In the U.S. alone, over 90% of adults use email. Likewise, email marketing has a 28.5% greater return on investment than direct mail. Despite the growing emphasis on social media marketing, email remains one of the most effective ways to reach customers and share promotions. 60% of consumers make purchases based off of emails while only 12.5% of purchases are attributed to social media. In other words, email outperforms social media when it comes to driving purchases. Now that we’ve covered the basic statistics, here’s three easy steps to get you started.

Choose an Email Service Provider

Email service providers are companies that offer email marketing services. You write and assemble the email, and a service provider sends it out and keeps track of analytics. Popular services include MailChimp, and more restaurant-specific services, Fishbowl and Bento Box.

Gather a List of Emails

To run email campaigns, you will need customers to email — that’s a bit obvious, we know. But getting email addresses is trickier than you’d think. You can add a pop up on your website (we suggest asking a tech-savvy friend to help you) that asks for customers for their emails when they make a reservation. You can also run contests and giveaways which use email addresses as entries or include a tab on the bill for email addresses. Regardless of the method you choose, you should sweeten the deal. Offer a discount, free dessert, or some reward to those signing up for your newsletter. Doing so will ultimately increase the number of customers on your mailing list.

Get Emailin’

All emails you send will fall into three categories: transactional, relational, or promotional.

Transactional emails confirm a subscriber’s actions, like unsubscribing or updating information. They are generally dry and boring, but you can easily spruce them up and take your brand to the next level. For instance, you can create a welcome email that everyone receives upon subscribing that goes far beyond “Thanks for subscribing.” You could talk about the history of your restaurant or what benefits come from being on the email list. However, transactional emails are generally sent by your service provider. Some may not allow customization, so check before writing up some stellar copy.

Relational emails are exactly what they sound like, they have to do with your relationship with customers. These emails should deliver free information that is interesting and relevant. You can talk about the employee of the month, your establishment’s ‘story’, the revival of a classic menu item, how a dish is made, or anything that gives a behind the scenes glance at your restaurant. This is the time to get personal and humanize your restaurant.

Promotional emails promote your business, sales, offers, and more. This is the type of email marketing people are most familiar with. Here you can talk about your Wednesday night free dessert special or the 10% off an entree coupon. To avoid sounding overly sales-y, you can include a call-to-action in these emails. Ask customers what type of promotions or events they want to see, or give them promotional options to choose from (similar to a poll).

Email marketing may sound like a lot, but it offers a world of endless opportunity. Emails are highly customizable, you can create whatever brand or inbox-presence that you want. However, at the end of the day, email marketing can’t be profitable without a list of subscribers. Make getting subscribers your priority, and balance that with your advertising intentions until your list is large enough for you to be satisfied.