Email Marketing: Keeping in Touch Regularly With Your Restaurant Clients


Many of you will shake your heads when reading the title of this blog. After all, you are in the restaurant business, not in the email marketing business, right?

However, let me tell you something that may shock you: you are in the sales business. If you don’t sell your food and beverages, nothing else counts so you need to apply the same marketing and sales techniques than the rest of the business use.

Email marketing is one of the most effective communication and promotion vehicles in the Internet. 90% of Internet users and 56% of all Americans use email on a regular basis (source: e-marketeer Aug. 2006). Restaurants can benefit from email marketing because it’s fast, direct, cost-effective, and builds loyal relationships with your clients. Restaurant email marketing is, perhaps, one of the lowest cost marketing vehicles available to the restaurant industry to book tables and build customer relationships. High quality email campaigns can deliver effective messages that drive action and clients to your restaurant.

Email marketing can be a tricky proposition. People hate email spam and often they delete any email that they don’t think is useful or interesting to them. For your email campaigns to be truly effective, they must be managed properly and conducted in a professional manner. This article provides restaurateurs with some practical tips for conducting effective email marketing campaigns that maximize their return on investment.

If you want your restaurant email marketing to be effective, it’s important for you to develop a targeted, permission-based database. Email addresses can be collected either on your restaurant’s website or at your place when your clients are eating. Let’s look at both:

1.- Create an opt-in form on your website so that visitors to your site can sign up for specials and promotional offers. (If you don’t know how to do this, ask your web site designer to do it for you.)

You may want to offer an additional incentive to sign up, such as coupons, etc. I propose to give discounts or gift certificates as an incentive to capture email information.

Once your visitors hit “Send” on the opt-in form, they receive a confirmation email verifying that they have been added to your mailing list. If they are not interested in getting your emails, they can simply “unsubscribe.” You need to always give your clients the ability to easily unsubscribe from your emailing list in case they think that your emails don’t give them enough value.

To automate this process, you will use what it’s called Autoresponders. (Please read my previous blog for more information about autoresponders)

Basically, an autoresponder is a computer program that automatically answers e-mail sent to it.

Studies show that it takes, on average, at least five or more contacts with most of your potential customers before they finally decide to buy, or in this case, to go to your restaurant.

They get busy and forget. Or they haven’t really absorbed what your offer can do for them…

Using an autoresponder system, you can send emails to the people who subscribe to your site on the schedule you set. Usually, you will send the first email with the coupon the same day they subscribe to your list. Then, three days later you can send them a reminder to visit you place (if they haven’t already done so). You can track whether or not they visit you and delete these customers from your autoresponder, although you may still want to keep them in your list. If they still didn’t come to your place, you can follow up with another autoresponder a week after that.

Meanwhile, you’re off running your restaurant as all these processes happens in the backend. You don’t have to make sales calls or remember to email your potential customers. You don’t even have to enter each new prospect into your database; even that is automatic. All you have to do is keep track of the new customers coming to your restaurant and delete them from your initial autoresponders so that they don’t get annoyed by your automatic emails reminding them to visit your place, since they already did.

This is what a “sequential autoresponder” can do for your business. That’s a fancy name for a system that automatically sends a series of emails that you set up once, and then walk away to let it work all by itself. You load your messages, designed to build one upon the other… the prospect opts in to get your discount coupon… and without any other work on your part, that prospect receives a series of personally addressed mailings on the schedule you’ve set, until the series is complete or until that prospect unsubscribes from your list.

With an autoresponder program, you can also monitor how many emails are opened, how any readers click through, what geographic regions bring the best responses, and more.

You can use this system all sorts of creative and profitable ways. A few examples:

• Deliver a series of staggered reminders to use the coupon that they’ve received when they subscribed.
• Send your regular daily, weekly, or monthly newsletter.
• Start a reminder service to keep you and your staff aware of your customers’ important birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
• Communicate your specials, events, etc.

2.- Collect email addresses at your restaurant.

In addition to collecting addresses on your website, you can also collect email addresses at your restaurant. Approach your happy clients at the end of their meals and ask them for permission (on an opt-in card) to get their emails so that you can send them information, discounts, coupons, etc. via email.

