Bar ownership is a dream come true. You get to drink at work and be the boss of a place where there’s a new party every day.
Of course, it can also be a nightmare: getting the liquor license, managing your cash flow, and dealing with drunk customers can be enough to make someone tear their hair out.
Many days it’ll feel like a never ending stream of problems, which means some things will fall by the wayside. There’s one thing you can’t afford to slack on, though.
In this article, we’ll take you through a step-by-step guide for marketing your bar. By the end you’ll be organized and ready to go. That’s a good thing, too. You don’t have time for marketing mistakes!
Bar Marketing Customer Types
Before you can determine the best course of action, you have to think of the sort of clientele your bar is going to attract. There are a number of ways we can slice it, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll narrow customers down to two types.
The first type are the regulars. These are the sort of people who come around not as some sort of special event, but instead just to have a good time. They get something out of your bar — friendship, service, or just a really good drink — that keeps them coming back time after time.
The second type are the tourists. These people are coming less for community and more for an experience. Maybe they heard you had good music, maybe they liked your location. No matter the reason, they’re probably not going to turn into regulars, but they might visit once in awhile, when they feel like getting out.
Most bars will serve a combination of these types. A dive bar might serve mostly to regulars, with the occasional tourist coming in for a cheap drink. And there are plenty of tourists bars that will find high-class clientele coming to see them time after time.
Once you’ve figured out your bar’s ratio, think in more detail about what you’ve seen (or, if you haven’t opened your bar yet, what you expect to see). Do you expect your patrons to drink beer, wine, liquor, or some mix of the three? What sort of clothes will they be wearing, are they going to come solo or in groups?
Keeping these details in mind is important, because at the end of the day, your marketing strategy is about more than just bringing customers in. That’s the end result, but the act of marketing is all about reaching out to customers and telling them, “I know what you want. You’ll have a good time here.”
When to Market to Bar Customers
Once you know your customers, you have to decide when to attract them. For many bars, Friday and Saturday are already good days of the week.
If you’re already doing well, you may want to focus your promotions on other days of the week. However, the sort of people who want to throw wild parties Sunday through Thursday are probably going to bring trouble, which means you’ll want to focus your marketing on niche groups who go out for a specific reason.
There are so many ways to do this: stand up comedy open mic nights, karaoke, trivia competitions, pool and ping pong games being just a few of the events you can host during the week to bring customers in.
On the other hand, if your bar is struggling to get customers, Fridays and Saturdays are great days to try and attract people. Bar patrons are already likely looking for something to do on the weekend, so a two for one deal or a ladies night could be what pushes them to go to your place over someone else’s
Once your weekends are busy, you’ll be able to expand into the week.
Aside from events that can take place anytime, you’ll also want to think of putting together holiday events. Times of the year like St. Patrick’s Day are great for bars, and it’s up to you to make sure all the thirsty people go to your bar instead of the competitor’s.
Below we’ve compiled a list of some of the best times of year to throw events (many thanks to Intoxicologist, whose list we heavily drew from; we only excerpted a few of the most popular/relevant days, but there are plenty of other fun ones on their site, like Ex-Spouse Day on April 14!):
January 1: Bloody Mary Day
Feb 3 – March 9: Mardis Gras
First Sunday in February: Super Bowl
February 18: Drink Wine Day
February 22: National Margarita Day
February 28: Oscars
March 17: St. Patrick’s Day
March 24: National Cocktail Day
April 7: National Beer Day
April 9: National Gin & Tonic Day
May 5: Cinco de Mayo
May 25: National Wine Day
June 14: National Bourbon Day
June 19: National Martini Day
July 4: Fourth of July
July 24: National Tequila Day
July 27: National Scotch Day
August 16: National Rum Day
September 16: Mexican Independence Day
September 28: National Drink Beer Day
October 4: National Vodka Day
October 16: National Liqueur Day
October 31: Halloween
November 1: Day of the Dead
November 8: National Shot Day
December 5: Bartender Appreciation Day
December 20: National Sangria Day
December 23: Festivus
December 24: Christmas Eve, also National Eggnog Day
December 31: New Year’s Eve
Social Media for Bars
Knowing your customers and event schedule is the beginning, but how do you actually get the word out and attract people?
