What does everyone read every single day and can’t get away from? If you were answering in 1986, you might say “the newspaper.” Today, it’s email.
And like the newspaper in 1986, email has become the primary way successful businesses market to their customers. Why? Because when you want to sell yourself to a customer, you go to them. You don’t wait for them to come to you.
That said, successful email marketing for your business depends on how much thought and attention you put into the effort — from pulling them in with the subject line all the way down to getting that click-through. We’ve assembled nine big tips and tricks for navigating the science (and art) of email marketing to your restaurant customers, beginning — appropriately enough — at the beginning:
1. Grab their attention immediately.
Perhaps the most important element of your promotional email is the subject line, if only because your customer will never read anything you have to say if they don’t make it past that. You want something that’s compelling, inspires curiosity, reflects what will actually be inside the email if they open it, and doesn’t feel manipulative. Questions tend to work well, as do trailing thoughts that end with ellipses (…).
What you want to avoid is having something more than 40-50 characters in length, or it may get cut off in many email browsers. Also avoid phrases that will be read automatically as spam. To avoid having your emails trashed before they even hit your customer’s inbox, stay away from words like “money,” “free,” “cash,” or dollar signs ($).
2. Match your brand tone.
It’s important that the look and feel of your emails reflects the experience a diner will have in your establishment. Using the same colors and tone of your menu and website — even your restaurant’s decor — can make the entire brand experience feel more cohesive.
Your emails should feel like YOU, even if your customer doesn’t read your name in the “From” field. If your restaurant is a super laid-back, casual family diner, don’t use script and stodgy words in your email. Likewise, if you run a five-star fine dining establishment, animated dancing hamburgers and wild colors in your email design may not be the way to go.
3. Have something of value to offer.
Everybody wants something. Believe it or not, even the time your customer spent opening and reading your email is valuable to them. Don’t make them feel like they wasted their time.
That being said, you don’t have to include coupons and special discount codes if you feel that undermines the value of your menu and brand. Value doesn’t always have to be financial. Letting your patrons know about Happy Hour specials, a night of special entertainment, or a brand new menu item could be enough reason to draw their interest — and ultimately, their presence at your table.
Essentially, make sure the content of your email (and all other marketing) has value that is either a) useful or b) transactional.
4. Use as few words as possible.
We read A LOT in 2016. So much so that the competition for our attention in our daily lives has become fierce. Email is not a passive form of marketing, like television commercials used to be, where consumers are forced to absorb them whether they choose to or not. If your marketing is uninteresting or too much work, your audience can just unsubscribe from your emails. And that’s the last you’ll be talking to them.
Keep copy concise and simple. Use shorter words. Speak at an eighth grade level, because even those with higher levels of education tend to absorb text more fluidly when written at a lower education level. Don’t write run-on sentences and use 2-3 sentences MAX. It may seem counterintuitive to you, but it’s the truth: less copy tells a better story than more.
5. Show, don’t tell.
All the more reason to use less copy: let your image do the talking. High quality photographs of your establishment — or even more enticing, your food — can interest email recipients far more than a wall of text. Why? Because we are, at our root, visual beings that respond emotionally to images with much less effort than it takes to read. The goal of your email marketing shouldn’t be to make your diners have to work to want to visit.
Again, photos of your food could be your biggest selling point. Take it easy and appeal to their basest instinct: hunger. A beautifully lit and perfectly crafted image of a cheeseburger or frosty, salt-rimmed margarita glass will drive more customers to you than any headline.
6. Call customers to action.
Every email you send should have one goal. Not two. Not three. One.
That goal is usually to get the recipient to do something immediately. It’s too lofty a goal to expect someone to read your email, drop everything they’re doing, and drive over to your restaurant. But asking customers to visit your website, call to make a reservation, or explore your menu are all reasonable tasks. As mentioned above, this is made easier if you provide the user with useful or transactional value that will entice them to follow through on that specific goal of the email.
No matter what the goal is, make sure everything in the email is driving toward that one action. Have one button, easily seen and big enough to tap with a finger on a smartphone, that clearly asks them to do whatever it is you want them to do.
7. Make sure the click is worth it.
And once a customer does whatever it is you want them to do, make sure what they get out of it is worth their energy. If it’s to visit your website, ensure the transition is visually smooth, with similar look and feel to the email they just left. If it’s to call your reservation line, make sure someone is there to answer immediately and give them the attention they expect. If it’s to read your menu, provide them a page that’s easy to read both on desktop and mobile, and preferably coded in HTML, rather than a downloadable PDF.
8. Time it right.
Figuring out when the best time to email your customers — and how frequently — can be tricky, and depends largely on the type of clientele you’re looking to draw.
If you are primarily a business lunch venue, emailing early in the morning will get your message in inboxes during the recipient’s morning coffee, and likely right before making lunchtime reservations. If you typically draw in weekend crowds, emailing Tuesday or Wednesday (so customers can prepare their plans with friends) is a great way to go.
Whatever you do, try not to email customers more than once a week. More often than that, and recipients could feel like you’re flooding their accounts — a turn-off that could make them think twice about their next visit.
9. Target the right people.
Ultimately, whom you email is going to make or break the effort that goes behind your email marketing effort. Collecting email addresses from your customers takes a lot of time and effort, and only grants you the opportunity to retain existing customers for return visits, not drive in new ones.
Email marketing through Rewards Network not only helps your restaurant reach beyond your existing customer base to new customers — loyalty program members that spend 25% more on average per check than other customers — but we reward all our members on your behalf.
To find out more about how Rewards Network can boost your marketing presence — and your bottom line by a consistent, monthly 4-6% — explore our Marketing Services program now: