It is not easy operating a bar business. There is a lot of competition – with new hotspots opening daily. Whether you’re a new bar owner or you’ve been in business for a while, marketing is a critical part of making your bar popular, profitable and attractive to customers.
With so many competitors, it is important to stand out, but simply being unique won’t get patrons in the door, no matter how funky the décor is or how original you make the cocktails. The answer is a strategic marketing plan to attract customers to stay current in the ever-changing bar scene in your city.
Bar Marketing Ideas
You don’t need to be a marketing professional to understand there are some basic ideas that will help you be a successful bar owner. When you planned your business, you more than likely took some marketing factors into account.
For example, each bar has a unique target audience that will guide everything from their menu, the décor, to specific advertising. You might cater to an upscale crowd and offer craft cocktails and locally-sourced snacks in a stylish setting or you might be part of the local small bar scene, specializing in affordable beer and traditional pub fare.
Whatever your area of specialty or style of bar, you can employ marketing techniques that are true to your vision while increasing your appeal to new customers and regular patrons alike.
To get an idea on how to market your bar, try these 10 easy and effective marketing ideas:
1. Social Proof- Get Reviews
So many of us look to the internet to determine which bars we will visit – and reviews are a major factor in helping us make that decision. After all, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as their friends’ opinions.
Sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor are popular destinations for reading customer reviews and your bar should get on these sites. Many people leave reviews when they have a negative experience, but you can encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews too – you just have to provide the incentive.
For example, you can ask customers to leave a review and receive a voucher or coupon that they can use for their next visit. This not only encourages them to leave a review, but it helps position your bar favorably in their minds, increasing the likelihood that their review will be positive.
2. Host Theme Nights
Theme nights are an effective bar promotion tactic and also a fun way to draw customers, especially if you hold the events on slower weeknights – when it can be harder to get people in the door. You can host regular events like Trivia Night Wednesdays or Football Sunday viewing parties, seasonal events like Halloween or Summer Solstice parties, or one-off events like a Tiki Night.
These theme nights set your bar apart from every other establishment that is just doing the same old thing, and they can help put your business on the map. Not only are theme nights fun for those in attendance, but they are great for sales too. People will stay longer to finish a trivia game than they might if they were just stopping in for a drink. Great service during a game means more sales for your bar.
You can also take the opportunity to award gift cards to winners or use them as prizes in a raffle in exchange for entrants’ email addresses (more on that later). This creates a fun and exciting atmosphere that encourages patrons to stay, grab some food and spend more than they would on an average weeknight.
3. Get Involved In the Community
Your bar can thrive if you make an effort to become involved as a member of your local community. In some instances, this will mean the geographic neighborhood, and in others, your community might be an association of other bars in your city.
You might think that it’s counterintuitive to partner with your competitors, but you’ll often find this isn’t the case – showing your support for local businesses puts your bar in a positive light among customers and members of the community. See if you can host an event alongside another bar, like a pub crawl or beer or wine tasting tour to create a fun event and cross-market your customer base with each other. Another way to get involved is to become an event sponsor.
You can sponsor a local minor league sports team or community events, i.e., races, concerts, and fairs. This will put your bar’s name front and center on all of the promotional materials for the event and will attract people beyond your usual customers.
4. Leverage Social Media
People love to visualize their food and drink experience before they come in or when they’re deciding which restaurant or bar to patronize. Professional photography can be pricey, but it can be well worth it when you can feature striking images on your website and print them on menus, posters and social media.
Your website can be a strong marketing tool for your bar, especially if it features plenty of photos of your food, drinks, staff, and ambiance. Hire a photographer to highlight the best of your menu and décor because Web pages with images get 94% more views than text-only pages, and people are more likely to remember images over text. Your specials may change over time, but most of your photography can be evergreen and can be used in a variety of ways.
5. Offer Unique Specials
We’ve all heard of Margarita Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, or Wing Wednesdays, so put on your creative thinking cap to come up with some unique specials that no other bars are offering. If you are sticking with the tried and true specials, find a way to make them stand out; such as offering live music or raffle prizes available to those who order the specials.
