Bar advertising requires just the right combination of creativity and common sense. These days bars advertising just their happy hours on their windows so that would-be passersby might wander in are usually bars that are just a few steps from going under. It is not enough to just open your doors and wait for your customers to find you. Bar advertising is about going to where you customers live and giving them a reason to come through YOUR doors on Friday night rather than your competitor’s.
So how do you make yourself visible to potential customers without breaking the bank?
Creating a Customer Profile
Bars advertising to everyone is largely wasting their money. Lot’s of people are simply not going have a drink at your place because they are too young, too old, non-drinkers, or recovering alcoholics, live too far away, or simply aren’t into your kind of bar. The trick to good bar advertising is to target the customers who are either your key demographic (the ideal customer who you were going after when you opened your bar) and to go after newer demographics that might also mesh well with your kind of establishment.So, for example, if you own a sports bar in the financial district of your town, you might gear your bar advertising to attracting young professionals. The key might be to get them to come in before they head home, so you will not only want to put out signs advertising how you have twenty flat screens and show all the games, but also try to make them aware of your place at some of the local eateries where they get lunch. Team up with some of the local restaurants to put out a display with fliers for your establishment, get involved with local businesses in the chamber of commerce, or contact local promoters to see about getting members of the local sports team in to have one of their jersey’s framed in your “Hall of Fame.”
But you might also try to give them a reason to come in not only for Monday Night Football or when there is a good weeknight game but also on other days. On Saturdays, for example, you might try to get the Frat boy crowd in to watch the college games and then have a “Ladies Night” afterwards when you offer half-off drinks to girls coming in. This will keep some of this younger demographic and possibly bring in some of your older crowd as well. (I know it is sexist, but it is also true: a bar that can attract girls will always be successful with the guys.) (For more on bar promotions see Bar Promotions 101.)
The key to bar advertising is to think of the customers you are going for and to look for them where they live.
So in the example above, your target customer would be:
1. Young urban professionals—especially the after work crowd looking to catch the game before heading home.
2. Secondary Targets: College kids/frat boys/and young women.
Mediums for Bar Advertising:
There are number of places that you can advertise. Look to use more than one medium to reach your customers:
Print Media, Especially Newspapers: Magazines and trade papers catering to your demographic are great places to buy traditional ads for you place. Newspapers also work well. It is common practice for bars advertising in newspapers to request a review to appear in the newspaper as well. There is no guarantee that the review will be positive, but most of the time, if you have done your job right, they will be. In the lead up to your grand opening is the time that you want to make sure to take advantage of newspapers.
The Internet and Social Media: One of the least expensive ways of engaging in bar advertising these days is to take advantage of the internet. You should not only have a website but also try to take advantage of a site like Yelp! and other review sites. You might even see about getting yourself mentioned or linked to on the websites of some local businesses like local hotels or theaters. For more on this kind of marketing, see our article here: Marketing Bars in the Internet Age
Mailers (physical or virtual): Along the same lines, you can create a newsletter to keep locals aware of your latest news and promotional events. These days, a lot of these are done via e-mail. You can collect customer e-mails either by having them fill out a bit of information for a free discount on drinks, or by having them subscribe to your newsletter on your website itself. Virtual mailers can be a good way to reach out to customers who might not be in your immediate vicinity.
Fliers and Coupons: Of course, you can also have fliers placed where your customers are likely to be—near the college, with local businesses, at local events, in the paper. Half-price drink coupons are also a good idea with the e-mail later so as to encourage customers to get and open the mailer.
Tip From the Pros: Another great way to advertise is to create branded merchandize with you bar logo. If you have a cool distinctive logo for your bar look to get some free advertising by selling shirts, hats, calenders or mugs with your logo. You might even give this away to celebrities or beautiful people who you think would attract free business by just wearing them.
Target Budget for Bar Advertising?
So what should your budget be? The rule of thumb is that you should set aside 1/20 of the amount of gross profit you believe your bar is capable of making. Now this is the trick here: this is not one twentieth of the amount your bar is currently making; this is the amount you believe your bar could or should be making. How do you determine this? Well, if when you look over your revenues during the week, it feels to you as if there are only about 2/3 of the amount of customers you should be capable of attracting, then you should use that as a standard. So your advertising budget in this instance should be based on 150% of your current gross revenues.
So in the case mentioned above, your projected revenues might make it so that your advertising budget might actually be 7.5% of your current budget. (Since your current budget is only 2/3 of what you project you should be bringing in.)
You should also diversify to include more than one type of advertising. Don’t put all of your eggs in the same basket. Don’t use your entire bar advertising budget on print ads in the local newspaper, for example, and neglect your web advertising.
For a comprehensive view of figuring bar costs see our How To Start Your Own Bar/Nightclub.)
Doing it Yourself or Hiring Pros?
Although there are things that you should hire pros for, the best way to keep costs down is to do much of simple advertising yourself. What should you hire professionals for:
1. Designing your print ad for the paper.
2. Promoting your Grand Opening.
3. Designing your Website Initially
What should you do yourself:
1. Create your own fliers
2. Send out your own newsletters and mass e-mails.
3. Update Your Own Website (learn how to make new posts and updates and update the blog yourself).
Finally, you should look to get feedback on events and promos from your customers. Having an easy way for customers to give you feedback is a good idea. Your website is perfect for this as well—but be sure that you request it. Customers are unlikely to give it of their own accord.
Remember that the key to good advertising is communicating that you are in tune with your customers’ desires.
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