In this post, we will cover five ways tour & activity businesses can strengthen email open rates and maximize the visibility of email marketing content. Before we get started, let’s review a few ratios that are important when it comes to email campaigns.

When it comes to converting subscribers into customers, there are four important statistics every tour business should take into account:

  • Open Rate (OR)
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR)
  • Click-Through Open Rate (CTOR)
  • Conversion Rate (CVR)

Though we will only be covering open rates in this blog post, interested tour owners & reservation managers can read about other ratios in the following article. Without further ado, let’s kick things off with some basics.

What Is An Open Rate?

An open rate refers to the percentage of recipients that open an email relative to the total number of recipients an email was delivered to. It is calculated by dividing the number of emails opened by the number of emails delivered.

So why should tour & activity companies care about open rates? Well, the answer is simple. It’s because they tell you how many subscribers are actually viewing the time-consuming content you created.

Whether you operate a wine tour, food tour, whitewater rafting or surfing business, all tour operators should know which factors are at play and how content visibility can be improved.

Unlike click rates, open rates don’t necessarily depend on an email’s content. Instead, open rates primarily depend on the effectiveness of context. Just like the function of a trailer for a blockbuster movie, it’s your subject line & preview text that will largely dictate whether or not someone will want to see your content.

How To Improve Email Open Rates

Customize Preview Text (a.k.a. Pre-header Text)

Although many people believe that the performance of open rates depend solely on subject lines, it’s important to note that preview texts also have a vital role in influencing email opens. Have you ever noticed a small portion of text that follows every subject line & email in your inbox? That’s what we call preview text (see image below).

Exhibit 1.1 Preview Text (Apple Mail)

Improve preview text apple mail

Since preview text will default to the first sentence(s) of an email if unspecified, you’ll want to make sure that your first sentence is optimal or that you customize your preview text. Just keep in mind that depending on a subscriber’s email provider, the length of the preview text they see may differ (the character limit can vary from 35 to 100+ characters).

Note: If your email marketing platform does not allow you to customize your preview text, read more about how you can do it directly via your email provider here. You may want to consider using less than 40 characters to appeal to a larger number of subscribers.

Segment Your Subscribers

When it comes to both conversion & open numbers, segmenting your mailers can vastly improve your email marketing performance. By categorizing subscribers that share similar characteristics, you can use tailored subject lines & preview texts to appeal to a more specific segment of your audience.

There are two ways you can segment your subject lines & preview texts to increase open rates. One is by using segmented lists and the other is by using merge tags (a.k.a. personalization variables or tokens).

Note: Merge tags may have a different name depending on your email marketing platform.

Create Lists

By dividing your overall subscriber list into subsections, you can send messages that are more applicable to certain groups. Consider the example of dividing your mailing list into Customers & Subscribers. Though both parties are technically subscribers, the subject & preview lines you would send a past customer might differ from what you send customers-to-be.

For an email with the intent of enticing a sale, introductory texts might differ for the same message. Consider the following email:

Hi John,
Summer is right around the corner and the early bird always catches the worm.
Register for a class & save 20% before April 30th!
Book Now
Adventure Tours & Activities

The recipients of the email above could receive a generic subject line & preview text, regardless of whether or not they are a customer/subscriber, but they should receive different pre-openers to improve open rates.

Example subject line & preview text for Customer list:

“Use code #Local to get 10% off windsurfing lessons!” As a valued customer, we want to offer you an exclusive discount on your next visit.

Example subject line & preview text for Subscriber list:

“Use code #Trial to get 10% off windsurfing lessons!” As a valued subscriber, we want to offer you an exclusive discount on your first visit.

Believe it or not, email segmentation can improve your open rates by 200%. Take the time to study patterns, behaviors and characteristics to find which elements your subscribers share. Try using geography, language, gender, buying habits and sales cycle stage as a starting point for building lists.

Use Merge Tags

One of the strongest assets of an email marketing platform is a token or merge field that can assume a piece of collected data from customers. If you have used an email marketing platform in the past, you might have noticed that personalized fields like “first name” are written as |FNAME| or {} when composing a message. This is what we call a merge tag.

Although these tags have different names across different platforms, they all play the same role. These “personalization fields” help emails target a specific identity by swapping out shortcut values with information pertaining to the sender.

Consider the following subject lines:

  • "{First Name}, use code #EarlyBird to save 10%"
  • “{First Name}, use code #SPECIAL10 to save 10% on {Last Purchased Activity}”
  • “New {List Name} class available starting March 1st!”

