In the marketing industry, email remains one of the most popular and most effective ways to reach customers. In the restaurant industry, email marketing can be a great way to build customer loyalty and brand recognition. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s proven to bring customers in the door. So why aren’t more restaurants using it?
If you have yet to market to your customers with email, here are some simple steps and best practices to maximize your campaign:
1. Ask your customers to sign up. There’s no point in sending out an email if you don’t have anyone on your list. There’s also no point if the people on your list don’t patronize your restaurant. Tantalize your customers with deals and prizes to collect their email addresses. For example, use a raffle to collect email addresses, or offer 10% off coupons in exchange for signing up through your restaurant’s website.
2. Don’t send emails unless it’s requested. Sending unsolicited email is also known as SPAM, and we all know how annoying that is. That’s why the best way to collect email addresses is to offer a little something in return and get your customer to volunteer their email address. It’s also important to make sure your customers understand that they are signing up to receive emails. Make it clear that they will be hearing from you in the future.
3. Offer something every time you send an email. Every email marketing beginner thinks it’s a great idea to send out emails full of information about themselves and their business. The hard truth is, however, that your customer really doesn’t want to be bothered reading an email about a restaurant. What they do want know is when your happy hour is and what days you offer specials. Don’t send an email unless you have something to offer. Otherwise you’re just clogging up an already busy email inbox.
4. Track conversions. Use coupon codes or some other system to track the success of your email marketing campaign. Try different types of offers and see which ones have the highest conversion rate. In other words, does a 10% off coupon on any meal over $25 work better than a buy one, get one free drink during happy hour deal? The only way to know for sure is to get customers who heard about the deal through your email campaign to use a code when redeeming their discount.
5. Create a schedule and stick to it. In general, you shouldn’t be sending out emails more than once a week, and twice a month is probably a better route. No matter how frequently you decide to send out email, stick to the same schedule so that customers begin to expect your emails on the same day. This will improve the chances that your email will be opened and read.
6. Use a proper email marketing system. There are a variety of options out there: Feedblitz, MailChimp, ConstantContact, Emma. These services usually charge you per email or per number of subscribers. Choose one that works for you and pay the money for a proper system. Don’t try to send emails out from your Hotmail account. For one thing, it looks unprofessional. For another, you will get labeled as spam sooner or later. These email services also have great tracking functions that provide important information, like how many people opened your emails, how many clicked links in your emails, etc.
7. Avoid spammy words and punctuation. Words like free and buy now cause automatic spam filters to flag an incoming email message. Punctuation like lots of exclamation marks and all capitalized letters will also set off the alarm. Avoid these spammy looking words and punctuation in your emails like the plague. For more info on avoiding spam filters, check out this blog post.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to email marketing is to experiment. Best practices only take you so far. Every restaurant is different, and every one has a different type of customer. The email marketing campaign strategy you employ for your restaurant will be different from every other one, and the best way to optimize it is to try different types of offers and presentations until you find the one that gets the most customers in the door. This is also why tracking is so important. If you can’t tell if you’re having a busy Tuesday night by chance or because of last week’s email, then you can’t improve and refine your campaigns.
When used properly, email marketing can be one of the most cost effective ways to bring customers back to your restaurant again and again. A little time, a little testing, and a lot of experimenting can turn email into one of your top advertising moneymakers.