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

Promoting Your Restaurant in Twitter

Andy Lynes in his latest blog in Big-hospitality: www.bighospitality.co.uk talks about the success of some restaurants using Twitter to promote their businesses.

You can read his blog here: http://www.bighospitality.co.uk/item/3072/23/5/3

Twitter, with more than 6 million unique visitors (UV) a month is the fastest growing Social Network Site. In the attached table you can see how it grew from number 22 to number 3 in a year (and this data is 3 moths old!):
Twitter stats

Although Twitter can’t compete (yet) with Face-book or MySpace in the sheer number of users, it has an advantage that the other two social media sites don’t have: immediacy

When you send a Tweet (a Tweet is a short Twitter message, up to 140 characters), your followers immediately receive it. This gives you a great opportunity to broadcast pertinent information to them.

For example, are you having a slow lunch day?

You can tweet your followers a message announcing that if they go to your restaurant within the next hour, and tell your servers that they saw this offer in Twitter, you will give them a free dessert, (or a 10% discount, or whatever attractive offer you want to make to attract people).

In this way, not only you can capture new customers in slow days/hours but you can also track Twitter’s results. You will know how many of your new customers are coming because of Twitter, (they will tell you!).

And the best of all, it’s that you will do all of this in a very inexpensive (Twitter is free to use so you’ll only absorb the cost of the discount) and interactive way. It surely beats mailing coupons (with the high cost of printing and mailing) and gives you the freedom to totally adapt it to your hourly needs.

But Twitter is not just a US phenomena. Its popularity Worldwide is spreading very fast. In this chart you can see the breakdown of the top 10 countries. So if you restaurant is in any of these countries

you better start Twittering to them.
Twitter penetration
Some other useful information is to know who is using Twitter. This site: http://www.istrategylabs.com/twitter-2009-demographics-and-statistics/ shows very interesting Twitter statistics broke down by sex, age, ethnicity, kids/no kids households, and average income and education. Very interesting information if you use Twitter (or are planning to use it) to target your audience.

So my question to you is: Are you using Twitter to reach your clients (or followers) to promote your restaurant?

If not, you are missing a great a free tool. It totally makes sense that you use this tool to reach to your customers; after all, they are already using Twitter!

Since I know that technology can be sometimes intimidating, and there are so many ways to use Twitter (including many to waste an incredible amount of time with this tool), I am creating a report called: “How to Use Twitter to Promote Your Restaurant”. In this report I explain step by step how to setup a Twitter account, how to use free tools to create a targeted list of followers, how to communicate with them and how to maximize the power of Twitter to promote your restaurant. I included lots of screen captures to help you with the whole process. I think you’ll love it, and the best of all, it will be very inexpensive.

I will announce here when it’s ready.

Have a great day,
Jose L Riesco (www.twitter.com/jlriesco )

Converting Prospect Into Loyal Restaurant Clients

Every time a new person walks in the door, your front of the house personnel (hostess or servers) should have been trained by you to approach them and ask them if this is their first time in your restaurant.

“Is this your first time in our restaurant?  Well let me tell you about us…”

Ask your staff to pitch about the restaurant, about you, how did you started, where did you get the recipes, anything that it’s personal and differentiates your restaurant from your competitors (and by the way, this is the perfect place to pitch your Unique Selling Proposition to your potential and future clients.)

The purpose of this buyer education is to create brand loyalty. Once your clients build a relationship with your restaurant, they are more likely to visit your place than your competitor’s. 

By knowing more about you and your business, you personalize their relationship and their loyalty with your restaurant.

This is why it’s also a good idea to have an online (or printed) quarterly or bimonthly newsletter so that you can give your clients interesting information about your place, your staff and your cuisine.

Restaurants Create Memories

Last week I was listening to my local NPR (National Public Radio) station. They were interviewing Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson about the closing of Trattoria Mitchell, a 32 years old restaurant located in the old Seattle neighborhood of Pioneer Square.

She was describing how sad she was that this old restaurant was closing because she fondly remembers her first dinner in that restaurant with her boyfriend when she moved to live in Seattle.

Yes, restaurants create memories. They are not just places where people go to fill in their tummies or have a drink. They are places where people go to have a conversation with friends, to share a good meal with people who they like and appreciate, to have a good time…

This is why it is so important that you focus your energy in creating great memories for your customers. Once you can provide your clients with emotions that they associate to your place, you will have won their hearts and souls forever.

This is also why it is so devastating when they don’t get the experience that they are looking for. If instead of a good memory shared with people that they care, they get a bad experience, in their minds that bad experience will multiply a hundred times. They will exaggerate small issues that for you are perhaps not that important and will become your worst critic.

They are not thinking logically, they are thinking emotionally and emotions provoke very strong feelings. You must try to mitigate any negative feelings by compensating your clients so that they come back to your place again and give you a second chance to give them an emotional experience.

Only this way you will have repeated clients willing to give you their money on exchange for a good time at your place.

Never let a customer leave your place unhappy. They won’t come back and won’t forgive you for giving them a bad experience.

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

Your Restaurant Marketing Needs to Be Creative in This Economy

In an economy where many people are trying to reduce spending, going out to eat is probably one of the first expenses to cut. Many restaurants are feeling the slowdown and seeing their revenues plummet these days.

So what can restaurateurs do to bring customers back?

First, let me tell you what you shouldn’t do: You shouldn’t reduce your marketing efforts to save money. Notice that I’ve said marking efforts, not marketing expenses.

