Most restaurateurs are familiar with using email to contact customers but may not be as clear about when to use SMS for restaurant profitability.
Both SMS (text) and email communications to customers are key tools for driving Restaurants profits.
Both SMS and email can be employed for customer enticement, win back, customer nurturing and retention promotions, reminder and booking confirmations, however they bring different strengths towards these types of tasks, therefore one may be a better choice based on the job at hand.
Both have a cost associated with using them and require paying for a service, however forget about the fact that it costs more to Text (SMS) than to email. These cost differences are tiny in relation to the total time, effort and money (not a lot though), in setting up, continual management and update of your customer communications.
Besides who cares about the costs if you are achieving an R.O.I. greater that your investment, Right !!!
Now of course I am assuming that your restaurant already maintains a customer list, therefore collects email and mobile contact details, because you have already been told to do this for a few years now.
Restaurant survival processes become more critical in 2016 and beyond. Not only is competition more fierce through the use of promotional technology, we are also entering a period of prolonged and uncertain economic conditions, where every businesses will be competing for less customer dollars, as the downturn starts to bite.
Being able to market to existing customers with loyalty promotions to aid customer retention, win-back campaigns to revive old customers plus entice customers in more often, are critical elements in the survival game. (Do not have a customer list or no regular external communications with customers? If you need assistance then: Contact Me.
In Jan 2016, BurstSMS provided access their 2015 STATE OF SMS report. This article contains a free report download link to their report so just keep reading and you will come across it. While looking through this report I saw a simple table that simply explains the differences in how customers interact with SMS and eMail.
The reason you communicate with customers is to bring in revenue and improve profits. Staying fully booked is a big factor in profitability.
For peek periods you confirm bookings with patrons in advance, in case they have changed plans so that you can cover their booking with another party. During slow periods you are looking to entice patrons into the restaurant to lift capacity and improve profits.
So regardless if confirming bookings or trying to entice people in, it means you need to communicate with customers in one of four ways.
1. Telephone to speak to them or leave a message. Probably least efficient in time and message response, plus limiting because only applicable to confirming bookings. Calling people on the off-chance they may want dine is far too intrusive and likely to be detrimental. It is excellent (and really the only way) for pacifying disgruntled customers after they have left, however a very inefficient way to gain customer feed back surveys as too many customers will not tell you exactly how they feel directly to your face, or on the phone.
2. eMail works well for promotional campaigns and reminder messages when used a few days to weeks prior to an event. As open rates are lower and slower, you should expect to send more than one email to get a response. So not that effective for quick confirmations or a last minute hunt for a new patron to fill a cancelled booking.
The advantage of email is that you can create beautiful enticements with fancy fonts, images, colour, with multiple with links to other pages, videos, menus, etc. Plus you can use email auto-responder services to automatically sends out pre-written customer communications on a regular basis (ie once per week or monthly) and provides pre-written email responses when triggered by a customers actions.
This style of promoting is still considered one of the best ways of nurturing new customers to try your restaurant and can be very effective when used in conjunction with Facebook marketing within your local area.
Email is an excellent medium for customer surveys because you can sell the sizzle and provide enticements to complete the survey, as well as to come back into your restaurant. Email is also a great medium for customer loyalty and retention communications, win back or old customer revival campaigns and requests to provide on-line reputation ratings and recommendations, because you have room to ‘sell’ the action and can make it look attractive.
3. SMS (text) is hands down winner in both speed and open rates when needing to get a message out fast, as well as getting a response. There is also the added advantage that a large portion of the public would rather communicate with a business via SMS for bookings and confirmations than call and have to speak to somebody.
Clearly SMS should be the choice for bookings or a quick SMS blast to the customer list to fill a table due to a cancellation.
SMS limitations revolve around needing to use less than 176 characters spaces (includes opt-out link) of just plain text, in a single message, so there is not a lot of marketing sizzle or enticement that can be written into that small space. Consumers hate receiving truncated messages broken over 2 or more texts, plus MMS (mobile multi-media) has not yet been established well enough and many consumers are limited in being able to use MMS.
Start putting website links into an SMS to take customers to a webpage, then unless the message is simple and intuitive and requires no explanation or sales sizzle, then SMS may not be your best choice to do this. Simple messages examples could be: “click link or reply yes to confirm booking” “click for menu” or “Free table tomorrow night. Receive 15 % off if you book right now”,
SMS is not as suited to new customer getting and nurturing campaigns, where lots of images or video is desired to sell the person on trying, or coming back to your restaurant.
4. Last alternative is to outsource the on-going promotional process to find new customers or entice existing patrons, with bookings and reminders on your behalf, such as in the ‘Birthday Restaurant Marketing‘ service.
With mobile penetration better than 50%, every business needs to makes sure their customer communications and promotions are mobile friendly. This means that images and text looks good and is readable on smaller mobiles screen that are begin bounced around a little. They need easy to click phone numbers and call to action buttons and the pages need to load fast.
Email may have stayed at the forefront of online marketing primarily because connecting to WiFi has fixed the large emails on a mobile device problems, along with better 3G and even better 4G mobile broadband radio waves.
However page load speeds on mobile devices are a major factor as to whether an email or webpage is viewed. If it is too slow to load then more people will give-up and move on.
As promised here is the Burst SMS 2015 State Of SMS free report link.
For clarity I receive no remuneration from Burst SMS and they do not endorse me. Furthermore as always you will need to make up your own mind as to whether it is a suitable service to use. I do have an account with BurstSMS because I believe they have a good platform and it is always good to support an Australian owned and operated SMS service provider.
If you like some assistance with your restaurant customer communications then click here – Contact Me
If you want to checkout our new Restaurant Birthday Marketing service where we find people who are about to have a birthday in you local area and entice them to book their birthday celebration at your restaurant, then click on the link – ‘Birthday Restaurant Marketing‘