Bar marketing is the process of promoting your bar to your intended audience; effective bar marketing attracts customers and encourages brand loyalty. To market a bar effectively, create a culture and offer promotions that attract loyal patrons. Bar marketing also requires developing word-of-mouth and creating an online presence with social media and review sites, which is not as easy as it sounds. You’ll need to do things like consistently post highly targeted content for your audience, monitor the analytics and adjust where necessary, make sure all your content is visually appealing, and more.
Here are the five steps to follow when marketing your bar:
1. Identify Your Target Market
Your bar’s target market is the ideal group of consumers you’re trying to attract. To identify your market, consider the characteristics of your local population, preferred clients, and foot traffic near your location. This involves creating an ideal customer profile based on demographic and psychographic data, and shaping your bar marketing strategy around their preferences.
The ways to identify your target market include:
Demographic data includes information about the physical characteristics of your target market. Relevant characteristics include age, gender, education, occupation, and income. Obtain this information by thinking about the characteristics of your current customers and taking time to learn more about their backgrounds and roles in your community.
Psychographics are the mental characteristics of your customers and preferred clientele. This includes behavior and beliefs like personality, hobbies, style, and humor. Familiarize yourself with these characteristics by talking with your customers and engaging with your community. Important considerations when evaluating this data include why people visit your bar and what customers are looking for when they choose your bar over another establishment.
Once you collect demographic and psychographic data, use the information to create a client profile that describes your bar’s ideal clientele. From there, you’ll be able to determine the best products, marketing, and promotions to reach those customers.
No matter how you identify your target market, always ask yourself whether your preferred customers will actually benefit your business. To do this, consider how many people in your target market live within close proximity to your bar, have the financial resources to support your business, and easy to access with marketing materials.
If you need more guidance on how to create a client profile, check out our how-to guide for creating a client profile—it includes tips and a template to simplify the process.
2. Create Your Bar Culture
Your culture is the type of experience you create at your bar and should be based on the customers you’re targeting. Bar promotions are the methods used to attract those customers, like events and giveaways. Establish a bar culture so you can choose promotions that jive with your bar’s atmosphere and entice new customers.
Define Your Bar Experience
What kind of bar experience are you creating—a high-end wine bar with a lounge atmosphere, a noisy sports bar with big screens, or a dive bar with loud music? The more overt your bar’s experience, the more memorable your culture and the easier it is to attract your desired audience. Define your bar’s experience to craft a targeted culture for your patrons.
Here are some of the traditional types of bars and bar experiences:
- Dive bar: Dive bars are come-as-you-are local bars that possess an intrinsic charm and rabidly loyal customers. There’s no single definition of a dive bar, but they often have strong character, tasty food, unique quirks, and low prices.
- Sports bars: Sports bars allow patrons to view sporting events, usually on multiple large screen TVs placed around the bar. Sports bars have year-round appeal depending on whatever sport is in season and can get really busy during major events such as the Super Bowl or World Series.
- Nightclubs: Clubs or discos are popular among younger populations and often feature great music, talented DJs, and a dance floor. Places like Las Vegas, Ibiza, and Miami are well known for a buzzing nightlife scene due to their concentration of nightclubs.
- Cocktail lounge: Usually bars like these are upscale and may be part of a hotel or restaurant. The atmosphere is lounge-like and subdued, and the bar may offer wines and signature cocktails.
- Cigar bars: Cigar bars allow customers to mix cigar smoking with drinking. Many city ordinances ban smoking in public places, but cigar bars have legal exceptions and feature humidors as well as beverages.
- Music bars: Music bars feature live music. While some music bars feature an eclectic array of musicians and groups, other music bars specialize in types of music such as blues or salsa.
Although these are common bar types, your own bar experience may morph between different types depending on your style and the patrons you want to attract. Local bars tend to blend elements of different bar experiences, so you may want to bring out the karaoke equipment on some nights and create a sports experience on others to create an eclectic and unique culture.
Schedule Regular Bar Promotions
Bar promotions include events, discounts, and theme nights that help define your culture and attract your ideal customer. Your bar’s promotions should complement the culture and clientele. Sports bars can focus on local team-oriented promotions, while music bars can rely on live bands or karaoke nights. Plan your bar’s promotions to follow a regular schedule based on the season or day of the week and post them on your website and social media pages.
A bar’s promotions should be a reflection of its culture and target market. For example, if you have a music bar, feature different genres of music or live bands each night of the week. Sports bars can choose a promotion schedule based on popular teams by running March Madness bracket challenges, college football-themed drink specials, or National Signing Day promotions.
