sms marketing

Amp Up Your sms marketing with This Killer Campaign Strategy

(Restaurant example is used below, but this campaign can be adapted to any business!)


There are three problems when many businesses are first introduced to text marketing:

  1. they use offers that aren’t very exciting ($3.00 off today’s meal, free appetizer with 2 entrees, free dessert with entrée, etc), so less than 50% of customers choose to opt-in
  2. they are only promoting opt-ins internally so the list builds slowly and little or nothing is being done to use SMS to attract new customers
  3. many people (5-20% avg) will opt-out immediately after receiving their first discount, so you’re not able to use SMS to continually market and build a relationship.


The following campaign is a sure-fire way to build a huge list quickly, and guarantee that people will remain on your SMS list.


The premise is running a monthly contest in which one person every month wins an “unbelievably great prize”. The key to this entire promotion is to follow the prize and contest formula below. This kind of promotion will actually cost the business owner LESS than the typical kinds of SMS discounts and offers (math to follow). Here’s a sample of how this works:


May Contest


[pwal id=”5701986″ description=”Like to see the rest of this killer sms campaign”]

FREE MEALS FOR A MONTH! Every person who texts in to enter the contest in May gets a chance to win a FREE ENTREE every single day during the month of June! Yes, that’s correct, one person will get free meals for a month! One very lucky customer can come in EVERY SINGLE DAY WE’RE OPEN DURING THE MONTH OF May, and get one FREE ENTREE (up to $____ value). There’s no cost to enter, just text the word _______ to 71441 (See Complete Contest Rules at Winner will be notified on June 1st, and you certainly won’t be hungry for the rest of the month!


Sounds too Crazy? Let’s look at the rationale and the power of this campaign:


  • First, people rarely eat alone! So you may be giving one free meal daily, but it’s likely the winner will bring friends on most days.
  • How many days will the winner really come in? While it’s possible, they’ll come in most days, it’s more likely they’ll come in only 8-12 times during the month.
  • Eat-in only, you cannot allow take-out as you want the winner buying drinks, salads, appetizers and desserts!
  • Who would NOT want to enter this contest? It’s just crazy enough to be really appealing to EVERY single customer who comes in, so your opt-in rates will skyrocket.
  • When the winner is drawn on the first of the month, send a text coupon to all non-winners to come in during the first week of the following month, so you are increasing frequency for all the non-winners. Plus you will remind them that they can now re-enter for the following month’s contest!
  • You REPEAT the contest every month, and people can re-enter once per month, which will keep them on your sms marketing list FOREVER so they can enter to win this contest every single month!
  • The Keyword to enter changes every month, and the Keyword is only available when you come in to the business, so you have to show up at least once during the month to get the Keyword and enter.


Examples OF Free Items

(listed in order of best to least effective)


  • a free ______ dinner every day for a month (pick the MOST popular item in your restaurant)
  • one free appetizer of your choice
  • one free Beer every day for a month (where allowed by state laws)
  • one free order of WIngs every dayfor a month
  • variation: free dinner once a week for a year


Remember: the better and “crazier” the prize sounds, the more entries, more buzz, and more promotion you can do around the contest.


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Non-Restaurant Examples:


  • free game of bowling every day for a month
  • free ice cream/yogurt every day
  • free tanning every day for a month
  • free pizza everyday for a month
  • free massage everyday for a month
  • free teeth whitening for a year
  • free quarterly oil changes for a year


Play the “Breakage”: Bank on the fact that most winners will not come close to using all their free items, so the perceived value is MUCH higher than the cost.


Contest Rules

You need to post contest rules, preferably on your website, and include sweepstakes disclosures. A tinyURL or link leading to the rules should be returned to the entrants in the text auto-response


  • One entry per person, per month. One winner. Prize not transferable, may not be shared, and has no cash value. May redeem only one meal per day, no value for unused meals.
  • Entries may be received beginning the first day and through the close of business on the last calendar day of the month, winner will be drawn at 10am on the first of the month. Winner is entitled to one free meal/entree per day, for each day that the business is open during the following month (from February’s entries, a winner be chosen on March 1st, and the free meal/entree may be redeemed every day that that the business is open during the calendar month of March.
  • Winner must pay any applicable taxes and is expected to pay gratuity based on full value of meal. (You can enforce a mandatory gratuity if you like, but this must be made clear when they enter the contest)


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How Can We Afford This?

  • Average cost to provide free dinner = avg entrée price x 30% food cost (avg is 25-35% in industry)
  • MAX POSSIBLE COST: IF winner comes every day: $20 entrée x 30 days = $600 x 30% food cost = $200 out-of-pocket direct cost max
  • MORE LIKELY COST: winner comes 15 days x $20 entrée = $300 x 30% food cost = $100 out of pocket
  • MOST LIKELY SCENARIO: same as line above, but winner buys additional food/drink worth $10 per visit or $150 revenue, plus brings friends 50% of time, who order at least $20 for $160.00 revenue, so $310 additional revenue @ 10% NET restaurant profit = $31 profit, so likely out-of-pocket direct cost to run contest is $100 – $31= approx $70 per month.
  • Compare this to a “traditional” SMS opt-in program:


$3.00 Instant Discount for each SMS Opt-In: 400 Opt-Ins/Month x $3.00 reduction from revenue = $1,200/month cost (actual lost revenue).
Would you rather “spend” $70 for 400 opt-ins or $1,200?


  • THE ROI: If 400 people per month enter, in just 5 months you will have a list of 2,000 SMS customers to market to. Every time you send an offer to this list, expect a 6-15% return, so 120-300 customers coming in during slow times, for events, and for promotions.
  • Typically, a campaign like this is only good for building your list from internal customers, people already in the restaurant. The beautiful thing about this promotion is that you can advertise it outside the restaurant.
  • Advertise that one person every month will win a “Month of Free Meals Contest” on roadside signs, on your website, Facebook and in print advertising. Must visit the restaurant to enter. If you are concerned that the Keyword will be “leaked” and that people may find out the Keyword and be able to enter when they never visited the restaurant, then you can set up a system to change the Keyword used to enter the contest every few days. You want people to have to visit the restaurant as customers, in order to find out the Keyword so they can enter the contest.
  • If you give away a “crazy” enough prize then you may be able to get some publicity locally from newspapers, radio and TV. Imagine if your contest got “covered” by the local press!
  • Once the contest runs a few months, and the “newness” wears off, try re-invigorating the contest with a few tweaks
  • Maybe add a tangible prize every other month (tickets to a sporting event, a $100 gift certificate, a flat-screen TV, an iPad, etc). Once the “numbers are proven”, the business can easily justify the added expense to keep the promotion fresh. Keep people guessing, come up with a new twist every couple of months so your MONTH OF FREE _____ contest stays top of mind and fun!
  • Tie in a charity: maybe donate an additional 30 free meals to a food bank, or give the winner a $100 certificate to donate to a charity on their behalf, or have 2 winners one month and allow a local church or charity to run a parallel contest only for their constituents
  • Communicate some message about the monthly contest at least once/month to all people on your sms marketing list. Remind them on the 20th of the month, that they only have 10 more days to come in and get the Keyword to enter this month’s contest. And by all means, run other promotions and SMS-only discounts to get these customers coming back more frequently and during your slow times!


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sms marketing