Email marketing, part II

Would you be interested in knowing how some pizza operators spend only an hour or two and few dollars on direct mailings and get 10 to 15 percent redemption rates? OK, here it is – Email Marketing. How does it work and why is it so successful? It works a lot like regular direct mailing, but you don't spend time waiting on and paying for printing, postage and mail delivery.

What is Email Marketing?

Simply put, email marketing is using email to send coupons, promote specials or introduce new products. It's a lot like any other direct mail you do in that you collect addresses, in this case email addresses, create a mailing piece and (e)mail it to those you are trying to bring into the store. The difference is you don't have to have the coupons printed, the address labels put on or pay for postage to send them to people who may not even be interested in your business.

How do you do it?

Email and web site marketing is like any other marketing tool in that you cannot just put up a web site or subscribe to an email service and expect immediate big results by doing nothing. You have to let customers know there's something in it for them (i.e. a chance to save money if they subscribe or order online). You have to provide an easy way and a reason to them to give you their email address. You have to offer them something different with each mailing.

Start collecting email addresses. This can be done by employing any combination of methods. You can have the waitstaff collect email addresses on index cards or have a survey card printed and collect customers' phone number, fax number and address too for other marketing purposes. Another way is to place a clipboard at the register where customers can sign up for email updates and special offers. If you have a web site, get your Webmaster to create a pop up box where visitors can register their email addresses for specials. Have a spot on your printed coupons where customers have to provide an email address or physical address to redeem the coupon. Once you collect the email addresses, you create the mailing piece.

Making it fun wouldn't hurt either. This can be done by offering freebies for answering trivia questions on your web site that rewards them with a free appetizer, topping or soda. This way they have to give an email address so they can be notified if they win. What about a special coupon they can have emailed to them. This way they have to go to your web site and provide an email address so you can email the coupon to them.

One of the best ideas I have heard about was the method used by Scott Anthony, Fox's Pizza Den franchisee in Punxsutawney, Penn. His story was published on page 22 of the Summer 2001 issue of PMQ. This article can be found online at by clicking on the "Previous Issues" icon then clicking the "Summer 2001" issue and then clicking "It Finally Happened – Blown Away by a Web Promo." Scott ran an anniversary promotion offering a medium cheese pizza for the 1970Õs price of $1.40. To get the special price customers had to go to his web site and register their email address to have the special coupon emailed to them. He collected over 500 email addresses in about two days.

If you would like more information on how email marketing can work for you, these two companies can help.


Email marketing doesn't require you to have any printing done. The easiest way to incorporate this marketing method into your arsenal is to purchase the software to do it, such as ExactTarget's "do-it-yourself" newsletter software ( or the web-based pizza marketing and selling solution offered by ( Now you create a coupon. You can have a graphic artist create one, use an existing coupon or make one on your computer and convert it to a low-resolution image such as a jpg or gif. This can be done by either scanning it yourself on a regular scanner, which can be bought anywhere, or having your graphic artist do it for you. Once this is done, the email software can upload the image to be placed in the email to be sent.


Sending the email is the easy part. Once you have the email addresses entered into the computer and the coupon is uploaded, all you have to do is select the mailing list and click 'send.' Now you have just sent coupons that cost you nothing to print to customers you know are interested in your products and who use email. You know this because they have been in your store, gave you their email addresses and have expressed a desire to receive specials and coupons on their computers. That's targeted marketing. It may sound scary for those who don't use computers too much, but let me tell you from experience, it takes only about two or three hours to learn how to use the software and only a few minutes to create new emails to send out in bulk.

What do Other Operators Say?

Mark Lee, owner of six Mozzi's Pizza locations in Greenfield, Indiana, says, "(Email) is great for several reasons. First, it can be spontaneous. If something happened today we could respond and have a special sent out today. You know who you are sending special offers to and can track redemption. We have about 1,000 to 1,200 email addresses and get about 10 percent redemption on each mailing. It's a nice addition and there's very little work involved or experience needed."


  1. Limit the frequency of emails
  2. Make the offer good for only 2 or 3 days
  3. Change the wording in the subject line
  4. Send different offers each time
  5. Mix it up


"We send a weekly newsletter with weekly specials and use email to promote our catering," says Scott Cosentino of GoodFellas, which has five locations in Staten Island and New York. "We have about 700 email addresses and get a couple of dozen redemptions per mailing. We include news about world events, community interest stories and a 'customer quote of the week.' One of our employees does the writing. It's a nice way to say thanks to our customers and they tell us it's great."