General bar promotion ideas include:
- Sports bars: Sport-themed drink specials, price cuts based on home-team performance, jersey night, bring-your-friend half-off specials
- Music bars: Karaoke night, pick your own song, Metal Monday, free jukebox picks
- Drink specials (for any bar): Offer discounted prices for specific drinks or quantities of drinks. Create a signature cocktail for your location or city, or simply tweak and rename an existing local favorite cocktail
- Food specials (for any bar): Shrimp night, burger night, all-you-can-eat wings night—choose a food to promote and discount to drive up sales and encourage visits
- Games (sports, music, or dive bars): Raffles, competitions, billiards night, ping pong night, darts night, etc.
Create your culture and establish popular promotions, but stay flexible. As your bar attracts different patrons and their friends, the atmosphere might change. Your goal is to adapt and serve your target audience while remaining an authentic place where people can come to have a good time. Check out our 10 bar bar promotion ideas below.
“Sometimes you create a framework for things, but then it takes on a life of its own. The drink specials aren’t the main selling point. The main thing is the atmosphere and the music. It’s more about the vibe and the people.” – Wes Gilliam, co-owner, Radio Room (photo by Will Crooks)
3. Create an Online Presence
Your bar’s online presence is a primary way people will discover, visit, and review your bar. Create profiles on Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Yelp to start developing your online presence by targeting your ideal customer and using the platforms to announce bar events and promotions and encourage the right kind of people to visit and review your bar.
Make sure you do the following when creating an online presence:
Design an Informative Website
Your bar’s website doesn’t have to be complex, but it should include important information like location, hours, and events. Potential customers will rely on your website to decide whether to visit and regulars will use it to discover events and promotions. Create an eye-catching website to attract new customers and share information with your target audience.
Information to publish on your website includes:
- Location: Include your bar’s address and the location of your parking lot or other public parking. Customers should be able to use this to locate your bar with Google Maps or another mapping function.
- Hours: List your normal business hours and information about holiday- or event-specific hours. If you are only open seasonally, include this information on your website too.
- Menu: Provide a downloadable PDF of your menu, beer list, and specialty cocktails.
- Event calendar: Keep an up-to-date calendar of live music, promotions, specials, and other events.
- Press kits: A press kit can be event- or promotion-specific, or simply share general information about your bar. Check out our press kit template to learn more about how to create one for your bar’s services and events.
When you design your bar’s website, use a website builder that will simplify the process. 1&1 IONOS is a website builder that comes with templates prefilled with text and industry-specific images, web hosting, and a free domain. It also includes business email accounts, so you can leave a good impression by sending emails from “email@example.com” instead of “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Pricing starts at as little as $1/month. Click here to get started.
Get on Google My Business
Sign up for Google My Business in order to get your bar listed on Google’s massive business directory and in maps listings. Listing your bar on Google My Business is what lands you in the “local pack” and puts you into Google Maps when people search for your bar or related terms.
Remember to fill out your bar information completely. By adding pictures, identifying your establishment as a bar, listing price ranges, bar hours, address, etc., you will create an appealing and clickable profile on Google. Encourage your customers to leave positive reviews on Google because this will improve your search rankings.
For more information, check out our article on how to get on Google My Business.
Create Your Facebook Business Page
Create a Facebook Business Page for your bar to gain visibility and online exposure and share details about your location, hours, and promotions. Facebook pages are great because they give you greater presence, additional reviews, and social buzz. Friends can easily recommend your bar, tag your bar in posts, and encourage others to visit using Facebook.
Once you create a Facebook Business Page, share photos, videos, or updates once a day. You can announce the night’s theme (e.g., Michelob Monday – Half off all Michelob Beer), post pictures of your bartenders, or just a funny beer meme. As budget allows, start promoting posts and running Facebook ads to give your bar’s events and promotions more exposure online.
For more information on how to optimize your bar’s Facebook Business Page, check out our step-by-step guide to creating a Facebook page. If you’re interested in learning more about Facebook marketing, check out our how-to guide on free Facebook marketing techniques as well as our article on how to advertise on Facebook.
If you want personalized assistance with creating and maintaining your bar’s Facebook presence or to design your Facebook photos and images, try Hibu, one of a select few official Facebook Marketing Partners. It helps you draft posts, manage promotions and ads, and more. Click here to reach a Hibu representative.
Sign Up for Yelp
Yelp is the foremost review site online, with over 140 million visitors each month and more than 148 million reviews posted. Because Yelp is such an influential review site, you should create a business profile and keep it updated. Then, ask customers to leave reviews to improve word-of-mouth advertising and increase new business.
To sign up for Yelp, simply visit their website, enter your information, and fill out your business profile. The process takes less than thirty minutes and gives your bar instant visibility on the Yelp network. Be sure to fill out your Yelp profile thoroughly—name, detailed address, phone number, website link, bar hours, bar menu, high-quality photos, etc. The more information you put into your business profile, the better.
