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Start Your Own Email Marketing Agency Tonight
If you’re looking for a side-hustle business that requires almost zero start-up costs, save for a computer and cell phone–this one’s for you.
Become an email copywriter for local restaurants.
Most restaurant owners are too busy for marketing. They believe great food alone will keep customers returning.
A good marketer knows every business needs a marketing plan, else our customers will leave, forget about us, and go somewhere else (who does market to us). Restaurants are one of the toughest businesses to keep alive.
Those restaurants who don’t have a way to contact their customers will soon find themselves with empty booths.
You’re about to help them keep those booths full. With this copywriting side-hustle, you can quickly develop it into your full-hustle with six months of hard work.
This 9-step process could have you up and running today:
- Make a list of local restaurants in your area—Once you’ve got 30-50, search each restaurant’s website and look for an email opt-in box. If they don’t have a place to sign up and they don’t use social media, the restaurant is fair game for your new side-hustle.
- Search Yelp, Google, and other local ratings sites–Choose restaurants with high customer ratings. You can’t market your way out of a place with terrible food.
- Approach each restaurant personally–ask for the owner or manager, tell them you own a local marketing agency, and you’d like to help grow their business without any initial cost on the owner’s part. Tell the owner about the three visit rule (see below). Point to the restaurant and ask if they have a way to get in touch with customers. They don’t, but you already know that.
- When you get a yes, tell the owner you’ll waive your set-up fee (and the first month of your service) if she is willing to sign-up for six months (or whatever you want, but don’t lock yourself in too long) at a particular monthly rate. Let’s say $500/month (plus list fees, which can be a few hundred bucks per month once the list grows). Your plan includes 4 emails per month after the initial welcome sequence.
- You go home, create a landing page, write a welcome sequence template of ten emails, and get permission to add a button to the landing page on the restaurant’s website. Spread the emails over 2-3 weeks. Write the sequence so the emails come from the owner—personal and conversational. Refer to the three visit rule below. Don’t take a second client until you work through the kinks with the first. You’ll spend more time on the first customers and develop your process over time.
- Make a sign for the owner to duplicate for each table (and instruct the servers to remind customers too). The sign tells customers to pull out their phone right now, go to the restaurant’s website, and sign up for a free dessert for two—today, which they can use on their current meal. The restaurant is down a couple bucks in free desserts for the rights to email their customers forever.
- Encourage the owner to train the staff on the new email process. Develop a few witty talking points. Tell the owner to stock-up on desserts, or offer a certain low-cost dessert for the instant sign-up, or offer a 50% discount off the entire meal. The offer needs to be good for a customer to sign-up right now. We’re doing this live, in-person. Not on the internet.
- Go home and monitor the restaurant’s progress. Give the owner a monthly progress report on her list size and interaction rates. Don’t make it too long or too technical. Make a little chart, showing the growth of the list over time. Show how many people clicked on the coupons.
- Once you’ve got your system ironed-out, contact more restaurants. You’ve just started yourself a boutique marketing agency. You can scale this business as big as you want. Maybe a single client is enough for you. Maybe you can handle 30.
Here’s food for your sales pitch:
Keep them coming back (the three visit rule):
With restaurants, if you can get a customer to return for a second visit, they’re 42% likely to return for a third. If you get a customer to return a third time (and they have a great experience), you’re 70% likely they’ll return for a fourth visit (stats came from the Gary V. podcast).
You need to market to earn that fourth visit, not the second visit.
Therefore, you sign them up at the table. The first welcome email gives a coupon for free desert- boom. The next day you’ll send a nice personal story about the restaurant’s history (which you’ll get from the owner). A couple days after that, you’ll send another ‘gift’ of a free entree for one.
Tell the customer she must redeem the free entree by asking for the owner/manager.
This little key step is how you’ll prove the email system is working. The owner will now be bombarded with new customers on a daily basis, waving their phones and asking for the free entree.
The owner will call you, agree that the system works, and ask you to make a printable coupon or some other method that doesn’t bother her in the office. Maybe she’ll sign-up for six more months of service.
A couple weeks of friendly emails later, you send a final coupon. If the person brings a new friend to the restaurant (new to the restaurant), the friend’s entree is free.
Not only do you get the three visits this way, but you’ll also get new customers/subscribers to the list. The friend will point to the table sign, give her guest a nudge, and say “Hey let’s get free dessert. Grab your phone.”
There’s a built-in insurance policy
Once you spend the initial time setting-up the client through an email service provider, you control the list. If they don’t pay you the monthly fee, the emails stop.
You can agree to some rotating schedule of promotions, or give random menu options to try. Once a week you send a new email. The emails don’t have to be discounts after the first visit.
Share customer stories. Ask the customer to review the restaurant in social. Have one active task per email, no more.
A busy restaurant could get dozens (or hundreds) of new email subscribers per day. You will be the list-manager. The monthly maintenance fee must be paid or you’ll stop sending the emails. Now, the restaurant still owns the list. If you do part ways, make sure you give the owner the log-in information.
You’re not here to hijack anyone’s customers, but by continuing to send emails, the owner will want the new wave of traffic to keep coming. She’ll see the value in your work right away.
Welcome to your new marketing agency.
This business is perfect for a mobile lifestyle. Once you set up the program, you can monitor everything off-site. You can even sign-up restaurants in different cities as you travel. Create templates. Offer multiple packages.
Once you have a handful of customers, grow your agency by offering additional marketing services. Perhaps you maintain their social media accounts too. Or you offer consulting.
Become a fast-study of copywriting and marketing. Learn from direct mail experts like Gary Halbert and Dan Kennedy. Subscribe to multiple email lists and see how other copywriters attract customers to restaurants.
Package your services.
Build a course for restaurant owners who don’t have the cash flow to afford your full-service business. This way you’ll always have something to sell when you meet a new client. Expand you agency to other niche retain clients. Maybe even chiropractors and dentists.
It’s important to start as a niche agency for a certain type of client (such as restaurants). Moving-forward, you’ll earn word-of-mouth clients from many different businesses. Only work with people you want to have a long-term relationship with.
Increase your rates once the introductory period is over. You can earn well-over six figures from a small handful of clients, using this process.
If you want to start your own agency you don’t even need a website. All you need is a phone and access to an email service provider. A business card might make you look for official, but even that isn’t a necessity.
Restaurant owners and managers are busy with a million other problems. If you can prove you can help them, and your fee is less than their increased earnings, the sale should be a no-brainer.
If you don’t get a yes, keep knocking until you find an owner who will.
Email copywriting is the perfect side-hustle for anyone who loves to write and doesn’t want to worry about a nine-to-five job. You can work when you want, as much (or little) as you want, for a great, recurring income stream.
Sure, there’s a learning curve. Which is why I suggest starting with one client first. But once you have your system in place, the process is easy to scale without too much additional work on your end.
August Birch is an author, email expert, and entrepreneur from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make more work that sells and sell more work once it’s made. When he’s not writing or teaching, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.