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Case Study: A Fresh Way to Use Email as an Interactive Tool

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Company: Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp.
Contact: Jill Trecker, Manager of Guest Loyalty
Location: San Diego, Calif.
Industry: Restaurant
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: Confidential

Quick Read

Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., which operates a restaurant chain, had more than half a million customers on its email list. But the company wanted customers to do more than print out coupons. It sought to build customer loyalty by using the email channel as an interactive tool.

Challenge

Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., Garden Fresh operates 102 casual-dining, buffet-style Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants in 15 states. The company had an enviable 500,000-plus membership for its Club Veg email list—but wasn't using it to its fullest advantage, instead leveraging it primarily as a one-way marketing channel.


"We wanted to be more interactive with our online club," said Jill Trecker, manager of Guest Loyalty.

Garden Fresh hoped to engage its customers in a dialogue that encouraged visits to the corporate website, the sale of additional meals at the restaurants, and increased customer loyalty.

Campaign

In partnership with online-marketing agency Red Door Interactive, Garden Fresh implemented its first interactive campaign, which highlighted one of the restaurant's traditional month-long, ingredient-themed promotions. The inaugural email touted that month's special item—cherries—and invited Club Veg members to visit the cherry tree at the Souplantation website.

"If a visitor put their mouse over a cherry on the tree," said Trecker, "either a fact about cherries or information about one of our cherry-related menu items would come up." Visitors were also offered the chance to win two free meals.

A follow-up to the cherry email campaign linked to a clock at the Souplantation homepage counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until another special item—chicken pot pie—became available.

Garden Fresh encouraged further interactivity with an eight-week "Passport Promotion" that announced the staggered, two-week availability of menu items from various countries in Asia, Greece, Italy, and Mexico. Members could visit the Souplantation website to personalize email postcards inviting friends to join them for a meal.

Results

On the day Souplantation launched its cherry-themed campaign, traffic to the company's website jumped 906% from the daily average. The chicken pot pie promotion did even better, with a 1,430% spike.

Trecker also reported receiving this email from one Club Veg member who had received the restaurant's recipe for Classic Greek Salad: "I'm just as happy to get this recipe as if you had sent a coupon."

Lessons Learned

  • Keep your email campaigns interesting by mixing them up. Garden Fresh does this with recipes, chances to win free meals, and countdowns to the arrival of featured items.
  • Reward your most loyal customers by emailing special offers and extras—customers will become even more loyal.

Related Links

Looking for more email inspiration? Check out Email Success Stories: How 11 companies are pushing the (electronic) envelope to see how real firms are using email marketing to meet their marketing goals.


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Christian Gulliksen is a writer who has authored several of the Get to the Po!nt newsletters for MarketingProfs. A former editor at Robb Report, he has also contributed to Worth, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter.

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