In a world with ever-expanding digital marketing options, it’s not uncommon to ask if email marketing is still important – the short answer: an emphatic yes. More than 70% of marketers believe email is the top form of digital marketing for return on investment. Email ranks higher than paid search, organic search, social media, and, well, everything. 

Whether you’re a destination marketer from a DMO or a mom-and-pop shop, the better question to ask is, “How do I do it well?”


It starts with strategy, and this article offers you a five-step method to help you refine your efforts. But first, let’s review a few reasons why you should: 

  • 60% of consumers say they’ve purchased something because of an email they received
  • 61% enjoy receiving promotional emails weekly, and a surprising 38% would like to get them even more frequently
  • 21% of emails are opened within the first hour of delivery and 41% within the first three hours


When you market on social media, it can feel like you’re putting things out into a void. You don’t know if people care about your message or if they’ll even see it. With email marketing, everyone knows there’s an unsubscribe link at the bottom of every commercial email. Because your recipients haven’t clicked it, you can rest assured they want to hear from you.

#1: Identify the Purpose

The first thing to do is identify the need for the email campaign and decide what the campaign requirements will be. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What’s the goal of the email? Each email should have a task you want the recipient to perform, such as visiting certain content pages on your site, booking a hotel room or attending the Fourth of July parade in your destination. Once you know your goal, decide on the call-to-action.  
  • Who’s the target audience, and how might they want to interact with you in the coming days, weeks, and months? DMOs know almost everything happening in a destination – which is likely to be most popular right now? Is this a good time for family travel, girlfriends’ trips or couples getaways?
  • How do you want to segment your email list? Segment your email list based on specific characteristics like age, type of traveler, location, and how long they’ve been on your list. Studies have shown that segmented campaigns have higher open rates, far more clicks on the content within the email, and lower unsubscribe rates. 

#2: Write Good Copy

Now that you know the goal of the email campaign, write a brief summary. It’s easy to get off course, and having the summary to glance at will help keep you on track. 

Once that’s done, the fun can begin: 

  • Start drafting your copy. People lose interest quickly, so keep the copy short. These days, people scan more than read deeply, so white space and bullet points are your friends. 
  • Write and rewrite. Read your draft aloud. Play around with finding the right voice and tone. Have a peer look it over and provide feedback before you’re locked into your content. 
  • Add eye-catching artwork or an image linking to a compelling video clip. Just make sure it pushes the goal of the email. 
  • Try a few different layouts to see which works best, but ensure that tasks associated with your goal, or call-to-action, are placed prominently within the email.    

#3: Review Your Checklist 

  • Have you written a click-worthy subject line? A lousy subject line will get your email deleted, so make sure to test it. There are lots of free places to do this. 
  • Have you tested your template to make sure it looks good on both desktop and mobile? Platforms like Litmus help ensure your email looks fantastic for every email client. 
  • Are your images properly sized? Recommended email size should be under 102K.
  • Is your call-to-action as clear as it can be?
  • Have you scheduled a good delivery time? Studies have shown that the best days to send an email are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the best times are 6 a.m., 10 a.m, 2 p.m., and 8 p.m. Also, keep in mind the audience’s time zones.

#4: Embrace Analytics 

If you’re not learning from your email campaigns, you’re doing it wrong. When Traverse City implemented email automation in 2018, they were surprised to learn that content they’d always put at the bottom of their emails – lodging packages – was the highest-converting content block.   

Make sure your email marketing software can track opens and clicks, and know how to access this data. Generally, this tracking will collect engagement information and generate statistics on open rates, click rates and even how long a user had the email open. If you would like to learn what users do once they click on a link to your site, you can also set up Google Analytics campaign tracking. This will show you what pages users view and how long they stay on those pages on average.

#5: Send, Learn, and Reiterate

You’re good to send once everything has been reviewed, verified and edited. After a few days have passed, you’ll want to review analytics to understand what worked and what didn’t, as well as to get to know your subscribers better. 

Key questions to consider:

  • How successful was your call-to-action? How about your subject line?
  • Which email clients are most popular?
  • How many of your readers are using mobile devices?
  • How did your segmentation work, and can you subdivide your list even further?
  • Who is least engaged with your emails?

Email marketing is both an art and a science. These five steps will provide you with a foundation to create an effective email strategy to keep your audience engaged. Once you have the email strategy nailed, then you can move on to the best part – adding more subscribers.