Club Promotion doesn’t happen by itself. As a nightclub owner, you need to make nightclub promotion happen. It is not enough to just make sure that the drinks arrive, the DJ gets booked and the strobes are operating properly. To make your night club promotion a success, you have to keep working at your club promotions.
So what is the secret to club promotions?
The Club Promoter
For a lot of places, nightclub promotion begins with club promoters. That’s right, in the plural. Often a high-end club will use multiple club promoters to keep their joint as hot as possible. This kind of night club promoting is especially critical for any place that has been around a while but that still wants to give off an air of exclusiveness. Hyper-cool nightclubs have a doubly tricky problem: they want to seem as if they are above it all, but they still need clients to show up and get judged by their picky door.
So nightclub promoters for these exclusive kinds of places need to keep their clients’ venues in the public eye without making it seem like they are trying to do so. In other words nightclub promoters need to keep their night club promoting on stealth mode. In certain markets, like New York and LA, this means getting celebrities like Paris Hilton to show up and be photographed there. This is the kind of gorilla marketing that works so well because it at once announces a venue as a celebrity hangout without ever seeming to advertise at all.
Readers of the magazine just think this is a journalistic enterprise. These fans aren’t really conscious of this being part of a larger club promotion behind it all. They don’t know that night club promoters called the celebrity’s agent and probably paid the celebrity to show up in full regalia and to “make a scene.” That is the sign of a good nightclub promoter—that the promotion is virtually invisible. (For more on advertising your nightclub see Nightclub Advertising Tips.)
Because this is a difficult task, many clubs look to the professional club promoter to run their club promotion. There are certain occasions when I would definitely agree with this approach. However, if this is outside of your price range, then perhaps you might try a different approach: giving the job to a specific person in your organization. Perhaps to you or your partner or someone in your employ who is well-connected and knows your club well. This person might be a bartender who also has a band on the side–someone who has connections in the entertainment world and is looking for more responsibility.
What to Look for in a Professional Nightclub Promoter
Who ever you assign to this role, that person must have a number of skills that are not always easy to find in one individual. Here are some things to look for in a professional club promotion specialist:
1. References and a Track Record: There are a lot of wannabe party promoters out there who are just partiers looking to make their lifestyle into a paying gig. Some of them may be able to pull this off, but most of them have a long way to go before they can really bring much value to your place. If they haven’t had any gigs and can’t give you any proof of past successes, better to keep on looking rather than let your place be the guinea pig.
2. Professionalism: Club promoters who are really committed will present themselves in a professional manner. They will have cards and maybe even a website. Bigger promoters will have this and they will have packages with their offerings. If they don’t seem to have thought their business through they are unlikely to have thought yours through either.
3. Clear Value: Many party promoters will want to keep the door for the promotion night and many will even want to have a cut of the bar as well. As a general rule, you should look to have a minimum attendance threshold before the promoter gets anything and usually, the bar should not be part of the deal. (Figure out what you usually get on that night and offer the promoter the door beyond that threshold as a starting point—the bar should stay with the house.) The key is to be clear-eyed about the cost and benefit your promoter is bringing and not fall victim to pipe dreams that can’t be delivered.
4. Find a Good Promotional Fit: Not all nightclub promotions work equally well for all venues. If you are going for a classy, sophisticated 50’s style Martini bar vibe and they want to have a wet t-shirt contest for Frat boys in your venue, this may do more to drive away your regulars than it does to attract new patrons. Try to stay true to your basic philosophy and to hire promoters that understand that and can deliver on it.
5. Know when to Hire Yourself: Sometimes the best promoter for your place is you. If you are having a hard time finding someone who will carry out your vision than maybe you will have to be that person. As they say, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” But be aware that being a club promoter is a full-time gig. If you don’t have a partner to help you hold down the fort while you are off promoting, this may not work.
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As the saying goes, “Variety is the spice of life.” So when they are thinking about club promotions many clubs think about each night of the week as being slightly different, with a slightly different target patron in mind.
