Whether it be a countryside pub or city-centre wine bar, businesses in the hospitality industry are always on the lookout for new marketing strategies to give them a boost. Following the unprecedented challenges of 2020-21, it’s become more important than ever to find ways of increasing footfall and ensuring repeat custom in this highly competitive sector.
In the UK, it is estimated that households plan to spend £50bn – or roughly a quarter – of their lockdown savings over the course of 2021. This represents a huge opportunity for drinking establishments up and down the country.
From social media and branded games to events, community involvement, and SEO, our guide will provide you with ideas and strategies to make the most of the spending frenzy and get your business back on track.
Also running a restaurant? We’ve got plenty more tips and tricks for restaurant marketing.
Bar and pub marketing strategies
- Social media
- Online reviews
- Branded games
- Google My Business
- Website and SEO
- Discounts and special offers
- Community involvement
- Influencer marketing
Use social media to promote your pub or bar
Love it or hate it, social media is a powerful marketing tool for the hospitality industry. Having an active presence on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will allow you to promote offers, discounts, new drinks, and events such as live music and quizzes (more on that below).
While the organic reach of these platforms may have dwindled in recent years, you should remember that many people still visit your pages to find out key information such as event dates and opening times. So even if your posts don’t get much traction in terms of immediate likes and shares, potential customers will still be looking you up.
Facebook groups are also very useful for businesses looking to get the word out about who they are and what they do. Find local groups who might be interested in hearing about your offers and let them know by posting there – just be respectful of the group rules and check first with the admins.
When planning a night out or get-together with friends, people love to know that their chosen venues have gone down well with other visitors before them. While word of mouth and first-hand experience will already generate plenty of interest in your bar or pub, the online realm offers up a whole host of opportunities to develop social proof.
From sites such as Tripadvisor to the plethora of social media platforms, you should make it as easy as possible for customers to spread the word. Encourage online reviews through posters or signage at the bar, a note at the bottom of your menu, or by reminding social media followers that they can tag you in their posts.
Don’t forget to respond to reviews and be as present as possible online – positive interactions and connections will work wonders for your business in the long run.
After a very difficult 2020, businesses in the hospitality industry are now competing to win the custom of all those pub-goers who spent the time cooped up at home. Now that they can get out and enjoy a pint, it’s time to start thinking about ways to stand out from the crowd.
You might not have known it, but branded games offer businesses a fun and cost-effective way to increase customer loyalty. Boasting high levels of engagement among players, games are a powerful marketing tool for delivering ROI and real-world results.
Just take a look at Farmhouse Inns, who used a Jingle Jetpack game to bring their festive menu to life with prizes and giveaways for their customers. For those on a smaller budget, there are also ready-to-go games with a range of seasonal themes to choose from.
From Valentine’s Day to Halloween and Christmas, simply add your logo and copy and you have your very own branded game. By using the leaderboard feature to promote a free prize draw, you’ll have yourself a highly engaging campaign to set you apart from competitors.
From live music and live sport to the beloved pub quiz, events are a sure way to get customers through the door on a regular basis.
You can either arrange these events yourself, or work with local promoters or organisers to take care of it for you. In some cases, you might find that local groups get in touch asking to use your space in return for boosting your bar sales on a slower weeknight (read more about community involvement below).
Themed nights and special events are also a great way to generate buzz and excitement around your venue – think gin tasting, beer festivals, and fundraising events for charity. Whether these are ticketed or free, there’s always an opportunity to add new items to your menu and get creative with themed drinks and special offers.
Google My Business
When discussing pub marketing strategies in 2021, it doesn’t get much more important than Google My Business. If you haven’t done it already, go and get yourself set up.
This is how you can tell Google about key information such as your opening hours, address, contact details, and website. Once you’re set up, you’ll be discoverable in online search results and people will be able to quickly find out what they need to know about your business.
Website and local SEO
While websites aren’t essential to running a bar or pub business, there are several benefits of having one.
Unlike social media platforms – which offer limited reach and a restrictive visual layout – a website gives you full design control while increasing your digital footprint. By applying some basic local SEO strategies, it’ll also give you a boost in online search results.
If you serve food, you can use your website to provide potential customers with a menu that’s clear and up to date. With an estimated 93% of people saying they check an online menu before deciding where to eat out, you’ll want to make this as easy as possible for them to find.
Even if you don’t serve food, you may still want the option to take table bookings. An online reservation system on your site will allow you to automate the process of managing bookings and availability.
Discounts and special offers
Everyone loves a happy hour, but your pub promotion ideas don’t have to end there. From social media competitions to loyalty schemes, there are plenty of ways to get creative.
If you serve food, you can try offering selected drinks at a discount to go along with the meal. Maybe you specialise in beer from a certain brewery? Offer punch-card rewards in the form of a free pint for every nine that a customer buys.
And remember those branded games we mentioned earlier? They’re great for giving away instant prizes or cash vouchers for in-game achievements or high scores on the leaderboard.
Whether it’s supporting local causes, sponsoring events, or teaming up with other enterprises, being an active member in your local community will work wonders for your own business.
If you have function rooms or extra space, you can advertise these to local interest groups for their meet-ups. This will give the groups a home and bring in regular, loyal customers – particularly useful on slower days or weeknights.
Customers also love to know that they’re supporting a wider ecosystem of local businesses. If you work with others in your area – drink suppliers, food trucks, or artists – don’t be afraid to showcase these relationships on social media.
If you’re looking for a simple but effective bar promotion idea, try tapping into the power of local influencers to shout about your business in return for free drinks or food. This is a great way to drum up some extra attention around a new menu or seasonal offering.
Of course, you can’t just force someone to give you a glowing review. But if you provide them with a great experience then they’re likely to share that with their own online community. In many cases, this can be more effective and economical than paid advertising through other channels.
Instagram is a great place to look for influencers, so try to find local accounts with at least a few thousand followers. You can do this by searching through the feeds for hashtags relevant to your local area and industry.
With limited space available in your bar or pub – and therefore a limited number of customers – it’s important to think about ways to increase the average spend. There are many methods to achieve this without coming across as too salesy.
First and foremost, make it clear that there are options available beyond the humble pint (although we do love a good pint). We’re talking higher-markup items such as snacks, coffee, cocktails, and mocktails – particularly important for those Gen Z customers who are estimated to be drinking 20% less alcohol than their millennial predecessors.
It could be a small printed menu on each table with drink specials and limited-time offers, or snacks displayed prominently on or behind the bar. Detailed descriptions of these items also help, as do knowledgeable staff who are well-versed in your offering.
Bringing these bar and pub marketing strategies together
We’d encourage you to try out several of the strategies above to see what works best for you. Every business is different, but once you find your groove you can be consistent in applying the ideas that bring you success.
If you also run a restaurant or serve food at your bar or pub, check out our post on restaurant marketing ideas for 2021 and beyond. Cheers and good luck with your marketing!