The process of marketing your venue is an art and a science. The way in which you execute your marketing strategies can either make or break your venue – you need to market your venue and products strategically, consistently and to the right audience. Marketing is an essential process in hospitality (as it is in any commercial industry) and chances are the hospitality industry in your surrounding geographical area is extremely competitive. As a general overall marketing objective, you need to tell the right audience that you are open for business, and entice them to visit your venue, instead of the venue next door.
Traditional marketing methods like flyers, posters, newspapers/publications, radio and television advertisements are costly, so you need to carefully research where and when you’ll use these channels. New school marketing methods like social media and the internet are cheaper but it’s very easy to broadcast the wrong message, and your efforts can backfire on you easily if you aren’t technologically savvy. I’ll discuss more on old and new school marketing methods below.
Before we go any further, I’d like to stress an extremely important hospitality marketing mantra:
Marketing is not just a “department”. Marketing your venue efficiently and successfully involves not only conventional methods in traditional and new school channels, but careful and precisely calculated ‘quality management’ of every aspect of your venue. Every aspect of a venue should be considered when developing and executing a marketing strategy.
In other words, this requires maintaining an extremely high standard of everything in your venue and includes, but is not limited to, the high quality and consistency of elements such as:
- The uniform your staff wear, and the way they wear it
- The fittings (taps, sinks, etc.) in your bathrooms
- The fonts used in your drinks menu
- The style of glassware you offer for each type of drink
- The style of cutlery you offer
- The design of your business cards
- The colour and design of your napkins
- The style of every drink you serve
- Your ice cubes (yes, the size and shape of your ice cubes makes a great difference to the presentation of your drinks)
- Basically, any variable factor in your venue.
The reason I claim this mantra is based upon this statement:
Your customers are extremely judgemental, whether they realise it or not. Your customers are evaluating, judging, criticising, and ‘pigeon-holing’ your venue before they walk through the door, when they walk through the door, while they’re inside and a long time after they leave. In retaliation, you’ll need to embrace supreme quality. And you need to keep every aspect of your establishment in perfect condition – everything adds up to the way in which customers perceive and judge your venue. See what your customers see. Change your perspective to that of your customer. Are you happy? What would you change if you were the customer?
- Do things look worn down or in a state of disrepair?
- Is there something you can do to make a drink, meal, or any other aspect of your venue look better?
- Do your customers receive the level of service they expect (and are promised in your marketing strategies)?
- Could a certain wall need a lick of paint?
- Is the quality of the drinks served in your venue at optimal quality?
- Are your amenities up to standard?
If your establishment is designed to be a five-star wine bar, does every factor of the business align to that goal? (Are your wine glasses chosen carefully? Do you hire knowledgeable staff? Have you designed your wine menu carefully to show your customers you can be respected as an industry leader? Do you position yourself in the market as a wine bar?) If your establishment is designed to be a student bar, have you positioned yourself in the market correctly? (Do you sell the right products, at the right price? Do you offer the right style of entertainment?) These are questions you are going to need to address, in order to get the most ROI from your marketing budget (it makes no sense in marketing your venue to the wrong market).
Ask yourself critical questions like: Am I marketing this venue properly? Am I really reaching my target market? Am I marketing this venue in alignment with the venue’s business goals? And lastly, does this venue meet the expectations of its customers? Does this venue deliver what it claims to deliver in any marketing material?
Develop A Unique Internal Mantra
Before we go any further, I need to talk about the importance of a unique internal mantra. Basically, a unique internal mantra is a statement that explains why your venue exists, explains what your venue does the best and is the statement that outlines what makes your establishment different from your competitors. A unique internal mantra is called an ‘internal’ mantra as it is kept purely for internal use amongst your staff. This mantra allows you to clearly outline which niche market you are targeting, and how you are going to deliver your product to that niche market. Keep this mantra for your staff only – don’t release it to the public. Think of this as an internal mission statement for your staff, to help them understand where your venue is placed in the market.
Firstly, when creating your mantra, it’s important to establish your establishment’s strong point. Ask yourself, which products are you good at producing, or more importantly, which products do you want to be good at producing? If you clearly outline this in your internal mantra, you can tailor your strategic management (in all areas of the business – staff management and customer service, alongside your marketing strategies) accordingly, and your staff will know and understand exactly the direction and purpose of your venue.
Eventually you’ll find that your customers visit your venue for this product.
A unique internal mantra is a statement that explains why your venue exists, explains what your venue does the best and is the statement that outlines what makes your establishment different from your competitors. Creating an internal mantra will allow your staff to easily align themselves to your venue’s core offering – they’ll understand exactly what it is your venue is trying to deliver. A unique internal mantra will help your staff understand the positioning of your venue in the market.
Secondly, it’s important to establish how you wish to deliver this product, and make sure you have the resources to be good at it. It makes no sense to try and deliver delicate cocktails if you are a working-class pub, nor does it make sense to offer premium Champagne if your target market is less than twenty two years of age.
Pick the product you are going to expertly create, choose how you are going to deliver this product, and pick the market you are going to dominate. Write this down in a carefully constructed sentence or two, and hey presto: you have a unique internal mantra.
