How to turn emails into return visits

By Matt McNeill

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: E-mail

Sending out newsletters via email to customers can lead to more repeat visits, claims
Sending out newsletters via email to customers can lead to more repeat visits, claims
Matt McNeill, chief executive of email and mobile marketing platform, gives his top tips on how best to use email marketing to build repeat business at your restaurant, hotel or pub. 

Should email be part of your marketing plan? Probably. The Direct Marketing Association estimates that every £1 spent on email marketing generates £40 in revenue. That makes email one of the best marketing investments you can make. 

The returns can be even better for hospitality brands - in the 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark hospitality companies got the best results of any private sector firms, with a fantastic average open rate of 23 per cent.  

It’s essential to understand that email isn’t a way to directly acquire new customers, it’s a way to turn occasional customers into loyal, repeat business and to get them to recommend you to their friends.

Where to start 

If you are just starting out, then you can manage basic email marketing in-house, using your standard email service. As soon as you have more than a handful of contacts though, you’ll see dramatically improved results by using a service provider like - they’ll make sure you’re campaigns get delivered to the inbox, provide you with detailed reporting and automate time consuming processes like cleaning your data and keeping you compliant with the Data Protection Act. 

To get the best returns there are a few key rules to follow: 

  • Build your database by making it easy for people to opt-in
  • Contact your subscribers regularly
  • Work to build a relationship with your readers as well as using special offers
  • Consider your timing  

Get permission

You need to build your database by encouraging people to ‘raise their hands’ and opt-in to hear from you. Make it really easy for them to do this. 

  • Add a subscription form to your website and ask for permission when they make a booking to make it easy for them to leave their email address when they’re in your venue. Offer an incentive if you can.
  • Ask only for the information you really need - the more you ask for, the lower the completion rate will be. 

Don’t neglect people

Once someone has gone to the trouble of giving you permission to contact them, don’t neglect them. Make contact as soon as you can, even if it’s a simple ‘thank you’ email. 

The sooner you get in touch, then more likely they are to remember you in future and the better response you’ll get. 

The same rule applies to your general email campaigns - one or twice a year isn’t going to cut it. You need to build a relationship with your subscribers, so contact at least once a month is essential. Less than this and you’ll see response rates drop dramatically. 

Make your readers feel special

There are two sure-fire to encourage repeat visitors using email - by offering special deals or by working to develop a great relationship with your readers. The later takes more work, but is a lot more profitable in the long term. 

The more personal you can make your approach, the more engaging it will be. This could be giving readers an insight into life behind the scenes, tips from the chef, drink recommendations or advanced notice of exclusive events. 

Writing your copy in a personal style also works really well. Think of it like a letter to a friend - something people will want to receive. Don’t think of it like an advert. Check out the newsletters from​ for a great example of this. 

As well as planning communications around seasonal events, birthdays can be a really powerful way to drive repeat visits and build on that personal connection. If you have someone’s birthdate sending them a greeting and a special offer in advance can be really powerful - response rates to birthday emails are generally double that of normal campaigns.  

Consider your timing

When you send your emails can have a big impact on your results. You want to reach people when they’re likely to read and respond. 

That’s usually mid-week as most people check their email more frequently when at work. If you’re a restaurant, late morning when people are thinking about lunch works well. For bars the afternoon if often better. 

Sending late at night or first thing during the week will get you poor results, most people try to clear their inboxes quickly in the morning, especially on Mondays.  

Learn from results

The most important thing to remember is to study and learn from your results - it’s very easy to measure response to your email campaigns (a good email marketing provider will do this for you) and this can give you invaluable insight. 

There are many statistics you can track, but the two most commonly used are open rate and click-through rate. Open rates show the number of people who open your campaign and load images, a good indicator of whether you’re engaging your audience and if the subject line of your email is getting people’s attention, while the click-through rate shows the proportion of recipients who clicked on links in your emails - this is very powerful for identifying which promotions, or calls to action appeal most to your customers. 

Over time you can use your results to better understand your customers, continually improve your campaigns and help inform your other marketing efforts.

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1 comment

Email for mobile

Posted by Daniel To,

Email certainly isn't going anywhere.

But as we've now reached a point where more than half of all UK adults have a smartphone and over half of those are regularly checking their emails on their phone, I think it's also important to point out that all emails should be optimised for mobile.

This includes focusing more on:

>Keeping the design simple
>Keeping the subject line short
>Giving links prominent placements
>Having clear call-to-actions

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