There are, arguably, two types of bar marketing.
The first is to promote your venue to a specific audience. It gets them through the door and ensures bar staff aren’t left twiddling their thumbs in front of an empty room.
The second is to attract customers and encourage brand loyalty. This is marketing for bars which really makes a difference. Create loyal customers, and they’ll come back for more - they’ll also recommend you to their friends and leave a trail of wonderful content related to your venue on social media.
So, where do you begin?
Bar marketing strategies aren’t developed overnight, but if you follow our guide, you’ll discover marketing ideas for bars that will help you create a business that grows and becomes truly sustainable.
Top bar marketing stats
The bar industry continues to produce some fascinating stats.
For instance, there are nearly 63,000 bars registered in the US alone, but the importance of this sector goes much further than that:
- the bar industry is growing at 2.9% each year (source)
- 70% of people will visit the same bar each time they go out (source)
- the US bar industry employs 345,000 people (Statistica)
Put simply, if you’re heading into this space and you get your offering right, you’re in for a fascinating, profitable ride.
Steps to take before marketing a bar
“How can I make my bar more fun” is a question you’ve probably asked yourself several times. What can you do to set it apart from the rest?
After all, a decent drinks menu isn’t enough these days; you need to create an experience which keeps people coming back for more.
That’s why there’s a fair amount of pre-planning you’ll need to undertake before getting into bar marketing.
Step 1: Define your goals
Without a goal, you won’t be able to increase the sales and profits of your bar over time - it’s that simple.
Goals are crucial for marketing campaigns to be successful. Take time to think about yours: do you want to become the bar of choice for millennials? Perhaps you want to introduce a brand-new bar experience in your area.
Set trackable, measurable goals from the off.
Step 2: Define your audience
It’s marketing 101, but something so many businesses neglect.
Who is your target audience? Who are you marketing your bar towards? The more you know about the people who will come through your doors, the more you can tailor your offering to best suit them.
Step 3: Define the bar culture
This is the exciting bit. What kind of culture, ambiance and promotional strategy are you going to have for your bar?
From the decor to the menu, this is what will drive the content behind your bar marketing strategy.
Step 4: Create your online presence
You can’t undertake modern bar marketing without a great mobile-ready website and social media presence.
Get signed up on every platform that’s important to you.
8 tried-and-tested marketing ideas for bars
Coming up with new ideas for your bar’s marketing campaigns is admittedly hard. So, we thought we’d give you a head start with eight tried-and-tested approaches.
1. Search engine optimisation (SEO)
You really will need to spend a bit of money here - particularly on local SEO, which will help your bar get found by people conducting Google searches within the area.
Bring in an expert and ask them to focus on optimising your website for local searches, and provide a clear strategy for blogging going forward.
Once you have some form of SEO strategy in place, you need to promise yourself that a blog will be published once a week.
It’ll need to include keywords from the SEO work but be focused on providing valuable advice and information related to your bar (exciting drinks to try and stuff to do in the area - that kind of thing). This will help feed your social media output, too.
3. Social media
At the very least, your bar needs an Instagram account to which you regularly post photos, videos and stories about the venue.
Thankfully, you work in an incredibly visual sector, which means you should never be short of inspiration. And, as noted, that weekly blog will give you plenty of reason to point people towards the bar’s website.
4. User generated content (UGC)
Good news: some of your best marketing employees will be your customers. You just need to tempt them to post lovely things about your bar on social media.
The more established you become, the less work you’ll need to do here, but encourage people to share their experiences in your bar by creating a hashtag for your venue and reminding them to check in when they’re settling down with their drinks (the menu or beer mat is a great place for that!).
5. PPC advertising
Throwing lots of marketing spend at pay-per-click (PPC) advertising isn’t wise, but it is a great way to raise the profile of your bar online.
Whenever you have a new promotion, drink or night on the cards, use PPC to put it in front of the most appropriate audience. Platforms like Facebook will help you tightly define that audience by their demographics, location and interests.
No, it’s not a cheap marketing idea; giveaways are still brilliant forms of promotion. The trick is to ensure there’s little to no catch and to make the giveaway (10% off cocktails for one hour, for instance), genuinely tempting.
The more you promote the giveaway, the more attention it’ll draw towards your bar, and the more the winner will do some of the marketing legwork for you.
7. Work with local influencers
The influencer market isn’t just about the big names. Within your neighbourhood, there’s likely to be smaller influencers who can be just as impactful on your marketing campaigns.
Partnering with a local influencer or minor celebrity will draw attention to your bar with little work on your part. You can simply let them try your offerings and encourage them to post their thoughts on social media. Or, alternatively, plan an event around their appearance (with their blessing, of course)!
8. Respond to every comment
Whether it be on a review website or social media platform, a comment about your bar (good or bad) is always a marketing opportunity.
Take time each day to review the comments people are making about your venue and get involved. The more you show you care, the more positive attention will be drawn towards your bar.
Some lesser-known bar marketing ideas
Some bar marketing tactics need a little extra thought and encouragement, but they can be incredibly impactful.
Here are a few to get your creative juices flowing:
- tell a story (with Instagram Stories) each day about your preparation for the night ahead - have a laugh!
- source your drinks locally - and make a huge deal about the fact you do so (remember to tag the suppliers in social posts)
- keep an eye on trending drinks and cocktails and add them to your menu immediately (along with a social media fanfare about their arrival)
- add some antioxidant-rich, healthy beverages to your menu and cater for allergies such as gluten intolerance
- become a coffee venue - not just an alcoholic drinks venue (it’ll help numbers during quiet periods)
- create a separate cocktail menu and reveal you’re not just about alcoholic beverages
- create a ‘secret’ cocktail menu which can only be accessed if people sign up for it on your website
Before you go, check out this brilliant related blog which will help you even further with your bar marketing ideas: