An Easy Way to Collect Your Customers' Email Addresses

It's no secret that restaurant email marketing is a great way to connect with your most loyal customers, and ensure that they return. But one thing I often hear is "I don't have TIME to run an email campaign!" And, sure, to run a campaign that is attractive to your customers, you'll have to set aside time to create powerful content and build eye-catching emails.But what about gathering your customer's email addresses? Do you have a stack of comment cards gathering dust in a pantry somewhere, waiting for that magical day when you have time to input them all into a spreadsheet? (Or when you have a couple extra dollars to pay someone else to do it?)A fabulously easy way to collect the email addresses of your customers is to set up a simple Google Doc Form, and post a link on your web site. Once you sign into your Gmail account, just select "Documents," then "Create New." You are able to choose an easy-to-build form. Once you are finished, you are provided with a link that you can post on your restaurant's website. Customers can click on this link and sign up for your mailing list, and information is inputted automatically into a Google Docs spreadsheet. No more (well, less) tiresome data entry!A great example of a restaurant using a Google Doc Form is Pok Pok in Portland. Scroll down a little on the mail page, and you see a link to "Join Our Email List" that connects directly to a Google Doc Form.Now, if Google could just invent a way to easy input those comment cards...
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  • Wow! I've been going through google docs templates. Who knew all that existed? THANKS!
  • I never have! I'll have to check it out next time I'm in town. Thanks for the reco :)
  • Erin,

    Chef Annie at VQ has much on her plate.. she's changing the menu daily. But with the staff they have, you'd think they could get one of them to at least put the daily menu in the blog.

    How long has it been since you've had a Spanish Coffee at Paddy's? I stood in for my Dad and gave my sister away in the back room there to one of the former bartenders (we're not Irish, but how Irish is that?).
  • @Jeffery, thanks for commenting. Now I have a massive craving for VQ's cheese plate. But, very good point about them. Last time I was in PDX, I checked out there blog to see what was new, and was bummed to find out it very out-of-date. That didn't stop me from going that time, but for another restaurant (that I might not be as familiar with as VQ), I might figure that if they are not going to make an effort on their blog, would they with their food or service?

    Yep, I would say the #1 problem facing most restaurateurs is TIME - all these marketing efforts take so much time. That's why I liked the Google Docs solution - quick(er) than data entry and free to boot! No PHP developer required. I love your idea of the owner, GM or chef dropping off a card and asking face-to-face to make a personal connection.
  • Michael - compelling content is key for many operators. As Erin states - a unique resto with high profile and great traffic/buzz likely doesn't need to do that.

    A non-cutting edge/buzz resto could take advantage of a system like Rewarding Feedback, which does offer a reward (whatever the operator chooses) to the patron for completing a survey. I like Rewarding Feedback's product as it protects the customers anonymity, unless the customer opts-in, and provides reward. Another reason I prefer Rewarding Feedback's system is that the operator can sell these rewards to other entities, effectively monetizing the comment feedback system, providing further ROI.
  • Another blog that could use more attention is Veritable Quandary - a venerable Portland restaurant that seemingly has struggled with keeping up with blogging.

    @Subba: Where do you get that statistic of 5% from?

    I think the most personal method is for the Owner, GM or Chef to invite people to connect - by being face-to-face and dropping business cards. It's a very personal invitation.

    Erin - I like the solution you proposed as it's free. However, too many operators do not have the inclination to expend effort into anything beyond their own emails, much less managing a blog or doing the data captures. Subba proposes his product but fails to mention that there are competitors worthy of consideration with systems uniquely different from his.
  • @Michael I would say it depends on the restaurant. A place like Pok Pok, which has tons of buzz and a great reputation, doesn't need to send out promotions. However, a more casual restaurant could send out a coupon for 10% off, a free appetizers, whatever. It all depends on the target customer.

    I agree with you on the abandoned blog; it screams aborted marketing attempt/something they didn't take seriously. Blogs should offer loyal customers something: a peek inside the minds of their favorite restaurant/chef, recipes, whatever! Pok pok is one of those rare restaurants that survives on hot buzz alone; it doesn't hurt that Gourmet named them one of Northwest American Restaurants worth the money in 2009 ( Thanks for the input!
  • @Subba -- I agree with you, comment cards ARE the best way to collect customer email addresses. However, I am just offering yet another way for restaurants to collect email addresses; a way that doesn't require inputting comment cards or buying new hardware/software. Google Docs is free!
  • @ Erin: You mentioned Pok Pok as an example....

    One thing I noticed about their site that caught my attention: their blog is 'dead.' No entries for all of 2009. I would suggest that they either revive it or remove the feature all together. A blog, in my opinion, promises fresh, up-to-date content.

    Just a thought...
  • I like this idea. You could also get a better of sense of who's visiting your website, and how effective your 'call to action' features are. Erin, would you suggest any type of reward or additional incentive for offering up your email address?
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