7 Advertising and Marketing Strategies for Bars to Bring in Patrons

(Ad) A bar is a business. And like any business, bars need to have a solid marketing strategy that keeps them on brand and gets them in front of the right customers at the right time. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry—developing a marketing strategy for a bar doesn’t have to be complicated. Still, you need to understand your options to find a solid plan that makes sense for your establishment.

When it comes to bar advertising in the 21st century, the possibilities are nearly endless. You can turn to modern techniques such as digital marketing campaigns and geofencing, or stick with the same old-school, traditional advertising methods that have been working for decades. Most likely, it’s a blend of those two that will have the greatest effect. Let’s take a closer look.

7 Advertising and Marketing Strategies for Bars

Relying on word-of-mouth advertising alone isn’t enough to keep up in this competitive market. Sure, some of your loyal customers are likely to tell their friends that they should stop by, but you need to play a more active role in keeping the bar full night after night. Here are some ideas worth exploring.

#1 – Modernize Referrals

As mentioned above, customers talking to friends isn’t going to move the needle for your business dramatically – but that doesn’t mean referrals aren’t important. On the contrary, they’re more important than ever, but they’ve changed format, and your bar needs to keep up with the times. Today’s referrals tend to take place online rather than in person, which can dramatically expand the reach that any single customer can provide for your business.

What’s the first thing you do when searching for a new hangout? You Google it, or you search on Yelp or a similar platform. And all customer reviews act like referrals driving people to your business.

You can make it more likely that customers will leave a review online by simply asking them to do so. As you get to know some of the customers that frequent your establishment, mention to them that places like Google and TripAdvisor are excellent spots on the web to leave a quick note about what your bar has to offer. Or consider offering a free drink or appetizer to anyone who leaves a review. Not everyone will bother to do so, of course, but the few that do can make a big impression on potential future visitors.

Note: If you’re encouraging people to leave a review, you can’t insist on them leaving a positive review. Not only is that unethical, but you’re also sure to be called out, which may damage your brand.

#2 – Partner Up

Partnering with other businesses is a classic bar promotion technique, and there is no reason to toss it out in the digital era. Teaming up with other small businesses in your area is a great way to boost both operations.

Often it will be a restaurant teaming up with a bar that doesn’t normally serve food – or only serves a limited menu – to offer customers a combined experience that makes for a fun night out. Or throw a block party with other local bars, hire some bands and make an event out of it.

However, you don’t have to limit your partnerships to nearby restaurants or food trucks. Plenty of out-of-the-box ideas are waiting to be developed with a little creativity. For instance, if there are any gyms nearby, you could work together to offer a special if they come by the bar after their workout. Make as many connections with other area businesses as possible to open up possibilities for future collaboration.

#3 – Identify And Target An Audience

No bar is designed to serve everyone. Even if you don’t consider your establishment to be in a specific niche, you still have an audience more likely to visit you than some other place. Whether because of their age, gender, socioeconomic status, music preferences, or other factors. For marketing purposes, it can be helpful to dial in your profile of that ideal customer and then use that profile to inform your advertising decisions.

The best way to determine what your ideal customer looks like is to talk to the people who already patronize your bar. Where are they from? How old are they? What kind of work do they do?

Build a profile one conversation at a time, and then approach your marketing by trying to find more people who fit that mold. Alternatively, if you have strong brand differentiators like a bar themed like Cheers or a sports bar, you can lead with your brand and target people with these interests.

#4 – Promote Organic Social Media Activity

It’s not breaking news that you should promote your bar on social media. And, chances are, you already maintain at least one or two active social media channels on places like FacebookInstagramTwitter, and TikTok. Those channels are useful, but you might be able to get more out of social media by finding ways to encourage organic activity on the part of your customers and followers.