"We sent 87 email coupons the first time we used email and got 32 redemptions in three days," said Brian Smith who has two Double Dave's Pizza locations in Austin, Texas. "(Email) is absolutely more cost-effective than traditional direct mail, but door hangers are still best. We are collecting about five to 10 email addresses each day. Our email offers are usually aimed at getting lunch crowds with a discount for our lunch buffet and usually has a better response with the professionals. We also send out offers for a medium 2-topping and two sodas for $9.99."

How can Email Marketing be used to Drive Sales?

Email can be used in the same ways direct mail is used with some additional benefits. Because you don't have to wait for printing and the postal service to deliver them, offers and specials can be timelier in addition to being cheaper. Here's an example. Suppose you forgot there was a big football game on TV tonight. No problem. Simply take a coupon you have already scanned or create a special of the day, attach it to an email and send it out to everyone on the list saying you have a "Football Special good for one night only- Large Pizza with a two-liter of Soda for $9.99." Just that fast you have promoted a special to increase sales for that night.

Other ways you can use email is to send an email coupon that is good for a lunch special for the week. Mark Lee sends out an email that offers a discount if the local NFL team, the Colts, wins. What he does is offers one percent off the price of a large pizza for each point scored if the Colts win. If the team wins 28 to 21, the discount is 28 percent off. Some operators combine coupon offers with a newsletter. They either have an employee compile some bits of local news, either on little league teams or city counsel meetings, etc., and include them with a coupon that is emailed once a week or twice a month.

What about customer surveys? Email a coupon along with a survey about your service, products or even your competition's service and food. This is a great way to find out exactly what customers want or expect without bothering them while they are out to eat. It allows them to respond on their own time and they don't even have to drop a survey card in the mail.

Tips for Getting Better Response Rates

Just like direct mail, there are some tips for getting better response rates with email. You want to take into consideration how many times you will send emails, what the offer will be, expiration dates and what will go in the subject line of the email. Little changes can make a significant difference.


One thing some operators who use email have told me is to limit the frequency of emails. Sending too many emails can cause email recipients to start trashing the email before it's opened. While this may be the case, it's not the rule. GoodFellas in Staten Island says they send at least one email each week. Each week they run a different email special and the offer is only good for a couple of days.

The expiration date is another consideration. Remember that if you offer a coupon that can be printed with a lengthy expiration date, customers can reprint them as often as they wish. You may not want that. In order to control the number of coupons each customer can print and use, most pizza operators recommend making the offer expire a few days after it is issued. Rather than a coupon that can be printed, GoodFellas sends a password for the week's special. Customers tell them the password either over the phone or at the register when ordering. This, they say, cuts down on the number of people who try to cash in on the same offer more than once.

Another tip that helps is to change the wording in the subject line of the email. If customers see the same subject, say something like "This week's specials," eventually they may stop opening the email. Try using humor, trivia or questions to spark their interest. Try things like: "How do you save money on groceries?" "Who loves ya baby?" or maybe "Where was the first great pizza made?" At your pizzeria of course. Follow the same rules as direct mail. Sending the same offer every time will cause response rates to dwindle and fade away.

"We usually set the expiration date for just a few days because the offers are really good," says Mark Lee. "We never let them use coupons on Fridays because sales are good on that night any way. The discount we offer for the Colts winning a football game is only good for Monday and Tuesday, which tend to be slow."

"Mix it up," says Brian Smith. "Try and surprise customers with the email. Don't send out the same email every Monday, change up the days in which you send them and change up the offers, too."

Is Email Marketing Considered SPAM?

Many people confuse email marketing with SPAM; the email version of junk mail. The short answer to this question is email marketing is not SPAM and here's why. According to ExactTarget spokespersons, SPAM, or unsolicited commercial email (UCE), is email sent without the recipient's approval or permission. This is what gives some people a bad taste for email promotions they receive. Permission-based email marketing is totally different because consumers have given permission to a business to send them email-they have "opted in to receiving it. Response rates are higher if customers expect to receive email from you.

The best way to avoid irritating customers with email marketing is "list hygiene" and offering an unsubscribe option. The unsubscribe option is a simple link or button that allows recipients to be removed from the mailing list. This is normally included by the company where you get your software or part of the service you subscribe to, but ask to make sure. List hygiene is simply keeping the email list up-to-date and removing those who wish to unsubscribe. Once again, this is usually part of the service or program.

To demonstrate the potential of email marketing, I offer this example. Say you have a list of 1,000 email addresses and send two bulk emails each month. That's 24,000 emailed coupons or special offers a year. Say your response rate is only five percent. That amounts to 1,200 additional sales per year and no design, printing or mailing cost or waiting for production and delivery. Do you get 1,200 redemptions when you send direct mailers? And how long does it take to produce and mail them? PMQ