Or better yet, you can use a nifty gadget called Sterizon wiZit. The Sterizon wiZit is a small wireless, portable, handheld WiFi device for collecting customer information and feedback at your restaurant. You just hand out the device to your clients, and they will enter the information themselves. No spelling mistakes, no errors with emails, they do the job for you.

If you have done your homework and have provided your clients with a memorable eating experience, they will most likely willing to share their emails with you.

Now, this is very important: Enter the information of that client directly on your website form (or ask somebody from your staff to do it for you). By following this process, you assure that all the information is collected in the central database, and that they are legitimate email addresses following the opt-in process.

Now what do you supposed to do with all these emails?

When you send emails, please try not to make them an obvious sales pitch. People hate to be told what to buy or where to go for a dinner. Instead, use email to communicate with your clients as follows:

Some examples could be a special event or gala hosted to raise money for charity, a special wine dinner, etc. You can also announce festivity specials such as Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Holidays, Christmas, etc.

Not only they will appreciate your thoughtfulness, but they will also probably honor the coupon and bring along lots of family and/or friends to celebrate at your place!

Please notice that if you have the mailing address of your clients, it is better (and classier) to send them a printed coupon with a personal Happy B-day letter or card. You can have these cards pre-printed, and just be sure to add a personalized note with the name of your client. Use email only when this is the only contact information that you have about your clients.

As you can see, Restaurant Email Marketing can be used very effectively to bring clients back to your restaurant and keep your place fresh in their minds, so that they will book your place instead of somebody else’s when they think about their next meal out, specially if you give them the motivation via discounts or gift certificates.

With your email campaigns, you will also build stronger relationships with your clients and they will have an opportunity to give you feedback that you can act on and improve upon.

It’s a win/win situation for both of you!

Happy meals,
Jose L Riesco
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

How Newspapers Going Out of Business Impact Your Restaurant Marketing

The Seattle Post Intelligence, one of the two still remaining daily newspapers in the Seattle area, just published the following (bad) news:

“After 146 years of delivering news, the Seattle P-I faces becoming what it has chronicled: history. The Hearst Corp., said Friday that it has put the paper up for sale, and it will stop publishing unless someone buys it in 60 days.”
 
This is not the first and won’t be the last newspaper to bite the dust. And what does this have to do with your restaurant you may ask?
 
Plenty, please bear with me and keep on reading.
 
This is the sign that more and more people are looking for their news online (actually the Seattle PI is thinking about having a Web only presence) and buying less and less newspapers and printed magazines.
 
PC Magazine was another casualty of the Web. They’ve stopped printing their magazine (to which I was a subscriber) in January 1st this year and they have an only Web presence now.
 
The reason why the printed media is becoming extinct is because their main source of revenue: advertising is dying.
 
Most newspapers and magazines can’t cover costs by selling them to their readers or subscribers. The revenue making piece is (or was) their advertising. Since more and more advertisers are taking their business online, the traditional media is getting less and less revenues from their printed versions.
 
Consider the damage that online classified ads such as Craiglist (free for everyone to post and read most of the ads) has done to newspapers where people used to pay quite a lot to run an ad. All the sudden people are not paying anymore for posting printed ads since they can reach an even larger audience and change the ads on the fly (or retract them once they sell the items). And the best part is that they can do all of this for free!
 
Now, going back to your restaurant. This should hint you several important trends for your businenss:
 
If you ares till spending money in printed ads (in newspapers, magazines and yellow pages, for example), you are probably wasting your money and reaching less and less of your potential customers.

  • You must have an online marketing plan with as many as the following offerings as possible:
  • A streamlined and excellent website
  • An email list of your clients where you send them updated information about your restaurant
  • Presence in Social Networks such as FaceBook or MySpace
  • A Twitter account where you send updates, discounts and interesting news to your followers
  • Online booking system
  • etc.

Your customers are online. They go online to look for news, for reviews and for recommendations about restaurant. You better be online as well to check what they are reading and commenting about your place.

There are things that you can do to improve your reviews and ratings but above all, you must always keep your clients happy and provide them with excellent food and service. Compensate them for any mistakes or issues and don’t even give them a reason to write a bad review about your place.

