Every bar that is in the opening phase or has recently switched hands goes through some growing pains. After you and your staff settles into their new operational routines, gathers information about your customer base, and eases into seasonal changes, it is time to figure out your marketing strategy.
Like anything else, marketing objectives take time to implement, test, and manipulate. Before you invest your precious capital in print or digital ads, consider options that are inexpensive, organic, and ultimately very effective. Your initial efforts should be focused on what you can easily control, track, and customize for your specific brand.
Word of mouth is the best form of advertisement. People who have had a positive experience at your bar and then proceed to tell their friends, family, and co-workers about it are invaluable to your up and coming bar. These people deserve to be rewarded and acknowledged for their support. Figure out what they are saying about your bar, why they like your establishment, and what they have heard from others.
Developing and maintaining relationships with your regulars is crucial to your business. Loyalty programs can be very enticing. Rewarding those you frequent your business with bonus drinks or snacks provides an incentive to keep coming back. If it aligns with your brand, you may want to consider software that keeps track of your loyalty program, but if it doesn’t you can reward your regulars in other ways. Calling them by name, remembering their usual orders, and occasionally offering gratis drinks should suffice. The main thing to accomplish with your regulars is the balance of give and take.
Word of mouth has taken on a new and exciting channel with the advent of social media. If you aren’t doing it already, the time is now. At a minimum, set up Instagram and Facebook to post several times per week. Your posts should include attractive images of your venue, your offerings, and staff. Create your own hashtag that includes the name of your business, your city, and your specialty. Promote the hashtag at your bar where your customers can see it. Print it on napkins or menus and write it on your message boards so that your patrons can join in the promotional fun.
Use Facebook invitations to promote holiday specials, trivia events, poker tournaments, nationally aired sporting events, etc. These invites can be easily shared to your customers and prospective customers for free. If it is on brand, make posts that encourage your patrons to donate supplies or funds to national disaster relief or charities. The more engagement the better, as long it aligns with the mission, vision, and values of your company.