One of the seemingly sure-fire marketing ideas to bring people into a bar or restaurant is to run a promotion. Typically, these promos are sponsored by a beverage vendor – liquor or beer – and include some giveaways. Giveaways can be as simple as some koozies and keychains all the way to larger prizes like snowboards, trips to opening day sports games, and even brand new vehicles.
Bar owners typically love these promotions, afterall, who wouldn’t? It’s free gifts that you get to claim and give away to your patrons. Often, all you have to do is sacrifice $1 or so off each draft or drink of choice. If the event is a dud, then it costs you a few bucks and the few people that showed up got some great swag. If it’s a hit, then you reap the rewards and hopefully win over a few new clients.
But do promotions work for bars? Restaurants?
My opinion is mixed. Ongoing promotions do work – I have seen it, but they ONLY work when the bar staff is invested in the promo as well. For example, if a bar is offering race tickets and a special on race day for a sponsored beverage, then a poster on the wall is only going to do so much.
Giving away a snowboard is only as good as the person behind the bar pushing the promo item.
Bar owners and managers seem to want to do promotions on slow nights, which is a bad idea. Slow nights are not going to produce the buzz that is required for a promotion to be successful and therefore make the bar seem more attractive to new visitors.
One-night promotions almost never work and are often a desperate plea for slower establishments to drum up business. I hate to say it, but a great menu and better service will trump any number of promotions, no matter how big the prize.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when putting together a promo schedule.
- Make the promotion interactive. Make your customers do something in order to win, or be entered to win. If they earn it, they’re going to have more fun and afterall, that’s why bars exist – for fun.
- Make the promotion ongoing. This does two things – you get people to come back more than once and you reward your sponsor. Rewarding sponsors is a great way to get them to continue to work with you in the future. Getting customers to stay engaged is key to converting them to regulars.
- Get your staff behind the promo. There’s few things worse than a bar staff not engaged with a promotion that is happening. Posters don’t get up, they don’t talk it up to regular customers, and they bring down the energy of the whole event. If you want to turn visitors into customers, you are going to do it with service.
- If you give it away, they will not come. Just because you have a giveaway, you aren’t guaranteed that people will show up or come back.
- Focus on your business first. Seems pretty basic, but if your service isn’t up to par, don’t go spending money or asking your vendors to leverage themselves to put butts in the seats. Have a craft beer bar? Make sure your bartenders know craft beer. Have a sports bar? Turn the sound on.
It’s pretty simple, but not easy. Service is everything that giveaways aren’t… permanent and difference-making.
Think I’m crazy? Leave a comment – I will reply to all of them.