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Restaurant Email Marketing 101: Segmenting, Technology and More

It’s all about communication!

Running a business, building the relationship with your guests and getting them right back in the door is something every restaurant owner hopes to achieve. Whether you’re an old pro or you’ve heard that “email marketing is dying” we’re going to talk about the true value of email and direct to consumer marketing.

Email marketing gives you the opportunity to communicate one-on-one with your guests. The truth is, people don’t just give up their email willingly – they usually expect something in return for handing over their information. Amazingly enough (this might sound passé) but email is KING, to be able to talk one-on-one with your guests. They have given you access to their inbox and said the magic words “talk to me”. That is the key, we must be focused on talking to consumers, not just selling to them. If done right, this gives your restaurant a competitive advantage and changes the relationship between you and your customer.

Paying attention to your audience

Email allows you to personalize and customize messages based on interests and likes above any other type of marketing. How do you tell who you’re talking to in your emails? Ask them questions! The more information you can gain about your listeners, the more catered your discussion can become, and ultimately the more successful your campaigns will be. For example, the messaging you will use to speak to a bachelor or young couple will be very different from the message you will send to guests with families, and still again very different for seniors. These people eat at different times, they eat different foods, and are ultimately looking for different things from your restaurant.

Digging into your audience doesn’t have to take expensive tools and databases, it can be as simple as someone sitting at your front counter with a clicker – separating your audience into a few basic categories.

Great! Now you know who your audience is, what can you provide to them?

Try this exercise… sit and write down the ideal visit and purchase cycle for each user. For example, maybe a young single guest or couple without kids will come once, then return with friends and join your beer club, then come again and try a few new beers. A family of four may come in, have a quick drama-free experience and then return within the next week or two weeks because you made that trip delightful. You are now developing very specific paths you would like each type of audience to make, and from that you can start to develop your custom-tailored messaging.

How to capture emails from restaurant diners

Great, you know what you’re going to say, and who you’re going to say it to. Uh oh, you can’t email anyone if you don’t have their email address. We’re here to help. There are several tactics to get this jump started.

  • A fishbowl with a lunch giveaway
  • Take our survey with email capture
  • Print email signups on the bottom of the check or receipt
  • Use free WiFi sign in to capture email
  • Free appetizer in the next 30 days
  • MANY more

A quick Google will return hundreds of creative ideas that will help you increase your signup rates, these are just some of the most successful we’ve seen. Check and see what works best for your audience, try a few! Make sure that whatever avenue you use to capture you are asking those audience questions when you capture. Just one or two simple questions will really start to segment your audience into marketable groups. Doing this upfront will drastically lower your bounce rate and allow you to customize the message so that you get far fewer unsubscribes.

Let’s do the math, if you spend $2.00 on a giveaway/appetizer item to capture 200 emails, for a total cost of $400 then you send a very specific tailored campaign to those customers and net $2000 in increased revenue you’ve already well made up the cost. But you aren’t done yet… consider that these email addresses can continue to be used for months and years to come.

How to drive sales with email marketing

Your messaging can go far beyond coupons and special offers. Those are always persuasive, but think beyond the sale. You want to build deep, meaningful relationships with your customers. For example, if you operate a brewery, you could offer an opportunity to join you with “Come meet the brewers this Saturday and get a brewery tour!”. CPK has been known to offer an opportunity to Girl Scouts to come make pizza before the store opens. Get creative! This messaging should be about educating customers about your brand, offering them opportunities, stories and topics they want to hear about and keeping your restaurant top of mind.

What emails to send to your restaurant customers

Our recommended rhythm for email marketing is value, value, sell. This means for every two emails that offer some type of unique value (local, charity, community, clubs, tours) you can include a direct sell email (coupons, discount days, discount products). If you continuously only sell, then you don’t build value or relationship around the brand. If you continually value without the sell, you never push the sell and you’ve done all of this for nothing.

Value email ideas:

  • Local – “meet the chef”, “meet the farmers”
  • Charity – events and fundraisers
  • Community Service – “join us for beach cleanup”, “join us for community garden”
  • Beer or Wine Clubs – offer an opportunity for “meet the maker” or “beer of the month” events.
  • Kitchen tours – “how to break down a side of beef” or “how to fillet a fish”

Sell email ideas:

  • Coupons (15% off, BoGo)
  • Discount Days (half off Wednesday)
  • Happy Hour specials
  • Product specials
  • New plate offers

Email automation tools for restaurants

Build it once, send it hundreds of times – right when it needs to be sent. From MailChimp to Constant Contact, these complex systems can take some time to set up, but are well worth the effort. These tools allow you to space out timing and value, value, sell rhythm based on schedules (maybe for families you add summer, later dining specials when kids are out of school and up later). Can’t manage the tools? There are lots of local marketing agencies that can help out.

There is a company called Fishbowl that has geared its entire business for email marketing for restaurants. This is not a free system, but they really know the industry and can be a great resource for restaurateurs who are short on time.

A few definitions

A drip campaign is a series of emails that are pre-set up to send out over a pre-defined period of time to a pre-defined audience. For this, you typically pick dates in advance and know exactly who is getting the message and when.

A trigger campaign fires off when a specific trigger or event happens – maybe someone signs up for a loyalty campaign or beer club. These are a predefined series of emails (could be any number of emails) that are time-released. You set this up once, and they release as your users over a series of weeks or months. The thing that differentiates this from drip campaigns is that each user is on their own schedule, and these are running to several different people on different timelines.

An A/B test is a way of testing something (for example an email subject line) to see which of two subject lines gets a higher number of opens or clicks to a small segment of your list, and then the winner of the two gets sent to the remainder of your audience.

Some final tips

  • Use simple language, make sure even a caveman could understand! Stay away from industry jargon.
  • Have a clear call to action – let the user know what you want them to do
  • Get key messaging near the top portion of your email
  • Use attractive graphics that support your brand

Email is an amazing value driving tool to tell the exact audience what they need to hear right when they need to hear it to build relationships and ultimately drive sales. Now get building that list!

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July 12, 2017|News & Events|

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