Would you turn away a crowd of new customers? No, of course not. Whether you’re running a well-oiled institution or opening a new joint, an expanded customer base is welcome.
But are you actively trying to attract a new crowd or passively standing by - banking on word of mouth and praying for some positive press? Invest time and money into marketing your bar, and know that tactics today aren’t what they used to be.
Hire a Marketing Specialist
A lot of bars and nightclubs neglect to take their marketing seriously. Often owners try to tackle marketing themselves or ask their manager, young bartender, or family member to add Facebook updates to their plate. Louie LaVella, Nightclub and Bar Marketing Consultant and Nightclub & Bar Show Speaker, says “they aren’t digging deep enough. The tools out there are fantastic, but they’re changing constantly. You have to keep up, read articles, talk to guys like me.” In other words, hire a marketing specialist.
Establish an Objective
Your first thought may be: how much time and money do I need to spend on marketing? LaVella warns not to put a percentage or dollar figure on it. He says every venue and market is going to be different, but across the board Step 1 is to look at your objective and figure out the cost of acquiring a new customer. Do some testing to assemble these metrics. Break down each night and look at the customer demographics. Try a Facebook ad and within a few days you can see if this is a smart promo that’s going to work or not. “It sounds complicated, but that’s where we are now with digital,” says LaVella.
Digital advertising offers a lot of advantages over traditional methods like flyering, radio, and television ads. With online ads, you can really hone in on your target demographic rather than just broadcast a message in a certain market and hope your target lands on it. For instance, LaVella says “if I want to go after someone, I can create a post creating an ad targeting a 28 year old living in L.A. who likes a certain DJ and is having a birthday this week. So even if you’re not already following my bar on Facebook, you can be targeted. You’ll see my ad, and then if you click on it, you’ll see it more. Twitter and YouTube can be used in this way too. It’s pretty neat. You can also adjust digital on the fly. If there’s a rainstorm and you planned a margarita promo event on your patio, you can update your online ad instantaneously to notify customers of a cancelation, relocation or postponement.” Once paid for and delivered, you’re not going to get to change your TV and Radio Ads.
Most bars should switch their marketing tactics seasonally, and especially for summer. A college town that runs happy hour pitcher specials and wing nights during the school year may want to try something different to attract locals and visitors in the summer months. LaVella suggests “work around 4th of July and Canada Day and events surrounding the holidays. It’s always good to promote and strategize around them. Summertime is a great, busy time of the year so look into your network events and tag into them, create after-parties, look into different conventions that are happening.”
LaVella also recommends new hyper-local ads on Facebook, which allow owners to set an up-to-the-minute radius around their bar for their ads. These ads will reach out-of-towners who log onto Facebook while visiting your area rather than the students who are away for the summer.
Party Like It’s Your Birthday Promo
Here’s a simple marketing suggestion for you, courtesy of Louie LaVella. Take advantage of how much Facebook knows and run a birthday promo. Create an ad targeting a certain age demographic, in your area, with birthdays this month. You can offer a free bottle of champagne and balloon-decorated booth at your club, a free drink, a free appetizer, or even free drinks all night for the birthday girl/guy. You’ll be sure to win them over, and they’ll be sure to bring friends (aka paying customers). LaVella excitedly says, you never could have done that with old-fashioned flyer-ing! Imagine someone coming up to you at the mall, handing you a piece of paper, and offering you a birthday special. You might either be freaked out and respond, “how’d you know my birthday is coming up” or roll your eyes, muttering “but my birthday’s not for 6 months” as you chuck the flyer.
LaVella has 20+ years experience in the marketing industry. He notes how much it’s all changed in the past ten years or so since Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram showed up on the scene and wants to tell bar owners: “There’s tons to know. Things do change quickly. It may not be that things aren’t working, but you just need to experiment more. Don’t be afraid to spend money on advertising. Radio worked well, and we didn’t have to think too hard. It’s now hard to navigate. It’s a new era, and it keeps changing. Don’t get frustrated. Or if you do, call me and I’ll help you.”