Email marketing continues to be one of the best ways restaurants can market to customers. It is generally cheaper than print advertising, whose effectiveness has waned considerably in recent years.
And while social media advertising can still be an important aspect of your online marketing, it’s important to remember not all consumers are active users of Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. However, nearly everyone has an email address. Simply put, restaurant email marketing has the potential to reach the widest, most engaged audience and improve your restaurant sales.
As you started, set up your email marketing to work for you:
- Look for a professional email software that you know is reliable, responsive, and offers detailed analytics.
- Prominently feature an email subscription link on your website.
- Be sure you’ve collected enough addresses to make emailing regularly a worthwhile marketing expense for your restaurant.
Once you have your system set up and your email list building, take time to create an email content strategy that is sure to entice your customers to become regular readers. This will encourage them to become loyal restaurant guests. The following tips can help you develop a winning email marketing plan:
Offer added value
Too many businesses send out emails that don’t include anything useful for the customer. A “Happy ____ Day!” holiday message can seem like a friendly way to engage with your recent guests. But it can actually be a turn off if that’s all there is to the email. After all, when a subscriber gets dozens of emails every day, the last thing they want is a message with no added value cluttering their inbox.
Each marketing message — from social media to print ads to email marketing — should be relevant and compelling. And, it doesn’t always have to be a discount or special offer. You could email to let them know about a new menu item, a special event at the restaurant, or a seasonal favorite making its return. Or inform your patrons of a direct benefit to them, like your new Happy Hour schedule or the opening of your outdoor patio.
With email marketing, you always want to give your customer an incentive to choose you over your competition for their next meal. Not only does that drive more business to your restaurant, but a consistent series of incentives can make your email subscribers more likely to open future emails from you. After all, they know you’re likely to offer them something beneficial. Don’t forget to include whatever you’re offering as part of the subject line — that will give the email the best shot to be opened by the customer.
Your brand, your voice
Tone can be a tricky thing for any business owner jumping into marketing their business — online or off. After all, if you’re too serious or boring, then you might not get noticed. But if you push your campaign over the top, you may come off as disingenuous or worse, ridiculous.
A good rule of thumb is to look at the atmosphere in your restaurant and craft a message that feels natural to that environment. What kind of energy are you bringing to your customers on a day-to-day basis? Comfortable fast casual? Formal dining? High energy, family-focused fare? And what kind of energy are they bringing to you? Let your restaurant’s brand and your existing relationship with your customers be your guide.
YourKeep it short and scannable
The average consumer is not going to read huge blocks of text in promotional emails. They want you to get to the point because believe it or not, most of us don’t actually read email or webpages thoroughly. We skim. And the more words you put on a page, the more likely it is the important ones will get lost.
With that in mind, less is definitely more for your restaurant emails. Include a persuasive subject line, a good title within the email itself, and then two to four sentences explaining what the email is about. Bolding the most important phrases in the email (for instance “25% off your next meal” or “Our great new summer menu”) draws the eye to what you want your customer to see. To ensure the most impact, limit bolding to one or two instances in an email.
Include a call to action
If you’re offering something beneficial to the customer, you have the right tone, and you’ve kept the wording short and sweet, you’re almost there. But don’t forget one of the most crucial steps to any good online marketing campaign: the call to action (CTA). This is the direction you give the reader on what to do next. That could be, “Call us today to make reservations!” and show your phone number. It could also be, “Check out our menu” with a link to the menu page on your website.
Be direct with an action for them to accomplish. Your CTA should be a compelling imperative statement, not simply a suggestion. It’s the difference between saying, “Visit our website” and “Here is our website link.”
Please note that wherever the CTA takes the customer should have the same tone and professionalism as the email itself. That means if you’re sending them to your website, it should be up-to-date and on-brand.
Limit frequency for maximum impact
A big mistake for many restaurants is overdoing any one kind of marketing. This is particularly true with email marketing. Because it’s less expensive than other channels, restaurant managers may be tempted to go overboard using it. But flooding your customers’ email inboxes with messages won’t necessarily turn into more guest visits.
In fact, sending a customer too many emails — even from a restaurant whose food they love — can have the opposite result. Recipients could start deleting your emails without opening them, unsubscribe, or even stop visiting your restaurant altogether. You don’t want to give your restaurant a reputation for being too pushy with the very marketing designed to bring in business.
Generally, restaurant email subscriptions should stick to between once a week to once a month. Some of this depends on how much time you want to put into email marketing. Composing successful email promotions takes time, and you might not have the bandwidth to devote to weekly sends.
Your send frequency may also depend on what you’re promoting. Do you have a weekly rotating menu item you want to highlight? Then it makes sense to send an email each week. Do you have a monthly / holiday themed special offer? Then monthly emails work perfectly. Of course, if you have a special announcement or specific information you want to share with your client base (such as your new brunch menu for Mother’s Day), sending out an extra email for that particular week is probably fine. But whatever email topic you choose, just make sure it’s connected to something that the customer can see as a benefit.
You can also schedule your emails in terms of the cycle of your customer base. If you’re a fast casual lunch place that customers visit regularly, having a weekly email set up could be viable. If you’re a more expensive, high-end restaurant and a good portion of your guests only visit on special occasions, then a less frequent email schedule is probably best.
Of course, these scheduling suggestions are a good place to start, but keeping track of your email analytics (which your email software should provide, but make sure to check before you buy into any particular system) is crucial to seeing how successful your email strategy is. You don’t want to blindly send out emails for months without knowing if the emails are actually effective. If you see open rates decreasing or unsubscribes increasing, it’s time to consider adjusting your strategy.
That being said …
When dealing with online analytics, consistency is an important first step. Being able to adjust your email scheduling at any point is a common feature of most email software for business — and a very convenient one at that. However frequently you decide to make your email marketing, though, it’s best if you stick to a set schedule for a while. That way, you can easily see how the specific tactics you’re using are working, and then adjust to get the best possible results.
A few final words
While your goal is to entice your guest to come back, your emails should always include a way for them to opt out of subscribing. After all, email subscriptions will only work to bring in the customer if they are perceived as relevant and timely. If the customer doesn’t find them helpful, being unable to unsubscribe easily will only cause frustration.
Remember, even if patrons aren’t interested in getting more emails from your business, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will stop visiting your restaurant — in fact, offering them a simple way to unsubscribe shows that you listen to your customers and pay attention to their requests.
When it comes to restaurant email marketing, so much of it comes down to putting in the thought, time, and funds to customize your emails with your restaurant guests’ needs in mind.
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