The holiday season is prime time for making gift card sales, but you can’t expect the impending deadline of the holidays to do all the work for you. In order to see maximum sales this holiday season, and continue to make successful “un-earned revenue” sales throughout the rest of the year, you need to know how to properly market your gift cards.
And just in case you were wondering, this will take more than setting up a few brochures at the front of house or placing leaflets in your menu with a gift card graphic on it. These are strategies that will take work.
However, put in the work now and not only will you close out the year with a strong sales month, but you’ll also set yourself up to gain a new grouping of loyal customers in the next year.
Understand Your Two Gift Card Audiences
There are two groups (each with two subsets) of people who could be buying your gift cards:
1.) People who dine at your restaurant and are purchasing a gift card for either other people who enjoy your restaurant, or people who have never dined at your restaurant, but your patrons think they would enjoy a meal at your establishment.
2.) People who have never dined with you who are either buying for someone they know who does enjoy coming to your restaurant, or they’re buying a gift card for someone else who has never been to your restaurant with the assumption that they would like this as a gift. (The latter is rare and unlikely, but this would be someone who ducks in to your restaurant as a down-to-the-wire gift pick-up. We’re not going to focus on that person.)
How to Entice the Already Loyal
Don’t brush off a gift card sale as just another sale, for a patron to purchase someone else’s dining experience means they’re a loyal customer.
The best strategy for securing gift card sales from your loyal customers is to present it to them during their dining experience, but it has to be done with care, or you (actually, your server) won’t succeed.
First, the server needs to ask their table if they’ve ever been to your restaurant before, which they should be doing anyways to help welcome your guests. If they have dined with you before, your server will present the gift card pitch during the meal at a “check in” moment before the final clearing of plates.
The soft pitch can be something along the lines of, “Just to let you know, we’re offering a complimentary dessert voucher if you purchase any holiday gift cards today, no need to let me know now, I’ll check back with you a little later.”
Of course, this requires your server to be observant of body language or verbal feedback, but the next step is when dinner plates are cleared for your server to pitch the free dessert for that evening or ask if they would still like to get a gift card and save the dessert for another time.
This strategy, conducted properly, will definitely result in more gift card sales than a table tent promo or a menu leaflet, but also know that if your server didn’t close a gift card sale at the table, they’ve still set up your customer for coming back to get a gift card at another time.
Now, you might be circling back and wondering, “What does my server do if the people say they’ve never dined with us before?” Well, since your diners are not considered loyal at this point, presenting a gift card in the previous fashion will most likely end with a “no.”
If someone hasn’t dined with you before, your server needs to take note, and when presenting the check they’ll say, “You’ll see a little flyer in here for a free dessert with any holiday gift card purchase, you can, of course, take advantage of that today, but it’s also good to use for the next month, so come back again and visit us!”
This takes the pressure off of presenting a gift card sale to someone who may or may not recommend your restaurant to someone they know, let alone buy a gift card for them, but it gives someone the incentive to not only purchase a gift card, but also come dine with you again.
How to Hook the Non-Loyal Giver
Hooking the non-loyal giver is done in a similar fashion to the gift card presentation at the table, but with a slight twist.
If someone comes in and states they would like to purchase a gift card, your host needs to ask the same “have you dined with us?” question, but based on their answer, your will have a varied response.
If someone says they have dined with you before, your host will gives thanks and a voucher with a reply like this, “Well, thank you for being a loyal customer, we truly appreciate it, so here’s a voucher for an appetizer or dessert on-the-house next time you come in!”
If someone says they have not dined at your restaurant (the non-loyal giver), but the person they’re purchasing for enjoys your restaurant, have your host say, “What a thoughtful gift! We would love for you to come experience our dining sometime too, so come in and enjoy an appetizer or dessert on-the-house soon.”
Yes, we realize all of our strategies involve incentivizing by giving something away, but it’s also setting your restaurant up for future sales and gaining more loyal customers. Also, surprising and delighting your guests is what makes customers tell people about the positive experience they had at your restaurant.
Your Online Gift Card Sales Strategy
Finally, we can’t forget online. We know we’ve done a little bit of bashing of table tents and front-of-house flyers, but people instinctively ignore those, so you have to go online to capture attention and additional sales.
Here are some of our top pointers for online gift card marketing:
- Run boosted posts and ads. Run them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (if your engagement is good there).
- Use your email list. Offer a special incentive to your subscribers and make sure to send more than one email about it. Put a mention of it in your newsletter and then send a follow up email closer to the holidays that just addresses your gift cards and what’s in it for your subscribers.
- Host a giveaway. Get creative and create a user-generated content campaign so someone can win a gift card for themselves and one to gift to a friend. Or maybe you can do something fun related to the “Elf on a Shelf” craze and your gift cards to run a social media campaign. Honestly, think outside the box, the holidays make it easy to try a nutty idea in the name of holiday cheer.
- Make it possible to purchase your gift cards online. Let people have the option of purchasing online and printing out their gift certificate or selecting to pick it up at your restaurant. This will require more organization at your front-of-house in terms of having people come in to pick up their gift cards, but when you make it as easy as possible for people to purchase right when it’s at the top of their mind, you’ll capture more sales.
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be, if you have the drive to make this a big focus for just the month of December, you’ll see those efforts pay off in to next year.
And if you feel that it will help, incentivize your employees with a “whoever sells the most gift cards” contest, trust us, they get the job done. Now it’s time to get to work, because, as you know, those gift cards won’t sell themselves.