In the months and weeks leading up to the winter holidays, we’ll be sharing tips to help restaurants prepare for the busiest time of the year. Check back for more ways to make this your best holiday season yet, and see all of our tips here!
During the slam of the holiday season, email can be one of the most useful tools in your restaurant’s marketing arsenal. Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are, of course, great for generally spreading awareness about specials and events, but there is no better way to directly reach a customer than sending him or her an email.
As the holidays tend to be the most lucrative period for restaurants, email provides a great opportunity to capitalize on the increased interest in dining out over the last months of the year. In other words, being able to send good emails to your customers can be the difference between a great holiday season and an exceptional holiday season, sales-wise. Take a look at these best practices for making the most of your season’s (email) greetings.
1. Keep it simple. Holiday decorations are lavish, but your emails shouldn’t be. It can be really tempting to make emails that are heavily designed with patterns and logos and big bursts of red and green, but even for the most holiday-inclined customer, these extra elements can be really distracting. No matter what the email, make the design straightforward and the call to action crystal clear.
2. Link often. Most often, the purpose of an email is to get a customer to click through—whether that is to an e-commerce store, a reservation booking, a special events inquiry page, or a social media account. But if a customer doesn’t know where to click within the first five seconds of opening the email, chances are that he or she will give up and move on. Eliminate this problem by making every portion of the email (from selected text to images) clickable back to your landing page. Even better: add an image that looks like a button, as that will immediately cue your customer to click. (Tip for OpenTable users: include your restref reservation link!)
3. Make your messaging consistent. When you are sending an email out about a promotion, you are most likely also communicating that offer on your social channels, on your website, and in your restaurant. Make sure that the messaging in your email is consistent with the language you are putting out everywhere else. If you are advertising $5 off nachos on social media, but your email says 15% off nachos — even if those amount to the same thing, you’re sending mixed messages, leading to confused customers (and lots of email queries).
4. A/B test subject lines. There is no magic formula to creating the perfect, festive holiday subject line, so the best thing you can do is A/B test your options. On many email marketing platforms you can set up a custom A/B campaign that will test each subject line with a small sample size of your audience, and the winning email will automatically be sent out to all customers. Whether you are automating it or doing it manually, this is a guaranteed way to ensure your email gets more opens.
5. Create an email schedule. There are always so many things to promote during the holidays. That’s why it’s important to make sure you are keeping a calendar that clearly outlines when you’ll be emailing out about each promotion. No one wants to get emailed twice in an hour from the same restaurant—a calendar will help you space everything out appropriately.
6. But don’t be afraid to send multiple emails about the same deal. People are getting lots of emails during the holidays, so it doesn’t hurt to send a reminder email about an offer/event two to three weeks after initially announcing it to people. You’d be surprised how much the (light) persistence pays off in sales!
7. Send a non-promotional message. Email is not just for shooting out offer after offer. Make a digital greeting card with photos, highlights from the year, or just a simple “thanks for being our customer!” message. These will go a long way in building customer loyalty, and in keeping people on your email list!
8. Segment out your email list. This is a good way, for example, to reward loyal customers: if you are extending a holiday offer, send it first to your most loyal customers, and let them know that they are receiving the email before anyone else. If you have restaurants in multiple cities, you can also segment your list by geography, and send a message personalized to each locale.
9. Stay on top of customer service. When you send out an email, there are always going to be people who reply to it with questions or comments. Over the holidays, this volume of email inquiries triples. Make sure you have someone designated to answer these emails in a timely fashion (think: 24 hours or less). You can even create a schedule, so managers have dedicated days during which they have to monitor the inbox.