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In The News
Boost Your Text Appeal
Direct Digital Marketing Can Be A Shortcut To Your Guests' Stomachs

December 1, 2009

Published by Restaurant Hospitality
Edited by Megan Rowe


You might think hyping your restaurant through text or e-mail messages is a bit geeky or intrusive. In reality, many of your customers would welcome the intrusion.

A survey done by Harris Interactive found that 42 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 33 percent of those 35 to 44 years old are at least somewhat interested in receiving opt-in mobile alerts from their favorite businesses. They were particularly keen on hearing from restaurants, mentioned by 53 percent of the surveyed group. Respondents also wanted to receive offers in the separate categories of pizza, fast food and happy hour or bar and nightclub offers.

We got the lowdown on direct digital marketing from Bryce Marshall, director of strategic services for Knotice, an Akron company providing software and services for direct digital marketing. For the uninitiated, direct digital marketing implies e-mail and text messages.

RH: CAN YOU SUGGEST SOME SOME BABY STEPS FOR A RESTAURANT NEW TO DIRECT DIGITAL MARKETING?

Marshall: I think SMS (short message service) text messaging is probably one thing that will have the most overall return for the lowest investment.

A larger win comes from the integration of e-mail and text messaging. With either of these channels, two things need to happen: first, you need to build a database to make these programs worthwhile; and second, you need a way for people to respond. If you're sending out e-mail communications, it's sort of passive. You're letting them know about new menu items, seasonal promotions and new locations, but there is very little you can do with that e-mail that will drive people into the store. One tactic might be to place a coupon in the e-mail. That's an incentive, but it doesn't drive people into your restaurant. If you send a promotional code to a mobile phone, that's more direct.

RH: SO A GUEST WOULD SHOW THEIR MOBILE PHONE TO THE SERVER TO GET A DEAL ON A MEAL? ISN'T THAT STILL A LITTLE TOO CUTTING EDGE?

Marshall: There needs to be an understanding of how quickly habits, perceptions and the role of mobile devices in our lives are changing. If you look at data from 12 months ago, it's dramatically different from now. More and more people are getting on board with these technologies. A lot of people are requesting that coupons be sent to their mobile phones, and for a growing audience that is a more effective and convenient call of action than asking someone to print out a coupon.

RH: HOW DO YOU CREATE A DATABASE AND GET PERMISSION TO SEND OUT THESE OFFERS?

Marshall: If you already have an e-mail database, you can use that to drive the users to a form where they can opt in for text messages. The benefit is if you have any other data associated with that address, for instance, if you know their zip code, or whether they have a family that's a huge win. That means you can start marketing at a local level with offers for a family.

When have both (e-mail address and mobile numbers), you can do segmentation and targeting through both channels.

RH: WHAT ABOUT MORE ADVANCED APPLICATIONS?

Marshall: In addition to messages with offers and promos, a chain can help people find locations through text messages. Within a chain or group of restaurants, direct digital technology can give individual store managers the ability to impact the performance of a store on a day-to-day basis. Text messages are timely.

Let's say it's a slow day, and you are thinking of sending waiters and bussers home. You could send out a message with an offer: Tonight until 9 p.m. you get a free appetizer if you buy two entrees. If something like that brings in 5 or 10 tables, that could be a huge win.

RH: COMPARED TO OTHER INDUSTRIES, HOW WELL HAVE RESTAURANTS CAPITALIZED ON THESE TECHNOLOGIES?

Marshall: I think restaurants consistently undersell themselves in terms of the impact they can have through direct digital marketing. It seems to be based on a fear of trying new tactics outside the old reliable mailers, coupon clippers and radio ads. I don't think they realize how ready the consumer is for these new kinds of communications. I think technophobia is a huge issue.


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