Your web presence (your website) is an important tool and you should not underestimate the importance of its role in your online marketing strategy. As I have mentioned earlier, your customers are extremely judgemental and will begin judgment of your venue long before they walk through your door – and one of the methods in which they’ll gain information is through your website. I’m not suggesting you spend a fortune on designing a small masterpiece, I am suggesting you take the time to audit the design, content and usability of your site, and ensure you are conveying exactly the right information. I’ll elaborate on this below.
Your venue’s website should be designed tactically to lure potential customers into physically visiting your establishment. Your website should contain design elements similar to physical design elements of your venue and be appealing enough to generate actual foot traffic through your door. Your website should also be designed with an easy to use functions ‘contact form’ for customers who wish to inquire about functions at your venue.
So, what are some essential ingredients of a successful establishment’s website?
Design and Useability:
It will be beneficial for your site to contain the following:
- Consistency with your venue’s branding and style
- Easy to navigate (using conventional navigational elements, like a navigation menu, a ‘home’ button, breadcrumbs, a ‘contact us’ page, a ‘FAQs’ page)
- Made using a Content Management System (like Drupal, WordPress, Joomla) for fast and easy front-end editing and updating (this means you can easily update content without having to involve your website designers)
- Sensible and effective font selection, and paragraph styles
- Sensible and effective written text (the ‘copy’) which doesn’t chest-beat, mock other venues, or make irrational statements. Keep it cool.
It will be beneficial for your site to contain the following:
- A ‘contact us’ page. This should contain every piece of contact information for your venue:
- Telephone number
- ‘Contact Us’ form
- Street Address (include a Google Map if you can)
- Postal Address
- Trading hours
- Accountant Contact Information (probably in a smaller font, but handy to have). This will prevent or reduce unnecessary phone calls to your main contact number
- A ‘function inquiry’ form (if applicable), which automatically sends completed inquiries to an email address (which is checked regularly). Your web designer can set this up for you.
- A ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page, which answers common questions about your venue, including the topics of:
- Function and private event information
- Dress code
- Car parking in the area
- First pour products
- Trading hours
- Responsible service of alcohol policies
- House policies
- Who to speak to in case of a particular situation
- Your main telephone number, on the home page, above the fold (the fold is the bottom of the browser window, so ideally you want to have your main contact telephone number in the header or top part of your page). Your main telephone number is one of the most important factors in the ‘booking’ process – if you take bookings over the phone you will want to make this as widely known and accessible as possible.
- 300 words on what your venue is all about, and what it offers. Basically, an introductory statement.
- The history of your venue (customers will use this information to build an emotional connection with your venue)
- Hi-resolution photos of your venue, preferably at night, displaying your most dramatic features. If you have the budget, arrange for attractive models to pose in the pictures (having a good time of course!)
- A ‘Press’ area of the site, offering high resolution images of your venue, products, staff and any other features (don’t add watermarks to these, and make sure they are saved as 300dpi). These images will be used by the media for magazines, newspapers, reviews, etc. This will also demonstrate an air of importance for your venue – even if nobody ever downloads your ‘Press’ imagery it will still appear that your venue needs to keep such a resource.
- A page dedicated to each division of your establishment, whether it is food, drinks, gaming, accommodation, attractions, events or anything else.
- A page dedicated to your key staff (this increases morale and contributes to the emotional attachment between your staff and the venue, and also your customer and the venue, as they’ll be able to learn more about your key staff).
- A downloadable copy of your drinks list and functions menu, without If you present your list professionally, it will entice customers to physically visit your venue (they won’t be deterred by prices).
- A photo gallery, containing photos of your customers taken during busy times at your venue. Most of your guests will want to pose for photos – they’ll want to be ‘seen’ in the local social scene. If you don’t have the resources to install an exclusive photo gallery on your site, use a photo sharing service with a link from your site.
Think of your website as a sales machine: use it to transmit strategic information designed to lure and persuade potential customers.
You can take the purpose of your website even further by using it as an educational tool. Use it to educate visitors on your chosen niche – if you are a wine bar, educate about wine. If you are a cocktail bar, educate about cocktail history. A blog is the perfect tool for doing this. By educating, you’ll allow customers to develop a greater emotional connection to your establishment, which could possibly drive more online traffic to your site (potentially meaning more physical foot traffic through your doors).
