This is the first in a series of articles on email marketing. We’ll link future articles as they come out.

Looking to increase bookings, get more repeat customers, and grow your campground’s revenue this camping season?

Email marketing can help you do all three, and it’s a low-investment marketing channel—both from a time and cost perspective.

Here are a few first steps to getting your email marketing program up and going.

1. Choose an Email Service Provider (ESP)

An Email Service Provider handles all the technical parts of your email marketing program. It stores the database of people who have signed up for your list and is the interface you use to design, write, and send emails.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of ESPs out there, with a wide variety of costs and feature sets. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Mailchimp

Lowest cost plan: Free up to 2,000 contacts, 10,000 email sends/month.

Mailchimp’s free plan is a great way to get started with email marketing. You’ll be able to do a standard monthly newsletter, plus some welcome emails, and still stay under their send cap.

It has several pre-designed email templates for you to use—just choose one, write your content, and schedule it to send.

The one downside for a new email marketer is the free plan only offers 30 days of email support.

If you outgrow that plan or are looking for more support, their Essentials plan gives you more list and send capacity than most campgrounds will ever need, unlocks more features, and offers 24/7 email and chat support.

ConvertKit

Lowest cost plan: Free up to 1,000 contacts, unlimited email sends.

ConvertKit is one of the newer ESPs, and it comes with unlimited sends—which is useful if you want to go all out with a weekly email.

In my opinion, ConvertKit has one of the nicer email template libraries. It also offers a really solid “getting started” course.

Their first paid plan is a little more pricey than Mailchimp. They charge $29/month for 1,000 subscribers, unlocked features, and 24/7 support.

ActiveCampaign

Lowest cost plan: $9/month up to 500 contacts, unlimited email sends.

Off the bat, ActiveCampaign doesn’t have a free tier (though it does offer a free trial of any tier of service). It has many of the same features as the other two free options above.

Where ActiveCampaign really shines is support. Their lowest cost plan includes “Free implementation and migration.” That means they’ll go so far as to help you get your email lists set up, a basic template configured, and even help integrate forms on your website for email collection.

If you’re a little less tech savvy and want more of a done-for-you experience in getting your email program started, you can’t go wrong with ActiveCampaign.

2. Set Up a New Email List in your ESP

There’s different terminology depending on which ESP you chose above, but the next step once you’ve got your account set up is to start a new email list in the software.

For our purposes, you’re probably only going to have one email list where you keep all the email contacts you collect over time.

Go ahead and create a new email list and call it something like “Master Contact List.” Literally every email address you collect will end up here.

All of the ESPs above allow you to “tag” contacts, so this is what we’ll use for a little bit of segmentation. The most important one is to add a “customer” tag to anyone who has booked or stayed at your campground.

Mailchimp does a particularly good job of walking you through the initial account creation process, with a step-by-step checklist.

3. Add a Form to Your Website

Now that we’ve got an account with an ESP, and an email list set up in that account, we need a way for people to subscribe to your email list.

Go to the form builder in your ESP, and set up a form with 2 fields: First Name and Email Address.

All of these ESPs have integrations with most website builders (Wix, Squarespace, WordPress, etc.), so you’ll be able to use those integrations to get your form on your website.

Alternatively, the form builders all let you download code you can share with your web developer, who can integrate the form for you.

That’s It!

So we’ve got an ESP chosen, a list set up, and a form on your website to collect emails. You’re headed in the right direction!

If you have trouble with any of the steps above, be sure to take advantage of the support that your ESP offers. They make money when you see success in email marketing and become a paying customer, so they’re typically more than happy to help new users.

Now that you’re collecting emails, it’s time to figure out what to send them. We’ll cover that and more in future posts!