Your bar might be called a tavern, lounge, gastropub, nightclub, gin mill, dive or other synonym for a place that serves alcohol. Regardless of name, your bar is a place where people gather to socialize, drink, dance and even find romance. Unfortunately, the classic bar now competes with upscale hotel lounges, raves, restaurants, pop-up nightclubs and privately hosted parties. If you want to attract, engage and keep customers today, change the way you advertise and promote your business to embrace mobile marketing, social media and digitally savvy promotions.
1. Focus on Your Audience
Bars survive on returning customers, so your promotions must appeal to your core customers and newcomers who appreciate the kind of operation you’re running. Hospitality is a service industry, but owners and managers often mistakenly target people who are out of their leagues. Your neighborhood bar probably won’t appeal to multimillionaire entrepreneurs unless they’re local eccentrics. By the same token, local factory workers aren’t likely to respond to upscale promotions that feature drinks made from pricey, top-shelf liquors and exotic ingredients.
If you’re targeting corporate crowds, your marketing strategy might focus on menu-driven promotions, social media-promoted meet-and-greets, theme nights, wine tastings and games that attract a range of business customers including those who might not want to drink but want to network with friends and associates.
2. Define Your Goals
Holding promotions with just a general sense of increasing business is a recipe for failure. You need to set some measurable goals to make bar promotions worthwhile. What do you want to achieve? The answers to that question might include the following goals:
- Creating buzz among the members of targeted groups — corporate types, hipsters, club kids, neighborhood sports fans and other demographic targets
- Topping what your competitors are doing
- Getting people to arrive earlier leave later
- Convincing people to spend more money on food or branded spirits
- Celebrating occasions and milestones at your bar
- Fostering a lively, convivial atmosphere
- Giving customers a way to give back to the community
- Introducing new drinks, foods or entertainment options
Once you define your goals, you’re ready to assess marketing ideas based on whether they can accomplish the goals that you want to reach while remaining affordable and doable.
3. Concentrating on Dates when People Play
Your bar promotions should happen on the days when people gather instead of trying to change people’s habits. Most people don’t go out every day of the week, and some only go to bars on weekends and special occasions. Don’t fight the tendencies that drive people to socialize at bars unless it’s the busy season in a tourist destination. Very few desirable customers will go out to a bar crawl or drinking event on a Monday night.
Sure, that means you’ll have to accept some slow periods, but that’s just the nature of the business. Your marketing investment will seldom justify spending money on elaborate promotions for typical weeknights. However, try creating food and drink specials for small groups. People often like to reconnect with their most intimate friends or business associates after hectic weekends. Use your menu to encourage small groups to meet, connect, share gossip and relax.
Tuesdays are generally among the most productive work days, so take advantage of this by crafting a promotion aimed at corporate workers. Ideas include hosting business meetings, sponsoring business social events or simply providing a comfortable, clean and quiet space for one-on-one meetings.
4. Get Ideas from Customers
Your existing customers are your best resource when planning promotions, so ask your best customers for promotional ideas that they’d enjoy. If you have a neighborhood bar, your customers might enjoy a budget beer night or gaming tournament. Depending on your customers, you might host a pool tournament, trivia contest or social media game, such as a scavenger hunt or treasure quest.
5. Attract the Foursquare Crowd
Foursquare is challenging Yelp’s supremacy as the leading social application for the hospitality industry. Engaging Foursquare members is particularly effective for bars. The platform’s typical demographic profile includes college-educated, media-savvy young people who actively engage their friends and invite them to meet in nightspots to see and be seen. Getting reviews and photos posted on Foursquare can provide steady bar business.