In the most recent Adventure Park Insider “State of the Industry Report,” about 70 percent of parks surveyed said they do some form of email marketing. An audit performed for this article of 30 adventure parks’ email marketing efforts both confirmed this number and showed there is a clear opportunity for these teams to do more with email marketing and get more value in the inbox (more on that later).
But why should adventure parks give email more attention? What makes this marketing channel so unique at a time when there are so many other options to choose from? Email is one of the most reliable ways to get an effective message in front of both specific individuals and massive groups of people.
THE POWER OF EMAIL
One of the most striking ironies in marketing is the belief that social media killed email. Facebook is a perfect example. Yes, Facebook has reinvented one way in which people communicate (for better or worse), but do you know how it built that empire? Do you know how it brought back users again and again to develop those habits that are so hard to break?
Trillions upon trillions of emails. Between notifications and updates and account details and password resets and more, companies like Facebook have sent more emails than just about any other organization on the planet.
And they do it for a reason. Email is effective, primarily thanks to four unique attributes.
1. An Owned Audience
Your email list is yours. This ownership offers portability, which means, if you don’t like your current email marketing platform, you can take your email list and move to a new one. Try that with your Facebook page’s list of fans (hint: it’s not portable).
Email is truly one-to-one. Modern email marketing systems allow you to customize text, imagery, and buttons based on the data you have stored about each recipient, and even emails that look the same on the surface are unique behind the scenes. Every recipient’s email is unique. Every link and image has a unique URL to give you a detailed, user-by-user view of email activity.
3. Tracking and Attribution
That level of personalization can help your emails be more effective—and it also helps you measure that effectiveness. Instead of just knowing that 12.4 percent of people clicked the “Book Now” link, you know exactly which 12.4 percent clicked it. Moreover, this transparency and detail make it much easier to measure which of those link-clickers ended up booking something once they arrived on your website or booking engine.
It’s not just marketers who love email, though. Regular people do, too. Given the choice between a variety of marketing channels through which to receive offers, consumers consistently—and overwhelmingly—prefer email. Case in point: in a recent survey by Yes Lifecycle Marketing, 47 percent of consumers chose email as their preference. Social media was preferred by just 10 percent of those surveyed.
THE RESULT: UNRIVALED PERFORMANCE
Add all of these things together and the ROI of email is off the charts. A recent analysis from AgencyAnalytics put average email ROI at a whopping 3,800 percent. Social media came in second at just 28 percent. Why? Algorithms can restrict the visibility of social posts after a few hours. But, with no algorithm between you and your audience, emails wait patiently in inboxes and continue to be opened and clicked for weeks after they’re sent. While you’re sending an email today, you could still be seeing revenue come in from an email you sent two weeks ago.
Email marketing is more affordable than ever, and modern tools and platforms have also made it extremely easy to use. Establish an email marketing channel in three simple steps.
Step 1: Choose an Email Service Provider (ESP)
An email service provider (ESP) is software that lets you collect and store email addresses and easily send messages to all the people whose addresses you’ve collected. MailChimp is an ESP many adventure parks use. Constant Contact, iContact, and AWeber are a few others that are popular among adventure parks.
When shopping for an ESP, take a moment to evaluate two key features:
Email builder. A simple, drag-and-drop email builder with a collection of templates to start from will save you more hours than you can imagine. The HTML code used to build emails is unique and finicky, so being able to create good emails without touching the code is important for most adventure parks looking to get started with email.
Ability to import and update. Evaluate how easily you can import email addresses into the ESP and, more importantly, keep that list up-to-date as you capture new transactions in your point-of-sale system. One of the reasons MailChimp is so popular among adventure parks is because systems like Rezdy, Checkfront, Xola, and FareHarbor all have integrations with MailChimp that automatically sync new customers to their email marketing account.
Step 2: Obtain Email Addresses
Speaking of getting email addresses, where will all those contact details come from? There are two primary sources:
Transactions: people who book something at your adventure park and use their email address to do so.
Website: people who enter their email address on a form on your website in exchange for news, deals, or a chance to win something (sweepstakes).
Buying email lists from third parties is not recommended. Legal implications aside, these lists perform very poorly and may contain emails known as spam traps. These are used by major inboxes to identify bad actors, i.e., spammers. If you send an email to a spam trap, you could get blacklisted by one or more inboxes like Gmail, Yahoo, etc. This can make it harder for your next message—even if it’s to properly-collected emails—to reach the inbox instead of the spam folder.
