We are in an information era. Customer information is extraordinarily valuable and can be helpful in building customer loyalty. A restaurant wants to reach both new customers and also customers who already visited the restaurant. But there has been an overemphasis on acquiring new customers, which involves more expensive marketing and is more dependent on outside factors like the economy.
On the other hand, returning customers mean customer loyalty, word of mouth marketing and reliable profit. Most of the restaurants will get new customers no matter what, but the hard part is to bringing them back in. Yet, if you get customer’s information and are able to market to them, there is actually a significantly better return-on-investment than finding new customers. It is easier to grow a business by encouraging one customer to come back 5 times (since you have their email & they follow you on social media, etc.) than it is to find 5 new customers out of the blue.
That’s where customer information comes in. With information, whether it is contact information, demographic information or feedback, you have many more marketing opportunities and chances to build customer loyalty. There is no time better to ask for information than while the customer is in your restaurant and thinking about his or her experience.
If you know a customer’s email address, it means you can reach them and remind them about your establishment. Some restaurants also try to get customer phone numbers, but I wouldn’t go that far. Even worse, text message marketing is considered by most people as incredibly annoying. Contacting people by phone can be very intrusive (think tele-marketing). But email marketing has shown to be a consistent performer, often producing the highest return-on-investment in the industry.
How To Get Information
- Comment Cards
How are you going to get the email address of your customers who dines in?
The most basic one is your comment cards. People actually fill it out and appreciate the chance to share their experience. Most customers are familiar with comment cards and don’t mind filling them out. In addition to receiving feedback, you can ask for their email address to send them information about promotions and events.
- Using Promotions
There are other ways to ask for their email address.
Rather than comment cards, you can just give them a post card with a promo. If they put their info, let’s say they can win a dinner or receive a deal. You can also ask for birthday or anniversary dates. Most of the people love when they are given special treatment on their birthday or anniversary. A birthday club, which automatically sends out deals for customer’s birthdays, can definitely help business. The promotion should offer something enticing that they will want to put in their information.
- Using Smart Phone Technologies
You can use smart phone technology like QR codes if your customers are technologically savvy. They can use their mobile phones and put their info right away through their mobile phone. You can put the QR codes wherever you want. QR codes tend to invite customer curiosity and before you know it they are on your website or Facebook and have shared their email information. We did this with few clients and it worked very well.
Again, you need to attract customers to share their info with your restaurant. That involves putting these opportunities in a prominent place. For example you can put a birthday club on your menu, or comment card with a QR code. Using people’s mobile phones saves time for the restaurant because you don’t need to re-enter customer information.
- Business Cards
Business cards are another old tradition. Have a bowl with a promo and let people put their business cards in. This builds a sense of community and can be especially powerful for people who lunch at a restaurant during their workday. It does work but it takes a lot of time to put all the info inside your database unless you have an amazing business card scanner. But doing anything is better than doing nothing at all and letting customers leave your restaurant as anonymous as they were when they came in.
Customer information is the most important piece of restaurant marketing for return customers. Without it, you do not know who they are or how to contact them. And because return/regular customers are more valuable than new ones, it goes without saying that you should try to obtain customers’ information when they visit your restaurant.
This strategy will inevitably lead to free marketing, brand loyalty and strongest profits. This form of in-house marketing is one of the most important part of restaurant marketing and one of the easiest. You should not miss this opportunity as you are much more likely to convince return customers to come back to your establishment.