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How e-mail marketing can turn your guests into regulars

Forty-two percent of your guests want to receive specials, coupons and news about your restaurant, and one of the main reasons why people don’t return to your restaurant isn’t because of poor food or unsatisfactory service, but merely because customers forget about your establishment. E-mail marketing is a great way to remind your customers about your restaurant and turn them into loyal guests.

Build your list

Building your e-mail list is a relatively seamless process. The easiest thing to do is partner with a marketing company that handles e-mail marketing, or you can do it yourself with services such as Constant Contact. Next, set up an e-mail opt-in form on your website and link to that page on every other presence you have online. Encourage your Facebook fans, Twitter followers and Yelp users to sign up on your page. Add captions to your Instagram photos about signing up for your e-mail list to find out when that delicious-looking dish in the picture is available.

Encourage current customers to sign up for your e-mail list by providing a QR code linked to the opt-in form on table tents, receipts, hot cards placed in bill jackets and point-of-purchase systems. Your mobile customers will be able to quickly sign up for your e-mail list, and will most likely return to your restaurant if they receive e-mails through their mobile devices.

Lastly, set up a trigger e-mail for those who sign up for your newsletter. The customer should immediately receive an e-mail in which you thank them for signing up and provide a coupon for a free appetizer, or something similar, as a thank you for opting-in. This will then bring the guest into your restaurant for a second time to use the coupon.

Content and frequency

Provide your customers with information they absolutely cannot resist. Send them coupons on their birthdays, alerts about special menus, promotions and events.

You should send an e-mail about two to four times a month to your list. Any more, and your customers will be annoyed with the persistent e-mails and report you as spam or unsubscribe from your list. Send fewer e-mails and they’ll forget about you, which is what you’re trying to avoid and the reason you are sending your guests e-mail alerts in the first place.

A lesson from Bar Louie

Bar Louie has an excellent e-mail marketing system in place. Bar Louie calls its e-mail list of frequent guests “Louie’s Crew,” which adds a sense of belonging to a special club or group. This adds a nice personalized touch. Even though anyone can join Louie’s Crew — and there are thousands of people who are on this list — it still makes customers feel like a VIP.

Bar Louie also allows people to sign up for Louie’s Crew by sending a short code using SMS messaging. Customers who opt-in via text message instantly get a text with a coupon for a free appetizer. Louie’s Crew recently started sending a trigger coupon to those who opt-in via e-mail as well.

Louie’s Crew e-mails and alerts are sent about twice a month. The messages highlight events such as a tots-eating contest, and how and where to sign up. For example, a week after the e-mail about the contest was sent, a follow-up reminder was sent along with a coupon for a free basket of tots with registration information for the contest.

Creating and managing your e-mail marketing initiatives isn’t difficult, it just takes a little bit of time and a good amount of thought. Following best practices in this area is the best way to go if you’re doing it yourself. Two great rules to remember: Keep your customers happy with coupons, and don’t let them forget about you.

Sara Petersen is the content and marketing manager at Punch Mobile Marketing. Punch’s mission is to produce the best mobile-marketing content and solutions for foodservice providers to succeed at the mobile level. Read the company’s blog, follow it on Twitter and “like” its Facebook page.

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