Mobile Strategies for Local Restaurant Marketers

Bryce MarshallIn my previous post I relayed the first two direct digital marketing challenges – and opportunities – local restaurant marketers face. The foodservice industry stands to gain by approaching email marketing and mobile marketing with equal weight and similar tactics. Here are two more challenges that are easily overcome, allowing restaurant marketers to capitalize on the enormous local-marketing opportunities available with direct digital marketing.

Challenge #3: A blanket approach doesn’t always win customers

Blasting a single message to every customer in the email or SMS list doesn’t reflect the relationship diners have with their local restaurant. Broadcast media is great for building loyalty with a brand, but terrible for establishing loyalty at the community level. A substantial benefit to direct digital marketing is the ability to customize messages and offers based on simple segmentation, such as a diner’s preferred location or zip code. In contrast to offline community-focused media alternatives like FSIs and mailers, this level of targeting is readily available and cost-effective only with sound direct digital tactics.

Flexibility pays huge dividends in establishing a local connection. Important details like local or regional features, promotions and discounts, variable store hours, or catering and to-go services can all be lost in a blanket marketing approach. When email and SMS programs are managed together – ideally from a single database – effective segmentation and targeting opportunities exist within a community-by-community context. It’s a best-case scenario where LSM (local store marketing) insight is married with corporate marketing muscle.

SMS programs are a huge win for LSM efforts because they provide local store managers the opportunity to distribute real-time text-message campaigns to a sub-segment of opted-in customers in their community. Having a slow Thursday dinner? Within minutes an SMS message can be drafted with a pre-approved offer, and sent to customers within driving distance. This is marketing at the micro-level; the flexibility to impact the business on a day-to-day basis.

Challenge #4: Make the Web matter

By now, most quick-service or casual dining chains – whether national or exclusively regional – have invested in a significant web presence. Websites in this category share some basic information: menu, features, coupons, and store locations. Beyond the basics, most restaurants struggle with monetizing this information and tying business value back to the investment. Using email and SMS together helps make this information relevant to diners, and translates information into dollars spent at the store.

Some ways to make the Web more effective:

  • Make the menu interactive by providing a call-to-action alongside new menu announcements. For example, offer site visitors the option to send a coupon to themselves via email or SMS. The site is already doing the work of making the visitor hungry – now let them act on it!
  • The same basic principle applies for any offer found on the site. There’s no reason why a coupon should be impossible to send via email or text message. Consumers have growing expectations about the usability of web properties, demanding access to savings across their digital devices. Failing to respond to consumer demand in this respect hurts sales.
  • Monetize the store locator functionality in the same manner as the online menu and offers by allowing visitors to forward location information to their mobile phone for easy lookup when they’re on the road. Better yet, include a coupon in the SMS message, giving them further motivation to jump in the car. Improving the interactive nature of the web property turns location browsers into location visitors.

Every tactic is feasible. However, they become difficult to accomplish in a cost-effective way for quick-service and casual dining operators unless the cornerstone components of direct digital marketing – email and SMS – are managed together as a single solution. Once the efficiency of an integrated approach is realized, the traditional hurdles to successful direct digital marketing begin to disappear.


  1. Posted June 24, 2009 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    That is some great information you get there. If you can pick, which will you prefer? Mobile marketing or Website?

  2. Posted June 24, 2009 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    That is some great information you get there.

  3. Posted June 24, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Hi Alan,
    I think what you’re asking is, if forced to choose between launching a mobile marketing program vs launching a website (or making improvements to an existing site) due to budget constraints, which is the best investment right now?

    Forced to choose, I think the mobile program has the most potential for immediate, tangible pay off. It’s all about driving hungry mouths to the store, right? As a call-to-action communication text messaging is ideal for targeting consumers at the precise time of day they are thinking about eating (11:30am, 5pm, 12pm, etc) and giving them the promotion details or coupons that will drive them to your door. Plus, you can promote the mobile program very cost-effectively with in-store collateral and displays, to get the critical mass of opted-in consumers that you need.

    Please keep in mind that a good website experience and a mobile program complement each other very nicely. Making online menus “interactive” with mobile coupons is a great example. And aspects of the online business such as online ordering should not be overlooked in the long term.


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