Take, for example, Club Bardot in LA. Club Bardot is located right above the Avalon club on Hollywood and Vine in one of the most club rich areas in the country. So Club Bardot tries to distinguish itself by having a sort of cabaret feel—think Moulin Rouge– with multiple rooms and an early Twentieth Century Parisian feel. Here check out their website:
As you can tell, Club Bardot doesn’t have a problem attracting clubbers on Friday and Saturday Nights when everyone is out clubbing. They even skim off some of the business from the Avalon Club (the two work together in a lot of ways). In order to make rent in this highly desirable spot, however, Club Bardot needs to attract their patrons every night of the week. So what they do is they take their overarching dance club theme and they divide it up. On Monday’s, they have “School Night,” a promotion specifically geared to college students and featuring progressive dance music. On Tuesday’s they turn into a gay club with what they call “Mr. Black.” They do live performances on Wednesdays (“La Boum”) and Thursdays (“Bardot Sessions”). Fridays they have a somewhat racy burlesque show and Sundays they have Private Parties (a good way of making it seem like they are having celebrities in).
Here are some principles to take from this excellent night club promotion strategy:
1. Reach out to niche groups on slow nights: Notice how Club Bardot targets smaller niches like college students and gays on Mondays and Tuesdays. This gives these groups their own nights, builds loyalty, and may attract some of them back on the weekends. It also gives them a reason for going on a Monday night for something they can’t get on the weekends—a night of their own. That’s great club promotion.
2. Brand Your Promotions: Notice how Club Bardot has a name for each night: School Night, Mr. Black, La Boum… This is branding. It makes each night seem like it is a special event in itself and sets the tone for each night. This simple shorthand helps attract patrons—use it for all your events and be creative: call your St. Patrick Day event Four Leaf Clubber, call your ladies night Man-Eater Wednesday.
3. Use the Website: You should also help to keep it all straight by having a calendar page on the website. This helps in promotion as well—a few photos can help to bring people in if you have created a beautiful venue. (For more on creating a website for your nightclub, see Nightclub Marketing in the Internet Age)
Gorilla Club Promotion Ideas
To really attract the mini-skirted clubbers and Italian suited high-rollers you have to create the atmosphere of super-exclusiveness. There are few different tactics to this end:
1. Woo Celebrities and VIP’s: Look to attract local celebrities with freebies (and occasionally cash for appearances). Not every club can manage Paris Hilton, but if you have local sports stars or entertainment industry types, offer to host parties for them at a discount or for free. You can take a few pictures for the website and on occasion get paparazzi to cover the event, which gives you free publicity. Do a Google Image search on Club Bardot and you will see how effective this can be.
2. DJs and Live Music: Booking good DJs and live bands will attract fans to your club. If you have a live music venue upgrading your DJs and bands helps you to grow. A good band will often attract its followers. You can sweeten the pot by offering the band a percentage of the door.
Tip from the Pros: Team up with the local radio station in your area. Get program hosts to host some club promotion events at your joint. Usually they can promote you on their programs and you can increase your reach. A live music night, covered by the local station, can often give both you and the radio station some free exposure.3. Girl Power: Few things will attract more business than hotties. Girl bartenders, aspiring models as hostesses, Go-Go dancers in suspended cages all work to create that sexy nightclub feel. Having a Ladies Night is the usual way of getting some gals in on a weeknight, but another method that some clubs use to get things going is to hire models to hang out at their clubs. Some places keep this under wraps—others are a little more open about the fact that the girls are on the payroll but either way having a few professional partiers mixed into the crowd can help to keep things lively and upbeat. Many promoters are known for using this method.
4. Door Policies: The door is a good promotional device as well. It serves multiple purposes. You can create an air of exclusiveness by keeping some people lined up outside of your place and you can also help to keep up the standards of your club by turning people away. A good door will keep a good mix of guys and girls, and maintain the dress code. In some cases, a VIP list (even one that is purely for show) can create the hyper-exclusive air that can translate into dollars.
Keep Up with the Club Scene
To get more ideas it is always good to check out other venues. Yelp is an okay resource for this, but even better are professional review websites. My favorite is Party Earth, a website that originated with the European party scene but has recently expanded into the United States. They offer nice capsule reviews of the bar and club scene. Check them out here:
Good luck and have fun!
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