Most restaurateurs are spending a lot in marketing without getting a good return of their investments. They are basically wasting their money.

So first thing that you need to do is sit down and look at all your marketing expenses. Make a list and eliminate the ones that you can’t measure and test. If the results are not tangible, you shouldn’t spend your money on them.

Next, categorize the rest starting with the ones that work the best and make sure that you keep on investing in these ones. Cutting down effective marketing campaigns is a big mistake in times of crisis, when customers need to hear from you more than ever.

Finally, try to come up with creative new marketing ideas that can bring you results and don’t need big investments.

Think for example how can you motivate your current customers so that they come back to your place. What incentives can you give them to bring them over again and again? Most people think coupons but there are many other mechanisms to keep people coming to your place. Here you have a few ideas:

  • Create a wine club and offer discounts in selected wines to your best clients.
  • Offer to reserve their favorite table if they book the place right after they finish their meals and before they leave your restaurant. Many people really love to have dinner in a specific table.
  • Make easy for them to make reservations via your website, OpenTable, Twitter, etc.
  • Offer them a special dish and tell them that it is not available to the regular customers, only to select clients (just like them). You can have a special dish made just for your best clients. People love to feel special.
  • If they don’t drink a whole bottle of wine, offer to give them a good wine by the glass that you normally don’t serve. You can use the same bottle for your frequent clients. Pick a good quality wine and don’t overcharge them for it. You can even charge them to just make a little profit. The idea is to attract them back so that they have a motivation to come to your place.

These are just a few ideas. As you can see, they don’t cost much to implement and can motivate your best clients to come back to your place.

Do you have more ideas? Share them in the comments field.

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

Restaurant Inefficiencies

Yesterday I went with my wife to meet some friends in the bar of a restaurant. It was Friday night and, although the crisis, the bar was packed. Perhaps because it was 5:15 p.m.: Happy Hour time.

The bar was just next to (and open to) the, restaurant, which was almost empty, just two tables were busy. So we went around trying to find our friends but they weren’t there yet. One restaurant manager came to us and told us that if wanted to enjoy the Happy Hour, we needed to wait in line. There was already a line of people forming by the entrance.

I politely asked the manager why they didn’t use the restaurant space, since it was empty and was still too early for dinner anyway. They could sit people there and tell them that happy hour will finish at 6 p.m. (which it did) and after that time they needed to leave the restaurant area and relocate to the bar if tables were needed. Probably by 6 p.m. many of the people in the bar would be done anyway because it was the ending time of the happy hour.

I thought that this was a fair agreement and we would be totally willing to take it. However, the guy looked at me like I was speaking Klingon. “Sorry Sir”, he told me, “but we can’t do that. The restaurant is for dinner only”. He took our names and asked us to wait.

Obviously, most of the people who were sited to enjoy the Happy Hour just arrived so they weren’t going to leave anytime soon.

Many of the people in the line behind us started to leave the place. Many other people came, asked, and then when told that they will have to wait also left.

One of our friends came and we talked about going somewhere else. Since we were next in line, we agreed that she will leave and looked around to find available space. Five minutes later, she called us and told us that she found available tables in a restaurant located one block from there. Of course, we also left the place and join her over there.

Now, think about it. This place had plenty of people leaving because they didn’t fit in the bar. It also had around 40 empty tables “waiting for people who may come or not for dinner”.

They were leaving money walking out the door!

Does this make any sense to you? It surely doesn’t make it to me.

They were blindly following some nonsensical rule that dinner tables were only for dinner, and letting people walk away while having empty tables. It would’ve been so easy for them to follow my recommendations and use the restaurant space… Instead, they preferred to stick to their guns and let people leave the place unhappy.

Now, if you follow my blogs, newsletters or read my book, you know how important is for restaurants to make their clients feel happy and special.

Do you think that they accomplished that? I don’t think so, I’m surely won’t go back to that place.

There is plenty of restaurants with bars and happy hours to make me happy without to be waiting in line next to empty tables.

Jose L Riesco
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

How Customers Are Looking for Restaurants

If you think that your potential customers will find your restaurant in the Yellow Pages, think again.

First watch this video, and then keep on reading…

Did you get it? People, (and not only young people, this also includes your potential customers) go online to look for places to eat. No more browsing in the paper ads or opening the thick yellow book. No Sire.

The Web not only provides them with information regarding the offers around them, but also gives them a map with the location, photos of the place, directions to get there and the most important, opinions from other people about the restaurants.

You can spend fortunes in marketing printing ads in newspapers and magazines, buying half pages (or whole pages) in the Yellow Pages, advertising on the radio, etc. but nobody really cares. Your customers are not looking there, they are looking online. They use the Web to search for the best places to eat.

So what can you do to attract them to your restaurant? Simple; have a great website with lots of useful information (I wrote an article about web presence in one of my monthly newsletters. It is called Restaurant Online Marketing. You can also find other interesting archived newsletters in my website, here: Archived Newsletters

But more important, have great reviews from anybody who goes to eat at your place.

And how do you do that? The answer is simple in words and difficult in execution: Make everybody who goes to eat at your place very happy. Exceed their expectations. Deal with any potential issue generously and never, never argue with a client, even if they are wrong. You will regret it later on because they will let the whole world how bad your place is.

And guess what all these people who are looking for restaurants online will read? Exactly, how bad your place is.

Don’t make that mistake. Think about any complementary food that you need to give away as a marketing expense. Just make everybody happy and don’t give them any room for complains. This is the only way to have great online reviews, this is your advertising and all your marketing should revolve around this idea.