Once you have a Yelp profile, personally ask customers to review your bar on Yelp or place a request on a sign or on receipts. According to Harvard Business School research, higher star ratings on Yelp produce massive increases in revenue, so it’s in your best interest to work hard for great reviews. Take a look at our guide to using Yelp to find out how to get the most out of the platform.
Actively Monitor Online Reviews
Each of the platforms described above allows customers to leave reviews of your bar—star ratings with a description of the customer’s experience. These online reviews are important because they’ll either encourage or prevent future customers from visiting your bar. You should read these reviews and make any necessary adaptations to your bar culture or promotions.
If you receive negative reviews, the best thing to do is respond to the reviewer, make it clear that you understand the concerns, and are taking concrete action to improve in that specific area. If you receive positive reviews, it’s appropriate to thank the reviewer. Stay aware of all reviews in order to understand how your bar is being perceived by your customers.
Ultimately, you want to be wherever your customer is engaging and make sure you have a positive presence there. Check out our guide to the best social media sites for more information about which platforms are best for your bar.
4. Encourage Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Word-of-mouth marketing involves encouraging people to recommend your bar to their friends and acquaintances, but make sure you already have an online presence in case people look you up. Word-of-mouth can be your number one source of customers, but it’s only as effective as your bar is appealing. Harness your bar’s culture and promotions to establish your identity as the music bar, sports bar, or karaoke bar in your area, and word-of-mouth will spread like crazy.
About 88 percent of customers place the highest level of trust in recommendations from friends, and word-of-mouth impressions drive five times more sales than paid media. If done correctly, the right bar culture and promotions will drive word-of-mouth marketing to your desired audience, but there are some proven methods that will accelerate word-of-mouth marketing for your bar.
Here are some of the ways you can encourage word-of-mouth marketing:
Give Away Bar Merchandise
Bar merchandise includes items like branded shot glasses, koozies, T-shirts, and hats. Give away merchandise as prizes during promotions, as a reward for loyal customers, or to entice customers into your bar on slow nights. If your bar doesn’t have its own branded merchandise yet, your beer and liquor distributors and local breweries may provide free pint glasses, shirts, or other items to give away.
Craft Unique Experiences
Few people choose a bar simply because of its beer. Instead, people go for the experience, the culture, and the vibe. The greater emphasis you put on having a good time, the more your bar will benefit from word-of-mouth marketing. Decorate your bar, create signature drinks, and schedule live music and promotions in a way that gives customers a unique experience they’ll return to again and again.
Offering discounts on drinks or food is a surefire way to spread the word about your bar. Obviously, you can’t rely on price slashing alone to market your bar, but it’s one method to combine with others. Try offering drink discounts during an established happy hour or running promotions on different drinks each night.
Word-of-mouth marketing is all about getting other people to market your bar for you. The best people for this task are your own team members. Incentivize your employees to spread the word about your bar by giving bonuses, free drink tickets, and merchandise to those who bring in the most new customers. Just make sure you treat your employees fairly and respectfully to earn their loyalty and keep it.
“Networking” in a bar marketing context doesn’t require the handshaking methods of conventional networking, but it should involve getting face-to-face. Be friendly with your customers and employees, and you should foster relationships with other bar owners in your area. Networking with fellow business owners will help your reputation in the community and broaden your professional resources.
The bar owners we interviewed suggested contacting owners of other local bars and visiting their establishments. Bars possess a unique culture that appeals to a certain type of customer, so you don’t have to worry about competition when networking. Owners of other bars in the community will likely return the favor and may even recommend your bar to their friends and acquaintances.
Sponsor Local Sports & Rec Teams
Sponsoring a local sports team can involve providing branded jerseys, T-shirts, and other swag to a local intramural team as a way to advertise your bar. Build relationships with local universities and companies and let them know you’re open to sponsoring their teams. This is an easy way to grow your business and exposure in the community—just make sure they come to your bar for a celebratory drink after their games.
Have questions about how to get started? Our guide to getting more clients has 25 tips from the pros about how to network, where to advertise your business, and why you should make the most out of social media and community resources.
5. Develop a Social Media Strategy
Your social media strategy is the ongoing promotion of your bar through social channels. Use social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to promote events, share drink specials, and engage potential customers. A social media presence gets your bar in front of the community, helping old customers remember you and new customers discover you.
The two most effective ways to use social media for marketing your bar include:
Communicate Using Facebook
The majority of American adults are on Facebook, so it’s likely your bar’s target customers are already on the platform. Set up your page to include basic information about your bar, share event and promotion details, and take advantage of paid advertising opportunities. Optimize your bar’s Facebook page to reach your targeted market quickly and effectively.
There are four specific actions you should take once you claim your Facebook Business Page:
- Post regularly: Once a day updates are the minimum. Use a variety of videos, pictures, and text updates to keep your bar audience informed. Your Facebook posts will convey your bar culture.
- Respond to messages: Facebook allows people to send messages through Facebook Messenger. Be sure to respond to these messages as quickly as possible, since your response rate and time will be publicly displayed on your Facebook profile.
