Where did the time go?

Over two decades, the number of mobile users has grown to nearly 260 billion in the U.S. alone. As expected, smartphone ownership has also skyrocketed in the last five years, growing from 35% to a staggering 68% of U.S. adults.

Top restaurant CMOs instantly saw the marketing potential of this upward trend and have wasted no time in developing effective SMS marketing strategies to drive business.

The Power of Texting

If there are billions of mobile users, you can bet there’s a lot of texting going on. In fact, it’s estimated that over 6 billion SMS messages are sent per day!

SMS simply stands for “short message service”, but everyone knows it as good ole fashioned text messaging.

And let’s face it, texting is just easier. Why check flight delays online when you can just receive a text message alert? It’s all about convenience, and more customers are starting to subscribe to SMS alerts for the following:

  • Website and service verifications
  • Job advertisements
  • E-ticket confirmations
  • Retail sale reminders
  • Event reminders
  • Medical appointment reminders

These are all forms of SMS marketing, and it’s just the start of what you can do.

Restaurants, in particular, greatly benefit from SMS marketing because it strengthens ties with the local community. Instead of being several degrees away from your customers, SMS gives you a direct line to each individual customer.

Therefore, you can create a more personalized marketing strategy to attract new guests but still show appreciation for your most loyal customers.

And top marketers agree, as almost 70% of all companies have some kind of mobile marketing strategy! So let’s take a look at six restaurant SMS marketing strategies to get customers through that door.

Make Sure You Have A Mobile-Friendly Website

This is an absolute must.

If you’re serious about SMS marketing, you need a mobile-friendly site. If it’s not optimized for mobile use, then the first thing you have to do is acquire a responsive website design.

Responsive websites work seamlessly on both desktops and mobile phones. When promoting SMS campaigns, you want to direct customers to a no-fuss mobile site. Sites that aren’t optimized for mobile take much longer to load, plus certain features are useless, rendering an SMS campaign totally ineffective.

Incorporate QR Codes Into Your Print Marketing

QR codes work like barcodes. When a customer scans one, it directs them to a URL of some type, like a landing page, printable coupon, or in your case, a web form to subscribe to SMS marketing messages.

The best part about QR codes is that you can integrate them into your print marketing materials with ease. Include QR codes on the following print materials to increase your SMS sign-ups:

  • Paper mats, tabletop signage, and menus.
  • Mailed coupons, pamphlets, paper menus, and other forms of direct mail.
  • Restaurant listings in newspapers, coupon books, travel guides, and local flyers.

QR codes are easy to generate yourself. You can also have your in-house team create branded QR codes with unique colors and designs.

Use Instagram To Promote SMS Marketing Campaigns

People can’t resist taking pictures of beautifully plated food. That’s why Instagram is filled with vibrant photos of soup, seafood, tasty desserts, and gourmet appetizers.

In fact, nearly 30 million photos of food were uploaded in one year alone! Therefore, as a restauranteur, can you afford to not promote your business on Instagram?

But you need to be creative if you want to get those SMS sign-ups. Try these ideas for starters:

  • Take compelling photos of your dishes and post frequently. Even make time to engage with your community through helpful comments.
  • Take any opportunity you can to promote your SMS alerts if someone leaves a question on your Instagram.
  • Create an original hashtag campaign and include your SMS promotion in your post.
  • Piggyback onto existing viral hashtags like #FlashBackFriday or #MondayMotivation to promote the benefit of signing up for SMS alerts.
  • Start a hashtag campaign to encourage customers to Instagram their favorite dishes at your restaurant. The more activity you encourage, the more chances you have to promote your awesome SMS service.

Promote Exclusive SMS-Only Coupons and Deals

Times have changed. While many customers do swear by paper coupons, more customers are opting for the convenience of digital delivery.

That means email, social media, and yes, text messages!

But nothing is more immediate than a text message. People ignore emails but they don’t ignore texts.

Just check the stats:

To make your customers extra happy, send SMS coupons for Mother’s Day specials, happy hours, lunch specials, free desserts, and other fun offers.

Say Happy Birthday

Restaurants and birthdays go hand-in-hand, so a “Happy Birthday” text can go a long way with your customers.

Use SMS marketing to send alerts for free birthday desserts, birthday coupons, free company swag, and special deals on hosted birthday parties. You can also use your SMS strategy to send birthday event reminders to your guests.

How To Build and Manage Your SMS Network

All these marketing methods are great for building your mobile customer network, but how do you handle all that data?

How you manage your SMS marketing strategy is just as important as how you implement it. Therefore, before you launch your campaigns, make sure you have the proper tools in place to grow and build your network.

First, you’ll need to establish a database to store and manage your customers’ information. That’s where you update info, delete unsubscribed cell numbers, and create customer lists for different marketing campaigns. For example, you can create separate marketing lists for seniors and parents with children under 12.

Next, you’ll want to automate your SMS strategy.

You obviously can’t send or answer customer texts at four in the morning, but you can set up an API that automates the work for you. For example, if a customer texts your restaurant for holiday hours, you can immediately reply without skipping a beat.

Remember it’s all about convenience, and happy customers are loyal customers.

Keep them happy by incorporating a robust SMS marketing strategy that takes out the middle man, so you can connect directly with your community.