Once you have your specials planned out, spread the word via social media or on signage within your bar. If you’re doing any outside advertising, this is a great time to mention your specials. This is a great bar marketing strategy that is easy to execute because you’re simply adding to your existing menu or reinventing an item that you already serve, making it a low-risk tactic.
6. Create A Website
There are plenty of things that make a great website, but it’s not all about fancy graphics or a cool layout. Sure, those things matter, but no one will see those elements if they can’t find your website. Working with a web designer or content agency will help you build a site that’s rich in SEO-friendly keywords.
Target your local audience by including your city or neighborhood name on your pages. This way, when someone searches for “bars in Memphis” or “bars in SoHo”, you’re more likely to come up on their search results. Your website should also be rich with information that answers all your customers’ questions.
Include your menu, your specials, those gorgeous photos you took, plus contact information, hours of operation, and even an option to reserve online. You can also share customer reviews, upcoming events, any awards you’ve won, or staff profiles. The more information you have on your website, the more likely people are to find you and to stay on your website to learn more, rather than clicking away when they see a bare-bones website.
7. Get Active on Social Media
There’s more to social media than just chatting and sharing photos with friends. For businesses, social media is a great marketing tool because there is a low barrier to entry as platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are free to use. The only real cost here is your time, and if you’re too busy to write your own social posts, there are plenty of options for hiring someone to do it for you.
Social media is most effective when you use it often and engage your followers. Post photos of what’s happening in your restaurant on any given day, profile a regular customer and tag them, offer giveaways, or ask questions in polls to get input on new specials or menu items.
Most importantly, don’t forget to show your bar’s unique personality through jokes, memes, and links to any publicity you’ve had recently. Social media also offers an opportunity to showcase your customer service skills. If someone posts a critical comment or complaint, use social media to respond to them and address their issues.
You might think that publicly addressing your negative comments looks bad for business, but the opposite is true. When you take the time to acknowledge a problem, extend an apology, and offer a solution or discount on their next visit, it shows your followers that you’re dedicated to providing a great customer experience. Encourage your customers to get in on your social media activity too by requesting that they tag you in their pictures and offering giveaways for the best picture of the week or month.
8 . Use Email Marketing
Remember those email addresses that we mentioned collecting earlier? This is where you put them to use. Create a monthly newsletter that you can email to your subscribers, which includes highlights of special events, upcoming specials, new menu items, and any important happenings in your local community.
To prevent people from unsubscribing, give them an incentive to stay, for example, asking a trivia question and announcing the prize-winner in the next issue. You can also give subscribers a coupon or special discount that they can use it the next time they come in, which encourages repeat customers.
Email marketing is a great way to communicate with your target audience. Studies have shown that email marketing is 40 times more effective than social media. But, before you get too enthusiastic about sending emails, make sure you’re not sending them too often (which leads recipients to get annoyed and unsubscribe) and that you’re filling them with relevant content.
This is where you consider your target audience. If you’re a biker bar, your recipients probably care more about drink specials and upcoming events at the bar, whereas an upscale lounge might include a recipe for a specialty drink. If you don’t have the time to write your own newsletters, this is an easy task to outsource to a writing or marketing agency at a fairly low cost.
9. Host Special Events
Make your bar more than just a place to grab a beer with friends by turning it into a private event space. If you have the space for it, create a room that people can book for small gatherings, or offer rentals of your entire space for larger scale birthday parties, corporate holiday parties, or family functions.
Renting your bar out for a night means you’ll have to be closed to the public, but this doesn’t mean you’ll be losing money. Calculate an average night’s profits and make sure your rental rates have a minimum to ensure you won’t fall short and that you’re increasing your bar revenue rather than taking a loss. Weekend rates can be higher to account for the fact that they’re a busier time of the week. Work with party planning companies to see if there are ways you can cross-market your bar with their products to help spread the word about your party rental space.
10. Leverage The Shared Economy
Drink specials and karaoke nights are a great way to increase the number of customers who visit your bar each night, but what happens during the day when your bar is closed and sits vacant for hours on end? While you might not be prepared to open during the day, as there are a lot of additional operating costs associated with doing so, there are other ways to make the most of your space during off-hours and earn extra revenue and visibility from new customers.
