Here’s a better way to grow your hotel email list in 2020

In the age of COVID-19, an active email list is the most valuable marketing asset for hoteliers. Whether you’re nurturing relationships with past and potential guests during a period of low demand or communicating valuable offers to meeting planners, you need emails for lead generation.

But how do you grow your list? How do you start one, if you haven’t already? Is there a more effective lead generation method for hotels beyond simply dropping a “Subscribe here!” form onto your website?

There is. It’s called a lead magnet.

Very few hotel sales and marketing teams use lead magnets to build their email lists and generate more leads for their hotel. It’s a shame, because, “Subscribe to our hotel newsletter” might be one of the saddest calls-to-action ever… What’s really in it for the guest? Now more than ever, customers don’t care about your new brunch menu if they live 2,000 miles away and can’t travel.

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Once you have a list, it’s up to you to nurture your leads with a consistent content marketing and engagement strategy. First things first: let’s talk about how setting up a lead magnet on your hotel website can help you grow that list, plus what you need to do it.


If you’re not familiar with the term, you’re probably wondering what on earth a “lead magnet” even is. Lead magnets aren’t some new thing. The concept is a decades-old staple in advertising.

Simply put, a lead magnet is a freebie. You’re giving something (valuable!) away in exchange for the customer’s contact information—and permission to email them more in the future.

Your lead magnet is the essential first step in building a lasting customer relationship.

Lead magnets work because you’re:

  • Giving something valuable away (like knowledge or a framework)
  • Demonstrating your unique selling proposition
  • Providing instant gratification to the customer

Think of it like asking for someone’s phone number. Once you get it, you don’t want to be too aggressive or spammy. Strike up a conversation and provide value. The world of hotel sales and marketing is no different. Nurturing relationships is what generates sales leads, and ultimately, more revenue for your hotel.


Right now, lead generation in the hotel industry seems to be limited to offering a discount code incentive. Many chain hotel brands offer 10% off BAR to entice customers to sign up for their loyalty program.

Does your individual property really benefit from this? Are you able to communicate with those customers, too? It’s true that members of hotel loyalty programs tend to have a higher lifetime customer value—for the brand.

If you’re interested in growing a subscriber list that’s genuinely interested in what your property has to offer, undercutting your rate with a discount code is not the most effective strategy.

You actually have many other assets you could offer that provide real value! Here are a few lead magnet ideas for hotels:

  • Curated itineraries for your location (tailor these to your audience personas)
  • Family travel ebook (again, specific to your destination and only if relevant for your audience)
  • Local language cheat sheet with useful phrases
  • Seasonal packing guide (particularly for a resort destination)
  • Wedding planning checklist
  • Trend report or case study (B2B)
  • Interactive quiz

There are so many different ways to create a compelling lead magnet for a hotel. The main thing to remember is you want to deliver content that’s useful and relevant to your audience.


Setting up a lead magnet is easier than you might think.

However, hotels operating within a larger chain or brand might find the process a bit more challenging. You might not have much control over your email marketing, for example. It’s best to collaborate directly with your corporate office to ensure you’re adhering to official brand guidelines.

Here’s what a hotel needs to have in order to set up a lead magnet:

  • Your lead magnet content
  • Ability to edit your website
  • An email system to deliver your content

When it comes to placement of your signup form, consider your audience and objective. If your lead magnet is designed with groups in mind, it makes sense to place the opt-in on a relevant page, like Meeting Rooms or Events.

Many experts suggest placing your lead magnet on an “exit intent pop-up.” If a user is about to leave your website, the pop-up appears along with an enticing offer that tempts them to stay—and subscribe.

Make sure to incorporate a clear call-to-action in the copy that goes with your lead magnet opt-in. “Sign up below to receive X” or “Tell us where to send your free X,” for example.

If you’re going the route of a free content download, you’ll want to set up a “trigger campaign” using your email marketing platform. Simply put, a “trigger campaign” is where a user opts-in on your hotel website, then automatically receives an email with a link to your free download. Their signup “triggers” that email—no manual work required.


Disclaimer: I am not a legal expert and this post does not constitute legal advice. The EU General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) laws went into effect on May 25, 2018. GDPR impacts hotels in the European Union as well as hotels welcoming European guests.

At this point, you’re probably wondering if a lead magnet is GDPR compliant. The answer is actually… no, not exactly.

GDPR requires specific consent that’s clear and freely-given. So if a European user signs up to receive your lead magnet, you can’t just add them to your regular newsletter list too. Under GDPR, you need to ask for — and receive — consent.

The ability to communicate with prospects is a big reason you’re creating a lead magnet in the first place.

So, how can hotels stay GDPR compliant when using a lead magnet strategy?

Here are a few different ways to approach this:

  1. Add an (unchecked) checkbox to your signup form, asking if the user would also like to receive occasional marketing communications from you.
  2. In the automatic email containing your free download, include a link to a separate signup form where the user can also consent to receive your newsletter.
  3. On the lead magnet itself, incorporate a call-to-action for the user to also sign up for your hotel newsletter.
  4. Rework your copy to show that the lead magnet is a bonus available to newsletter subscribers. Make it clear to the user that they’re signing up for your newsletter but will also receive your lead magnet.

The key here is separate, clear consent.

It’s also a good idea to segment your list into two groups: one for known non-EU subscribers and another for everyone else. You can then target “everyone else” with a campaign for gaining specific consent for your newsletter, another offer, etc.

GDPR is a tricky topic, so here are a few more resources you may find helpful:


Once you’ve created a lead magnet for your hotel, the most important thing to do is simply get it on your website. If you don’t have the ability to edit your own website, you’ll need to work with your webmaster or web design agency to get it implemented.

The great thing about lead magnets is that they’re evergreen.

Once you have it up on your website—on a relevant page or pages—you really don’t need to promote it much, if at all. Lead magnets are an effective way to change warm traffic (users who are already interested in your property) into a qualified lead.

To get the word out a bit faster, there’s always social media.

Let’s say you created a useful meeting planning checklist. Ask your hotel sales team to share the lead magnet with their LinkedIn network.

Hotel lead generation isn’t just about meetings or events, though. The same concept works for a consumer-focused lead magnet. Use your social media channels to share the content with potential hotel guests.

Have you heard of lead magnets before? Would you try this strategy to grow your hotel’s email list? 

Tags: Marketing


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