Customer Stories, Marketing, Restaurants

How Mike Marcolin uses email to market his restaurant

Sports bar owner Mike Marcolin shares his tips for using email marketing to promote your restaurant.

Mike Marcolin owns QB Sports, a bar and grill in Burlington, Ontario that serves as a hotspot for the area’s locals. Mike believes strongly in two things – the quality of the food he serves and the importance of having a unique marketing strategy to keep customers coming through the door. 

As a restaurant owner, Mike understands the need to market to customers in a way that feels personal, rather than automated or robotic. This is why he keeps his marketing strategies targeted and personal. 

He also knows that people love free stuff–something he also leverages in his marketing.

Mike’s go-to tactic is email marketing–which he’s enjoyed great success with. What works for Mike? Here are four tips:

Incentivize customers to share their email

The easiest way to collect customers’ emails is to ask in person when they’re at your business. “Online is a hit or a miss,” Mike says. It’s easy to ignore a pop-up or scroll past it. But according to Mike, “When someone makes the request face-to-face, the likelihood that they’ll share their email is 80 to 85 percent.”

Mike’s email collection strategy is simple. He offers his customers a chance to win something – often a $50 gift card or sports jersey. And since Mike’s customers love free stuff, they’re happy to share their email address when they fill out the form to enter one of his giveaways. It’s a fair trade off and a win-win situation for everyone. 

Mike times and themes his email collection campaigns to coincide with in-restaurant special events. “When there’s a big hockey game on, we give people a chance to win a hockey jersey. Because everyone who’s watching the game is a hockey fan, nearly everyone wants to win the free jersey,” Mike says. Typically, Mike runs these types of promotions about once a month.

He collects his emails old-school–asking customers to fill out a printed entry form.

Mike also uses his giveaways to increase food sales. “We offer a second ballot with every order,  so buying a burger will get you another ballot and increase your chance of winning,” he says. 

Typically, Mike’s giveaway items have a value of around $50. That number might sound expensive, but according to Mike, “It’s a worthwhile investment considering how much revenue just one customer can generate.” 

Mike is also careful to maintain confidentiality with the email addresses he collects. “People don’t like it when their personal information is out there for everyone to see,” he says. His solution is to keep all completed entry forms in a sealed box.

He also collects emails in person through comment cards. This way, in addition to providing him with his customers’ email addresses, he also receives honest feedback on QB’s food and service. 

“The only drawback,” Mike says. “Is that we have to spend a considerable amount of time inputting them into the computer.” 

Of course, people don’t always want to share their personal information. “If someone doesn’t want to give me their email, I respect that and move on. They can still enter the giveaway,” Mike says. 

Segment your email list

As you collect emails, it’s helpful to segment them. Segmenting means categorizing your customer base into different groups according to your customers’ needs and interests. 

“When you segment your email lists, you can laser-focus on who’s interested in what and market to them accordingly.” Mike says. “When you do this, there is a far greater chance that the person you’re sending the email to will engage.”

“The last thing you want to do is send out a sports-related email to someone who isn’t interested in sports.”

The easiest way to segment is to note what sort of event each email was collected at. For instance, emails collected at a hockey event can go on the sports list. Or even better, give your customers a few boxes to check off. Mike’s categories include: 

  1. Sports enthusiast
  2. Newsletter
  3. New menu items
  4. Upcoming events
  5. Sports team (youth)
  6. Sports team (adult)
  7. Specials
  8. Social media
  9. Other

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Don’t overdo it!

As a marketer, it’s super important to know the ideal number of emails to send out each month. If people feel annoyed by your constant notifications, they might unsubscribe from your email list out of frustration. 

“For QB Sports, the ideal is to send out two to three promotional emails each month. However, if there’s a giveaway or a special event, we may send out more,” Mike says. 

When Mike selects the winner of one of his giveaways, he sends everyone who entered an email announcing the winner. 

Provide quality content

To keep your customers interested, your email content has to be relevant, useful, and visually appealing. Mike likes to stick to one main graphic in his emails, using PosterMyWall templates to create his graphics. 

“I try to use the same color and format in all of my emails,” Mike tells us. He says this accomplishes two things. First, it gives a sense of uniformity to his emails and makes them look more professional. And second, it establishes a sense of familiarity where the customer starts to recognize communications from QB Sports at a glance.  

Mike acknowledges that competition is high in the restaurant business. People have many choices. But email marketing has helped him keep in front of his customers–and helps keep his customers coming back. 

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