RLH Corporation: Using Act-On to Build Customer Experiences That Matter

Kyle McCarthy Kyle McCarthy
Customer Marketing

A modern marketing blueprint for sustained success:

  1. Deliver great brand experiences at every stage of the customer lifecycle
  2. Drive engagement and excitement around your offerings
  3. Grow and expand your business through retention and loyalty

While most marketers would agree that the three steps above comprise a proven roadmap for business growth, real success lies in the planning and execution of these lifecycle marketing strategies — no small feat for even the most seasoned and well-staffed marketing departments. But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing; in fact, the opposite is usually true, especially in marketing.

We recently hosted a Customer Spotlight Webinar highlighting Red Lion Hotels Corporation’s (RLH) use of Act-On to achieve consistent and growing customer marketing success using the approaches above. Specifically, we wanted to share how RLH is leveraging marketing automation to strategically plan and execute exceptional guest experiences.

Our guest representative from RLH Corporation was Whitney Swales. Whitney is the VP of Guest Recognition/Loyalty, Marketing Promotions with RLH Corporation and oversees their customer loyalty programs — building the customer journeys, content, and messaging that fuel those efforts.

Keep reading to learn how RLH is driving great engagement and repeat guest stays from their customer marketing strategies, especially their Hello Rewards loyalty program.

Incentivizing the End User

RLH is unique in that they utilize B2C marketing strategies on behalf of their more than 1,000 hotel franchisees across 8 distinct brands. The goal is to support these franchise owners through marketing programs geared toward securing guest reservations at their hotels. These efforts include loyalty campaigns through their Hello Rewards program (with more than 2.5 million members), as well as seasonal promotions for new and past guests across multiple digital channels — including their website, social media platforms, email automation, and third-party online travel agencies (such as Expedia and Kayak). 

Drive Engagement Around Your Offerings

The secret to their success is incentivization. They engage their past and potential guests through numerous acquisition tactics — such as digital sweepstakes, on-site property-level incentives, promotions through their website and other digital properties, and limited-time offers and discounts for reservations during select time periods. Once they’ve acquired these guests, they continue to market to them through Act-On via the following loyalty campaigns:

  • Promotional email campaigns
  • Automated campaigns
  • Reward expiration reminder emails 
  • Surprise reward emails to celebrate milestones (birthdays, number of stays, etc.)

Here’s how they pull it off.

Building Effective Loyalty Programs: An Act-On Use Case

Whitney and her team recognize the need to go beyond lead generation to focus on customer engagement at every stage of the lifecycle. They know that given the right experiences,  existing customers are most likely to turn into loyal advocates who embrace the RLH brand and share those experiences with their friends. Plus, guest data makes marketing to this audience easier and more effective by fueling more customized and targeted campaigns.

Wanting to utilize this data as much as possible (while also continuing to collect new information), RLH created several campaigns in support of their Hello Rewards customer loyalty program, which allows RLH to support its franchisees with direct bookings to their respective properties through incentivization. 

Let’s break down each marketing element behind RLH’s guest engagement programs.

Rapid Transactional Emails

Consumers today expect real-time communications. For RLH, Act-On’s transactional email feature delivers on this demand. More than just a digital receipt, RLH creates entire email programs to deliver better real-time transactional experiences. 

Through their bi-directional sync with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, RLH is able to automatically export and import all of their reservation data and then filter that information based on each hotel brand to create distinct branding and consistent messaging. From there, they send up to five separate emails that populate with personalized dynamic content.

  1. Confirmation: Sent immediately following a guest booking
  2. Modification: Sent immediately following any change in the upcoming stay
  3. Cancellation: Sent immediately following a canceled stay
  4. Pre-Stay Reminders: Sent 3 days prior to arrival with inviting messaging and a local promotion (e.g., discount on a car rental)
  5. Post-Stay Appreciation: Sent 1 day after checkout with appreciative messaging and a survey about their stay

Said Whitney, “The best part about our transactional emails is that, by using conditional logic and dynamic content to set up our programs, we can set them up once and then rely on the automation to take care of the rest with occasional spot-checking.”

Promotional Engagements

RLH also uses Act-On to build and deliver their promotional messages, which vary more than their other campaigns based on new offers and discounts. These programs are designed to secure more bookings while also increasing Hello Rewards members — and are delivered, tracked, and optimized using Act-On. 

