4 Marketing Activities to Get More Customers

Unless you are regularly turning people away due to being at capacity, you still have room to increase the sales potential of your business. However, most people in the bar industry don’t do any marketing and therefore never get to this place. This is, in my opinion, the top reason why people fail in the bar business.

Most people would rather just hide in their office, or behind the bar, or in the kitchen, and hope and pray for customers to come down. Others that claim they “market” will post something on Instagram and Facebook and leave it at that. Then when their promotion fails to attract customers, they blame everything except their own inactivity. Why are bar operators so lazy now?

Back when I was in the nightclub business, I did street promoting, cold called businesses, did social media, phone calls, text messages, direct mail, and I talked to people everywhere I went. Even the person that gave me my Starbucks at the drive thru window got a flyer for the event I was promoting. All this activity resulted in a crowd of customers following me wherever I bartended. Nowadays, I swear, this new generation of people in the bar business have no hustle and they rely solely on their devices. Cowards!

Remember at the end of the day, the bar business is a people business. You market by talking with real humans, not hiding behind your computer.

Ask yourself, what do we do whenever we need new customers? If you cannot answer that question at least four different ways, this weakness will be exposed sooner or later. There will come a time when the regulars that always just showed up, stop showing up. And when that time comes, you will need to have multiple ways to attract new customers to replace them. Otherwise, your sales, like so many other bars that operate without a marketing system, will slowly decrease until there is nothing left. Don’t be that guy. Instead, be the guy that is constantly hustling and has a ton of activity happening at once. This is the only way you can ensure your business will be busy all the time.

Here are four activities you can do to get more people in the door:

1. Personalized follow-up for every upcoming birthday

There should be a planned and deliberate attempt to convince everyone celebrating a birthday to continuously book at your venue. Calls and text messages should be going out to every person that booked a birthday with you last year, and also to every person that publishes their birth date on their social media. This can easily be 7-10 contacts a month for each member of your staff.

Do not wait for people to contact you. When people book a party, you should go forward in your calendar to next year and schedule a follow up two weeks before their next birthday. If you consistently do this, eventually your calendar will have scheduled activity almost every day of the year for stimulating birthday bookings. Never look at a birthday party booking as a “one-and-done” type of sale. Every 365 days, there is another opportunity to book the next one.

2. Personalized follow-up for every corporate function

Like birthdays, booking more corporate functions begins with calling everyone that has booked with you in the past. You can also follow up with every business card that you’ve collected from meeting people. Even if the person on the card isn’t the boss, they may be in a position to influence him or her. You never know until you actually talk to the person!

Most people are plain lazy about this and do not keep business cards or even record their information into a database. This is a wasted opportunity. Just this strategy alone could produce 10-20 contacts a month, depending on how many people you are meeting.

But this strategy will not work without effort. Be proactive and personally follow up with every company leader that booked a party at your venue and every business card you get from random people. Doing this activity consistently will increase the odds they will book with you in the future.

3. Bookings from soon-to-be expired coupons and other limited time offers

If you are sending out a great newsletter with interesting content, each newsletter can include a flyer advertising an incredible offer with a deadline. The deadline not only increases response rates, but it also gives you an excuse to contact subscribers and see if they want to take advantage of the offer before it is revoked.

Remember that people are busy. Many of the people that receive your coupon/flyer may glance at it once before life distracts them and your advertisement ends up in a pile with all the other stuff they have on their desk. You cannot rely on them to remember your advertisement and prioritize it. By taking the extra step to remind them of your offer, you increase the probability they will act on it.

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4. Do a shameless publicity stunt and exploit media coverage

I know someone who will do and say anything to get into the news. He will inject himself into every article about the bar business, liquor laws, property tax discussions, politics - I mean this guy will get involved in every argument and debate he can because he knows that every time his name gets into the paper, his business is also mentioned.

I have also seen this strategy at work with other entrepreneurs in entirely different industries where they will do ridiculous antics just to get attention. One person volunteered to eat a live cockroach for a charity event at his bar. Another person held a contest to see who could eat a two pound steak (which is damn near impossible). It doesn’t matter how you do it - all publicity is good publicity. Unless, of course, you’re in the news because of a health code violation. But other than that, any way you can get into the news is great advertising. Part of your weekly routine should be brainstorming newsworthy ideas and pitching reporters on covering your business.

Kevin Tam is a Sculpture Hospitality franchisee with more than a decade of experience working directly with bar, restaurant, and nightclub owners on all points of the spectrum. From family-owned single bar operations to large companies with locations on an international scale, Kevin works with them all and understands the unique challenges each kind of company faces. He’s also the author of a book titled Night Club Marketing Systems – How to Get Customers for Your Bar, a regular writer/contributor for Bar & Restaurant, and publisher of an eBook called: The 5 Commonly Overlooked Areas That Kill Your Food Cost.


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