One such way to reinvent your bar during daytime hours is to open it for use as a pop-up coworking space. With the rise of employees and freelancers who work remotely (an estimated 43% of Americans perform at least some of their job remotely), there is a greater number of people who are working from home or their local coffee shops.
But, for some people, working at home isn’t a great option and you can only drink so many lattes in a day to work from a coffee shop. The solution – Coworking spaces. These spaces offer individual desks for rent or separate rooms for small teams. Coworking spaces are designed for people who enjoy flexibility and collaboration with others. Coworking spaces have all of the functionality of a regular office, but the resources are shared among the other people that are working there. They also offer the ability for people to hold meetings and collaborate in a small team setting.
Who Uses Coworking Spaces?
Coworking spaces are popping up everywhere due to the increasing ability to work remotely, modern technology like group messaging services and document sharing across multiple locations. Coworking spaces aren’t just for writers who are working on the next great screenplay – people from every industry are turning to these spaces as an alternative to a traditional office environment.
These include software developers, graphic designers, writers, photographers, accountants, human resources professionals, and even CEOs of new startups. As long as you have a laptop, there are a seemingly endless number of jobs that can be carried out in a coworking space.
Features of a Great Coworking Space
Establishing a coworking space in your bar during the day requires more than just opening the doors and turning on the lights. You’ll need to understand what makes a great coworking space, so you can set yours up to rival the competition with these basic features:
- A Strong WIFI Connection
First and foremost, your coworking customers need to connect to the internet to do their jobs. Being able to stay connected is the foundation for remote work, so you’ll need to ensure that your WIFI connection can sufficiently accommodate your coworking guests’ needs. This may require an upgrade in your connection but it’s a worthwhile investment, as a poor connection will quickly put an end to your coworking strategy.
- Outlets and Charging Stations
Another upgrade you may need is to install extra electrical outlets near your tables so that patrons can easily power their laptops and phones while they work. A worker’s time in your space will be short-lived if they have to leave when their battery life comes to an end.
A dark and moody atmosphere may work well to create evening ambiance in your bar, but during the day, people who work in a coworking space will need brighter lights. Opening up the blinds all the way helps provide natural light, and you may also need to install some additional lighting to make sure your guests can comfortably see what they’re doing.
It can be costly to offer your full menu during the day, and most remote workers aren’t there for eating full meals. Most importantly, you’ll need to set up a self-serve coffee and water area, and adding a few complimentary snacks to the mix goes a long way in keeping your guests comfortable and happy. If your kitchen staff doesn’t work during the day, you can simply provide a bowl of apples and pre-packaged snacks like nuts and energy bars.
How Effective Are Coworking Spaces at Making Money?
Turning your bar into a daytime coworking space gives you the ability to make money in the hours that your bar would normally be vacant. While you’ll have to do some initial setup, the barrier to entry is low and the ROI potential is high.
Research competitor’s rates and fee structures to plan whether an hourly rate or another system that will attract freelancers and remote employees to your space. Once your coworking guests are in your space, encourage them to stay after hours by offering early-bird drink specials or discounted food.
People are ready for a break at the end of the workday and these types of incentives can easily give you a full house right when your bar opens for evening business. Not only are you making money during the day, but you can turn your coworking guests into regular customers as well.
I’m Interested. How Do You Get Started?
Advertising your coworking availability through signage in your bar is a great place to start, but if you really want to effectively market your new space, consider partnering with a company like DropDesk. DropDesk offers free technology, consulting, and works with business owners, like yourself, to maximize exposure and revenue of unused space.
DropDesk is a leader in the coworking industry and their team has the resources to take the bulk of the work of setting up and running a coworking space off your shoulders. This allows you to continue to do what you do best: running a profitable bar, while they do the rest. With your current setup and hardware, partnering with DropDesk allows you to efficiently offer a coworking space with little cost or risk to your existing business.
If you’re a bar owner with a vacant daytime space and would like to learn more about how you can earn additional revenue as a coworking space, reach out to the DropDesk team today to begin your bar’s transformation and increased profitability.