The key here is finding ways to utilize social media. If you post basic updates like your operating hours, some specials coming up, etc., you probably aren’t going to get much engagement. People might find that type of content useful, but it won’t be something that is going to get shared frequently. For that, you’ll need to spend more time thinking about creative types of content that would be appealing to your audience and may cause them to pass it long.

Giveaways are one such way to drum up activity on social media. Offer something of value and set a deadline for the giveaway – only those following your account or who have shared the post will be eligible to win. Or post clips of live entertainment. This is a relatively affordable way to create quite a bit of buzz with minimal cost. And, if you leverage relationships with local businesses to get a deal on a giveaway item, you could perhaps bring that cost down to a modest level.

Remember—if you’ve already defined your target audience, you should focus most of your marketing time on creating content that will appeal to them, not an abstract or generic person.

#5 – Run A Paid Digital Ad Campaign

If you have a strong following on social media, you may get enough traction from posting organic content. But most bars don’t have a huge following, so it may make sense to put some ad budget behind your most successful organic posts and expand your reach. But you can also design specific ads, including video ads, that appeal to your target audience.

Display ads offer another good option. These appear at the top of Google search results and allow you to be the first thing a person sees when searching key phrases or words in their browser. If you want to explore what these ads can do for your business without investing heavily from the start, you can easily set a low budget for your first campaign and see how things go.

Also, you can turn campaigns on and off at any time, so you can use them to drum up business during slower periods and turn off the campaign when you know you’ll be busy anyway.

#6 – Develop A Website

You would think virtually every business would have a website by now, but that’s just not the case. If your bar still doesn’t have a website, or if you have a website but have been neglecting it for years, now is the time to step up your efforts in this area.

Why should you care about having a website? It’s a great place to highlight your brand, food and drink, staff, and the unique culture and experiences you offer. Some of this information should also be on your social media pages and your Google profiles, but the bulk of your content will be hosted on your website.

Also, a good bar website will be optimized for mobile traffic since most of your traffic will certainly come from mobile devices.

#7 – Enter The World Of SEO

Search engine optimization – typically referred to as SEO – can seem complicated if you’re new to the digital world, but it doesn’t have to be (especially if you outsource). Essentially, it means optimizing your online presence so that you appear at the top of search results.

For a bar, the key to success is to focus on what is known as “local SEO.” You won’t be trying to compete for big keywords that are searched on a global or even national scale. Instead, you’ll be dialing in content centered on smaller, less-competitive keywords that will be searched only in your local area. That makes sense, of course, because those searchers are the people who are physically close enough to visit your bar and become regular customers.

For example, if you’re a Nashville bar, you want your site to rank for the “best bars in Nashville” and have content on your site explaining why you’re the best bar in Nashville. But you wouldn’t want to rank for “best bar in San Francisco” or even “best bar in Memphis.” That would be a waste of time and money.

Advertising And Marketing Strategies For Bars: Key Takeaways

If you’re reading this, it probably means you want to focus on growing your business and attracting more customers to your bar. The best advice is to get started sooner rather than later and know that even if you have a couple of fumbles up front, in the end, if you put the work in, you’ll get your messaging and strategies dialed in and will see the proof in new growth.

So let’s recap some of the key points:

  • It’s still worth engaging in traditional promotional methods that have been used by bars for decades, such as forming collaborative relationships with other local businesses.
  • Having both a website and an active presence on review sites like Google and Yelp is essential to keep up with the competition in an increasingly digital world.
  • Diving into both organic and paid digital advertising can yield results – SEO is great for long-term traffic growth, while paid social or search engine marketing can deliver an immediate boost.
  • Knowing your audience is always important in marketing, which is no different when promoting a bar.

How Hearst Bay Area Can Help Grow Your Bar

As a busy bar owner, you might not have the time available – let alone the marketing expertise – to execute effective bar advertising. This is where Hearst Bay Area can come to the rescue. Thanks to our digital marketing options, and the expertise of our experienced team, we can take the pain out of this process. Get in touch right away to get started!

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