Using Autoresponders

There are a lot of do’s and do not’s surrounding the use of email marketing methods, most of which would steer you against using them.  However, there may be circumstances where an autoresponder could come in useful.  Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions on the topic

What is an auto responder?
An email autoresponder is a sequence of emails delivered to a ‘subscriber’ in the order and frequency you set up. You have probably received many of them if you have every signed up to receive a newsletter or a free report or ebook.

How does this happen?
When you signed up, your email address was added to a list of subscribers on that date.  This triggers a series of emails that will be sent to your address at specified times.  They may be informational, contain a special offer and most will have a ‘Call to Action’ which is the next thing the marketer wants you to do.  Sometimes that call to action will simply be a suggestion to ‘Read more….’ after you have read a snippet of a blog post in the email.  Others may be a link to an 'offers page' where you are then encouraged to buy something.

In a nutshell, that is what email marketing is about.
Does it work for our vacation rental business?
Well, yes and no.  Not a very helpful answer I know, but there are some instances where an autoresponder could come in very useful.  There are also some valid reasons why you should not use one.

Aren’t we in a relationship business?
Exactly, and that is why it’s important that your early communication with your prospective guests should be individual and personal. If you draw something from an email and use it to create a relationship, people are more encouraged to book.  For example, if someone mentions they are coming to your place for a special birthday, your response might mention a local bakery that does great celebration cakes, or offer a recommendation for a nearby restaurant.

Why would we use an autoresponder?
An automated series of emails would be useful for drip-feeding your guests information to keep them excited about their coming stay.  For example, you might send a list of the best beaches one week, and the next, a calendar of events in the area for the week they are staying.  So, your email might say something like:

“We know you are busy planning your vacation, and since we have so many great beaches within easy driving distance, thought you would like some more information on beach access, nearby places to eat, and which ones are the best for snorkeling, shelling and/or swimming.  We’ve included a couple of really neat beaches that you won’t find on the tourist maps.”

Your email includes a link to a well-presented and attractive PDF that gives lots of information on the beaches near your place.

Another reason for using an autoresponder service would be for sending out a newsletter to people who may have subscribed on your blog or website.  These are prospective guests who haven’t booked but are interested in learning more about your area.

How do we do this?
There are free email services however for autoresponders there is usually a fee involved.  The best option for a low volume user would be Mailchimp at $10 per month.  Large volume users get the most bang for the buck from Aweber but it’s twice the price.  Both providers have comprehensive help systems to support new users.

Will I lose clients if I use an autoresponder?
Used well, these systems are a valuable and cost-effective marketing tool.  However, as we have probably all seen, when an email list is abused and flooded with unwanted mail, subscribers quickly turn off.  Think carefully about how you would use it, and if you think you, and your guests, would benefit, it is worth considering.