Electronic mail has come a long way since the first electronic message was sent in the early 1970s. Known today as email, 92% of America’s digital population now communicates through this medium. This usage rate among Americans is even higher than social media, which is estimated at 83% as of January 2022. Whether it’s Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, or otherwise, I’ll bet a free night’s stay you have your email inbox tab open in the background of your device right now! All this to say, campground owners and operators need to leverage email as a marketing tool. This post highlights the most important elements of email marketing to jumpstart your strategy. If you’re already an avid email marketer, you can use the following advice as new inspiration to fine-tune your approach. Let’s embark! Read up on top email marketing strategies for campgrounds below.
Manage Your Lists
Who, who, who—that is the question. You should view each email you intend to send as having a unique audience with a unique goal for engagement. This doesn’t mean you are constantly reinventing your list of recipients, but it does mean strategically thinking about how to segment your audience based on their interests, customer type, frequency of contact, and more.
For example, your camp hosts, a first-time camper, and your maintenance staff are all different audiences whom you may need or want to email. While some active management is necessary to ensure your target lists are consistently formatted and updated as time goes on, email CRMs or customer relationship management systems make audience list management a breeze. These automated platforms help you securely build, separate, label, and store different audience segments much better than any offline spreadsheet—although spreadsheets can often be the first stage in list-building. HubSpot, Mailchimp, and Constant Contact are a few well-known email marketing platforms.
Once you upload an audience list, you can categorize recipients based on how you plan to engage with them. You can build a newsletter list of all former and current campers to keep them updated on events, upgrades, and promotions. You can build an internal list to only contact your employees regarding company updates, scheduling, or maintenance overhauls. While data quality—accuracy, completeness, consistency, and reliability—is an understated factor in this process, the baseline process of conceptualizing all the people you could possibly and legally email into segments is invaluable to ensure your email energy isn’t wasted and that your recipients stay subscribed.
Write Compelling Subject Lines
Your email subject line is not just the recipient’s first introduction to your content, it’s also the make-or-break factor in whether they’ll open the email. In fact, 69% of recipients mark an email as spam based on the subject line alone. To avoid this, an easy rule of subject lines is to be honest when writing them. Avoid clickbait-type zingers: their sole goal is to get you to click on deceptive content. Though it can be tempting, this also means avoiding things like “$$$” or gimmicks that spammers often employ—you don’t want to be mistaken for one of them.
Don’t be afraid to be personal and test the unexpected. Politics aside, the emails sent by former President Barack Obama’s campaign fundraising team drew national attention—and garnered considerable donations—from their simple subject lines such as “Hey” and “I will be outspent.” This suggests that personability and not overthinking your message can go a long way. Think about what fellow campers, such as yourself, want and what would convince you to open an email.
Create Calls to Action
Every email you send should be purposeful to avoid exhausting or annoying your audience. Beyond having a clear purpose to your email, there should also be a clear call to action, or CTA. As defined by Campaign Monitor, a CTA “is a button or hyperlinked line of text that directs a user to a website of a brand’s choosing.”
When your email captures a recipient’s attention, you want to make the most of it by encouraging them to take the desired next step. For this reason, a CTA should be highly visible (which is why we like buttons), brief and clear (such as “Book Your Stay”), and potentially featured at multiple points within the body of the email. For example, consider hyperlinking your CTA in the body of a short opening paragraph and including a large button in the middle or footer of the email.
One caveat to this strategy is that sometimes your desired call to action is simply to get your audience to read and remember a stand-alone message. Examples can include a major campground announcement such as a change in ownership, a thank-you letter, holiday well wishes, or a maintenance alert. In these instances, the goal might not be to direct the recipient to take action outside of the email; therefore, you wouldn’t necessarily want to distract the reader with additional hyperlinks or buttons. In the spirit of always promoting brand awareness, though, we do recommend always hyperlinking your website and main social media profiles in the email footer. This type of templating is standard through most email managers, such as Mailchimp.
Appearance and Branding
Because it’s important to use a consistent logo and company messaging in all public communications, reflect this branding consistency through your email marketing, too. Make sure that your logo is always part of your email design, whether it’s placed in the header or footer. This not only looks nice but is also a clear signal to the recipient that they are receiving a legitimate email from your business. You don’t want anyone mistaking an unbranded or unfamiliar email for spam.
Different designs and layouts signal to the recipient that they are internalizing different content. This means that a booking confirmation email should look different from a “come back soon” email. If you send a weekly e-newsletter to your campers during peak season, consider the value in using the same template throughout the season for ease of content editing and to reinforce your brand. Even when crafting multiple designs, make sure to still stick with colors that are a part of your brand suite and complement your logo.
Though email was first used as an online vehicle for sharing the written word, most people don’t want to read an entire novel in one email. In general, think less text and more visualization. Try to convey the most important aspects of your message in as few sentences as possible while strategically varying font size and style to emphasize certain words. Photographs of your campground and other relevant graphics are also a great tool to break up blocks of text and keep readers’ interest.
Above All, Be Authentic
From your email’s audience and branding, to its subject line and calls to action, there should always be one common denominator: authenticity. As a marketer, you can think of authenticity as “creating a dialogue between your brand and your audience that’s natural and genuine.”
As a campground operator, you don’t pretend to offer non-existent amenities, mislead others about your brand of camping, or falsify anything else related to the camper experience. Your emails shouldn’t either, simple as that. Write emails purposefully, honestly, and authentically.
One endearing way to be authentic is to let the campground dog or cat speak for you. That’s right: politicians and business marketers alike have found great success in leveraging their pets as email “authors”. One woman even wrote a cover letter from her dog’s point of view to land a job. Perhaps your pet wants to let campers know about a month-long BOGO promotion or the launch of your new dog park. Who better to share the good news via email than the pet themself. Even if you aren’t a pet-friendly property, the recipient will still enjoy the change of pace in their inbox. Among other creative ideas, Americans’ affinity for their furry friendsis just one strategy that can and should be leveraged authentically through your email messaging.
We hope you now have a set of new email marketing strategies for campgrounds and creative insights to begin emailing your campers with confidence. Remember to try, test, and have fun with it!
Haley Dalian is a lifelong Michigander who takes advantage of recreation throughout the state’s changing seasons, such as skiing up north in the winter and scuba diving the Great Lakes in the summer. A former Campspot marketing employee, Haley is pursuing a Master of Science degree at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. She is passionate about solving the world’s sustainability challenges, enjoys performing improvisational comedy, and has never met a potato she didn’t like.