Selling pizzas by e-mail
Whether it is by direct mail or advertising in the local newspaper, traditional ways of marketing have not gone by the wayside, but pizzerias are exploring using e-mail databases to reach customers and persuade them to place an order. 
 
E-mail marketing is on the rise and many pizzeria owners want to be in on it. 
 
"People still like to get a postcard. But e-mail is going to be the thing of the future," said Ilana Teles, marketing manager for Mozzarella di Bufala, a family-run pizzeria in San Francisco. 
 
Sue Litour, president of Passport Pizza, agrees. Her company has eight pizzerias in Michigan and has collected several thousand names in their new e-mail database.  
 
"It's an important facet of business. Business is changing and there are other venues besides direct mail that we want to explore," she said. 
 
Jennifer Wiebe, marketing manager for point-of-sale system provider SpeedLine Solutions, said there are many reasons why pizzerias are exploring e-mail marketing. 
 
"It's a hot topic right now. With costs rising so much in the pizza business, it only makes sense that pizzeria owners would be looking for lower-cost marketing methods," she said. 
 
Mozzarella di Bufala has built its point of sale e-mail database from 200 customers a year ago to between 300 and 400 now. The company uses a POS from SpeedLine Solutions.
 
Three or four hundred names is not a massive database, but Teles said it already has yielded results. The company used the database to target customers who had not visited the restaurant in the previous 60 to 90 days. Those customers were offered a large pepperoni pizza and a 2-liter bottle of Coke for $12.99, which was an $8 savings. About 20 percent of the customers took advantage of the offer.
 
Sending an e-mail to up to 500 customers at a time costs about $12 a month, Teles said. Reaching the same number of people by direct mail would cost $800. 
 
Keep it simple
 
When building an e-mail database, Teles recommends limiting it to people who really want to be part of it. 
 
"We want quality, not quantity," she said. "We use only permission-based e-mail. We don't sign up anyone unless they want to hear from us." 
 
Customers who visit the pizzeria's Web site can sign up to be on the list or they can do it in the restaurant by completing a survey.
 
"Make up a simple form — a contest entry form and a fishbowl work great," said Wiebe. "But plenty of people will be happy to receive offers by e-mail without a giveaway."
 
Pizza operators also can ask customers placing phone orders if they want to be added to the e-mail list.
 
The ability to target people is an advantage of the point of sale system.
 
"Some pizza operators collect e-mail addresses in a spreadsheet. That allows them to send mass e-mails to their full list," Wiebe said. "But it doesn't allow them to target messages to specific customer groups. The POS system includes much more detailed customer information than you could maintain manually in a spreadsheet."
 
Litour said they decided to use the POS system because they want to reach particular customers and lure them back with special offers. She also wants to get to know them better and build long-term relationships with them.
 
"We want to be able to send out e-mails for birthdays or anniversaries. We want to keep our customers coming back," she said. 
 
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Now that they have several thousand names in their database, Litour said they are in the process of looking for an e-mail marketing service. Teles agreed that using a service increases the effectiveness of e-mail marketing.
 
"It increases our delivery rate. We have less than 3 percent of our e-mails bounce back," she said.
 
An e-marketing service provides tools to upload and manage lists, designs templates for your e-mails, and offers other features to unsubscribe, Wiebe said.  
 
"But a better solution for more sophisticated marketing is to use a company that specializes in restaurant e-marketing. They have the expertise and ready-to-use templates for restaurant promotions, e-coupons and newsletters that will make your life much easier," Wiebe said.
 
Teles recommends learning as much as possible about e-marketing. Her pizzeria uses Constant Contact, an e-mail marketer that also provides free live coaching for anyone who wants to learn about e-marketing.
 
"You need to get yourself educated. Take some webinars," she recommended.
 
E-mail marketing, along with other marketing efforts such as recently redesigning their Web site and sending direct mail offers, is reaping rewards for Mozzarella Di Bufalo. Revenues are up between 10 and 15 percent over last year, Teles said.

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