Although the merge tags made available will differ from platform to platform & demographics, most or all available email marketing applications will offer the “List Name” tag that can be named as you see fit. Replace {List Name} with topic buckets to see what you can come up with (e.g. Advanced, Intermediate, Beginner, Couples, Night, Morning, etc).

Interested to find out more about email marketing personalization? Read this article.

Recognize Open Rate Variables

When it comes to open rates, subject lines & preview texts are not the only variables tour businesses should take note of. For example, did you know that if a subscriber opens an email but their email provider blocks an image contained within it, the email will not be counted as an “open”?

To name a few, here are a few factors that could influence your open rates:

  1. Email provider settings
  2. Send time (consider time zones)
  3. Send date (consider holidays)
  4. Language preference (consider segmenting email lists by spoken language)
  5. Devices (consider testing email appearance on multiple devices)
  6. Tracking discrepancies (consider using a single platform to track & measure progress)

A/B Test Subject Lines & Preview Text

A/B testing is a great way to improve email opens & click-through. For those that are unfamiliar, an A/B test is a simple test between two email variations that can help decide which version of an email performs better than the latter. It’s important to constantly A/B test until you find an MVP for subject line & for preview text.

Unless you’re an email marketing genius like Neil Patel, don’t assume you have the winning combination from the get-go. Spend time making small variations with respects to the factors above.

Note: Use the Golden Rules of A/B Testing to make sure you are testing correctly.

Use Subject Line Keywords With Proven Track Records

One of the most common mistakes made by those new to email marketing is the notion of “reinventing the wheel”. Instead of betting everything on your creativity, take advantage of the successes and failures of existing marketers. Using something unique is by all means important but using keywords with proven records is far more significant.

There are twelve styles of email subject lines that should be taken into consideration when deciding the best subject lines for your mailing list:

  • Fear of missing out
  • Curiosity
  • Funny
  • Vanity
  • Greed
  • Sloth
  • Pain
  • Retargeting
  • Personal
  • Straightforward
  • Top Subject

For the sake of providing examples within this blog, let’s take a look at the "Top 60 Subject Line Keywords" according to reports by Smart Insights, Adestra, Digital Marketer’s & Alchemy Worx.

The following subject line keywords are in no particular order but have been proven to increase email open rates. As a starting point, try and add a single keyword in your subject lines from the following list to see if it improves the performance of an email:

  1. “Alert”
  2. “Available”
  3. “Back in stock”
  4. “Brand new”
  5. “Breaking”
  6. “Bulletin”
  7. “Buy”
  8. “Can…?”
  9. “Celebrate”
  10. “Congratulations”
  11. “Content”
  12. “Continues”
  13. “Deduction”
  14. “Do…?”
  15. “Forecast”
  16. “Free Delivery”
  17. “Free”
  18. “Get this now”
  19. “Get your”
  20. “Go”
  21. “Golden”
  22. “Great deals”
  23. “Introducing”
  24. “iPhone”
  25. “Is coming”
  26. “Jokes”
  27. “Just”
  28. “Latest”
  29. "May…?”
  30. “Monthly”
  31. “New”
  32. “News”
  33. “Now in”
  34. “Off selected”
  35. “On orders over”
  36. “Order today”
  37. “Orders over”
  38. “Promotional”
  39. “Revision”
  40. “Sale now”
  41. “Sale starts”
  42. “Snapshot”
  43. “Special”
  44. “Stock”
  45. “Summer”
  46. “Thank you”
  47. “Thanks”
  48. “Token”
  49. “Update”
  50. “Upgrade
  51. “Voluntary”
  52. “Weekend”
  53. “What…?”
  54. “Won’t…?”
  55. “Wonderful”
  56. “You have one day left”
  57. “Your next order”
  58. Using an ellipse (“…”) at the end of a subject line
  59. Using numbers as opposed to number text (e.g. 66 instead of sixty-six)
  60. Using the “|” symbol between subject line text

Closing Notes

Although open rates may not be the most important statistic to consider when it comes to email marketing, maximizing your content’s visibility is paramount to improving utility. Make sure to get the best bang for your buck by observing marketing precedence and taking advantage of countless tips made available by professionals. For more information on how tour operators can get started with email marketing, be sure to check out our new Content Ideas For Tour Operators eBook.