If you act as an informal education reference for the industry you specialise in, your online education (and venue) will soon become known as an institution. If you have the time and resources, create a separate web page (or group of pages) or a downloadable PDF file (or, both) designed to offer information about the particular niche your establishment specialises in. A good example is a basic cocktail menu (listing ingredients and instructions of basic, widely known cocktails). You could also add a few of your ‘signature’ cocktails (popular original cocktails created by your staff), for your customers to try making at home (this is a great marketing tool – your customers will be entertaining their guests at home, making cocktails from your bar. What do you think they’ll talk about? Your bar. What is this called? Word-of-mouth marketing). Brand your free PDF or web page with your logo and other familiar imagery, so when the document is printed out, there is no room for doubt that the information comes from your venue. Try and keep the information original and relevant and ask your customers to share it as much as they like.
Your website is also prime advertising ‘real estate’ for key brands or suppliers. If you have a strong relationship with a particular supplier, ask them if they would like to advertise on your site – they may even sponsor the creation/overhaul of your site altogether. Evaluate this carefully, and always keep your target market in consideration – your site visitors will always make judgement of your association with a ‘sponsoring’ brand.
It may be beneficial to be sponsored by a luxurious Champagne house if you are a wine bar, but not so beneficial if you are a sports club or working class pub. Likewise – being sponsored by a ‘middle-class suburb’ beer may not be beneficial if you are a cocktail bar.
I also suggest that you optimize your site correctly for visibility with major search engines. This is called ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ (SEO) and is a technical process – I recommend outsourcing this to a digital marketing company. A lot of industries don’t understand the revenue-generating benefits of SEO, which is fundamentally the process of getting your website’s ‘listing’ on the first page of any search engine for a particular search term, or ‘keyword’. For example, if you are in the business of holding functions (a private event) in your local geographical area, it will be wise to optimize your site for the keyword ‘functions’ or ‘function space’ or something similar.
If you offer a function space in your venue, optimize your website for the search engines for keywords like ‘functions’ and ‘private events’. Organise this through a digital or online marketing agency.
Another useful keyword is your keyword plus the location you are in. For example, functions Manhattan or wedding venue Manchester. You’d be surprised how many people in your area search for each of these ‘commercially motivated’ keywords. Some of the major search engines offer keyword research tools which can reveal how popular a search for a commercially motivated keyword is in your local geographical area. And, you’d be surprised how much extra business you could gain if your site is on page one, (even more so in the top three search results). Search Engine Optimization, or ‘SEO’ is certainly something to consider when you are building or auditing your venue’s website.
I also recommend installing analytics software into your site. Doing so will reveal interesting information about the performance of your site, including the number of visits per day, the order in which users navigate your site and other vital performance statistics. There are a number of free analytics applications available on the internet. Talk to your web designer/developer (or internet marketing agency, if you have one) for more information on installing analytics on your site.
Use your website as the ‘hub’ of your online presence. Use your site as the centralized location for other online marketing strategies for your establishment (which can include email marketing and social media).
A blog is an excellent tool for demonstrating to your customers that you are a thought-leader in your chosen niche and that you know exactly what you are talking about. Your blog should be relevant and informative, and provide thoughts, comments and ideas about the niche you are operating in, and should allow for comments to be made by your customers and other industry professionals.
An online web log, or ‘blog’ is one of the most powerful ways you can demonstrate that you are a thought leader in your chosen industry.
A blog allows you to discuss trends and ideas, and push the boundaries of ‘research and development’ and analyse and discuss important elements in your chosen niche. This is going to demonstrate to your customers (and competition) that you are a key player in your industry.
You should update your blog regularly (at least once a week), and if you can’t, don’t bother with the blog at all – you need to be consistent and frequent for the blog to take effect and gain readers and popularity. There are some PR agencies and online content authors who specialise in authoring blog posts. If you choose to write your blog posts in-house, make sure your writing style is conducive, constant and is checked for grammatical errors.