An example of an internal mantra is this:
‘Brilliant Cocktail Bar* exists to deliver industry leading cocktails, premium international brews and carefully considered wine, through warm, homely, professional and exclusive service; to the hipsters, go-getters and hi-flyers of Manhattan, NYC’.
‘Brilliant Pub* exists to be everyone’s ‘local pub’. We do this by providing for every need of Brighton’s hardest working sport lovers; including offering well known beers, spirits and wine at competitive prices, and hearty traditional meals in traditional surroundings complemented by genuine and personable service’.
(*names are chosen for demonstration purposes only)
If you can create a mantra that is emotively powerful, your staff will soon align their mental approach towards reaching this goal. I suggest displaying this mantra in your main staff meeting areas, so your employees have no question in their mind about what you are offering and how you wish to offer it. Familiarisation with your unique internal mantra should be part of your induction process.
Traditional Marketing Methods
Before we go into traditional marketing tactics and methods, please remember that consistency and professionalism in your marketing strategy is essential for any successful venue – examine surrounding competitive venues and see if successful ones possess marketing strategies that are inconsistent and unprofessional?
Marketing to the right audience is also an extremely important factor commonly overlooked by many venues – make sure your strategies are targeted to the type of customer you’d like to see visiting your establishment. Traditional marketing channels are harder to precisely target, whereas new school channels like social media possess laser-sharp targeting tools. I’ll discuss social media and new school channels towards the end of the chapter.
Also, I’d like you to consider another general rule in hospitality marketing:
Don’t chest beat; don’t self-claim how busy, popular, great or 100% amazing your venue is. Self-claimed hype doesn’t work – if your venue is busy, popular great or amazing, people will find out automatically through third party channels. If you claim how great your venue is, it also increases the expectation of performance for your venue.
If you wish to include this in your marketing mix, instead of using self-claimed hype, use the following formula:
When promoting your venue, focus on features or benefits of your establishment, without placing an emphasis on the quality of the feature or benefit.
In the hospitality industry, traditional marketing methods are defined as physical marketing material in or on the following media:
- Street Press
- Bus-stop advertising
In my experience, it pays to outsource your graphic design work to an external, freelance professional or organisation. Your traditional print channels are going to cost you the most to produce (printing and distribution costs), so it makes sense to invest more in their design. Examine other successful bars in your surrounding area – chances are they’ve paid a premium amount to produce and deliver their industry-leading and crowd pleasing designs.
Traditional marketing is great for ‘awareness’ campaigns (i.e. telling your target market you are in business, effectively ‘reminding’ people you are trading) and also ‘promotion’ campaigns (promoting a particular product or event). Traditional marketing possesses the ability to reach a broad, generalised market, however as trends change and society progresses, the shift to digital is becoming more and more prominent.
I’m not going to elaborate too much on traditional marketing methods – with the current shifting in trends I will focus my attention on new school channels and techniques (this doesn’t mean you should forget about traditional media altogether, it means I think there is a possibility you can gain more ROI from new-school media, but of course this will depend on your individual situation). If you want to invest in traditional marketing methods, speak to a graphic design house or advertising agency in your local area.
New school marketing channels (mostly online) are exponentially increasing in popularity, reach and effectiveness – and tools like Facebook and Twitter possess targeting tools that are far more effective than targeting tools for traditional media.
Word-of-mouth marketing is also an extremely powerful tool to consider when marketing and promoting your venue. Word-of-mouth marketing is the simple act of people talking about your venue (in a positive sense) when they are away from your establishment. Word-of-mouth marketing is difficult to synthesize – you’re going to have to perform extremely well for customers to naturally speak great things about your venue. If you follow some of the customer service tips I have listed in the later chapter of this manual, you’ll greatly increase the possibility of satisfied customers spreading the word about the high calibre of your venue. If you are serious about word-of-mouth marketing, it may be wise to employ a Public Relations agency to generate some ‘hype’ about your establishment.
Something important to consider is the negative aspect of word-of-mouth marketing – what if people have a bad experience? If they do, they are going to talk about it more often than if they have a positive experience in your venue. It’s a fundamental function of human psychology to remember (and accentuate) negative events instead of positive events – and this isn’t going to work in your favour if something bad happens to one of your particularly vocal customers. As the saying goes, it’s the ‘squeaky wheel that gains the most attention’, and you’re going to need a powerful strategy to completely reverse a situation involving an upset ‘squeaky wheel’.
An attractive benefit if word-of-mouth marketing is that it is inexpensive (unless you employ a PR agency, of course).
If you execute outstanding customer service procedures, and put out negative customer experience ‘fires’ effectively, positive word-of-mouth marketing will occur naturally. A disadvantage of this style of marketing is that you can’t measure it (measuring marketing methods are essential in optimizing them), but it’s inexpensive, so there’s basically no financial risk incurred.
Social media is an excellent tool for monitoring and influencing word-of-mouth marketing:
Use social media to monitor the word-of-mouth marketing surrounding your venue. Use it to see what people are saying about you. Use a tool like Hootsuite to setup regular searches (which regularly search for the search term you choose).