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9 Simple Marketing Tips to Keep Your Bar Thriving

Every bar owner knows how difficult it can be to stay in business. You work hard to create the perfect atmosphere, get your drinks and food recipes just right, and hire great service staff, but if you don’t have enough customers coming through the door, you’ll have to close your doors before long. To help your bar grow in popularity and keep customers coming back again and again, use these nine marketing tips for bars.

Find the audience you are aiming to focus on

When it comes to marketing for bars, you need to focus on two main groups of people: those who are already your regular patrons, and those who have never been to your bar before. For existing patrons, you want to find ways to keep them coming back. This could include things like happy hour specials or live music on certain nights. For new patrons, you want to find ways to get them in the door. This could include things like a grand opening event or partnering with a local business for a joint promotion. No matter what, remember that there is no one size fits all approach to marketing for bars and small businesses. Small business marketing requires a highly specialized plan if it is going to help you stand out. Consider what differentiates your bar from others near by when designing your promotional campaigns. Also, consider who your ideal customer is. Make three to four profiles of fictional people that personify what kind of customer not only personifies who you want to see in your bar, but also who is in your local market.

Design a brand guideline

A strong brand identity is critical for any business, but especially for bars. After all, people go to bars to socialize and have a good time. Your bar’s branding should reflect that.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating your bar’s brand guidelines:
1. Keep it simple. Use clean, easy-to-read fonts and minimal colors.
2. Be consistent. Use the same colors, logos, and fonts across all of your marketing materials.
3. Make three to four profiles of fictional people that personify what kind of customer not only personifies who you want to see in your bar, but also who is in your local market. Ask yourself with each post and each advertisement “does this ad engage my four ideal customer profiles?”
4. Be original. With so many bars out there, you need to stand out. One way to do this is by being funny or quirky on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram.

Use social media and SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a great way to get your bar’s website ranking higher in Google searches. Plus, using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can help you reach a wider audience. Here are a few tips:
1. Use relevant keywords on your website and in your social media posts. This will help potential customers find you more easily online. Marketing for bars is regionally focused more times than not, so tie your marketing into your local area.
2. Make sure your website and social media accounts are up-to-date and looking professional. First impressions matter. When people visit your site or see an update from you on their favorite social media platform, they’re making an instant judgement call about the quality of what they’ll find when they go to your bar.
3. Mix professional photography and social media support in with more casual candid photos, videos, and posts. Find a company that specializes in small business marketing to have them do professional photo shoots and scheduled posting. This way you always have a steady flow of good content and also your spur of the moment photo opportunities.

Have an attractive website

In today’s digital world, potential customers are likely to do a quick online search for bars in their area before heading out for the night. If your bar doesn’t have a website, you’re already at a disadvantage. But even if you do have a website, is it attractive and user-friendly? First impressions matter, so make sure your website is visually appealing and easy to navigate. Use high-quality photos and videos, and be sure to hyper focus on what makes your bar unique and different from everywhere else. Lean into the unique nature of your bar’s aesthetic. If you have a hard time defining what that aethetic is or what makes your bar unique, then a consultation from a professional marketer may be in order.

Host events that your audience will enjoy

In a post covid lockdown world, people appreciate experiences more so than ever. Memorable nights, unique locations, and experiences only able to be found in specific places are all part of what brings customers in the door. Every good small business marketing plan gives a consideration for the customer experience. With this in mind, a great way to get people in the door is by hosting events that your target audience will enjoy. For example, if you’re trying to attract a younger crowd, you could host a modern live music or a themed event. If you’re trying to attract an older crowd, you could host a wine tasting, new bottle night, or immersive experience. You can also use social media to promote these events and get people excited about coming to your bar.

Make human connections with your marketing

You can’t just rely on static posts to engage people when you are marketing for bars. You need to get out there, physically or digitally, and talk to people. Make connections with the people in your community. Get to know your regulars and what they like. When you show that you care about your customers, they’ll be more likely to keep coming back. When someone shares a great picture or post from your events, highlight those pictures and engage with them through your bar’s social media account. When people have bad things to say as well, engage those people human to human and do what you can to make things right. However, if someone is just trolling your page, don’t feed the trolls.

Create loyalty rewards programs

One way to keep your bar thriving is by creating loyalty rewards programs. This is a great way to encourage customers to keep coming back. You can offer things like discounts, a mug club, hidden drink menus, occasional free drinks, or even VIP access to special events. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that will appeal to your target audience and follow through with what you promise your customers. If you announce to your local customers that you are doing a VIP event, not doing that event or doing it badly can impact the relationship you have with your regular customers. And don’t forget to promote your loyalty program on your bar’s social media accounts!

Try local advertising first, then consider bigger budgets with national options

Bars can use local advertising to draw in new customers from the surrounding area. This can be done by taking out ads in local newspapers, region specific google ads, or by partnering with other businesses in the area. While being part of local festivals and events may not be profitable for you as a business, your presence and active positive involvement is a form of marketing that should help drive new customers into your bar. If you have a larger budget, you can also consider options like billboards or radio ads, but know that these forms of advertising can be expensive. Most of all don’t forget that bars are social places, so activating your current customers to bring in their friends is a huge opportunity for referral marketing for bars.

Don’t stop improving even after you’re open!

After you’ve put in the blood, sweat, and tears to open your bar and do your initial marketing, it can be tempting to just sit back and relax. But the work isn’t done yet. To make sure your bar stays afloat, you need to keep up with improving your business and your marketing. You might have started off on social media or even got a local ad, but that’s not enough. You need to grow your brand because when marketing for bars if your message and engagement dies out, so might your business.
Consider these small business marketing ideas as your next steps:
1) Host recurring events that will engage your ideal customer profiles
2) Advertisements in local publications and sponsor local community events
3) In-store promotions (e.g., 25% off our featured beer of the week)
4) A happy hour specials every day of the week
5) Promotions for weekday/late night crowds (e.g., discounted appetizers after 9pm)
6) Specials for foodie enthusiasts (e.g., take-home sauces from our kitchen’s latest recipes). Remember: a little bit of effort goes a long way.