Restaurant email marketing
It’s easy to see that the restaurant industry is a highly competitive market. Failure rates in the first five years for new businesses are notoriously high. Over a million restaurants operate in the US, and the overwhelming majority are small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. In order to succeed, marketing efforts need to keep up with today’s digital world to reach new and returning customers.
Email marketing can be one of the most effective ways to maintain and grow relationships with the dining public. In terms of returns-on-investment, email marketing outpaces all other forms of marketing while having the added benefit of reaching every demographic one could want.
Even better for small businesses, email levels the advertising playing field by making it easy to reach more customers at a lower cost. When launching your marketing campaign, it’s especially important to leverage tools like an email checker to make sure your message is reaching your audience.
Getting started with restaurant email marketing
Emails are the best and fastest way to reach your customers. What’s not to like about having full control of your message in a cost-effective way? By creating a campaign that allows you to be ‘in front of your customers’ daily, weekly, or monthly creates trust and brand identity.
To ensure transparency, make sure you are able to hold up your end of the deal when offering specials or freebies to your customers. To help you get started, we put together some tips and tricks for your restaurant email marketing strategy.
- Become mobile-friendly
- Choose an email service provider
- Collect emails from customers
- Learn email campaign basics
- Personalize your messages
- Integrate your social media strategy
- Encourage feedback
A mobile-friendly email is an email that displays optimally between phones and desktops. The best place to start with mobile optimization is with a responsive website design. A responsive web design allows mobile users to have the same experience as desktop browsers. According to a study by Smart Insights, emails sent by restaurants have a 63% open rate from mobile phones. Making your emails mobile friendly is no longer a nice thing to have; its a must. More and more Americans are spending time on their phones. In fact, Americans spent an average of 10 hours per day to screen time in 2016—and it’s only growing. If your emails are not mobile friendly, you are missing out on engaging your audience and driving results.
It’s important to optimize your emails for phones as well. Here are some essentials tips for keeping your emails more mobile friendly:
- Use a single column template
- Using simple email templates is generally best practice due to the limited amount of space you have on a phone. This keeps the email clean and user friendly. You don’t want your customers to struggle with zooming in and out trying to read the email.
- Write creative, but simple subject lines
- This is the headline of your email. It must capture attention, incentivizing your customers to open it. Optimizing your subject lines by device type is also another email marketing best practice. This helps make the email more readable and clean on those devices.
- Include CTAs
- Tell your customers exactly what to do with a call-to-action button somewhere in the email. Keep it simple too, for example, ‘RSVP now’ or ‘Get Coupon’.
- Test emails on different devices
- Before sending your email out, make sure to test the email on multiple devices to make sure it works on iPhones, Androids, etc.
If manually taking on the email strategy sounds like a big effort, then invest in an email service provider to take care of the busy work. An email service provider (ESP) takes care of the online service and management side of sending emails to a broad audience. An ESP can recommend/provide email templates, databases for emails, automated email scheduling, analytic tools for reviewing success, and more advantages.
Business owners do not have to worry about the programming and digital aspects of working in the online world. Instead, an ESP allows them to focus on their design and content, leaving the technical details to professionals. Some ESPs, like Fishbowl and Bridg, specialize in restaurants with features specifically geared toward the industry.
Logically, you need emails to target your campaign. While many businesses rely on the internet to find clients, as restaurant professionals, you have a unique opportunity of meeting your customers in person as well.
The best place to solicit emails is in your restaurant itself. Your customers are on-site, have experienced your food and services, and are predisposed to want to come back.
Offering a way to personally contact them while they are “hot leads” is an ideal scenario. You can ask for emails without being pushy by:
- including a comment card with the check that has space for email addresses;
- leaving a tasteful sign-up form near your hosting station or waiting area;
- printing your website address on the receipt with an email sign-up reminder;
- offering a raffle draw where customers drop their email address in a handy bowl.
Online, you can collect addresses through sign-up forms on your website. This format can be especially successful if you offer an incentive like a dining coupon.
Marketing emails fall into three general categories: confirmation, promotional, and relational. You should have email content ready to go when people sign-up. Schedule it to send at regular intervals, and fill it with content that will prompt someone to respond or make a reservation.
- Confirmation: As soon as someone provides an email address, you should have a sincere, welcoming email to send. The email will remind recipients who you are, thank them for signing up, and encourage them to return to your restaurant.=
- Promotional: Promotional emails will center around specific events and ideas. They can include value coupons, refer-a-friend offers, or invites to special events. You can keep people up to date on new menu items, tasting menus, live music if you have it, or any other information intended to entice the customer to return.
- Relational: Dining out is a social activity, and customers love to build a personal relationship with the places they frequent. Relational emails take a more informational approach, like telling the story of how your restaurant came to be. It can also be used to introduce new and existing staff, educate clients on food topics like wine tasting or how to create a dish, or simply wish people a healthy celebration on an upcoming holiday.
Each customer is unique, therefore each email needs to be unique! Segmenting your list according to the demographics of your customers is the first step in email personalization. Grouping your contacts by gender, age, location, purchase history or any other information you have can allow you to send emails that are more in-tune to your customer’s needs.
Does this seem like more work for you? It doesn’t have to be! Email service providers usually have features to automate personalization for you. If you are looking to save time, then automation is a must. These features can even allow you to set up triggers so that emails that are pre-made can be sent to customers that meet a certain condition. The next time you have a special to promote, make your messaging appealing through demographics and personalization.
Even though social media and emails are different platforms, they can still work together to form a great strategy. Social media is a great tool to expand reach and build up your brand. The audience and traffic you receive on social media can also build your email list. You can also post about your email sign-up on different platforms in a variety of ways. For example, you can create a call-to-action on your Facebook page which adds a sign-up form on your page.
This strategy also works vice-versa. Let your email subscribers know to follow your restaurant’s Instagram or Facebook page. It’s easy to add social media buttons in your emails that lead your customers to your various pages. Encourage your email subscribers to check out your social media platforms to gain more traffic and visibility.
It’s important to let your customers have direct access to your restaurant in regards to questions and feedback. Adding survey’s in your emails can be a great way to get insights on what customers think of your restaurant. When creating your own feedback email, stick to simple designs so that users can easily click the call-to-action button and fill out the survey.
The insights that you collect can also make for great reviews to post on your restaurant’s website or other review platforms. Online reviews can help with brand trust and beat out the competition. You could send an email after someone purchases something from your restaurant asking for a review of their experience. You’d be surprised by how often customers are willing to provide their feedback; positive and negative.
Learn & experiment with restaurant marketing campaigns
With the basic strategy under your belt, you can develop an email campaign suited to your particular needs and customers. Keep track of how people respond with email open rates, successful responses, and various feedback by learning how to use your ESP analytics data.
Over time, you will become an expert at targeting your customers to your best advantage and start to reap the cost-effective benefits of hitting the “send” button.
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