Marketing bars in the 21st Century is no longer just about putting up a banner and maybe getting your place reviewed in the local paper. Marketing bars in this way is okay, but a real bar marketing strategy involves a lot more than this these days. The internet has opened up whole new venues for marketing bars.
So how can you create a bar marketing plan that makes the most out of the internet?
Pub Marketing Basics: The Bar Website
The very first step in your bar marketing plan should be to set up a website. Marketing bars via the website starts early these days with establishments getting their virtual sites up and running even before they open their physical doors for the first time. The website functions as part of their bar marketing plan for their grand opening.
What should your website include?
Your Basic Information: Pub marketing should give straight forward information. Where are you located? What are your hours? How can someone get to your place? What’s your phone number? All that stuff that can save people a call on a busy night should be included on your website.
Menu’s/Drinks: Websites that do a good job of marketing bars give customers a good sense of the experience they can look forward to when they go to the location. You don’t necessarily have to have a detailed description of every drink you serve, but you might have the highlights and a general overview of your specialty. (If you make a killer Kamikaze, this is the place to mention it.)
Schedule of Promotional Events: Whatever promotional events are coming up, you should list them here. Good pub marketing involves a bit of cross promotion and always keeping things fresh. If you have live bands or theme nights, have a calendar listed here describing these and any special cover charges for these. List band names and dates they will appear. (Photos of bands can also help both you and the band.) List things like Girl’s Night (1/2 drinks for the ladies), or Trivia Night. (For more on bar promotions see our Bar Promotions 101.)Photo Gallery: Websites that are most effective know that marketing bars on the web is primarily visual. Websites with just a blank screen can be quite dull. Have photos taken of your drinks and establishment so customers can get a sense of the location. Many websites these days will have photo galleries posted from one or more of their events like Halloween or St. Patrick’s day. The photos need not be professional necessarily, but the web lackey should know what he or she is doing so there are not technical issues.
Reviews: If you have reviews from local papers or even on the internet, you should copy these onto your site as well. Marketing a bar via the objective reviews adds to the credibility of your site. Customers like to see objective reviews but most won’t go to the trouble of finding them beyond just going to YELP! (See YELP! farther down on this page.)
Contact Information: Many websites also forget one of the basics of marketing bars—contact information. Always have at least an e-mail where customers can reach you and be sure to check it daily. Along with information about whether you allow events to be hosted at your venue, your website can be one of the best ways to get businesses to come to you for special events.
Does Marketing a Bar Require a Web Savvy Guy?
You may be saying at this point that marketing a bar on the internet sounds like something that requires a techy. Although it is possible to do all of your pub marketing on your own, it is very time consuming and can have several technical details to getting things started up. Probably your best bet if you are not particularly tech savvy is to have a pro set up you site at first and then to learn how to take care of it and update it yourself so that your recurring fees are not too high.
For a more comprehensive view of hiring contractors and managing employees see our Nightclub Management Training Guide.
Marketing Bars Beyond the Website
Beyond having your own domain name and website, your bar marketing plan should include creating some buzz through other forms of social media. It is generally a good idea to have a Facebook page for your website and to have your employees and friends all follow it. Some people are even beginning to use Twitter for their businesses in a similar way. (Though this is a bit more time consuming than most of us can manage.)
Along the same lines, there are review websites like YELP! and Nileguide—as well as a number of smaller sites—that offer customer reviews of establishments. It is a good idea to log onto such sites and check out if your establishment is listed and if it is, what customers are saying about you. (Think of it as free pub marketing research.)
Tip from the Pros: Another good strategy when it comes to marketing bars on YELP! is to create a profile for yourself and have some of your friends do the same and to write some reviews for your site yourself. Be sure to post photos on YELP! as well. Be careful however, not to sound phony. Look through other reviews of bars in your area and try to sound like just an average Joe. Don’t use the photos from your website on the Yelp! website site. This will tip off visitors to Yelp! that you are using Yelp! as a marketing tool. (Ideally, of course, your customers will positively review your place for you.)
Finally, to the big question of the day: To Groupon or not to Groupon? Groupon as you may know, is a site that drives customers to an establishment by creating time sensitive promos where customers pay 50% of regular price during one day. Your bar could get a big one day boost in attendance during the one day promo, but I would not recommend using Groupon for promotion. Establishments like restaurants have not found the Groupon model very effective because it tends to draw customers who are only bargain hunters and who only come when there is a great deal. Because Groupon wants such a substantial cut in regular prices and then takes part of the revenues for themselves as well, this is usually not a great way to go about marketing a bar—more headaches than it is worth—and that day’s madness may well drive some of your regulars away.
About the Author: