In terms of promotions, a lot has changed since he entered the industry nearly ten years ago, but Jason LaGarenne, General Manager/Head Bartender in NYC at The Anchor, a mainstay in SOHO, says there are two secret weapons to remain atop of NYC’s scene: digital and visual. As an instrumental part of The Anchor’s success over the past seven years, Jason shares with us some helpful hints and tips on ways to most effectively utilize the web and stand out on amongst all the social media clutter.
Nightclub & Bar (NCB): What are some tried and true web promos that successfully engage new and existing customers?
Jason LaGarenne: Web promotions are tough because people have become desensitized to the barrage of promotional stuff constantly thrown their way on a daily basis. Some ways we have avoided this, are to first, know what we are and the type of people who would enjoy our product, and second, to build promotions that will actually get people through the door. The most obvious thing people enjoy is free stuff, so many of our promotions include something complementary (i.e. One of our signature punchbowls or a bottle of premium spirits for a birthday party, an hour of sponsored bar for a corporate event, etc.) - BUT, many similar promotions you see from comparable places online have strings attached and are more of a bait-and-switch situation. We do what we say and don't do deceiving schemes, and as a result we find that people appreciate that and end up staying longer, spending more money, and becoming repeat customers.
NCB: When running online promos, is it best to focus on getting new faces or entertaining existing fans? How do you mix the two?
LaGarenne: I would say a mixture of both. New people are always important to a nightlife operation because other than the obvious reasons of income, new faces keep the place fresh, introduce your brand to a new crop of young people moving to the city, and keep you alerted to changing interests in music, spirits, etc. However, repeat customers are equally important because these are the people who are out singing your praises, making recommendations, and coming back on multiple occasions. Social media has made this process a bit easier because on a platform such as Facebook, you have people voluntarily "liking" your page - so they are there on their own accord to hear what you say. As long as you keep your content fresh and engage with them in a meaningful way, that is an audience that will be continually receptive to your promotions. Reaching out to new people through targeted demographics and old fashioned footwork is somewhat effective, but the best way to get new fans is to keep your old fans happy so they go out and spread the gospel, so to speak.
NCB: Do you run the promo on all forms of web and social at once? Or is that overkill? How do you find a balance so you are not inundating your followers/subscribers but are getting the word out?
LaGarenne: Personally, I don't, but I'm sure there are tons of social media marketers who would disagree. Overkill with social media promotions (especially from nightclubs, bars, and restaurants) is a huge turn off for me, and after the hundredth crappy flyer from a mediocre club, I usually unfollow or block the page. I think synergy between your different social media platforms is important in terms of staying on message and being consistent with your brand, but I feel that people use different social media for different reasons and it's important that your promotions reflect that. When you see the same things over and over across all social media channels, it begins to feel a bit robotic and impersonal.
NCB: When's the best time to post/run online promos? How far is too far in advance? How late is too late?
LaGarenne: As we all know, the shelf-life of a tweet or a promoted Facebook post is very short. This coupled with extremely short attention spans and an inundation of content makes the timing of promoted material a crucial aspect. Like everything else, it should be approached in a multi-faceted way. A mixture of early teasers and a same-day push. In the past, promoting something hours before would be too late, now, for better or for worse, this is no longer the case.
NCB: What are the risks you take when running online promos and how do you avoid/prepare for those? Especially if you're a smaller bar?
LaGarenne: As far as attracting the wrong crowd, or wasting time on people not interested in your particular brand of entertainment, this is obviously a concern. This can be remedied by constantly trying new things and closely monitoring analytic data and the responses you are getting. If you are clear, concise, and paying attention to feedback from your customers, this shouldn't be a problem. As a smaller operation, marketing budgets can be tight, so you want to make sure you are being as effective as possible. One way is to target those who have already expressed an interest in some aspect of your business, whether it be music, cocktails, spirits, etc. and engage them on that level in a regionally specific way.
Jason LaGarenne has over 10 years of experience in the nightlife and hospitality industry, beginning his career in the Hamptons at the legendary Star Room in 2002 and working in many nightclubs and bars since. In 2007, he joined the original team that opened The Anchor, a place conceived as a response to the bottle service clubs that were saturating the scene at the time. Instead of the “bottles and models” formula, they opted to focus on great music, inventive cocktails, and hospitality – a recipe for success for 7 years running. Although LaGarenne is now the General Manager of The Anchor, he still considers himself a barman at heart, and continues to work behind the bar and develop cocktails as often as possible. For example, at The Anchor, patrons are in love with the variety of punch bowls Jason cleverly concocts, which frequently change, but never disappoint. The current punch bowls are the Spring St. Punch (vodka-based), the Anchor Power Punch (overproof rum punch) and the Sea Shanty Punch (champagne based).