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RESTAURANT STARTUP GUIDE

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Why Email Marketing Is a Good Idea for Caterers

Adding Email to Your Catering Company’s Marketing Programs

You catering company probably already has a marketing program made up of some combination of print and online advertising, word of mouth, partnership marketing, a company website and maybe even a Facebook page. Should you add email to the mix?

The answer is almost definitely yes. For very compelling reasons, more and more companies today are adding email to their overall marketing programs, and they’re devoting more of their marketing budgets to it too.

A Great Way to Reach Customers

Why? Well, first off, the whole point of marketing is to reach current and prospective new customers. Today email is where the people are, and it’s also their preferred way to be contacted by a business. According to Forrester Research as cited in a March 2010 McClatchy-Tribune Business News article, 90% of online Americans use email as a mainstream communication channel, and, in 2009, there were 145 million active email users.

Dramatic ROI

Not only is email marketing an effective way to meet your customers where they are, but it’s also a marketing method with an outstanding return on investment (ROI). According to the magazine Target Marketing’s Media Usage Forecast for 2010, which includes research on what marketers are doing right now, email provides the top ROI among media for acquiring and retaining customers.

Part of the reason is that email marketing is cheap. Take leading email marketing company Constant Contact. It offers plans starting at $15 per month, and even its least expensive plans include professional email templates, email list management and information about performance of messages and campaigns. For under $50 a month, you can work with a top email marketing company to guarantee a winning program for your business.

But the low level of investment would mean nothing if the return weren’t so impressive. Success stories abound in the restaurant and catering industry. For example, Constant Contact client Finale Desserterie & Bakery, with four locations in and around Boston, Massachusetts, emailed an event announcement to its customers that led to very high attendance at the event. Cofounder Paul Conforti points out that, at $30 a seat, his company earned as much as $1,200 in revenue from a single email.

“After I send out an email, I see an instant response including customer inquiries, phone calls and a spike in sales,” says Elissa Jane Mastel, director of marketing and public relations for Terrapin Restaurant, Terrapin Red Bistro and an associated catering operation in Rhinebeck and Staatsburg, New York. Mastel reports that her company’s success with Constant Contact email marketing has allowed it to reduce print advertising by more than half.

Analytics Let You Improve Campaigns Over Time

Also, unlike direct marketing in many other media, email marketing talks back. Email marketing service providers like Constant Contact offer detailed message tracking and analytics, or information about how your message performed once it was sent. Data include how many messages were bounces, how many were opened and how many recipients clicked on message links. This information can help you to figure out what works and what doesn’t with particular email marketing campaigns, from times of day and days of the week when messages are sent to subject lines to how you divide your email lists to message content. You can use this knowledge in turn to tailor your email marketing to your audiences—which means it will win you more business over time.

Reminds Customers That You’re There

Maybe most importantly, email marketing done right keeps you at the forefront of the minds of current customers and customers-to-be. This means they’re more likely to think of you the next time they need a caterer. On average, according to Constant Contact, it takes seven touches, or contacts of a potential consumer with a company, for an action (like a purchase) to occur. When you send a marketing email, you provide customers with valuable information, but you also remind them that you’re there to meet their catering and event management needs.

Getting Started with Email Marketing

Not all catering companies are fully on board yet with email marketing, but most of the leading caterers are headed in that direction. Cheryl Bennett, general manager with northern Virginia’s Main Event Caterers, reports that her company has just begun working with an email marketing service provider, though they do not have a formal program set up yet. “We’ve announced some awards we’ve won,” says Bennett. “We sent an announcement of our Caterer of the Year award from Catering Magazine." She explains that Main Event plans to send a regular email newsletter once they have a person dedicated to putting the content together. “It’s very important to us to do more of a value-added email marketing program,” Bennett says.

If you want to try before buying, you can: these days most email marketing service providers offer free trials. Constant Contact offers a 60-day free trial to new customers.

 
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