Your customer mailing list is one of the most valuable assets of your hotel or restaurant.

Building a mailing list

Your customer mailing list is one of the most valuable marketing assets of your hotel or restaurant.

I am amazed how few hotels and restaurants use e-mail marketing. It’s never too late to start building a database, and e-mail marketing is a great way to continue to build the relationship with your customers and keep you in their mind when the time comes for a return visit or when asked to make a recommendation.

Without a list, every time you want to get something in front of your guests or prospects you have to start all over again. Your list gives you the opportunity to tell every existing and potential customer about promotions, seasonal events and any other newsworthy information relevant to your niche.

The more detail you have on people who are interested in what you offer, the more often you can return to them with additional offers that are tailored to them. And the more often you do this, the more likely it is that this will result in business.

Asking for a lot of personal detail up front is, however, not very practical (and likely to be very off putting) so it’s better to gather it over time.

Offer incentives to build your list

To build your list, you may need to set up incentives for people to fill in a physical form or coupon, or sign up online and share their details. Some ideas might be:

  • Discounts or vouchers
  • Free downloads such as a guide to something of relevant interest to your target market
  • Prize draws or competitions, with relevant prizes from your own products or services
  • Access to exclusive offers or ‘members only’ offers

There are three key sources of names:

Existing customers: Simply ask them to leave their business card, or, filling out a blank card which enables those who’d rather not give their business details to fill in their personal contact details. Present this with their bill so it gets their attention.

Online: This may be existing customers, but more likely will be for people in response to an advert or people who have just stumbled on your website.  You’ll need an ‘opt in’ or ‘landing’ page to capture their details.  As there is no relationship yet with these people you need a really enticing offer to encourage people to share their details. And remember some of these may be those who may not want to buy right now.

Your joint venture partners: Ask your JV’s to give their customers your discount vouchers or an invitation to receive your exclusive offers. Then ask customers to complete their details in order to redeem them with you.

You could in theory use contact information taken from guests’ registration details, but use this sparingly and only for a follow up and very relevant offers. You’re legally entitled to contact your own customers with future offers, but ideally always seek permission to use guests’ details for any marketing activity. And of course if any guest asks not to be contacted at any time, you must respect this, and record their preference on your database.

Whichever way you capture prospects’ and customers’ contact information, under the Data Protection Act 1998 you must have permission to communicate with them. The Information Commissioner’s Office website ( shows what you need to do.

What to do with your list

Once you have your list, don’t just leave it in a drawer somewhere. There are two things to do:

Firstly have a system for safeguarding your valuable contacts and managing your list.

Then use it to keep in touch! If you intend to contact people on your list by email, the easiest way to set this up is with an email management system.

More information on managing your list and email marketing can be found in the Hotel Success Handbook.

Caroline Cooper

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