Step 3: Send Emails
Once you have an ESP selected and email addresses loaded into the system, you’re ready to start sending emails.
What Emails You Should Send
It can be easy to overthink your email strategy when you watch what large consumer brands do with their campaigns, but email is something that is often most effective when it’s most simple. Let’s look at three email campaigns you can use to get started.
First, create a welcome email for people who sign up on your website to receive emails. These people aren’t quite ready to book something, but are interested enough to exchange their email address for more information or deals. This is a perfect group to contact immediately to keep the conversation going.
However, if the 30 adventure parks that were analyzed for this article are representative of the industry, there’s opportunity for improvement here. Of the 30 parks analyzed:
more than half (57 percent) had an email sign-up form on their website;
but, less than half (43 percent) of those with email sign-up forms send at least one email during the first week a subscriber is on their list.
Make it enticing. To increase sign-ups, some adventure parks offer an exclusive discount to people who subscribe. Go Ape, for example, does a great job with this. Immediately after someone supplies an address, Go Ape sends an email with a discount code. Plus, it includes details that make recipients more likely to want to use that code, including:
links to its social media profile;
links to its top activities and products;
customer testimonials; and
recent Instagram photos.
You can set up this type of message in your ESP using the automations feature (sometimes called recurring messages, autoresponders, or programs). These are email campaigns you create once that are then sent to people automatically based on when their email address was added to the system (i.e., 1 hour ago, 3 days ago, etc.).
Next, look for things that give your audience extra reasons to visit. These bits of news also keep your business’s name on their mind for the next time they’re looking for a family activity or weekend adventure. Some examples include:
when you open for the season;
new or updated attractions;
milestones as a business;
high-profile or celebrity visitors;
a forecast calling for perfect weather; and
In respect to frequency, try to find a cadence that you can sustain with both your own bandwidth and your pipeline of email-worthy news. Ideally, don’t go more than a month without sending something that keeps the conversation going between you and the people on your email lists.
Choosing content. Some marketers like to send a long, detailed newsletter each month. If that’s your jam, go for it. But a simpler email focused on a single, exciting piece of news, right when it happens, can be just as effective and take much less time to create.
If you maintain a blog on your website, that content is likely a good match for an email campaign. In fact, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Colorado has its WordPress blog linked to its Constant Contact account, so the moment an article full of news or helpful tips is published, an email that links back to that article is automatically sent to the park’s email list.
The third type of campaign is also one of the most common. While news-focused emails can absolutely draw folks to your website where they eventually book a ticket or package, emails with deals, promotions, or discounts will often generate the most revenue.
While you may want to occasionally create new discounts to help fill periods of low visitation, look for other ways to give your audience deals that don’t involve extra markdowns. For example, offer a free perk—lunch, a gift card, etc.—with a ticket purchase. Perks keep ticket yield high because folks are still paying full price, and your customers don’t become trained to wait for bigger and bigger discounts.
Another approach: simply highlight the deals you’re already running. West Virginia’s Adventures on the Gorge, for example, offers a 10 percent discount when folks book online, and promotes that perk in its emails to give recipients an extra reason to buy a ticket sooner than later.
It’s OK that some recipients unsubscribe. Keep in mind that virtually every email you send will result in at least a few people unsubscribing. Unless this rate spikes, don’t be afraid of this number. Typically, the more opens and clicks you get, the more unsubscribes you’ll get as well. And while it may hurt to see your database shrink a little bit, it’s better than sending messages over and over to all the people who don’t want to see your emails.
Practice restraint. A single email can generate a lot of revenue, but that doesn’t mean you should send a lot more emails. That same survey by Yes Lifecycle Marketing, which noted more consumers prefer email marketing, also pointed out that nearly half of consumers ignore emails due to inbox overload. A spike in people opting out of your emails can be a signal that you’re sending more than your audience would like.
Email marketing isn’t sexy, and it doesn’t get headlines. Yet, the vast majority of digital marketers will choose email over any other medium simply because it’s so effective at turning one message into a lot of transactions. The strategy we outlined here is simple, but more than enough to get started. Give email marketing a little love and it will give your adventure park a lot of love in return.