An online bad review will mean a loss of potential customers who will read the reviews and decide to take their business elsewhere.

Reviews are also a great direct feedback. Try to respond to it and take action so that you won’t repeat the same mistakes again in the future.

So there you have it.

Always be alert about the continously changing marketplace and try to be one step ahead of your competitors. You need to adverstise and market where your customers are.

Statistics tell us that most of them are online now so you should be there as well.
 
Happy sailing,
Jose L. Riesco

Restaurant Marketing Top 20 Questions and Answers Free Videos

Hello everyone,

Today, after a long and hard work, I finally managed to finalized and upload to my website 20 videos (actually there are 3 extra ones but these don’t count) with questions and answers about restaurant marketing.

You see? For several months now I’ve compiled questions and concerns that restaurateurs, just like yourself, asked me when they subscribed to my free Restaurant Marketing Strategies Newsletter and Book Summary.

Then, I’ve categorized the questions and selected the top 10 questions that restaurateurs asked me. To answer the questions, I’ve created 10 short videos (2 to 5 minutes each).

But I still wanted to do more to help you with your marketing, so I decided to create another 10 videos with the top questions that restaurateurs should ask me about Restaurant Marketing and my answers to these. These 10 additional Questions and Answers follow the chapters of my Restaurant Marketing Strategies Book.

So the total number of videos is 20 and the best of all is that they are all free for you to get.

That’s right; you just need to go to my website www.myrestaurantmarketing.com and enter your name and email and you will get right away the first video as well as my Restaurant Marketing Strategies Book Summary.

You will also get subscribed to my Restaurant Marketing Strategies monthly newsletter.

I hope that you find the videos useful. Again, they are all free for you.

Happy Sailing,

Jose L Riesco

Having Other People Writing Content for Your Restaurant’s Blog, Website or Newsletter

So you have a website and, since you have done your homework, you have also a subscription form where you capture your visitor’s names and email on exchange from some freebies or discounts to try your restaurant (because you do this don’t you?).

So now what can you do with all these names and emails?

Well, of course, you are going to send them newsletters, or emails or refer them to your blogs to keep your restaurant fresh in their minds.

But, who has the time to write all the content for the newsletter or blog?

You can write some of it, specially if you talk about your new staff, your offers, events or any other special celebration that happens at your place since this is your turf as the restaurant owner or manager.

So what can you do if you don’t have any event or special celebration or any other interesting news to share with your clients?

Easy: you can borrow content.

Yes, that’s right; there are hundreds if not thousands of bloggers out there who write regularly (unfortunately I am not one of them, I should dedicate some more time to write my blogs) and will be more than happy to share their content with you, on exchange for a link in your website or acknowledgment of their contribution

Whatever topic you can think of, there are somebody in the blogosphere writing about it.

So think about topics that you can include in your regular emails or newsletters, or if you have a blog yourself, in your blog.

For example do you have an ethnic restaurant? Then you can write about your country, or your specific region or about some interesting information about the foods and drinks that you sell in your restaurant.

What about if you have an all American restaurant or a fast food place? You can still write interesting facts about your area, recipes related with the food that you serve, etc.

So where can you find bloggers willing to share their stories with you?

Fortunately there are many resources available in the Web that can help you find the perfect blog for your content.

You may want to check out http://www.blogcatalog.com/ it is one of the largest blog directories on the Internet.

If you want to use the king of search engines, Google also has a blog specific search engine. You can find it at: http://blogsearch.google.com/

Another popular way to search the blogosphere is Technorati. In their directory at: http://technorati.com/blogs/directory/ you can find a Food and Wine category that can help you out.

These are just a few examples, there are many more. Just do a search, browse the blogs and, when you find one that talks about topics that you think would be interesting for your clients, contact the blogger and offer to publish their blog in your site/newsletter/email/website on exchange for full credit and a link to their own blog. Most of them would be very happy to do so.

So here you have it. Keep in touch with your clients and get free content to share with them.

This is a win/win proposition.

Happy sailing,

Jose L Riesco
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Follow me in Twitter: http://twitter.com/jlriesco