One great way is to use social media. By creating Facebook pages for your events, you allow customers to say whether or not they’ll be attending. As you can imagine, people are significantly more likely to go to an event if they know their friend is going.
In this way, Facebook Event Pages can provide your event with social proof. As well, the page serves as a reminder to people who’ve expressed interest in your event. A few hours before, the social media network notifies people who signed up, letting them know the event is about to start soon.
Facebook is also a great tool when you’re not promoting a specific event. By having a Business Page for your bar, you allow people to interact with you. This makes the place seem warm and friendly. It can be especially fun if you get into lighthearted exchanges with bar customers.
Bars Need Good Local SEO
Knowing all of the above is important, but if you forget everything else, remember this: Local SEO is the most important aspect of a bar marketing strategy.
To understand Local SEO, we should take a second to look at what happens when we type a query into Google.
The first result I get is from Google Shopping. This targets people looking to buy a bar, and thus isn’t particularly relevant to bar owners.
The next result, on the other hand, is a map. It shows the locations and ratings of bars that are near me.
This is exactly the place you want to be. After all, if someone’s looking for a place to drink, where are they gonna check? The map that tells them how to get to your bar, or the results that simply say, “Hey, here are the sites for some random bars. You’ll have to figure out for yourself if they’re close and if people have a good time there.”
Oh, and if you want to rank number one in these results?
You’re gonna have to rank better than Wikipedia and Yelp. (Pro tip: That’s really hard to do.)
So, if you want your bar to get business, you’re going to have to rank well with Local SEO. How do you do that?
Local citations are the bread and butter of any good Local SEO strategy. They’re basically just listings of your name, address, and phone number.
Getting your name, address, and phone number (hereafter referred to as your NAP) into a large volume of directories can be appealing, but it’s also very difficult to do.
There are some services that offer to do this for you, like Yext, but they charge a monthly fee. These services are tricky, since as soon as you stop paying the fee, the service usually removes listings from the directories they’d submitted your business to.
Still, if you go the to Yext link above, you can submit your information and find some sites to add your list to.
This is a time consuming process though, and a good number of them aren’t even open to user submission; instead the citations are collected from other sites, like Google.
If you’re willing to spend a lot of time and energy, find out which directories to try by submitting your information onto Yext. (Though, once again, I’m not recommending you use their paid service.)
If you’d rather do things simply, your best bet is to make sure you have an accurate NAP on Facebook and Google. Many directory sites take their citations from these two, so over time your local authority will grow without any more effort.
Try not to change your NAP if you can. Because conflicting information will hurt your local SEO efforts.
Getting Good Reviews
Once you’re ranking well for your bar locally, it’s worth taking the time to make sure people are rating your bar well on Google, Facebook, and Yelp. Why? Well, let’s take another look at the search engine results page I showed up above:
These reviews are taken from your Google My Business page, and they’re a form of social proof. Essentially, if a lot of people have given your business good reviews, people are more likely to want to eat there.
You should also focus on getting good reviews from sites like Yelp, since these sites often show up on the first page of Google (especially when a searcher types in a specific bar’s name).
The art of getting good reviews could take up a whole article in and of itself, but let’s focus here on the basics: have a good bar, then make sure people are incentivized to review it.
If you’re struggling to get reviews, offer discounts/deals in exchange for a review.
Worried About Marketing Your Bar?
I know this was a lot of information to digest. And believe it or not, this was just an overview: unique situations crop up all the time, because the world is an ever-changing place.
Looking for some extra, personalized help to get you bar properly marketed? Click here for a free 15-minute consultation.