Almost every marketing idea or promotion that comes along costs money, and they all require investments of time. Of course, most restaurateurs understand that marketing is essential and that you’ve got to spend a few dollars to make money. Email marketing is an effective way to promote your business regularly without a lot of administrative costs. You control your message, speak directly to customers and target people who are like to buy with your advertising message.
You might have become disenchanted with emails because you instinctively understand that other consumers are just like you and delete dozens of bulk emails each day. However, advances in technology, targeting and automation give you the ability to tailor your messages with a personal touch that yields better results.
Studies show that emails work. A 2012 DMA study found that 67 percent of email marketers reported that email marketing provided the best ROI or any promotional or marketing effort. People must opt-in to receive your emails, so you’re marketing to people who want to read your messages.
Email Campaign Basics
Email success depends on building your list, fine-tuning your messages and getting the right software or marketing company to handle the process. Your campaigns can be very successful when handled correctly.
Building Your List
The ideal recipients of restaurant marketing emails are your existing customers, people who visit your website, people who live and work near the restaurant and your targeted audience. Your carefully developed internal database is more effective than the generic email lists that you can buy. You can build your database from paid and unpaid searches, people who respond to traditional advertising, contacts from social media pages, restaurant reservation lists and website forums, blogs and applications.
Just remember that the CAN-SPAM Act requires that you tell customers how to opt-out of receiving future emails. Other requirements of the law include:
- You must monitor what third parties do on your behalf.
- You should identify your message as advertising, but there’s some leeway for informational emails.
- Provide a physical address in all emails.
- Honor opt-out requests.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines or headers.
Your emails will usually take one of several marketing tactics, such as publicizing your menu, providing interesting information or responding to triggering events. Trigger events might be a website sale, downloading something from your site, an upcoming holiday, a restaurant visit or even inactivity for a long period.
Never bombard your customers with emails. Target your customers and emails selectively based on past performance and what is most likely to work or generate the biggest return.
Best practices for composing emails include using a compelling subject line and personalized messages. Keep things relevant based on what you know about a customer from your database. Engage customers by getting them to think, reminding them of upcoming occasions and events and offering valuable incentives to get them to take action.
Never assume that customers will do what you want — provide them with a distinct call-to-action, such as taking an order online, reserving a table or scheduling a delivery.
When you send your emails matters. Restaurants often send emails on Thursdays when people are planning their weekends. Time of day also matters. Early morning, noon and around 4 p.m. have proven to be the best times because working people have extra time to check their inboxes and read items of interest — assuming that your customers work in corporate or office jobs. Optimal times could vary depending on your core audience.
Emails are great ways to advertise and reinforce classic promotions like advertising a happy hour, informing guests about menu changes, promoting an event, offering an incentive or sharing special information about your business.
Offering Incentives are classic ways to use emails, and they work especially well for customers who haven’t visited in a while. Offering a free appetizer, dessert or buy-one-get-one-free meal generates high conversion rates if you limit the offer to the immediate future.
Promoting Holidays and Occasions
Emails can advertise upcoming holiday promotions like special Mother’s Day menus, New Year’s Eve celebrations, live entertainment, celebrity bartenders, community causes and other events. Birthday marketing is one of the most rewarding uses of emails. Offer your customers a free meal on their birthday, and they’ll usually bring a group of paying customers to the celebration.
Sending Tips from Your Chef
Tips from your chef are great ways to market your brand and build your restaurant’s value and reputation with customers. You can provide recipes, cooking tips and ideas on what to look for when buying meat and produce. You can create a CTA for informational emails by encouraging recipients to visit your website, Facebook page or the restaurant’s dining room, where the chef can demonstrate his or her techniques up close and personal.
Providing an Appealing Backstory
Providing some background information about your restaurant is a classic selling technique that’s tailor-made for email campaigns. You can tell your restaurant’s story, share your business philosophy and explain what makes your restaurant unique. You might discuss your chef’s experience and training or explain why your desserts are healthier than traditional pastries and sweets. If you have a healthy menu, share information about foods that lower cholesterol.
Email Service Providers for Restaurants
You can choose from various providers of email services including the following companies:
Partnered with OpenTable, Fishbowl can help your restaurant run an integrated email campaign across the social media and mobile marketing platforms. Restaurants can use the company’s Software as a Service independently or work with an email campaign manager directly.
This recent entry in the email field provides full services for marketing automation that allow your restaurant to send emails over multiple platforms and channels.
MailChimp offers email services that integrate with social networks and the other marketing services that your restaurant uses. The provider can handle up to 2,000 email addresses, and MailChimp is easy for beginners to use.
- Constant Contact
This provider specializes in email, event and social media marketing.
- Vertical Response
Restaurants can create emails in minutes by using this provider’s custom templates and drag-and-drop editor.
Email campaigns are a great way to maintain a direct dialog with your customers without spending lots of money. You can foster a long-lasting, positive impression that encourages repeat business and strengthens the value of your brand. Email messages can complement all your promotional and advertising efforts more efficiently and at lower costs than any marketing effort other than word-of-mouth referrals.