[First post of a series: New Year, New Hotel] Towards the end of the year, I sent out a thank you letter to all the guests who have stayed at the hotel and wishing them happy holidays. It sounds like a daunting challenge:
- How do I collect all those email addresses from the property management system?
- Where do I import the addresses to?
- Do I send a plain email or something fancier?
Thankfully, this is not a difficult task and takes maybe an hour of your time to complete from start to finish. Below are instructions with roomMaster 2000. The process will likely be similar with other PMS software. Once you have the data file with email addresses, the steps will be the same.
Exporting Email Addresses from roomMaster
The first step is to collect the email addresses. roomMaster makes this very simple using a query service.
BACK OFFICE Menu –> Guest Profile Email Export
You have five options now. 1. File name (I keep it the default) 2. Export Type (CSV) 3. Only Certain Records (to collect email addresses from people who stayed in 2013, or other time period) 4. EasyMail (collects first and last names, company name, etc) 5. Open File (a quick view to make sure there is data in there)
Hit Extract and we go into the query window. If we had left “Only Certain Records” unchecked, we would receive all the email addresses from the very first night audit.
In the next window, we want to Insert a new query.
Scroll down until you see the Last Checkin Date and Last Checkout Date. We are going to tell it to pull all the email addresses from 01/01/2013 to 12/31/2013. We could leave it open so it collects only the stays from 01/01/2013 forward, but you are likely to have a few guests who stayed this past week mixed in. Might seem weird to receive an email stating, “Thank you for staying in 2013,” when you checked in during 2014.
Next, we use the query wizard to get the email addresses we would like to pull out. There are a lot of options here, but I am keeping it simple. Some other queries that could be useful: anyone with a company name or used a direct bill account, anyone who had used a certain rate code, everyone who lives within your state/province, and so forth. The information pulled out is only useful if the Front Desk agents have been entering it often. Something to keep in mind for this year’s and future years of operation.
Once you have your query entered, you hit Finish, save the query for future reference (Stays in 2013), and then hit Extract. Depending on how large of a database you have, this process could take only a few seconds. You should receive a pop-up window with a string of email addresses, commas and other items entered between “ ” marks. If you did, great, if not, you will have to double check the query to see what went wrong.
In the pop-up window, go under FILE and Save As to save the file to your desktop (or other location). If you choose not to have the file open up right away, the file is downloaded to the roomMaster folder (in this case, it’s E:/DATA/roomMaster). From here, you will want to email/transfer the data file to a computer for you to work on so you don’t tie up a workstation at the front desk.
MailChimp is a mass email service that operates online. It’s quite powerful to use and many companies with huge client bases use it on a regular basis (i.e. all those promotional emails about sales at Amazon The service is also free, up to 2,000 subscribers or 12,000 emails send per month. If you are a large hotel, you will have to choose from either a paid option or segment your guests and only send emails to a select bunch. One option, send the emails monthly, but delete the mailing list before you send out the next batch. Keeps you in the free program, while reaching out to your guests.
The email templates can also be incredibly fancy or simple. For this example, I am going to stick to simple. The next steps are going to assume you have signed up for the service and are on the main page.
Create the List
Left-hand side of the screen is the menu bar. Below Campaign is Lists. Select it, and then in the top-right of the screen, select Create List. Choose a New List for now.
Go through and fill in the fields: List Name (i.e. hotel name), From Name, From Email (where any responses will go), and so forth. At the bottom, I would suggest a Daily Summary to show how many opened the email, unsubscribed, or subscribed.
Once you have created the list, now it’s time to import the email addresses.
In the list view, at the far right of your list name is a dropdown menu (Stats then the arrow). Click the arrow, and then go to Import.
Click Upload from CSV Find your file and start the process to import the records.
In the next screen, we get to tell MailChimp what the data is. Email address is going to be the first column, first name likely the next, and last name. The last columns will be the stay information. Click skip on the columns that aren’t going to be mentioned again (blank ones, stay information mainly.) For the others, click Edit and select the appropriate field.
Click Import and now you have a list of subscribers to communicate with.
Select Campaigns in the menu on the left, and then Create Campaign at the top right.
In the next screen, I select A/B split campaign. This allows you to setup two different subject lines to see which is more effective. MailChimp will send out emails with each subject line to 15–20% of the list. Whichever subject line is more effective will be the subject line for the remaining members of the list. Gives you are higher chance of success with the campaign.
Next screen, you will select the list you are going to use, name the campaign, create your subject lines,
With the Templates, you can either design your own or use one they have already designed for you. I selected the Basic design in the Predesigned section to keep it simple.
The editor is quite nifty. Whenever you hover over a section, you get a little pop-up to change it. Change will bring up an editor (or different window if you are changing an image). The editor is pretty self-explanatory, but there is one thing I would like to point out.
With merge tags, you can bring in some information about your subscribers and make it more personal. For example, I could enter: Hello, *|FNAME|**|LNAME|*
Hello, James McCullough
There are other options in there, like links to share on Facebook, the date, and even ask a quick poll.
The image editor is also quite powerful. You can crop images, resize them, add effects, and so forth. Too much for me to cover in one post. Do keep images to a minimum though.
Once you have the design done, and text entered, the next part is to send it. If you click through the Plain-Text section (for people who aren’t viewing it as HTML with the graphics and formatting), you get the last screen to confirm all the details again.
At the very bottom, there is a Send button and also a Schedule button.
Select Schedule, and you get to enter the time and date for when that email is going to be sent. Pay special attention to the time zone for sending the email. The email won’t be as effective if it’s sent in the middle of the night for your time zone.
Once the email has been sent, you can log into MailChimp and see the activity, and even a full report. The report will tell you whether people are clicking on the links found in your email (to your hotel booking page, for example), what the links were, and even the time people opened the emails. Don’t be alarmed when you only see a small percentage of people opening up the emails, either. Open percentages are generally quite small, not even 50%.
In the campaign I sent the week before Christmas, it was sent to 1,100 people. 400 of them opened the email (39%). 16 of them clicked on a link (1.5%). The best time the email was read was 1 PM. The crazy thing is that nearly 100 people were still opening the email two weeks after I sent it. An indicator of how infrequent people look at their email during the holiday season.
I hope this mini-tutorial on how to export the email addresses and create a mailing list has been of interest to you. I would love to help you out in creating your mail campaigns (MailChimp has multi-user support), brainstorming ideas on how to use your list and segment it to send emails to specific groups, or assisting in exporting the data from your PMS.
The price in setting up your list and helping design your first campaign is $25.