Starting an email newsletter for tourism marketing
Thinking about starting an email newsletter for the first time? Good for you!
(First in a series. The second in the series is about getting your first email list subscribers.)
There is a downloadable checklist version of this at the end of the post. Let us know in the comments if it’s helpful.
What are the only digital tourism marketing assets that YOU own and control?
- Your website
- Your blog
- Your email newsletter list
- Your opt-in SMS text marketing list
That’s it. Everything else is owned by someone else.
All the social media content you’ve posted, all of those social media followers you’ve gathered . . . they can be taken away at any time, and you have no recourse. They belong to the host company, not you.
Yes, we teach social media marketing for tourism, but we’ve always said that your first priorities in a fast-paced, chaotic, changing world are the assets that you control.
One of our smaller DMO clients is starting an email newsletter next month, and we are so excited for them.
They are going to be telling their destination story their way.
We’ve heard other CVB and DMO clients say that they’ve had an email newsletter on their mental back burner for awhile, but haven’t yet gotten around to setting it up and starting it.
This is a bit surprising to us. You can talk to your email subscriber list whenever you want, without some mysterious social media algorithm squashing your reach.
If you’re spending more time worrying about social media posts than about sharing good info with subscribers who have actually agreed to let you into their busy email inboxes, we suggest you prioritize creating and sending an email newsletter.
Ready to start?
9 Steps to Starting an Email Newletter
for Tourism Marketing
We’ll go into more depth on a few of these as the series goes on, but here is the quick-and-dirty:
1) Get Clear on Newsletter Goals and Frequency
How will your emails support your specific marketing goals for your destination, attraction, hotel, or tourism partner business?
How will you integrate your email marketing into your other marketing communications? Can you repurpose blog posts into newsletter content (see Step 9 below) or turn bits of the newsletter into social media posts?
How often will you send one out? Monthly is a reasonable frequency, with occasional special announcements.
2) Write a Brief Outline of Your First 6 Newsletters
Trust us, this will save you time in the long run. It helps build your overall content calendar and keeps you organized.
Don’t break your brain over it, just scribble a quick draft title and a few ideas for each issue.
For example, if you’re planning to send it out monthly, the March issue will welcome spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere, with all the usual seasonal activities and events that happen in that month, plus perhaps a tourism partner spotlight, maybe some cross-promotion with a regional tourism entity or your Main Street/downtown, and highlighting a destination itinerary that is a good fit for your usual weather in March.
3) Choose an Email Service Provider
We’ve used Mailchimp since we launched in 2009, but our subscriber list is fairly small because we serve a relatively niche market. Mailchimp can get pricey when your list gets big.
DMO clients have also mentioned using Constant Contact, Emma, and Brevo (formerly SendInBlue.)
Whatever you do, DO NOT send mass marketing emails from a regular email account like Outlook, Gmail, or Yahoo. They do not meet the legal requirements for bulk emails, including the lack of a proper Unsubscribe link. You will end up in everyone’s Spam folder.
4) Create a Website Landing Page for Signups
This is a simple website page that has one purpose for anyone who lands on it – to tell people what is in your emails, how often they go out, and to encourage them to sign up.
Any other widgets, clutter, and distractions need to be removed.
Here is our Tourism Currents newsletter signup page as an example.
You’ll share that page URL on social media, in blog posts, in list-building social media ad campaigns, and in staff email signatures.
We share ours at the bottom of every email we send in case someone stumbles across the newsletter’s browser version, or our email is forwarded to them.
5) Set Up Your Subscriber Signup Box, With Segments
The process for this will vary between email service providers, but this is the box people fill out to subscribe. When they do so, they are automatically added to the subscriber list hosted by your provider.
Keep it simple – first name, last name, email address.
Your email service provider will probably add other required items to meet various standards like GDPR in Europe.
When you set up that box, do yourself a favor from the beginning – allow subscribers to pick what they want to hear from you about.
This is called email segmentation.
You will have a list of subscribers (or “contacts” or “audience” depending on what language your email service provider uses) and you want to segment that list into different groups that each want to hear from you about slightly different things.
