A giraffe walks into a bar. Ouch. That giraffe, hurt and embarrassed, then walks into an actual bar, orders a drink, feels underwhelmed and leaves, dissatisfied.
The extended version of this joke isn’t funny (although it has literally happened; see picture below), but it touches on issues that bar owners face on a regular basis, whether they’ve just opened a new establishment or been in the business for decades.
A giraffe walked into a bar…in South Africa. He was fine. [Picture: Digital Journal]
With rampant competition, ever-changing regulations and shifting trends to contend with, the trick to gaining and keeping valuable customers is to promote your bar effectively. And the good news is, there’s plenty of creative advertising, promotional and marketing ideas to help promote your bar right.
Here are some of the best bar marketing strategies you can try:
Nail the Bar Promotion Basics
If you don’t have the funds to pay for professional marketing services, just do the basics well.
In terms of décor and ambience, make sure your bar looks the part inside and out. People judge what type of venue you are before entering the door, so ensure your image sells who you are and sets expectations.
If you’re aiming to be a gastropub or a bar that specialises in food, have a nicely laid out menu on the wall. If you’re more of a straight up bar, get a board advertising happy hour and daily specials.
A creative, colourful bar sign [Picture: The Poke]
Your sign doesn’t have to be funny or controversial like the one pictured but it’s a good example of creativity being used to bring customers in. It’s amazing how these little details can make all the difference.
Other basics include being family friendly, wheelchair accessible, vegetarian friendly and having a smoking area. But perhaps the most important basic feature these days is offering free Wi-Fi.
Understand your purpose
First thing’s first. It’s all too common that businesses owners get a little too determined to open up a bar, without having a clear-cut purpose to their venue. In hospitality, it pays to stand out, but you need to have a reason for why you’re opening your doors.
Think carefully about the kind of experience you plan to offer your customers – are you a top-tier wine bar or are you a laid-back, casual sports bar for those loyal punters? The more defined your experience, the more iconic and memorable your culture becomes. THis also makes it significantly easier to attract the exact audience you’re after.
Offer Discounts Strategically
Your pricing strategy is crucial to your success in hospitality. Ideally, it should help you meet your product sales targets, leaving you with a good reputation and be representing the value you provide against competitors. But in reality, this is easier said than done.
If your venue is well-suited to offering discounts, consider how these will be managed short-term and long-term. What’s your strategy? Discount a popular item as a draw-card that will boost sales of other items? Discount on a quiet day to generate traffic?
Discount for larger groups of people? Discount new menu items?
The options are endless, but consider what you are trying to achieve, and what discount will help you to get there sustainably. If you’re not sure where to start, stop and think about introducing events or theme nights that reflect the actual culture you’re aiming for. This will ensure you continue to attract the right audience with promotions that complement the people you want around in your environment. While sports bars may be more focused on team-based promotions, music bars can use live bands or special karaoke events to real in foot traffic. At the end of the day, if you follow a regular schedule that reflects your social media strategy, venue culture and the discounts you’ve got lined up, you’ll be far better off than not offering anything at all.
However, be wary of discounting too much or you might fall into the trap of being perceived as low quality or of haemorrhaging money. The aim is to keep it all balanced.
Also, don’t forget that people won’t know you’ve got an awesome deal on offer if you don’t tell them! Advertising your specials or discounts on social media and websites like OzBargain or Groupon is a great way of spreading the word, if these platforms suit your customer base.
>> Track your discounts and manage data utilising Impos. Learn how by clicking here <<
Be Easily Found Online
We can’t stress enough how important it is to focus your attention on online visibility and social media marketing.
Every good venue needs an online presence, so they can be found in Google results as well as on popular hospitality sites like Zomato. It can be hard to survive if people can’t find you on Google Maps or work out what drink offerings you have on your menu on their phones. Add to that the age of portable digitalisation, and you’ve suddenly got the responsibility of ensuring you can be found on-the-go, too.
So how do you do all this? Action some high-quality search engine optimisation (SEO) tactics to help leverage your visibility on the likes of Google. Once you’ve solidified exactly how you’re planning to tackle this aspect, kick in some nifty campaigns that are centred around garnering more positive reviews. Remember that Google utilises public feedback a lot, so this is one element you’re going to want to pay attention to carefully.
If you’re not sure how to collect some good word-of-mouth, pop up some incentives in store for customers to leave a review online and be rewarded with a free drink (or other item of your choice). This will help you reap the benefits of gaining those authentic opinions that search giants like Google dote over. Not to mention the fact that this will also positively influence how well you rank in search results.