RLH frequently targets promotions at the property-level. That is, they market on behalf of individual properties based on seasonality, regions , and local attractions. For example, in the past, they’ve targeted Anaheim, California and Orlando, Florida due to their proximity to Disneyland and Disney World, respectively. When those amusement parks have special events or festivals, RLH will create special offers to support their regional franchisees’ efforts to maximize bookings and deploy these campaigns on their behalf using Act-On’s advanced segmentation and automated email capabilities.

In addition, RLH offers quarterly brand promotions to keep guests invested in each of its brands and incentivized to continue visiting. They also offer top-prize sweepstakes in partnerships with other vendors to sweeten the pot and keep things fun for their franchisees’ loyal guests. These programs are built and executed using Act-On email and form templates, which, according to Whitney, are both “dynamic and easy to use.”

Lastly, RLH makes sure to celebrate their customers by sending out promotional emails on birthdays, anniversaries, and after a certain amount of stays at its family of hotels. This data is collected via Act-On and all emails trigger based on logic within the platform, making it a simple and seamless process free of intensive manual labor.

Intuitive Automated Campaigns

RLH Corporation’s automated email campaigns are based on behavior, engagement, demographics (all of which are captured in Act-On and Microsoft Dynamics), as well as upcoming promotions. And since they’re optimally leveraging  Act-On, these programs usually involve all of the aforementioned elements as part of a more targeted segmentation, messaging, and delivery mix.

They kickstart these campaigns with a welcome series of emails for new sign-ups to the Hello Rewards loyalty program.

Email 1 (Immediately): Initial welcome email outlining the benefits of Hello Rewards

Email 2 (3 days later): Reminder to activate the account and login

Email 3 (7 days later): Another reminder to activate the account with more detailed  information about the benefits of the program

Following the initial welcome series, RLH further engages and incentivizes their Hello Rewards members through their Hello Bucks and Hello Perks series — both of which are designed to strengthen brand connections and ensure repeat stays.   

Hello Bucks

Hello Bucks is the point-based currency that RLH provides their guests following stays and other purchases. So, for example, when a guest checks out, they’re sent an email letting them know they’ve earned Hello Bucks based on their recent activity. The email also tells the recipient their current Hello Bucks balance and includes suggestions for how they can spend them through RLH and their affiliate hotels. If they don’t open or engage with the email, they are sent a reminder within three business days. Also, since Hello Bucks are temporary, RLH sends an email one month prior to expiration, which encourages guests to use them to book additional upcoming stays.

Hello Perks

The Hello Perks program is designed to surprise and delight Hello Rewards members with additional membership benefits based on certain milestones. So, when a guest reaches a certain milestone (for example, 5 stays), they will receive a “perk” in the form of a gift card — usually to a local business such as a restaurant or car rental agency.

All of these programs rest squarely on the shoulders of the seamless integration between Act-On and Microsoft Dynamics. This connection allows RLH to import members from Dynamics into Act-On through an automated sync and then drill down to each segment to better understand where they stand based on behavior and engagement. The best part is that all segmentation automatically updates when Hello Rewards members enter and exit the loyalty program. This means that Whitney and her team can build these programs once and then let them run with just occasional spot-checks and automated reporting.

Said Whitney, “The goal is to make the overall guest experience as seamless as possible, and Act-On enables us to deliver that experience with minimal effort and fantastic results!”

Check Out These Results!

From a business level, Act-On helps RLH streamline workflows and processes while conserving valuable time and money through reliable and intuitive automation. But what about the direct impact on engagement and performance? Take a look for yourself!

Bounce Rate

Within just six months of working with Act-On’s email deliverability team, RLH had decreased their total (soft and hard) bounce rate from 18% to less than 2%.

Email Engagement Across Campaign Type

RLH is seeing tremendous engagement (delivery, unique opens, and unique click-to-open rates) across all of their outbound automated campaigns.

The Best Is Yet to Come!

Up next for RLH, Whitney and her team want to begin utilizing Act-On lead attribution and funnel reporting to get a better sense of how each step of the customer journey impacts their bottom line, as well as how and where they can improve. Said Whitney, “I’m so excited to unlock every feature the technology has to offer to maximize our branding, messaging, and return on investment!”


To learn even more about how RLH is utilizing Act-On, please click here to read their official case study. Or, if you’d like to read more about customer marketing strategies you can execute through marketing automation platforms, please download our eBook, “Drive Engagement Around Your Offerings.”

Drive Engagement Around Your Offerings