Get the Message Out with SMS Texts
When you send current customers and potential new diners a text message, chances are high they’ll see it. After texts are received, 90 percent of the messages are read within three minutes, according to VoiceSage.
In contrast, e-mail messages have an open rate of around 20 percent, per Mailchimp statistics. The disparity makes sending text messages an attractive option, as the likelihood that they will be viewed is higher. Sending out texts can also be more personable than e-mail, providing chance to connect in a real way with customers.
Effective SMS (Short Message Service) marketing, which consists of sending text messages to cell phone users who have signed up to receive messages, follows a process. To maximize a text campaign, it’s essential to plan and dedicate enough time to the efforts. Following are key guidelines to keep in mind when using SMS marketing to enhance sales and ultimately, increase profits.
Make it worthwhile.
“For your messages to affect your bottom line, you need to grow your list,” says Alfredo Saikeld, marketing manager at SimpleTexting, a SMS marketing platform. Create a keyword that customers can text to sign up for promotions and include it on your menus, receipts and pizza boxes. You can also add a sign-up form on your website. Once customers sign up, send an automatic reply that includes a sign-up offer or reward.
When asking customers to opt in for text messages, a light promotion, such as “10 percent off an appetizer,” might not get much attention. “People are, rightly, highly protective of their cell number,” says David Ganulin, principal at Local Mobile Marketing Solutions, which helps bar and restaurant owners build effective SMS marketing campaigns. Instead, when launching a campaign, you may use an invitation such as: “Join our new SMS VIP Club and get entered automatically each month for your chance to win a $50 gift card. As a special thank you for opting in, you’ll receive 20 percent off your next order.”
Slow and steady can be effective tools when sending out offers. “It’s not like e-mail,” Ganulin says. Rather than hitting customers with several messages in a row, or updating them with daily offers, leave time between messages so clients don’t get burned out. “With SMS, especially in the beginning, less is definitely more,” Ganulin explains.
Follow timing secrets.
Among Americans, 53 percent don’t know what they are going to eat for lunch until they realize they are hungry, according to a 2019 survey by the California Walnut Board & Commission. “Imagine how powerful a text message offer would be if it arrives between 11 a.m. and noon,” says Bob Bentz, president of Purplegator, a digital marketing agency.
Scheduling promotions to coincide with popular events in your area, such as a college football game or music concert, can also increase conversions. Attendees looking to feed a group or grab a quick meal after the activity ends could jump at an enticing offer.
For locations in a business district, time communications to coordinate with corporate workers. “If you are trying to reach a white-collar businessperson, send your text messages at 57 minutes after the hour,” Bentz says. “That’s when busy executives are waiting for their next meeting to start and are spending time looking at their mobile phone.”
Make the words count.
The standard character limit for a SMS message is 160 characters. While most phones and networks provide support so users can rebuild a message that includes more characters, it’s best to keep specials short and to the point. “Put the most important words early in the 160-character message,” Bentz suggests. This way customers won’t have to push extra buttons to be able to view the entire offer.
If you’re including an offer with a short expiration, or want to highlight a key menu item, make certain phrases larger. “Capitalize the most important words in your broadcast messages,” Bentz says. You might send a message that says, “1 FREE MEDIUM PIZZA when you buy a large pizza” or “30 percent OFF PEPPERONI pizzas, offer valid TODAY ONLY.”
“Don’t think that all of your messages need to be discounts,” Bentz says. You can send wishes for holidays, remind customers of menu items that are only available for a limited time, such as in-season toppings, and alert them of new menu offerings.
Give customers a choice.
After diners sign up for text messages, clients may reach a time when they no longer are interested in receiving offers. If you have an efficient way for them to opt out of promotions, customers will appreciate your simplicity and authenticity. “Offer a clear exit strategy,” says Reuben Yonatan, founder and CEO of GetVoIP, which reviews VoIP solutions and business communication applications.
To make it easy for customers, offer an opt-out choice right away. It might be included in the welcome message or shortly after. An explanation such as “Text STOP to no longer receive promotions,” may be all you need. The system could work in your favor when customers view the exit path, as sometimes “more sign up when they know they have a clear way to unsubscribe when they no longer need the service,” Yonatan says.
How to Choose the Right Texting Service
While many marketing agencies offer texting services, you’ll want a platform that works for you and your restaurant’s unique needs. Ask the following questions when shopping for a text marketing service:
- What is the cost? You don’t want to spend more than the benefits you’ll receive. In addition to prices, ask for a referral or client case study to see what results to expect.
- What industries do you work with? Agencies that cater to single-owned restaurants or food service operators will likely have a better understanding of your place’s needs and requirements.
- What features are available? Make sure the company’s specialties line up with your priorities.
- How does customer service work? When you have a question, you’ll want to be reassured help is on-hand to solve any issues before they impact your overall sales or customers’ experiences.
Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer who covers small business, finance and lifestyle topics.