“You’ve got mail!” Ahh the days waiting for the dial-up connection and yelling at siblings making a call when all you wanted to do is check your email. Those days are long gone, and now email continues to drive revenue for businesses in all industries, including restaurants. Restaurant email marketing can keep your valued customers walking through your doors, and generate recurring revenue your business can depend on.
Regardless of the type of restaurant you run, when you’re finished reading this you’ll have everything you need to implement a strong email marketing strategy for your restaurant.
Getting Started – Your Email Marketing Software
There are a lot of platforms out there that promise you the world, but how do you choose the best email software? Well, it all starts with the team and the goals you have.
When you’re choosing the software for your strategy, there are a few things to keep in mind:
What type of emails will you be sending?
Make sure you have the ability to create or choose from some templates for your campaigns. This will make the email creation process much easier, and incredibly efficient. Most email service providers have a long list of templates to choose from, but make sure they fit your brand.
You should also have the ability to create custom templates as well as code your own emails. When (not if, when) you start getting overloaded with business from your email campaigns, you might consider hiring an email marketing agency. Ensuring you’ll be able to create campaigns custom to your brand will allow you to get the most out of your emails and maximize your brand image.
Will you need automation features or are you just going to be sending out a monthly newsletter? There’s no wrong answer, but as you grow your email strategy will likely need to expand and cater to your larger customer base. Sending automated campaigns can make your job easier, as well as send timely and relevant email messages.
What are the functionalities/limitations of the software?
Remember, your email marketing is only a single part of your marketing strategy, so don’t forget to think about how it fits into the big picture. Will the software allow you to easily promote messages across channels? Look at the different integrations the software has and see how it can help and support the rest of your marketing strategy.
While you might consider going with one of the well-known email providers such as MailChimp or ActiveCampaign, there are others that offer your guests free WiFi in return for an email address or social media follow. I’ll touch on this a little later.
Plan your Email Strategy
Now that you have everything set up to start sending your campaigns, you might be eager to get your message out there and into the inboxes of your valued customers. Just hold off for a minute. Your restaurant email marketing strategy is only as good as the plan you’ve set in place, so make sure you take the time to understand what you’re sending and why you’re sending it.
Unfortunately, many restaurants skip this step and their business suffers because of it. You need a solid plan in place so you can make sure your budget is being spent towards pushing you closer to achieving your business goals.
Here are a few steps to include in your planning process:
It’s important that your email marketing efforts push you closer towards achieving a goal that’s bigger than email. In other words, your email marketing should support the overall performance of your business, making sure of this is crucial to developing effective campaigns.
The goals you set need to be bigger than open rates and click-through rates. While these are great metrics to measure your emails performance by, the real measure of success is how they impact your bottom line and make you money.
They need to be realistic, measurable, and need to have a timeframe. This way you can check back on your performance to see if you’re performing as well as you thought you would, or if you need to go back and make some adjustments.
Set a Schedule
The last thing you want to do is annoy your customers by sending too many emails. On the other hand, you don’t want to send too few that they forget about you either. You need to find a balance that fits your brand.
Take a look at the different events or promotions you’re having and align these with your emails. Email is a great channel to let people know about your promotions, specials, or upcoming events. Chances are you won’t have an earth-shattering special each week, so focusing your email content on these is a great way to avoid crowding your audience’s inbox.
Measurement and Control
Lastly, you need to set up a plan to measure and control your email campaigns. Make sure your campaigns are aligned with the goals you’ve set. Making these goals an integral part of the email creation process will allow you to create campaigns that focus on achieving something bigger than open and click rates.
Grow Your Contact List
Now that you’ve chosen a software and have a plan of action, it’s time to start collecting email addresses to send your emails to. There are a few ways to go about growing a rock-solid list of contacts that can’t wait to get your emails. Here are a few:
Website Sign-Up Form
If your website gets a lot of traffic, this can be a great way to capture email addresses. Offer site visitors the opportunity to stay in the loop and receive special promotions to add some incentive. If your website isn’t as strong as it could be, or just doesn’t get a ton of traffic, this might not be the best option for you.
Social Media Opt-Ins
Another place you can feature a signup form is on your restaurant’s Facebook page. With social media become more and more like a search engine, many people will check out your social profiles to see if it looks like they’ll enjoy their time at your restaurant. Having a way of collecting email addresses on your profile can convert some of those people into subscribers and grow your list.
This has grown in popularity over the last couple years and for good reason: it works. People are constantly connected to their smartphones, and this doesn’t change when people come in to dine. In fact, it’s becoming a shareable experience for people. Foodies will take a picture of their meal, mark their location, and share it across their social profiles to show the world the deliciousness they’re about to indulge in. This option empowers them to do so for free.
This option is more of a commitment, and is usually integrated with your email service provider. Companies such as ZenReach or GoZone WiFi empower businesses to offer free WiFi to their customer in return for an email address or social media follow. This then allows you to market to them once they walk out your door, all the while enhancing their dining experience.
Since this is location based, you’ll be able to tell when someone comes back to your restaurant from your email campaigns. This allows you to directly see the impact of your restaurant’s email marketing, and with analytics tools in the platforms you can get an in-depth view of who you’re attracting.
Regardless of how you build your list of contacts, it’s extremely important that they opt-in to receiving your emails.
Understand and Segment Your Audience
Once you’ve built your contact list, it’s time to understand who they are collectively and individually. Understanding what brings them into your restaurant and what they expect while they’re there will allow you to cater your campaigns to these expectations.
This is where you need to segment your contacts into different lists so you can better deliver value to the different people in your contact list. As a restaurant, there are a few ways you can do this:
Regulars vs. Newbies
Every restaurant has regulars, and truth be told they’ll probably come in with or without your email campaigns. However, this is a risk you can easily avoid. Make them feel special. Show them you appreciate their loyalty with emails that thank them and give them a little gift in return.
On the other hand, understand that newbies need love as well. Understanding that not everyone is as well-versed with your menu or regular specials as your regulars gives you the opportunity to promote them. The newbies are looking for a reason to come back in, so give it to them. Send them specials, events, or simply send them a copy of your menu at the right time to try and get them passed the “what do you want for dinner honey” dilemma.
Time of Visit
While this option only pertains to those who go with the free WiFi option of list building, it shows you how valuable email marketing can be for your restaurant. When you look at the analytics, you’ll be able to see patterns in the different times people come to your restaurant. Capture these moments by sending them emails with information that might make them choose you over your competition.
This will also give you a quantifiable measurement of the foot-traffic your restaurant gets at different times. If you notice a dip in customers, try offering a special during that time to keep the flow of people constant.
There are many ways you can segment your email lists. These are just two ways that offer restaurants the ability to send relevant and targeted email campaigns. How you decide to split up your lists will ultimately depend on the type of restaurant you run as well as the contacts you’ve gathered, however segmentation is essential to an effective restaurant email marketing strategy.
Deliver Value (and food…if that’s your thing)
Every campaign in your email strategy should deliver some type of value to your audience’s inbox. Give them something that would make them better off than before they opened your email. It’s all about giving them a great reason to come back to your restaurant with their friends, family, office, and anyone else they want.
Now get out there and start sending! Plan out your strategy, set goals, and get an in-depth understanding of your customers so you can make the most out of your restaurant email marketing strategy.