Making the Most of Your First-Party Data

By Lesley Rowbal, Destination Strategy Director

We all know how important it is to gather first-party data. That is the information a business collects directly from its audience, customers, or social media followers. With privacy regulations continuing to tighten across many platforms, first-party data is becoming even more vital — meaning DMOs should have a set tactic in place to build up their first-party data collection. That tactic could be promoting a new visitor guide, seasonal gated content, or sweepstakes signups. But it’s not enough just to gather the data, you need a plan for what to do with those leads, which is why email marketing is more important than ever.

Email marketing falls within your owned channels, so you have more freedom and oversight into what, when, and how communication and information are being delivered. As DMOs are shuffling their many “to-do’s,” oftentimes a specific focus on email and marketing automation falls to the wayside. So when it comes to email and navigating your new-found data, here are some things to keep in mind:

Platform capabilities

There are a lot of well-known players in the email and marketing automation space. DMOs must understand what capabilities they want from an email marketing platform and what they can manage. Questions you’ll want to ask yourself before determining which platform is right for you or to better understand your current tools include: 

  • Number of Sends — How much or how often do you plan on communicating with your subscribers and how many subscribers do you expect? Furthermore, make sure you plan for the future and not just where you’re at currently.
  • Integrations — How are you going to add leads to your database? Integration options can be a key way to easily move leads around automatically. Does your platform offer an open API and developer resources?
  • Segmentation — Do you want to be able to segment your lists, for example by interests or location? If you plan to segment, you’ll need to make sure you have a reason for the segmentation and that you’re using this information in a way that helps the user by sending them content geared specifically toward their particular segmentation, such as interests or location.

Understanding your audience

Speaking of segmenting…understanding who you’re talking to in your emails is key. Just as you’re tailoring your messaging for prospecting versus remarketing or behavior audience versus geotargeting, you want to do the same thing for your email. 

Consider how you want to segment your audience:

  • Should you segment your audience into similar pillars as your marketing?
  • Do you need to segment your audience based on geography, and will the information you send consumers adjust based on geography?
  • Think about the time of year they’re traveling and how that should impact the content you’re creating.

Audit your form

Your email marketing plan starts with your data-collection form. When collecting first-party data, it’s not enough to simply have a signup form to gather information. You need to think critically about the information you’re asking for on the form, as well as how you will use that data. You must have a specific use for every piece of information that you are requesting on the form. For example, if you’re asking users if they’re interested in sustainable travel, but you don’t have any information or content to share with them, don’t ask. Furthermore, keeping your forms simple, requiring only the necessary information, will reduce the barrier to form submission. Where can you implement condition logic for personalization or decrease the form length?

Also, think about where your form is placed on the site. For DMOs without any kind of booking integration on their site, email signup is a big conversion. Here are some points to consider when plugging your form across the site:

  • Make sure your form is easy to find. People don’t want to scroll through a mega drop-down menu to find out how to learn more about your destination.
  • Place your form in a consistent place across the website, but also find other opportunities to promote it throughout your site.
  • If you’re thinking about a pop-up or a larger area to support signups, don’t put them at the top of your page. If you’re giving your signups more real estate, we say great! But if it’s one of the first things a user sees on your site, that’s like asking someone if they want kids on a first date. Slow down, and let them get to know you first. Consider the scroll depth of placing a website block lower down on the page after your user is more engaged — it can be placed above the fold if done well.

List hygiene

When it comes to email list hygiene, it really is as simple as quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter if you have a list of 100,000 subscribers if they’re not opening or connecting with your content. We recommend you have a process to validate those leads that come in. Also, within your planning, try to have a workflow set up to reconnect with those subscribers who are becoming less and less engaged with your emails. Through that process, you can start to weed out the unengaged and provide tailored messaging to those who are still interested.

You can’t do it all

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you really can’t do it all. It’s more important to identify what you want to do that you feel you can commit to and do it well. Maybe you can only commit to a monthly email. Okay, take time to figure out what you’re going to do and provide yourself the time and resources to execute it (If you need help, I know some people!). Maybe you want something set up that focuses on an onboarding flow to connect with those leads while they’re hot. You’ll spend a larger amount of time upfront to get your emails, segmentation, and workflows in place, but you won’t spend as much time managing it monthly. As we all know, things are always changing, so we encourage you to re-evaluate your email marketing tactics every few months, but with a solid plan already in place, you’ll likely be making only minor tweaks.  

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