Providing a forward to a friend option in your email marketing campaigns is one of the best ways to expand your restaurant’s online reach and visibility. Here are the top five ways to ensure the success of your forward to a friend strategy.

1. Prominence & Ease

It is imperative that you make your forward to a friend feature as prominent as you can, and that once the friend receives the forward it is both evident as to what it is and you’ve made it easy for the individual to subscribe. Once you receive the friend’s subscription, make sure that you notify the initial subscriber to thank them for the referral and as a confirmation that their friend has opted in.

2. Reassure through Branding & Leitmotifs

You want to encourage your subscribers to keep their profile information current as well as facilitate them in forwarding on your emails. In order to build peace of mind in your customers, your forward to a friend, profile and other account type pages must be clearly branded with your logo, restaurant colors and venue-defining content. If you operate a Mexican restaurant, then you should consider subtly reassuring your customers with familiar leitmotifs such as sombreros and cacti; and if you’re running an Italian restaurant, you can’t go wrong with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Coliseum or any of the other obvious landmarks. If your restaurant’s identity is not immediately evident on these types of pages, your customers might think twice about providing their personal information – as it may seem that they’re entering it onto the pages of some unknown third party service that is more likely to sell the data to spammers.

3. Encourage Multiple Forwards

Like everyone else, your restaurant patrons like to do things quickly and easily. So if your forward to a friend feature only allows them to send the email on to one friend at a time, you’re creating a bottleneck that will frustrate your customer and minimize the number of people who will read your email. The best way to encourage multiple forwards is to provide separate fields where your current subscriber can enter a number of their friends. If you provide only one field, you’re likely to get only one forward.

4. Include a Text Box for Personal Comments

The single most important factor to ensure a successful forward to a friend program may just be the inclusion of a comment box. Avoid the automatically inserted mail merge type of comments such as “John Smith thought you might want to enjoy a great dining experience at Mamma Concetta’s Molecular Gastronomy Trattoria.” With the proliferation of spam, which is based on criminal hackers exploiting lists of millions of email addresses and names from company servers, that boilerplate approach can seem as if it originated from a phisher. Providing a comment box where your subscriber can enter a personal note to their friend will help the email be identified as legitimate. Encourage your subscriber to use a friendly, conversational tone and any other personal content such as nicknames, which will be immediately identifiable by the friend as clearly originating from your customer.

5. Provide Incentives

Now is the time to pull out those free appy or 2 for 1 drink offers to motivate your customer to keep on forwarding. Anything you can do to induce your customer to pass on your email to as many of their friends as they possibly can will act to increase covers in your restaurant. The cost of the incentive will dwarf into insignificance when compared to the value of the new business these referrals will bring your venue.

Dining is a social activity and encouraging your customers to pass on your emails to their friends helps them solidify their social networks while increasing the number of patrons visiting your restaurant. It’s a complete win-win scenario!