A marketing pro shares the biggest mistakes he’s seen over the years when it comes to promoting your restaurant in good old-fashioned mailboxes.
When I ran a restaurant marketing agency, I had the chance to learn the exact messages and tactics that get customers to take action after checking their mailboxes. At the same time, I’ve also seen my fair share of restaurateurs waste money on direct mail campaigns with little to show for results. To save you from joining the loser crowd, I want to share the biggest mistakes I’ve seen over the years when it comes to promoting your restaurant in good old fashioned mailboxes.
1. Take the cheap route.
At first glance, low-cost advertising options like EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) are attractive. You can cover a lot of ground on a small budget, and for many businesses with different advertising goals, that might be all they need. However, my experience is that for restaurants, choosing cheap shippers gives you cheap results. The response rates are terrible. People’s perception of your restaurant matches the sender – poor quality. It can be hard to get over it.
The same idea also applies to your promotions. If you don’t offer a good coupon, don’t be surprised when your direct mail campaign fails. We see great results with one purchase, one free offer, and $10 off purchases of $30 or more. Don’t go cheap or it could cost you more in the long run.
2. Having an inconsistent strategy.
It’s common to wait for business to go bad to think about how to attract more customers. The problem is that if you only watch advertising when business is bad, you’re showing new customers the worst side of your restaurant. When money is tight, staff are often lean, increasing the likelihood that new customers will have a bad experience, leave negative reviews online, and enter a vicious cycle.
The best time to advertise is when your business is doing well, that way you can create a snowball effect in the right direction. Wash, rinse, repeat.
3. Not tracking redemptions.
Unless you track how often your promotions are used, you can’t be sure how well a marketing campaign is working. This is especially important when doing multiple advertising initiatives at once. We’ve seen franchise marketers want to blame a lack of results on “old-school” mail, but when they looked at the tracking, they realized mail was the only thing that worked.
At the absolute minimum, your staff should be responsible for keeping redeemed coupons so you can count how many have been used. Even better, program a discount code into your POS to track redemptions and revenue generated.
4. Focus on cost per sender, not cost per customer acquired.
Cost per sender ultimately means nothing – if they aren’t bringing in customers or generating a positive ROI, what does it matter how much you pay per piece? The postcards we use for mailers are not cheap. We primarily offer laminated postcards with gift card style coupons which really help our customers stand out. As a result, it’s normal for us to see response rates of 6-10%, and with the right offer, much higher! .
With a high response rate, you can stand out against high-volume, low-quality mail. Just think big and don’t be put off by a higher initial cost per part. It’s usually higher for a reason (it works).
5. Ending promotions too soon.
Big promotions take time. If you spend a lot of money on a big ad campaign but only run it for a week, you’re missing out on sales.
To be fair, it’s important to match your promotion’s expiration window to your kind of restaurant. For restaurants that focus on dinner with high average tickets, customers need more time to plan a visit than fast-casual options offering a quick bite during lunch. Don’t go too long so that customers lose their sense of urgency.
6. Marketing too far from your restaurant.
When it comes to acquiring new customers, your best bet is on those who live nearby. The farther people get from your restaurant, the more competitors they have to pass before joining you, and with so many tasty alternatives available, “far” can only be 3 miles. It also means they are less likely to return as repeat customers.
Many restaurateurs I’ve worked with regularly want to tackle high-income neighborhoods even if they’re remote, and while it depends on the type of restaurant, the results are rarely good. Normally, the further a client lives, the more important it is to have a strong promotion, but how often do your wealthy clients care about sales or offers? You better make regulars of the locals. They may pay less per visit, but make up for it with how often they return.