How mobile phones are saving local restaurants

At risk of losing their businesses in these tough economic times, some local restaurant owners have turned to mobile phones to find new life. In fact some struggling owners have turned, what looked like certain ruin, into thriving businesses with these simple yet ubiquitous devices.

Rosati's Pizza
Rosati's Pizza
Scott Fender, owner of a small business named , had been sending consumers in the area his menu and offers for over 5 years via a shared mailing campaign. However, as competition grew fiercer among restaurants in his market and as standard marketing methods grew more and more ineffective, he needed a new marketing channel to grow his business.

It was then that Mr. Fender started to solicit locals to get free coupons to his restaurant by signing up for his mobile phone list. According to ABC news, Rosati's Pizza received hundreds of new customers after their first promotion.

Another local chain of donut shops sought to increase revenue by offering latte's to customers. They also turned to mobile marketing and after their first campaign they reported a 21% increase in store traffic. However that wasn't the most beneficial part of the campaign, the company boasted. They also reported that 17% of participants forwarded, or showed, the message to a friend. In research conducted after the campaign, 35% considered themselves more likely to buy lattes and coffee from them in the future.

What has most of these businesses shocked and delighted is the immediate growth that seems to follow these types of campaigns. For example, the Couch Tomato Café offered a valuable coupon, good for only seven days, to get new customers to subscribe to their mobile marketing list. That Friday they estimated that they "had about 70 extra orders compared to an average Friday."

So what exactly are these local businesses doing? I'm sure you've seen advertised on television or heard radio companies asking you to text some word, or keyword, to a 6 digit number, or short code. The act of sending these keywords get you on a list that companies can then use to send you coupons through text messages.

In fact, some local restaurants have leveraged these lists in many other ways and have received spectacular results. One business disclosed that they use their mobile phone list to drum up business on slow nights or when they had tables that went unreserved. Others are holding weekly giveaways to keep customers interested and hopeful of winning prizes. They text out the winner each week and offer coupons to the rest. Some fast food establishments send out a coupon 30 minutes before lunch time. Others are allowing customers to text in their orders.

Perhaps the most creative use we came across is what one local business called "the customer is always right" poll. The owner sends a text to his list with a poll asking his customers what kind of specials or dishes they would like to see that week. He then takes that information and delivers what his customers want. "Polling customers this way is a brilliant maneuver," says a local marketing expert "Not only does it deliver what the customers want but it gives them a sense of ownership and connection to the establishment. That kind of bond you just can't buy."

These mobile marketing tactics certainly haven't been monopolized by small businesses. In fact, large corporations like Mc Donald's, Pepsi, the Super Bowl, ELLE magazine, and many others have been employing these strategies for many years. We suspect that the recent development of low cost tools and services have fueled this expansion from large corporations to small businesses, like Rosati's Pizza.

With the ever increasing popularity of mobile phones, and the recent explosion of smart phones like the iPhone and Droid, I'm sure we've just seen the beginning of this trend.

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