularly in a time where peoples’ inboxes are being inundated.
There are still lots of things you should be talking about in this climate, here are some topics worth mentioning:
If you are still open for business:
- Reinforce operational messaging to current bookings. Send a distinct message to people who still have upcoming tours booked explaining the precautions you are taking as a business. For example, perhaps you’re taking extra measures to disinfect all surfaces at your place of business or are asking people who are experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms to reschedule their tour for another time.
- To keep your messaging consistent add a banner or copy to your website for future bookings, reinforcing a similar message.
- Create a message specifically for locals. If you are still able to be out and about in your city, send an email to locals only about how your tour “works” during this time. Have you made changes to the usual tour route, for example, to avoid certain locations? Perhaps you’ve limited the capacity of your tours and activities or are only booking private tours. No matter how you’ve adapted your business to the current situation, reaching out to your local customers is a great way to people who are able to come out and take a tour with you, while making it clear that their wellbeing is your top priority.
- Consider offering a discount to locals and appeal to their sense of community at this time.
- Upsell if possible. Try to upsell people who are scheduled with you in order to maximize revenue for those still willing and able to travel. Offering a higher-priced item such a private tour is a great option for travelers who are worried about being around others.
Whether you are open or closed:
- Make sure you’re set up to sell gift cards. Consider creating a gift card campaign to encourage people even further. Even in cities experiencing stay-at-home orders, there is a clear desire to support local businesses in all forms, when people are able to again.
- Again, don’t send this promotion to everyone right now, but continue to focus on your local customer base and avoid getting an unsubscribe from others. Everyone is in a local community mindset right now, and locals are also most likely to be able to use these gift cards when the coronavirus situation is under control. An added benefit is that this business-boosting tactic also builds community.
- Be careful how you word your gift card email. Instead of placing the focus on the hardships your business is facing, use language that makes this a win-win for everyone. Remind people that gift cards make great presents or pick-me-ups and give people something to look forward to when we no longer have to practice social distancing.
- Be flexible with your gift card campaign. Encourage people to purchase a tour or activity with you for ANY time in the future and perhaps offer a special treat or extra during that tour, like a free drink, company swag, or anything else you can think of!
- Use social media to build brand equity and build your email list. Embrace social media interaction and online chatter and ask people who “like” your posts to sign up for your email list. Let them know that they will receive the same kinds of awesome content to their Inbox on a regular basis, whether that be demonstrating your expertise, offering industry tips, or posting feel-good content that’s relevant to your business.
- Send a blast to those people one to two times a week to stay in touch throughout the current situation.
Preparing for the Rebound
We know that our communities will bounce back from this situation. It will take time, but it will happen. In the meantime, it’s important to focus on creating an email marketing plan, that is part of a multi-channel digital marketing strategy, that you can quickly and easily put in place for the rebound.
- Get to know your email software. If you’re not already using an email marketing platform, select the one that’s right for you and start playing around with the software. This is one of the things that is so hard to carve out time for in busy times and will help tee you up for success when this passes. Check out this guide on getting started with email marketing.
- Refine your email skills. If you’re already comfortable with email marketing use this downtime to learn about and implement advanced email marketing techniques and review your email benchmarks and metrics.
- Grow your subscribers. Collect new leads and add them to your subscriber list by offering information in exchange for an email address.
- Once you collect email addresses for leads, send campaigns when people browse your site but haven’t purchased just yet.
- If you are still operating tours and activities, send browse abandonment emails to retarget people who visited your site without making a booking. Otherwise, keep these on hold until business picks up again.
- Clean up your email list. This means getting rid of inactive subscribers or any old emails in your list. Email marketing platforms usually charge by each individual subscriber (each person you send the email to). This will help to reduce the costs associated with sending an email and also make sure your email is sent to the right group of participants. Even in “normal” times, it’s best practice to clean up your email list regularly.
- Segment your subscribers into locals, frequent visitors, and people who rarely visit.
- Modify your messaging depending on the recipient list to make sure the email you send is relevant to them.
- We cannot emphasize this enough! Write and send newsletters geared toward your local customer base.
Pro-tip: Not sure who to eliminate from your list? Remove any emails from those individuals who have not engaged with your previous email newsletters either via an “open” or “click-throughs”, or those who haven’t booked with you in some time.
- Automate your campaigns. Be ready with automated marketing campaigns for when business picks up again. Think through what your automated campaigns could focus on and how to move them forward. Get them set up and in place so they are ready to activate whenever you’re ready to start sending them out. Here are a few ideas and things to consider as you brainstorm automated campaigns.
- Set up cross-sell and upsell campaigns
- Cross-sell other tours or affiliate tours with other operators.
- Upsell private tours or merchandise.
- Timing matters. Send emails during the sweet spot between booking and visiting. This might not be relevant currently, but once people are able to stop social distancing, this tactic will become very important, especially for driving local bookings.
- For those that book months in advance, it’s best to wait until closer to their tour date to send campaigns.
- If your business is down, it may be a good time to increase sales on those customers willing to travel.
- Set up cross-sell and upsell campaigns
As the world overcomes the virus and travel picks up again, email outreach will be an essential method for kick-starting your tours and encouraging customers to re-join you in participating in the activities they love.
In the meantime, TourAdvantage (TA) is a FareHarbor Software Partner that is offering discounts and free access to some of their services during the coronavirus crisis, for both new and existing customers, such as a 60-day payment hiatus for existing customers.
Visit the Software Partnerships page to learn more about them and partner with them to boost your email marketing strategy. In the meantime, check out our other email marketing guides to help you with your customer communications during this situation. We are here for you 24/7.