The bottles are lined up behind your freshly waxed bar, and the bar stools you had imported from Mexico are ready and eager to be used. So how exactly do you go about becoming the place where everybody knows your name? Marketing for bars is the key to your success, and a well-written marketing plan will make the execution of your strategy super easy.
So here it is: everything you need to know to write the perfect marketing plan for your bar. In this article, we’ll walk you through all the components of a complete marketing for bars strategy – which you can of course tailor to the needs of your business.
To set you up for success, we’ve also put together a template you can download, customize, and fill in with your own marketing strategy. Take everything you learn here and follow along with your template – at the end of this process, you’ll be well on your way to creating an expert-level promotion strategy specifically tailored to your bar.
While a business plan establishes how you will conduct your business in the future, a marketing plan is a blueprint of the ways you will make your business known within the market.
A marketing plan:
Keep your business plan handy as you build your marketing plan. The two documents – while distinctly different – should rely on each other like a codependent power couple.
There are a few things you should check off your to do list before you actually start writing your marketing plan. Here we’ll take you through all the elements you’ll need to prepare before you start writing your plan.
Whether you beat ‘em or decide to join ‘em, you need to know what “‘em” are up to. Here’s what you need to do to conduct an effective competitor analysis.
You probably conducted a SWOT analysis of your own business when you wrote your business plan. If you did not, perform one now:
Compare your SWOT analysis to the ones you did for your competitors. Note any interesting overlap, and keep this information close at hand when you’re writing your marketing plan.
Before diving into the nitty-gritty details of a marketing plan, you’ll want to remind yourself of your vision, goals, and target audience. Ideally, you can pull this information straight from your business plan. Here’s what you’ll need to include:
Mission statement: Your mission statement is the reason your business exists. Mission statements are usually one to three sentences and approximately 50 words. They describe your bar’s value, inspire your customers, staff, and stakeholders, are plausible and realistic, and they are specific and to the point.
Elevator pitch: Your elevator pitch is how you would describe your bar to a stranger if you only had 60 seconds. Make sure you include your business’ name, specialty, and what makes you unique.
Target audience: Describing your target audience can be fun. Some people like to create personas, which are characters who represent your target demographic and psychographics. Imagine your ideal customer walks in and sits down at the bar. Who are they? What are they looking for?
Voice and tone: Now that you’ve created your persona, how do you want to talk to them? Will your tone be more casual or formal? How would the bartender greet them? This is your chance to define a personality for your business.
Goals: Not to get too existential, but what’s the point of all the work you’re doing here? You’ll want to list some tangible goals you can use to measure your overall success in your marketing efforts.
Some obvious examples are:
You may have others, and that’s great! Just remember that as you go through the components of your marketing plan, you’ll want to return to these goals to make sure each element of your strategy rolls up to one of these goals.
For each section of your marketing plan, identify the following:
Note: Don’t feel pressured to execute on all the components of this plan! You know your capacity best, from budget to human resources. We’re giving you the full menu of marketing ideas for bars, but we also want to stress that you should prioritize what’s best for your business.
Media exposure for your bar is marketing gold, Jerry, gold! Especially if you can secure some cool local media when you’re first starting out. But the thing is, you need to give journalists something to write about.
So how do you make your business newsworthy? Here are some ideas:
This may sound odd, but you’ll want to go back to your list of competitors for this one. Get to know your fellow business owners, and maybe even consider collaborating with them on specific initiatives where you may both benefit. The advantage is that this can cost you next to nothing, and you can benefit from tapping into another bar’s customer base.
Whether you’re participating in a block party, hosting a singles night, or running a private events program, events are a great way to get people into your bar and aware of your brand.
Here are some of the key items you’ll want to strategize ahead of time:
Your website is the online face of your business. You’ll want to make sure you include certain key assets to make it easy and enjoyable to navigate:
When designing your website, you should also be thinking about search engine optimization (SEO). SEO helps your bar rank as high as possible when people are searching for places to have a drink with friends.
On a basic level, here’s how to improve your search engine rankings:
Social media marketing for bars is a must.
It wasn’t so long ago that social media marketing was viewed as cutting-edge. Today social media is a standard component of any marketing plan – which means your competitors are also vying for attention across channels.
A bar is an inherently social place, so it goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that social media is an excellent tool for marketing your bar.
Get to know the various social media channels before you develop your bar’s social media strategy. Every channel comes with its own features, characteristics, and potential problems you’ll need to be aware of.
Instagram, for example, is a no brainer for you, given that people love to post pictures of themselves out on the town with their friends. Creating a geotag and engaging with users who have posted photos at your bar is a great way to drive traffic to your account and interest in your bar.
Twitter requires constant monitoring and maintenance, but is a great platform for updating users in real time about promotions and events.
And while Google+ may seem like a backwater social media channel that basically no one uses, just having a presence on the channel has been said to boost search rankings.
An effective and thorough social media strategy will include the following:
Consider your goals and the conversations you want to be a part of on social media. This will help you focus your efforts when you’re mapping out what should be a significant portion of your overall marketing strategy.
Making your bar everybody’s favorite watering hole is no easy task, but a list of some original and enticing happy hour promotions is a great place to start!
Play into your strengths, and strengthen your weaknesses by offering promotions on nights that tend to be slower or discounts on menu items you’re having a hard time selling.
Content marketing for bars is where you really get to have some fun. It’s all about brainstorming and pushing out creative content that will get people’s attention and keep them coming to you for information, entertainment, or all of the above.
Think of content marketing as the more creative element to your marketing plan. It goes above and beyond just having a website and doing standard email and social media marketing, although it’s important to note there will likely be overlap. Content marketing’s main focus is on the relevance and quality of the content itself.
So whether you’re publishing a how-to guide for making the perfect Old Fashioned on your blog, or creating a short video about the science behind mixology, content marketing is all about creating relevant and highly engaging content to drive traffic to your website, blog, social media channels, and eventually to your bar.
It’s no marketing secret, people love free stuff. Tap into that by hosting contests and giveaways to drive traffic to your website and increase engagement across your social media channels.
If a customer has gone so far as to provide you with their email address, it means they care enough about your restaurant to want info about its success, promos, and events, so don’t leave ‘em hanging!
But how do you go about collecting customers’ email addresses to get started? Here are some tips:
The power of mobile marketing for bars is often overlooked and underestimated. With 81% of people turning to their mobile devices when choosing a place to meet up with friends, mobile marketing means they’ll be eating out of the palm of your hand … or wait, you’re in the palm of their hand – either way, it’s effective.
Here are a few things to set you up for mobile marketing success:
Word of mouth is nothing new, and it’s tried and true.
You provide customers with an experience, they talk to their friends about that experience, then those people either choose to hang out at your bar or stay away.
Online review sites are just word of mouth through the world’s biggest megaphone.
Here are some of the reasons why you should claim your business on review sites:
Remember that no two plans are the same – the most successful marketing ideas for restaurants and bars prioritize what’s most important to the business based on budget, time, and resources. But also don’t be afraid to take some risks, as you’ll need to test certain initiatives before you can know whether or not they worked. Make sure to fail fast, learn, and optimize your efforts for the next round.
We don’t need to tell you that becoming a restaurant owner isn’t a get rich quick... more