Franchise marketers have numerous marketing tools at their disposal, but like countless other businesses, franchises use email marketing to reach their national and localized audiences. Even so, it’s not easy to find the right recipe for email success. For Firehouse Subs, a fast casual restaurant chain serving premium subs, sandwiches and salads in more than 800 restaurants in 41 states and Puerto Rico, the email secret sauce includes a careful blend of automation and segmentation with a dash of incentive.
Automated emails deliver big time
For busy franchise marketers, automation is the gift that keeps on giving. Time is money, and automated emails not only save significant time and effort, they also deliver big time benefits for brands. Epsilon found automated email campaigns increase click rates 152 percent, and ChiefMarketer reports automated email boosts long-term engagement 33 percent. When a potential customer is more engaged, they’re more likely to buy and make repeat purchases, which is why email automation is an important ingredient in the email marketing pie.
Firehouse Subs’ senior manager of digital marketing, Matt Olson, takes full advantage of email automation to deliver messages that provide subscribers with immediate value, gets guests into the restaurant and gets them excited about the brand’s emails. For instance, Olson implemented a welcome autoresponder for every new subscriber to the Firehouse Subs email list. The welcome message includes a special offer with a two-week expiration date to encourage subscribers to visit their local restaurant sooner. Welcome emails are known to drive four times the open rate and five times the click through rate of a standard email. Firehouse has seen this return in spades with a whopping 76 percent open rate.
Olson also implemented an automated birthday email, which sends subscribers a birthday message and an offer for a free medium sub at their local restaurant. And Firehouse Subs’ guest love it! The birthday emails have a 50 percent open rate. The best part is the franchise enjoys consistent promotion to its target audience, and the entire process is hands-off for Olson, which gives him more time to ideate new campaigns and create localized messages.
Segmentation makes it personal
One of the most crucial elements of any email marketing strategy is audience segmentation. This process is the basis for creating and sending highly relevant, personalized emails, which drive six times higher transaction rates for brands, according to Experian. Personalized emails also help to create relationships with subscribers, which in turn inspire brand loyalty.
Olson is a master at segmenting Firehouse Subs’ massive email list. He segments by several factors including demographics, response history, purchase history, specific interests and more. Olson considers this ability one of the most powerful in his email toolkit. Given Firehouse Subs’ 800+ locations, segmenting by location is a frequent exercise. When, for example, Olson wants to reach subscribers in a local market to announce a new restaurant opening, he can segment his subscriber list by a specific radius around a location’s zip code. This enables him to geo-target the email message to an audience most likely to be interested in the new restaurant.
Add rewards to the mix to keep subscribers fired up
Email automation and segmentation keep subscribers engaged on a daily basis, but these tactics work equally well to promote new products or campaigns. And just as an incentive or reward improves the impact of welcome and birthday emails, the same strategy applies to specific marketing campaigns.
When Firehouse Subs launched its under-500 calorie menu, it created the Hearty & Flavorful Challenge, a digital engagement campaign that asked people to register for and complete fitness challenges. Participants then posted photos of themselves completing each challenge to the campaign website. With the email addresses participants used to register, Olson set up an autoresponder to send a special offer or health tip to each person who completed a challenge.
Fine-tuning the campaign to boost engagement was a matter of audience segmentation. Olson could target the audience based on level of participation – repeat challenge participants, for example – in order to tailor email messages and create more personalized experiences.
By combining automated emails with a reward and segmenting the audience based on participation, Firehouse created a winning campaign that drove an astounding 83 percent open rate with a 48 percent click through rate. Overall, more than 2,000 people participated, sharing 5,000 photos on the campaign website.
As Firehouse Subs can attest, email marketing technology puts powerful capabilities at marketers’ disposal. Email automation and audience segmentation have been shown to improve the success of an email campaign and boost brand engagement. These tactics, along with some branded incentives and rewards, are the not-so-secret ingredients for email success.
Cynthia Price is the vice president of marketing at Emma, an email-marketing company. With an extensive background in sales and marketing, Cynthia represents Emma at conferences across the country, where she can be found geeking out about everything from subject lines to audience segmentation.