100 Years of Advancing Destinations

How to Email Your Way to More Visitors

Author: Guest Ryan Bifulco
Posted: March 20, 2014
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Ryan Bifulco, TravelSpikeHave you ever come across a DMO that’s not trying to build their email database? In my 20-year career in the travel and tourism sector, I haven’t. 

Today, luckily, it’s much easier to reach your audience than in the old days of sending out staple-bound visitor’s guides via USPS. Now, many destinations try to expand their email audience by running banner ads or buying emails on a CPM (cost per thousand) basis.  The math never seems to work out in their favor, however. 

If you run 1 million banner impressions even at a low CPM of $5 and you get a solid .2% click through rate, that is only 2000 clicks.  At best, you might see a 10% conversion rate from those 2000 clicks (giving you 200 visitors that have opted in to receive more info from your CVB) – and that’s being generous.  So, for your $5,000 banner campaign, you’ve spent a whopping $25 per lead.

You’re much better off buying leads on a CPL (cost per lead), where you have no risk and only pay for the actual leads regardless of how many clicks or email impressions you receive.  Keep in mind that not all leads are created equal – you get what you pay for.  The lower the price per lead, the less qualified and more generic that lead will probably be. 

If a company is only charging you $1 per lead that means they are giving you Co Reg or Co Registration which is good for high volume but does compromise on quality. Let's dive in to see how Co Reg works.  A user is on a site and signs up for a magazine or joins an email newsletter. When completing their subscriber contact information, they will be asked if the user is interested in receiving information on a variety of topics or from additional vendors, e.g. ESPN, Best Buy, Your CVB, Goodyear Tires, etc.  Your CVB could be 1 of 10 other vendors and the placements are rarely travel targeted.  But if you need big volume quickly, then Co Reg is the way to go.

Another alternative to consider, however, is premium lead generation. Here, you only reach travelers and only run on travel sites rather than generic ones.  After testing various Co Reg programs for years, that is precisely what I decided to do for our Travel Spike destination clients and CVBs.  Instead of doing basic Co Reg, we send our opt-in travelers an html email promoting the CVB and inviting our travelers to also receive more info from the destination.  As the user clicks, we direct them to a custom landing page that we create in the look and feel of the CVB.  The price is a little higher than $1 per lead but the quality is much better – and well worth it.

The price per lead depends on your conversion rate and landing page.   As you ask more questions on the sign up form it looks more like a survey which causes your conversion rate to drop and your price per lead goes up accordingly.   You don't have to give away a trip but it does allow you to create some buzz and offer a unique experience beyond simply a free hotel room.  Your destination benefits from extra branding and awareness from the countless people who see your prize vacation package but don't sign up. 

If you have not yet tried premium lead generation, it offers you a chance to fish in new ponds and reach new potential visitors at a fraction of the cost of a CPM email drop.  And the best part is that you get to market to those folks again and again throughout the year so you can increase your chances of having them visit.  Much like the “jelly of the month” in the movie Christmas Vacation, premium lead gen is the gift that keeps on giving.    

Ryan is a digital and travel pioneer with over 20 years of experience. He has been featured on MediaPost, ABC Radio, NY Times, and USA Today. He launched the first ever luxury travel podcast in January of 2006 called journeyPod. Ryan founded and leads Travel Spike, the first and largest travel media platform dedicated exclusively to the travel sector.