Engaging your customers, making them truly feel like guests, can feel like a Herculean task at times. It seems cliché and possibly even lazy in 2016 to point an accusatory finger at smartphones and people’s need to update and share every moment of their lives, but none of that is helping nightclub and bar operators and their staffs engage with their customers. That’s unfortunate, because if you’re not connecting with them, if your staff isn’t building a rapport with the people they’re serving, it only makes it more difficult to build customer loyalty.
One solution to this puzzle is interaction, by which we mean immersing your guests in an interactive experience. Make them want to put their phones away (minus the quick social media post or two in which they’re singing your praises) with a promotion that rewards them for interacting with you, your staff, brand ambassadors, other guests, etc. We had the opportunity to participate in just such a promotion and, unless someone willfully chose to have a miserable time, there was no way to get the most out of the evening without engaging with those around us.
The promotion was held at CellarDoor and hosted by Steven Soderbergh and Singani 63 in New Orleans. A slick video was sent out to entice people into attending the Crescent City Affair, for which guests were encouraged to adhere to an “espionage chic” dress code. The invite further communicated this message of mystery and espionage; we were going to step into the world of spies and intrigue. When the evening arrived, we headed to CellarDoor and waited briefly while other guests were checked in. When it was our turn and we were checked off the list, a hostess handed us a card.
“This is your first clue,” she said.
Everyone attending had been handed what looked like a business card. It instructed us to find a specific person with a particular “codename” and recite a line of dialogue typed on the card. We were engaged immediately, knowing that we were going to have to solve at least one clue. Studying everything, we realized that select bartenders and servers – those who were participating in the event in actor roles – were wearing nametags emblazoned with codenames. So, we had to find the right person and we had to tell them something specific in order to continue. As luck would have it, the person we had to find turned out to be one of the bartenders. Line recited, we were handed another card with another clue, along with signature cocktails. Ultimately, the clues led to a locked box located next to a display case loaded with samples of Singani 63. The key to the case was inside the locked box, and the final card contained the clues to the combination of the lock. The reward, beyond the entertaining interactive experience, mingling with the staff and other participants, and delicious Singani 63 cocktails, was a sample of the spirit.
Pre-batched Singani 63 cocktails make excellent rewards.
What we took away from this event (besides a few samples) was that the promotion worked. We met people. We engaged with the staff. We explored the venue fully. Everybody was smiling and chatting with strangers. Operationally, we noticed that there were likely at least 3 different sets of clues participants could be given, giving people slightly different experiences and keeping the staff with codenames from being swarmed. Some staff members had clearly been tasked with steering guests as needed, and keeping them honest. One person was posted near the locked box and display case, presumably to keep participants from just handing off the key rather than locking it back up, or letting people who hadn’t solved the combination grab their samples. There was also someone posted near a “debriefing room” to make sure only one person entered at a time. We would learn later that participants were asked questions for a video confessional which was later used as a marketing tool.
Solve the clues, claim your prize.
This promotion can be as complicated or simple as you wish. It can be tied to any number of themes, and with Halloween on the horizon you should be pushing the limits of your creativity to deliver on an incredible event. If permitted where your venue operates, the reward can be drink tickets or spirit samples. Your suppliers can help you plan and execute in a number of ways, helping to keep your costs lower. Weekly, monthly, quarterly… If your promotion proves to be a hit you can repeat it with different themes and rewards.