Your Ultimate Guide to Text Message Marketing for Restaurants is Here.

Text Message Marketing FAQs

As the leading text message marketing solution provider for restaurants, convenience stores, and other brick and mortar brands, we understand that some of the “lingo” and concepts behind using mobile messaging to communicate with customers is unique and a relatively new marketing channel. This FAQ page will get you up to speed quickly on the strategies, best practices, terminology, and legalities of text message marketing.

Understanding B2C Text Message Marketing

What exactly is text message marketing?

Essentially, text message marketing is reaching out to your customers on their mobile phone’s text messaging app to drive store visits, increase website or store visit frequency, and build brand loyalty.

What’s the difference between SMS, MMS AND RCS messaging?

SMS, MMS AND RCS are different types of text messaging for delivering your brand’s mobile messages. You can think of them progressively:

  • SMS (Short Messaging Service) is the most basic form of text messaging, strictly limited to text (no images or video) and 160 characters. Simple, yes, but still effective for many text marketing campaigns.

  • MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) is a more advanced messaging service than SMS, letting you send your guests a message that includes not only text but also pictures, GIFS, video and/or audio content. MMS messages typically generate far more guest interaction than SMS messages.

  • RCS (Rich Communication Services) is even more advanced, not only employing multimedia assets but also enabling 2-way interaction with your guests, similar to the functionality of a brand’s mobile app. Example: Subway used RCS to put directly in the text message a scrollable menu for live ordering. Cool, right?

What is a “short code” in SMS marketing?

A short code is the 5- or 6-digit alphanumeric code your brand uses when sending and receiving text messages. Think of it as your brand’s text messaging mailing address. Short is good! A short string of numbers is easier for your customer to remember or type — especially when you are promoting text club opt-ins through, say, table tents or your receipt.

You can provide the short code (e.g., 54563) to your guests so that they can sign up for your program (“Text Yes to 54563” for instance).

What are “keywords” in text message marketing, and how do I use them?

A keyword in SMS marketing is a word or short phrase you put in your text message that your guests can text to you (using the short code). The keyword will trigger a specific action that you have set up in your text message marketing platform.

For example, you might have an in-store poster that says, “Text ‘OFFERS’ to 55333 for special discounts with our text club.” The word OFFERS is your keyword. It informs your text platform to take an action. In this example, the action might be to (a.) add them to your text message subscriber list and (b.) send a reply to the new subscriber, welcoming them.

Another common use of a keyword is to allow subscribers to opt out by replying with STOP, END, QUIT or CANCEL.

How can I use images in text messaging?

Images are powerful! The proof: industry stats show that multimedia messages get a 400% higher conversion rate than SMS. To drive coupon usage, entice guests with a mouthwatering image of a menu item, for example.

Can I use video in my text messages?

With the right text message marketing platform, you can indeed use video in a text message. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video with its 30 images per second, is a full story! A typical use of video in text message marketing is to embed what amounts to a very short commercial, which is a great way to launch a new product, for instance. Your text club BOGO discount offer on your new Sunrise Sandwich, for example, will perform substantially better if your club member sees a happy guest unwrapping that mouthwatering new sandwich. To see an example of how you can use video in a text message, request a demo here.

Can a text message platform identify if the subscriber’s phone cannot accept MMS or RCS?

Your ability to identify “on the fly” whether the recipient’s phone can receive an RCS or MMS message is critical to ensuring that all your text club members get your message. Unfortunately, few text marketing platforms can support SMS, MMS, and RCS formats. With a messaging platform that can identify the phone’s text message capability and limitations, you can create your campaign with alternate versions of your message, and the platform can deliver the right version to the right phone.

How much does it cost to do text message marketing?

Oooh, tough one. Like asking how much it costs to heat your home. It depends on the size of the home, how cold it is, how warm you want the house to be, etc. Similarly, the cost of text message marketing depends on the base rate of your platform provider, the number of stores you have, the number of subscribers in your text message club and the frequency of text message campaigns you send out. Contact us and we can help you figure it out for your brand.

What are my legal obligations for texting customers?

There are legal and privacy requirements and guideline defined by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the California Consumer Privacy Act. Since each violation can potentially expose your company to liability charges of between $500 and $1,500 for each text, you want to make sure you get this right. Other resources from those who oversee text messaging laws in the U.S. include the Federal Communications Commission, regulating all electronic and media communications including text message marketing, and the Federal Trade Commission, handling complaints or violations related to business-to-consumer text communications. 

What are the legal requirements for text message marketing?

Some examples of the legal requirements that will affect you directly regarding opt-ins and opt-outs:

  • You must get explicit written consent to add someone to your subscription list. This is usually done when the subscriber replies “Yes” when receiving an opt-in text message.

  • Their consent must be documented and saved (your text message marketing platform typically handles that for you).

