Promoting Restaurants Using Direct Marketing

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With direct marketing you reach out directly to your customers through mail, email, text, handing out brochures, and other activities that directly engage the customer. Often, direct marketing involves reaching out to people who have been your customers in the past and have left you their contact information. While you could “cold call” people, it’s usually most effective to contact people who have already enjoyed your food and restaurant. Most of the time these people simply need a little reminder about your establishment.

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So how do you launch a direct marketing campaign? Read on to find out!

Step 1: Build Your Database

You need customer contact information and the more you know about people, the better. You should keep a list of addresses, email addresses,  birthdays, phone numbers, and any other piece of valuable info. You should also try to gather the following information: – How did the customer find out about you? – About how many times have they visited? – How frequently do they visit? Once per month, once per week? – Favorite menu items? – Do they come with friends or by themselves? How many friends? – Job Title?

So how do you get all of that information? Let’s go over some methods:

-At the “Point-of-Sale”-
Most POS systems now offer ways for you to store and track information. You can ask customers for their name or store their credit card and from there on out you can track their purchases, frequency of visits, and spending habits. It’s as easy as that!

-Reservations, Take-out Orders, and Delivery Services-
Do you run a restaurant that engages in any of the above services? If so, you can ask for information when they sign up for the service; including email, address, and other important tidbits.

-Raffles and Other Contests-
You can hold a raffle or contest, and as part of entering the contest you can require people to fill in their basic contact information, including their email address and phone number. Another easy way is to have people leave their business cards at the point of purchase. This way you get lots of information, people get a chance to win a great prize (such as a gift certificate), and it takes only a few seconds of everyone’s time.

-Launch A Survey-
Getting customer feedback is always a great idea. You can hand out surveys to customers with their bill and ask them for some input regarding your business and to write down their contact information. You can also entice customers with a small discount or free dessert if they fill in all the info.

-Link in Your Website-
These days every business should have a website. Once your website is up and running you can create a link to sign up for a monthly newsletter or offer coupons in exchange for contact information.

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Step 2: Use Promotions

In order to attract customers through direct marketing, you will have to offer some promotions. If you just send out a mail flyer saying “my restaurant is awesome!” most people will ignore it. But if you send out an article saying “Come try my awesome ice cream at 50% off!” you will grab peoples’ attention.

And now that you have gathered a bunch of personal information from users, you can craft promotions just for them! Let’s consider the following:

-How the customer found about you-
You can use this information to conduct a marketing assessment. If everyone is hearing about your business through your website then you know you have a good online marketing campaign going. If no one cites your flyers, even after you have mailed hundreds of them out, you will know your mailers are failing.

-Number of Visits-
You should craft promotions based on the number of visits. If a customer rarely visits your store you can write a “bounce back” promotion that encourages them to come back and visit soon. If a customer is a frequent visitor you can send them a personalized “thank you” and offer for a free menu item during their next visit as a reward for their loyalty.

-Favorite Menu Items-
If you know a certain customer absolutely loves your blueberry muffins, then send him or her an offer for a free blueberry muffin! For one, you will show your customer that you pay attention. Two, the customer gets something they really want! Often you can track this information through your POS system.

-Size of the Bill-
At the end of the day it’s not necessarily the number of customers that visit that’s most important because the size of the bill can also drive up revenue. If you see that a certain customer always comes in and spends $8 dollars on food, send him or her a coupon for a “free dessert with a purchase of $10 dollars or more.” This will encourage your customer to spend more in order to secure the promotion.

-Party Size-
Party size is important for a number of reasons. Let’s say you notice that a customer usually comes in and dines alone. You could offer him or her a “buy one, get one free” coupon in order to entice the customer to bring a friend along next time. You also need the party size to interpret data like “spending per customer.”

-Household Size-
If you see a household has children, it’s a great idea to send them offers for free children’s items and other similar promotions. You can also let customers know about holding special events, such as a child’s birthday party.

-Job Title-
By figuring out what industry or occupation someone works in, you can try to craft promotions based on their expected income. For example, if someone works as a medical technician they are likely earning a much lower wage than a doctor. You can target the medical technician with special offers for value items. A doctor, on the other hand, might be more interested in VIP service, due to his or her busy schedule.

-Birthdays-
Many people eat out on their birthday. In fact, a survey found that 50% of Americans eat out on or around their birthday to celebrate the special occasion. Sending people offers, such as a free slice of cake for each guest, is a great way to make sure they celebrate their birthday at your establishment.

BdayStep 3: Launching Your Direct Marketing Campaign
So you have obtained the needed information and know the people you want to contact. Still not sure how to contact them though? Read on!

-Printed Mailers-
An expensive and increasingly less common form of advertising, print mail was once a marketing mainstay. Print mail is a great way to deliver physical things, such as gift certificates, but be warned it can get expensive real quick!

-Email Marketing-
Don’t want to deal with the costs of “snail mail”? If you have a list of email addresses you can send many of the same things through email. In fact, email is now viewed as an eco-friendly alternative to postal mail and younger customers are especially likely to be responsive to email marketing campaigns. Instead of sending a gift certificate, you simply attach a coupon for the customer to print or code for them to type into your online ordering system. Simple as that!

-Send a Text-
Text messaging is a great way to get in touch! Most people have a phone in their pocket all day long, so you are sure to get in touch. Not only that, but text messaging has so far proven to gain a high percentage of responses. Be careful, however, you should first ask for permission first or make sure to offer a very easy opt out process.

-Telephone-
For the most part, cold calling has gone the way of the dinosaur. Simply put, most people hate telemarketers and could even think negatively of your business if they receive a call. There are certain occasions, however, that could warrant a call. For example, if a family hosted a birthday party at your restaurant last year you could call them and offer them a special deal if they hold their next party at your restaurant.

– A Final Tip-
Make sure all promotions have an expiration date and a good reason for offering the deal. If not, people will take your promotions for granted and your brand value will be damaged. For example, if you want to give a 10% discount, tie it to a holiday, such as New Year’s Eve and require that customers make a purchase within 5 days before or after the holiday.

Step 4: Analyze and Adjust

You will need to pay close attention to how things are progressing. For example, if you get an error while sending an email or posted mail comes back, chances are the contact information is wrong or mis-formated.

And if customers are not opening your emails then it is probably time to change up your subject lines. If they are opening your emails but the click through rate is low, then it’s time to adjust the content of your email. On and on the list goes! After each promotion is finished you need to examine its strengths and faults. Address the weaknesses and expand the strong points and you are sure to succeed!

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