As with most things in business, there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. Email marketing is no exception. There are brands, companies & restaurants that are all over the spectrum with their email marketing plan. Some over-email, some under-email and others don’t have a plan whatsoever.
Email marketing is often the forgotten tool of the restaurant owner. It takes time to build a list. It takes time to see results. It takes effort, and a busy restaurant owner doesn’t always have the patience to tweak their plan until they get it right for their customers. On social media, you see immediate results – likes, shares & comments.
But you can’t always correlate those increased likes into increased dollars (which is the real reason you’re promoting your social media channels in the first place, right?) – but with email marketing, you can work to build your list of loyal customers that are always checking their email, especially in an era where less and less people are spending time on Facebook.
If you haven’t started building your list, now is the time. I have a painting in my office that reminds me that even if you didn’t follow your path correctly yesterday, today is the day to start again.
Same goes for your email marketing plan. Haven’t thought about it until today? That’s OK. But now’s the time to let your customers know what they’ve been missing out on. Hit them on all fronts with the ability to join your elite club.
Create paper sign-up slips for your customers to see on the table or at the cashier stand. Even though you’ll be communicating with them digitally from here on out – a paper sign-up slip will stand out to them in a way a digital ad or display might not. But that doesn’t mean that’s the only way we can get people added to the list. Creating an online form that imports users directly into your database and linking to that form on your website and from your social media channels is the first step to building list of loyal customers that want to hear from you.
Not only should there be an automated email offer for signing up (immediate, or next day at the latest) – but create a plan on how many automatic offers they get based on specific dates.
Sending an email several weeks before the customer’s birthday with a special offer for a free dessert or a BOGO appetizer is an easy way to secure a reservation. One of the most popular reasons people eat out is to celebrate a birthday – so why not take advantage of that and give them a reason to choose you for their special day? It doesn’t need to be a robust offer, you just need to hit them at the right time with the right message.
Beyond the birthdays and anniversaries, what other benefits are you going to offer them throughout the year? Think about creating some ‘members only’ events or dinner specials that you promote seasonally to not only reward the people that are on your list but to draw attention to those who haven’t yet signed up.
More than anything else, you should be generous to your customers who have signed up for your list. After all, they did opt-in to your marketing nonsense. But you don’t have to give huge discounts to provide a lot of value to your customers.
This might be the most important thing you learn while crafting your email marketing program. Don’t overwhelm or underwhelm (or just whelm) your audience with your emails. Don’t sell your list to partners. Don’t send them things they didn’t sign up for.
I tell our clients to send no more than 2 emails per month and no less than 1 email per quarter. Anything more than that and you’re annoying, anything less than that and people will have forgotten why they signed up for your list in the first place and unsubscribe.
A good goal for sending out a newsletter is 1 email every 5-7 weeks on average. At Young’s Jersey Dairy, we tend to send an email every 6-8 weeks during the less active season (November – April) and every 3-4 weeks during the busy season (May – October), not including the regularly scheduled birthday coupons that come to each customer one week before their special day. In October, we get a little email-happy and send 2-3 emails in the same month. October is the prime month for Young’s with a lot of rotating activities, so it’s important that we use the email list to promote those events. Our unsubscribe rate tends to rise on the 2nd or 3rd email in October, but not so much that it’s detrimental to the overall health of the list.
OK – now you’re equipped to take on the world and dominate the email marketing game. But if you still need some help, you know who to call.