  • As part of the opt-in process, your new subscriber must receive clear disclosure of the messages they will receive, an estimate of the number of messages they should expect and a notice about any potential cellular charges, (e.g., “Msg & Data rates may apply”).

  • You also need to give them a link where they can read the full terms and conditions of your privacy policy.

  • End each message with how to opt out from receiving messages and how they can get help if needed. For example, “HELP/STOP call 8447881234” or “Text HELP or STOP to unsubscribe.”

Given the consequences and cost of not doing it right, do consult with legal counsel.

What can my brand communicate to text club subscribers?

Beyond the common marketing campaigns, such as offers, discounts and coupons, many restaurants also use their text club to build customer loyalty and to make important announcements. In fact, we have assembled 10 examples of how to do that here, which include doing surveys, either for fun (“vote your favorite: curly fries or waffle fries?”) or guest feedback surveys (“Tell us about your recent visit”), invitations to your social media channels, and announcing employment opportunities.

Strategic Considerations for Text Message Marketing

Why should I consider text marketing for my business?

There are many reasons to put business-to-consumer mobile messaging into your digital marketing mix. For example:

  • Text messaging is the phone app your customers use 47X a day.

  • Text messaging is the strongest-performing digital channel, with an open rate 5X greater than promotional emails and nearly 20X the open rate of app notifications.  

  • Subscribers of brands using our text marketing platform return on average 20% more frequently and spend 23% more.

But rather than take our word for how well restaurant text message marketing works, take a look at some of our case studies:

  • A Northwest pizza chain saw a 14x rate on redemptions over the same offer sent by email. Details.

  • A restaurant brand’s newly launched text club got 20k new subscribers, with 75% redeeming the opt-in offer, boosting total guest spend by 40%. Details.

  • A national burger chain’s guest engagement campaign got significant gains in app downloads and registrations from an RCS campaign. Details.

What statistics justify text messaging as a marketing channel?

Stats show that most of your guests are already using text messaging and that many guests are reluctant to download a brand's mobile app. Stats also show that there is little overlap between marketing channels, with some of your guests only using email, others only connecting with you through your loyalty app, and some only using text messaging. So, if you are not using text messaging, you are missing out on a significant chunk of your audience. To find more info that justifies text message marketing as part of your digital strategy, check out The Ultimate Guide to Text Message Marketing for Restaurants

What are “owned marketing channels” and why are they important?

Owned marketing channels (sometimes called owned media channels) are those that your brand has total control over, with no competitors vying for the same customer and where you get to set the rules. That’s the short answer. Get the full lowdown on what owned marketing channels are and how to leverage them in the article What are “owned channels” and why are they important?

How frequently should I send text messages to subscribers?

For best results, we have seen that an effective frequency of promotional messages is between one and two times a week.

Is there an optimal time of day to send text messages?

Indeed there is. More importantly, there are bad times to send your text message. Short story: aim for midday to be considerate to those who sleep in and those who go to bed early, and don’t forget to factor in time zone differences if your text platform can do that. That will be especially helpful if your stores are spread across multiple time zones. For more details, read When Is the Best Time of Day to Send Text Messages.

How to Get Started with SMS Marketing

How long does it take to get started with a text marketing platform?

The answer varies substantially from one vendor to the next, and on the size and the degree of integration with your marketing stack during setup. Launching a text-based marketing solution and growing your subscriber base for a restaurant brand with, say, five stores will take less time than it would for a brand with 2,000 stores. As for Mobivity: we typically stand up a text message marketing program in just a few weeks.

It is possible to import a list of subscribers to start my text club?

Yes, an enterprise-grade text messaging platform vendor will allow you to import subscriber lists.

How do I promote, build, and optimize a text club?

More established enterprise-grade SMS platform providers can not only provide the platform but also assist with your brand’s text club strategy based on their experience with other restaurant brands or may even offer subscriber acquisition support as we do. To get you rolling on your own text club promotion and growth, check out:

Example advice from those sources: You can “rally the troops” — your locations — to promote your text club with opt-in cards at the register, table tents, window clings, etc. Also, employ your other owned marketing channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, your own website, etc.) to promote text club opt-ins.

What are some tricks to keeping my messages short?

Mobile messaging spacing is limited, but there are a number of techniques to help you say more with less, to communicate with the fewest number of characters. For example, if you’ve got more to say than will fit within the 160-character limit of SMS messaging, use abbreviations to conserve space (“ur” instead of “your” and “9a-7p M-W” instead of “9 AM to 7 PM Monday through Wednesday). For a smorgasbord of tips and tricks, check out the Text Message Abbreviations For Businesses section of the article Text Messaging Terms 101.

What should be included in every B2C text message?

