How Hotels Can Use Lead Magnets To Build Bigger, Better Email Lists

Your email list is one of your most valuable marketing assets. According to the latest stats, 85% of B2B marketers say lead generation is their most important content marketing goal.

Across the board, the best practice in email list building and lead generation is to implement what’s called a lead magnet.

Yet very few properties are using 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 customer? I certainly don’t care about your new brunch menu if I live 2,000 miles away.

Lead generation for hotels should be a top marketing priority. That’s why the hotel industry needs to embrace lead magnets.

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Wait, what’s a lead magnet?

If you’re not familiar with the term, you’re probably wondering what the heck 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 that 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 those digits, you don’t want to be too aggressive or spammy. Strike up a conversation and provide value. Nurturing that relationship is what generates leads which result in sales.


What kind of lead magnets work for hotels?

Lead generation for hotels 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 lead generation for hotels.

Here are a few other lead magnet ideas for hotels:

  • Curated itineraries for your location (tailor these to your audience personas)

  • Family travel ebook (again, super-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

In an upcoming blog post, I’ll go into even more detail on these. I’ll share a few of my favorite lead magnet examples and even more lead magnet ideas for hotels and hospitality businesses. Sign up below to get the next post delivered directly to your inbox. (See what I did there?)


How do I set up a lead magnet for my hotel?

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 you need 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 download, you’ll want to set up a trigger campaign using your email marketing platform. When a user opts in on your hotel website, they’ll automatically receive a welcome email with a link to your free download.


How do I make sure my hotel stays GDPR compliant?

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—separate 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?

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Add an (unchecked) check box 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 receiving 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.

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:


Which email marketing platform is best for setting up a hotel lead magnet?

Again, hotels operating within a large global chain may run into some restrictions here. It’s best to reach out to your corporate email marketing contact to clarify your options. If you have the ability to choose your own, here are two of the best email marketing platforms for hospitality businesses:

Mailchimp: Best For Beginners

If your hotel is just starting out with email marketing or has a small list, I recommend Mailchimp. Why? Mailchimp is completely free for up to 2,000 subscribers, with some limitations. Mailchimp’s pricing plans stay extremely affordable even as your list grows.

Mailchimp has a pretty straightforward, drag-and-drop campaign builder. Things get a little wonky though, once you start trying to customize automated emails and build multiple opt-in forms. The back end is way less intuitive if you’re new to email marketing.

Overall, Mailchimp is a good start, but it's far from perfect.

They don’t make it easy to segment your customers by interest, which is important if you want to send more targeted messages. (And you do!)

But free is free, and Mailchimp is a solid option if your hotel needs a simple solution to communicate with a small list. Here’s how to set up a lead magnet using Mailchimp.

Convertkit: Take Things Up a Notch

If your hotel has a bit of budget or a larger list already, you should definitely consider Convertkit*. Like Mailchimp, Convertkit pricing is also based on your number of subscribers.

Unlike Mailchimp, Convertkit only counts each subscriber once, no matter how many lists they appear on. If you want to put the same customer onto multiple segment lists, Mailchimp counts each one as a new subscriber. (You’ll be surprised how fast you hit 2,000 this way…)

Convertkit also has a sleeker dashboard and easier user interface, in my opinion.

Plans start at $29 USD a month, including customizable forms, drag-and-drop campaign templates, unlimited email sends, and more.

If you want to dedicate separate segments to different business needs (weddings, F&B, rooms, etc.) you’ll need a more robust email marketing platform like Convertkit.

*Heads up, this post contains affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase using my link, I’ll receive a small referral fee at no extra cost to you. I will only recommend products and tools that I use and love. Thanks for supporting my business—and iced coffee habit.


Feel free to get in touch if you need any help creating an irresistible lead magnet for your hotel. Just for good measure, here’s one of mine:

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