The Secret Message: Text Your Way to Marketing Success

Use these 10 tips to craft a text marketing strategy that will make opt-in customers feel like true insiders.

  • Text or SMS message marketing can boost restaurant frequency by 23% and increase consumer spend by 21%, according to Mobivity.
  • Make your opt-in customers feel like insiders and keep the tone of your messages light and fun.

Related: Is SMS the secret sauce to effective marketing?

By Rick Hynum

We all know texting is a surefire way to get in touch with someone. In fact, a lot of people would rather text than talk on the phone, and this likely goes for your customers, too. According to Mobivity, a text marketing platform for restaurants, texting is the second most common use for a mobile phone (checking the time is No. 1). Eighty percent of customers use texting on a regular basis, and the open rate for text messages is a whopping 98%. And 90% of people read their texts within three minutes of receiving them.

Now here’s the best part: Mobivity also reports that text (or SMS) message marketing boosts restaurant visit frequency by 23% and increases consumer spend by 21%. So not only is your pizzeria’s text message likely to be seen and read, it will also get results that add to your bottom line. The challenge is crafting the right message and making your customers feel like they belong to an exclusive, top-secret pizza club. Here are 10 tips for creating a text marketing strategy that will engage customers and drive more traffic to your pizzeria.

1. Use opt-in keywords to build up your database.

You probably know this already, but you can’t send marketing texts to your customers unless they opt in to receive them. So the first step is to get them to sign up, and this starts with in-store and social media marketing. Create a simple, relevant keyword—such as PIZZA4ME—and promote it with signage, on your menus, table tents and pizza boxes, and in your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok posts. Invite customers to text PIZZA4ME to a designated number so they can start receiving special discounts, alerts and opportunities to participate in contests to win free food.

2. Make your opt-in customers feel like insiders.

Many of us feel like outsiders but long for the opposite. To build up your text marketing database, reward your opt-in customers with exclusive deals that the regular walk-in customer can’t get. For example, they can receive exclusive alerts about new menu items and try them out at a discounted price if they show the text to the server. Or offer a free surprise appetizer—preferably something that doesn’t routinely appear on the menu—on Tuesday nights only.

3. Identify the target customer according to daypart and craft your message accordingly.

Delivered around mid-morning, a text message advertising a lunch special, for example, will catch the customer at the right time. Consider promoting a lunchtime slice-and-salad offer or a personal-size pizza with a high-quality photograph. Or send a text in the afternoon about your family meal bundle for dinner. Make the deal exclusive to text message recipients (or “insiders”) and be clear about the price. Every text you send should emphasize value and exclusivity so your customers will want to keep hearing from you.

Related: Direct mail meets digital in the new pizzeria marketing paradigm

4. Keep the tone light and fun.

Texts crafted with wit and personality will be remembered! The ideal marketing text should read as if it were sent by a friend, not a soulless corporation. Keep it short and to the point and consider adding relevant emojis to your message, such as a pizza slice or a mug of beer. At the same time, remember to include a clear call to action—you want your customer to know exactly what to do when they receive your text. If it’s a limited-time offer, make that clear in your message (but don’t be a jerk about it).

5. Don’t bombard them.

Speaking of not being a jerk, we mentioned earlier that your guests already get more spam calls and texts than mere mortals can bear. So it’s important to get the frequency of your messaging right. One surefire way to turn them off is to hit them with messages every single day. Stick with one or two per week and make sure to send them at consistent times—when you’re getting the best engagement results.

6. Personalize the message.

If you’re tracking guest data, you can personalize your text messages to reflect the customer’s preferences and types of orders they have placed in the past. For example, craft special offers for those customers who have frequently ordered vegan or vegetarian fare in the past. You can also develop a triggered campaign that sends out a special text offer on the customer’s birthday—maybe free breadsticks or a 20% discount on their order for that day only.

7. Conduct customer polls.

If social media has taught us anything, it’s that people love to share their opinions. Use text marketing to get customers’ input and ideas for future specials or new additions to the menu. Example: “What should our next pizza of the week be? Help us decide between the Spicy Hawaiian or the Philly Cheesesteak. Text back SH or PC, and we’ll give you a free taste of the winner!”

8. Offer an exclusive preview of a new menu item.

Ready to roll out a new calzone or sandwich? Send a text message to your entire database with an exclusive offer to try it for themselves before it appears on the menu. This is another way to make your customer feel like an “insider” at your restaurant. You can even help them show off a bit by letting them bring some friends for the exclusive advance tasting. The customer feels cool, and you get a chance to add their buddies to your list.

Related: Jet’s Pizza turns to artificial intelligence for new text-to-order platform

9. Be spontaneous!

Although it’s wise to create a schedule, every marketing text doesn’t have to be carefully planned weeks or months in advance. Maybe it’s a blistering-hot summer’s day, and you’ve got some great, refreshing cocktails or summer beers on your menu. Send a text out of the blue to remind customers that they can cool off with some friends at your pizzeria after work and enjoy special happy-hour prices on certain hot-weather drinks. Tell them this deal is for insiders only and they’ll need to show the text to the server to take advantage of it.

10. Incentivize customers to leave more reviews.

Text messaging is a great way to remind recent customers to post a review on your Yelp, Google or Facebook page. Follow up after an opt-in customer’s visit with a text offering some kind of incentive—such as a discount or free wings or breadsticks with their next order —if they leave a review. Make sure they know where to place the review by including a link to the right page.  

Rick Hynum is PMQ’s editor in chief.