Consider that time-tested strategy for good communications: Make sure your recipient knows who, what, where, why and how. Check out the What Should We Have In Every B2C Text Marketing Message We Send? article that gives real-world examples of text marketing best practices and general guidance. You’ll also need to include the required legal text we mentioned earlier.

How do I grow my text club subscriber base?

Growing your text club may seem like a big hurdle, but with the right platform, it’s actually easier than you think. Get ideas and best practices for establishing and growing your text club subscriber base here: How Do I Get Opt-Ins to Launch a Text Club?

Here’s a teaser from the article: Train your team members to start the conversation with guests. Team members' enthusiasm about the benefits of your text club is an effective way to quickly build awareness and boost subscribers. 

How can I get subscribers to invite their friends and family?

For those who are already raving fans, simply reminding them to encourage friends to subscribe for offers might be enough. It's as easy as having subscribers share messages with their friends.

That said, it always helps if there is something in it for existing subscribers, such as a reward for getting friends to join. Also consider a promotion where the text club members who get the most new referrals gets something enticing, such as a $20 gift card.

What type of text club messages work best?

Our recently-published guide CUSTOMER TEXT MESSAGING: THE MOBILE-FIRST PIVOT FOR RESTAURANTS gives you real-world examples from leading brands, and includes the 5 most effective types of messages leading brands are successfully using to help meet the expectations of their mobile-first guests. It’s free.

Teasers from the guide:

  • Promote time-sensitive, limited-time offers.

  • Send timely messages with a “text-to-order” button that streamlines the online order process. Learn more here.

  • Boost mobile app usage and downloads by encouraging text club subscribers to enable app notifications.

 

How do I measure my SMS marketing results and improve?

If thorough and accurate measurement is not built into the text message marketing platform you have chosen, it can be difficult or impossible to confidently attribute an uptick in sales to your text club promotions. Some text marketing platforms provide powerful marketing analytics for assessing returns on your marketing spend — how much you earned compared to how much you spent. This is critical for planning SMS marketing budget allocation. Only by being able to connect a sale to the source message can you realistically justify your platform investment.

Choosing the Right Mobile Messaging Partner

How important is industry specialization when choosing a provider?

Choosing a text platform provider that understands your industry is critical. Every industry has unique needs. Choose a vendor who can support your brand strategically, using their own depth of experience in supporting your industry. For instance, a text platform provider serving restaurants knows what works (and what doesn’t work!), and will have the right platform with the required features and volume/delivery capacity.

What vendors specialize in serving restaurant brands?

Here’s the full list:

  1. Mobivity.

That’s the entire list. No other text message marketing platform was built from the ground up to support the unique needs of food-service brands.

What are the features I should include in my SMS marketing RFP?

There are some general features that any business should consider when choosing a provider. And if you are a restaurant, there are specific requirements for the foodservice industry. To save you the trouble of defining this list on your own, check out the article What to Look for in a Text Message Marketing Program, which includes our Buyer’s Guide: a downloadable text platform/provider evaluation checklist — foodservice industry-focused but useful to any business considering SMS marketing.

What is “audience segmenting” and why is it important?

If your text message marketing platform can work with your customer data, you can make sure you are getting the right message to the right person at the right time by using audience segmenting.

Here are some proven examples:

  • Send a targeted message based on geo-location to promote local store news or a grand opening.

  • Deliver a daypart-specific offer so that it goes out to text club members an hour before mealtime in their time zone.

  • Identify guests that haven’t visited in a while and send them an attractive bounce-back offer.

Why is volume capacity and speed of message delivery important?

In several industries, but especially in the restaurant business, it's important to use a text platform with the capacity/bandwidth to get your message out at exactly the right time, no matter how many customers you have. For example, if you want to do a lunch offer and have the text message reach your millions of subscribers at precisely 30 minutes before lunch today, and in their respective time zones, a platform’s volume capacity and speed is critical. Few platforms can deliver that on time to a brand with hundreds or thousands of stores and thousands or millions of text club subscribers.

What is meant by “enterprise-grade”?

There are literally hundreds of companies offering text message marketing solutions to businesses. But only a handful are built to handle the needs of larger chains that need more control over their campaigns with scalable performance for sending millions of messages, the ability to leverage first-party data and tie attributable revenue and performance to every promotion, machine learning abilities and restaurant industry expertise. Download this Text Marketing Evaluation Checklist to ensure that you choose a vendor with the features you need.

Why is it important for a program to support other marketing channels?

Your provider’s platform should be able to grow with you. While text message marketing should be a central component of your restaurant’s digital marketing strategy, growing brands typically want to develop a full range of digital marketing channels, such as mobile apps, social media, email, etc., each one supporting and promoting the other. The superior open rates of SMS (typically 98%!) makes it the ideal vehicle to support your other marketing channels, such as driving mobile app downloads. 

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