Email Marketing Hits the Beach

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted September 12, 2013

It takes little more than weeding out unwanted email from your inbox and a few moments fiddling with spam filters, to make most people question the true effectiveness of email marketing.  Not so for Tim Dunkin and Dina Orlova, owners of the Admirals Beach Retreat in Oregon. They don't need to be convinced of email marketing's benefits and potential—if done right.

The husband and wife team operate a sprawling, lavishly appointed 11-bedroom luxury vacation rental property that is perched on the Pacific Coast in Gleneden Beach, which is situated in the Central Oregon Coast. Amenities include a 22-seat theater, a billiards room and an espresso bar.

In addition to expansive, uninterrupted views, the property is a stone's throw from boating attractions like deep sea fishing and whale watching, outdoor activities like golf, surfing and hiking. The home, which sleeps 33 people, has hosted corporate retreats for Nike, Symantec and Iron Mountain—a part of the business that the couple hopes to grow.

Upgraded Small Business Marketing Strategy

Past small business marketing efforts basically boiled down to listings on VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and word-of-mouth. While they weren't suffering, to maximize the seasonal property's potential to generate revenue and to guarantee future business with advanced bookings, Dunkin turned to email marketing services provider, VerticalResponse.

San Francisco-based VerticalResponse provides tools that help businesses craft pixel-perfect emails and deliver them to recipients. More than 700 templates allow small business owners to compose professional emails. Tracking and reporting features allow organizations to track the effectiveness of their campaigns, including opens, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes and social reach.

VerticalResponse boasts more than 800,000 users. Customers include Dole, Habitat for Humanity and Yamaha. Amongst those big brands is Admirals Beach Retreat, which can plan for more bookings well into the future.

Inquire Within: Tradition and Technology

It sounds like heresy, but Tim Dunkin wants nothing to do with automated online booking systems. "We still don't take credit cards," he admitted. Deposit checks reach him by snail mail. A bit old fashioned in these ecommerce enabled times, perhaps, but there are good reasons for Dunkin's traditional approach.

"If [customers] have to call and send an email to get the information, I can capture that and add them to my email list," said Dunkin. With an online reservation system, drive-by website visitors may explore a little, encounter blocked-off dates and never return.

The couple's approach lets them form more productive and profitable relationships. Emails and phone calls allow them to offer personalized guidance and alternatives, and otherwise help them work with prospective new customers on a one-on-one basis. They also find that people committing several thousand dollars on a family reunion or corporate get-together are very invested in the booking process unlike casual browsers.

Admirals Beach Retreat settled on VerticalResponse because the service supports its business and marketing strategies of establishing deeper connections with clients. At a cost of about $30 and an hour's worth of time for the initial email, Dunkin reported that he generated bookings well into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Dunkin's calendar is filling up as well. "We're booking out way further in advance than before," he said. Summer 2015 dates are already getting snapped up. And the time it takes to generate new email campaigns has dropped to a scant five minutes.

Describing VerticalResponse as a "very inexpensive, high-ROI venture," Dunkin concluded that he and his wife are "extremely happy" with the results. Proof that modern technology and traditional customer engagement can co-exist.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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