Creating emails that get responses is an incredibly valuable skill for marketers. Responses in the hotel email marketing world typically equate to directly attributable revenue – direct bookings, upgrades, amenity purchases, and more.
They can also drive engagement and develop a rapport with guests who have booked with you in the past, and make them more likely to book again in the future. But, what makes an email likely to get a response? What’s the secret sauce?
There’s a lot of advice on the web about how to write a good email, from general writing advice to full sets of pre-written email templates. But almost none of that advice shows the data behind it. Boomerang, a Gmail app that adds scheduled sending and email reminders, did some research to find out what factors really matter when you want users to respond to your emails.
Please note that not all of the emails involved were marketing emails. Some of them were sales emails and internal communications. But there are some great takeaways for marketing too.
Here are the basic points that are relevant to hotel marketers:
1. Write like a 3rd grader
The Boomerang study found that emails written at a 3rd grade reading level were optimal. They provided a whopping 36% lift over emails written at a college reading level and a 17% higher response rate than emails written even at a high school reading level.
Of course, the action item for you based on this data will depend on what segment of your guests you’re targeting when composing an email.
Think about who your guests are. For example, if you’re located right next to Harvard University like The Charles Hotel, and your guest database is likely comprised of people coming to town for events related to one of the top universities in the United States, then it’s a good idea to elevate your writing.
Otherwise, if you don’t have a reason like this to adjust the writing level, 3rd grade is a good default. One of my favorite free tools to test the grade level and readability of a piece of writing is the Hemingway App.
2. Write with emotion
Another significant factor in determining response rates is how positive (words like great, wonderful, delighted, pleased) or negative (words like bad, hate, furious, terrible) the words in the message are. In Boomerang’s findings, emails that were slightly to moderately positive OR slightly to moderately negative elicited 10-15% more responses than emails that were completely neutral.
Translation? When talking to your guests, flattery works, but not excessive flattery. Response rates for positive emails with a slightly warm tone peaked about 15% higher than neutral emails. After that, response rates declined as the amount of positive language exceeded what would look “normal” in an email. (As a side note, for hotels, we don’t recommend using negative emails for marketing purposes. It might work for some businesses, but in general, hospitality should stick to positive sentiment.)
Boomerang did this with Sentiment Analysis – a similar tool to what Revinate uses in its hotel reputation data analysis.
Here’s how Boomerang’s version of the tool works: Sentiment analyzers output a “sentiment score” that ranges from -1 (completely negative) to 1 (enthusiastically positive), with 0 representing a completely neutral email. To give you some context, here’s what some positive emails look like:
- Hey, I was thinking about you earlier. Do you want to get pizza?
0.0, true neutral. A little positivity would boost the response rate.
- Hey, I’d definitely like to get together next week. Do you want to get pizza?
0.35 positive sentiment. Perfect! It’s easy to add positive sentiment to an email – this is all it takes.
- Hey, it would be really great to see you and catch up. Do you want to get pizza?
Positive 0.55 sentiment. This will also work better than a neutral email, even if not quite as well as the version above.
- Hey! It would be absolutely wonderful to see you! Do you want to get pizza? I’m so excited!
Over 0.9 positive sentiment. This email would be about as effective as a neutral email – not bad, really, but not optimal.
Testing the sentiment of your hotel’s emails takes more work than calculating the reading grade level.
While we trust the outputs for sentiment analysis on aggregate data with a large sample size like online reviews, your best bet for evaluating the sentiment of your hotel’s individual email campaigns is up to your own judgment.