- Monitor reviews: Like Yelp and Google, Facebook is a major review site. Be sure to read each review and make any necessary changes.
- Pay for advertising and boosts: Facebook advertising allows you to reach a highly targeted audience in your local area. Take a portion of your marketing budget (e.g., $1,000) and use Facebook advertising for at least a month to see if Facebook advertising is an effective way to reach your audience.
For more information about how to advertise on Facebook, visit our review of the best Facebook advertising agencies. If you want more help with setting up and managing your bar’s Facebook page, let Hibu help you craft targeted ads that will attract the best customers for your bar.
Share Pictures on Instagram
Instagram allows you to advertise your bar’s drinks, events, and promotions through enticing photos and optimized hashtags. Publish a post on Instagram at least once a day and post three to ten Instagram stories to keep engagement high. Include geotags and popular hashtags in your posts and stories to increase your bar’s exposure.
Instagram is particularly important for your bar if you want to reach a Millennial audience. The platform is so important to Millennials that 30 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds avoid restaurants without a strong Instagram presence. The same age bracket is estimated to spend five days a year browsing food images on the platform.
In addition to Facebook and Instagram, your bar can benefit from other social media platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat. As you grow your social media presence, experiment with other platforms to see what works best for your community and target market. Just remember it’s important to first focus on the outlets that give you the biggest return on investment.
If you’re not sure how to kick-off your social media marketing campaign, hire a professional digital marketing service, like Hibu. Hibu is one of very few official Facebook Marketing Partners, and will create and maintain your Facebook accounts. It also monitors analytics and adjusts your campaigns accordingly, to make sure you reach the right audience for your bar. Speak to a Hibu representative today.
10 Bar Promotion Ideas
Bar promotions can go beyond traditional methods by infusing your marketing scheme with potentially viral and attention-grabbing ideas. Although it’s important to focus on the basics when marketing a bar—getting on the right platforms and building your online presence—you should stretch yourself and get creative to attract the most high-quality customers.
Here are 10 creative ideas to get you started:
- Pay-your-parking ticket night: Few things are more frustrating than getting a parking ticket. Boost the mood and grow business by offering to pay off the parking ticket of anyone who brings in an unpaid parking ticket dated within the last week. Be sure to provide stamps and a mailbox to ensure the ticket does get paid.
- Celebrate a totally random event: Patrons come to bars to get social, have fun, and take their mind off their troubles. Pick a night to celebrate a random event—Hottest Day in May (with discounted margaritas), half off Samuel Adams beer on the anniversary of Samuel Adams’ death (October 2, who knew?), or just pick a night for Zombie Appreciation Day (with some sort of zombie-related discount).
- Offer gift cards for game winners: A lot of bars have games, so why not reward the winners with a gift card? Adding gift card rewards encourages healthy competition and heats up business by creating repeat customers.
- Host events: Your bar can increase traffic without doing the heavy lifting involved with planning or advertising your own unique events. Let local organizations, universities, and companies know that your space is available for their events to increase sales and gain new customers. Use our event marketing tip list for some great ideas from the pros.
- Flip-a-Coin penny night: When customers order a beer on tap, they get to flip a penny. Heads, the drink costs a penny; tails, they pay full price.
- Sponsor Release Parties: Sponsoring a local band or artist who is releasing a new album is a great way to bring in patrons who might not otherwise frequent your bar. The more buzz you and the band generate around the album release, the more visitors your bar will be able to welcome.
- Run bar rallies for hometown teams: To generate team goodwill, offer free drinks if the hometown team wins by more than 10 points or if everyone’s favorite home team player sinks a three-pointer in the fourth quarter. Just choose a promotion and reward that will keep patrons in your bar as long as possible. The longer they stay, the more they’re likely to spend.
- Purchase custom mugs for super customers: Once a customer purchases their one-hundredth drink, it’s time to celebrate. Order a custom engraved mug with the customer’s name on it. Whenever they show up at the bar, pull down their stein and give them their first drink half off.
- Host Bar Olympics: Instead of the ho-hum drone of games in the background, pump it up to Bar Olympics—a full spread of bar games from beer pong to billiards. Host all your games during one big night of revelry and liberally distribute rewards like branded T-shirts and pint glasses to winners.
- Create a bar newspaper: In addition to maximizing your bar’s online and social media presence, publish your own monthly newsletter to promote bar events, live music, and other local businesses. Use this as a way to promote your bar while building a positive reputation in the local community.
Bottom Line – Bar Marketing in 5 Steps
Bar marketing begins with identifying your target market and developing a strong bar culture to match. Then create promotions to appeal to your regulars and grow your clientele. Word-of-mouth is the most effective form of marketing for bars, but it’s also essential to create an online presence and promote your bar on social media.