As for social media, this is your forum for establishing your image, advertising your promotions and keeping your customers updated. To keep things manageable, try investing your time in one channel like Instagram and posting quality images and captions. The rule of thumb is not to try and dabble in too many channels at once. While having a profile on Facebook is still beneficial, if your venue has a lot to flaunt visually, try your hand at really owning the Instagram space first. If in doubt, you can always cross-post using the two platforms’ integrations. By choosing one avenue and nutting down on it, you’ll iron out any gaps in your content and really start to build a loyal, engaged audience. Businesses who tend to fluctuate in their attention towards certain platforms, usually because they’re trying to do too much at once, don’t perform as well.
Ratings and reviews are also key to gaining a positive image, so you should incentivise your regulars to leave positive feedback. Holding a competition, in which a requirement is a Facebook like or share, is a great way to generate these.
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Make Every Night Special
We know, we know, the heading sounds like love advice, doesn’t it? And pretty sound love advice if you ask us. Which makes sense. Any bar manager should treat their establishment like a lover.
The start of the week is traditionally low volume so entice customers in through tactics that appeal to smaller groups, like creating a ‘Pick-me-up Espresso Martini Monday’ or food specials. Also consider business lunch and after work specials geared at business workers or promoting a special ‘drink of the week’.
For busier periods, your aim should be to beat the competition so think about unique opportunities. Comedy, live music and speed dating are just the tip of the iceberg.
Reward Repeat Customers
Hospitality is pretty reliant on repeat business. Way over half of your sales will be from repeat patrons. Why do you think so many big-brand hospitality outlets have loyalty apps and incentives to keep you coming back?
For bars, it can be difficult to generate promotions aimed at getting more repeat business. However, a wine tasting offer is one good method. Wine tastings not only show off your expertise and product range, but you can pair each wine with some food for extra value. What’s more, they’re great at bringing in locals (hint: see next tip).
Never take your regulars for granted in the competitive world of hospitality. Listen to them. If a regular proposes a new drink, look into it. What harm can there be in adding it? If you do, they’ll likely tell their extended network about it.
Another way is to get your crowd involved. You could have a competition to name a new dish, have a charity support option like Grill’d, or simply share your customers’ best snaps on social media. They will get a buzz from being recognised and you will grow trust, goodwill and great word-of-mouth advertising.
>> Looking for a way to track your customer rewards? Learn how Impos can help <<
Share the Love Locally
Another promotion tip is to sponsor, fundraise and get involved in interesting events in your community. Businesses involved in their local community are best situated to succeed because they gain trust and empathy from locals.
Go to council meetings and local group meetups and reach out to the community. Offer up your venue to accommodate groups: a book club, sewing club, new mum’s club. It really doesn’t matter, just do it for the right reasons.
By expressing a genuine interest and enthusiasm, you’ll help support community issues and provide a home for events, entertainment, refreshments, socialization and more. That’s what we call a sustainable strategy.
Word-of-mouth is the most powerful part of any marketing campaign, and in hospitality, that’s especially true. While online marketing will power-up your presence, don’t forget about your traditional connections and networks.
Networking in the bar space doesn’t necessarily mean the literal gesture of shaking hands, but rather putting in effort to be friendly with both customers and your staff, allowing you to foster quality relationships. On top of this, take time to wander out and about around your venue and engage other bar owners in your vicinity. Networking with like minded business owners will broaden your reputation in the community and expand your professional resources – and that’s always a win.
If you’re worried about competition, don’t be. Provided you’ve nailed down your competitive difference and intended bar experience, ther other venues you engage will have their own distinct appeal too. The aim here is to spread word-of-mouth: recommend customers to them and they’ll do the same to you – just keep both target audiences in mind.
Use the Data at Your Fingertips
Our final tip is to utilise your POS system to assess what’s working and what isn’t.
Say you’ve taken our points on board and you’ve implemented a discount on a certain beer, you’ll want to easily see the sales data in a rich, graphical chart, on whatever device you prefer. Some POS systems offer analytics with a real-time dashboard so you can consume highly intuitive data around sales, inventory, staff and more.
If you’re thinking of investing in a new or improved POS system that allows you to take easier payments, increase bartender efficiency and makes it possible to track the items you sell with state-of-the-art inventory management, check out our bar POS and nightclub POS options here.
And if you’d like to find out more about how we can help you get started, we encourage you to get in touch with the Impos team on 1300 995 462.