That means your emails will have better open and click rates – will be more successful for you – because recipients are getting exactly the info that they, personally, have said they want from you.
For example, our DMO client who is starting an email newsletter is thinking about having wording and options like this for new subscribers to check in their signup box:
“Yes, I would like to hear from Visit YourTown about:
* Special Events
* Shopping, Dining, Arts & Culture
* Hunting & Fishing
* All of the above – everything!”
Decide on segment options that make sense for YOU.
If your destination doesn’t offer much hunting or fishing, but has lots of parks and other recreation offerings, try “Outdoor Recreation/Nature” as a segment selection.
If you have a lot of venues for meetings, conferences, and other gatherings like weddings or executive retreats, add that as an option.
Yes, this means creating more than one newsletter, but if you start by building the “Everything!” version, it’s easy to then pull out each of the focused sections, create a newsletter version with that only, and send them out separately to just the segment of subscribers who want that specific information.
Related post – quick ways to segment an email list
6) Set Up an Automated Welcome Series
(Optional but Smart!)
People who have just signed up to hear from you are a precious commodity.
Why not give them some extra attention?
Set up a series of short welcome emails that go out automatically, in a timeframe you set, to welcome new subscribers when they are most inclined to pay attention.
We did this a few years ago, and periodically kick ourselves that we didn’t do it sooner.
Once you set it up, the whole thing works for you automatically, 24/7, and all you have to do is set a reminder (maybe quarterly) to review the content in the automated emails and ensure it’s correct and up to date.
We recommend a welcome series of three emails, sent roughly one day after subscribing, a few days after that, then a few more days after that.
Example: make the first one a list of links to your most popular website pages or blog posts, the second one about where to find you on social media, and the third one could be something like various interesting itineraries for your destination, or special coupon codes for deals.
You’ve already gotten them to subscribe. The purpose of the welcome series is to help build an even stronger relationship, so that they consider visiting more often and recommend you to their friends and family.
7) Start Building Your Subscriber List
Everyone starts with a subscriber list of one person.
Your list will grow if it gives valuable information and insights to people who care.
We’ll go into more detail later in this series, but for now, make sure that the “Sign up to hear the news about YourTown before anyone else” box is on every page of your website and a CTA to subscribe is at the bottom of every blog post (it’s at the bottom of this one!)
Popup boxes are annoying, but they do work. At least set up your site to wait for 30 – 60 seconds before that box appears asking people to subscribe.
Don’t forget to add your own staff emails to the list, so everyone sees what goes out.
You can also get email subscriptions from your Facebook Page. Check your email service provider to see how they want you to set up to do this.
Consider pinning a “Get the latest news from us before anyone else” post to the top of your social media channels, with a link to your email signup landing page.
Don’t forget to ask for signups at your live, in-person events, too.
Never add anyone to your list who didn’t ask to be on it. Period.
8) Send Email Number One
(Quick note about format and design – pick a simple single-column template. It reads better on mobile and keeps you from stuffing too much into your newsletter. Don’t exhaust your readers.)
Yay, you did it!
Get that first one out there and see how well it resonates. Learn how to review the analytics from your service provider.
Note that recent changes to privacy laws have made the open rate less accurate/useful. Focus on click rates.
Don’t be discouraged when people unsubscribe. You only want to communicate with people who really want to hear from you.
9) Integrate With Your Blog
Has all of this left you feeling absolutely exhausted, especially if you’ve also been thinking about starting a blog?
Good news – you can do both at once.
It is possible to set up a blog, connect it with an email service provider, and have that provider automatically send out a formatted email to subscribers whenever you put up a new blog post.
You will build an email list, and you will build blog content at the same time.
Related post – How to kick-start your destination marketing blog
The downsides include losing a lot of control of email design and formatting, plus some other things we’ll get into later, but put this option into your back pocket if you’re just getting started with starting an email newsletter for tourism marketing.
No matter what, an active blog (both the latest post and some links to “In case you missed it” posts) should be an integral part of your newsletter content.
Not already getting these blog posts via email? Click here for the Tourism Currents newsletter sign-up page.
We also have 3 free downloads on topics including social media measurement and content repurposing.