For owners to be successful, they first and foremost have to differentiate their business from the bars and nightclubs down the street. Warren Ellish, president and CEO of Denver-based Ellish Marketing Group, explains that once this is achieved, then an owner can propel that into sustained interest from loyal customers.
It’s the people, the staff, the products and services, and food and drinks that can set a great business apart from a mediocre one. “You need to do all of those things really well, but that just gets you in the business,” he says. One, two or three of those things need to make people remember you. “It could be the place, the people, the product or service, but they have to be at extremely good levels to begin with.”
Ellish told Bar IQ six more tips on how to make a business sizzle and stay on top.
1. Know Who You Are. To establish what kind of business you want to be, you need to give potential customers an idea of “what's behind those four walls,” Ellish explains. “Who's the target market for your brand? It's not a demographic as much as it's an emotional mindset. What do they need or want?” For those people, it’s about what makes your business different from other establishments, he says. People won’t come because of good food, drinks and affordable prices alone. “If owners don't have an idea about what makes their place unique and different … then there's no real reason [for a guest] to become loyal to your place,” he says.
2. Control Your Message. What can you do to really make your establishment stand out? Ellish says it starts with gaining some perspective and figuring out what you can do as a business owner that other people aren’t doing. Once you find what makes you different, “tell people about it when they come in,” he says. “They'll notice it and talk about it and come back.” If you properly define your brand, then people will begin to refer to your brand in that way. “What people say about the brand you can control,” he says.
3. Promotions Work. Promotions are very important, Ellish says. “It’s a means to get people in and try your place,” but also if people come in and like the promotion, they’ll know that you deliver on what you’re trying sell. “Promotions have a strong return on investment. Ellish also advises not to use discounts, because that doesn’t build repeat customers. Use incentives versus just discounting, he says.
4. Be Innovative. Ellish says it can be as simple as focusing on the ice you use with drinks. “People are using different types of ice that allows the mixology to stand out,” he says. Ice coupled with a good recipe and glassware will make a bar or club stand out. “It's not just the beverage the glass. I can get the same cocktail or Martini or glass of wine in hundreds of places. What is it that's making your wine, Martini or cocktail different?”
5. Think Outside The Box. Ellish says not to feel confined by traditional methods of marketing, but advises to use a combination of things. “Suburban locations do different things than urban locations.” However, the main objective is being able to communicate to guests and know what they expect. “Whether you're using social media or flyers, it's important to tell that story,” he says. “It’s best to tell it visually. Show people what they can expect or what it's going to be like with a few words.”
6. Cater To Women. Ellish says one thing he always finds interesting is that bars and nightclubs market to the male audience in hopes that females will follow. “Most don’t cater to what women want. They’re focusing on the needs and wants of the male audience over the female audience.” If your bar is filled with women the men will follow.