Bar Marketing and Promotions Ideas Essential to Your Business

Digital marketing strategy
Marketing strategies for 2019

At Nightclub & Bar, we’ve dialed up key marketing ideas and promotions for the year to drive guest and revenue through your door. It's a small preview of the hundred of promotional campaigns that are shared at the Nightclub & Bar Expo in Las Vegas next month but this is a good place to start as any. Come check out NCB's Marketing Report Presentation on March 25th to get a sense of what operators just like you are spending and focusing their time on.

A piece of advice- if you’re just starting out, try to take it one step at a time instead of boiling the (marketing) ocean. Take fifteen to thirty minutes a day to set up and execute one or two items. Once it's finished or part of your routine move on to the next topic and keep reinvesting in your business.



One of the key places to start as without great assets, you’ll really be behind the eight ball. Invest in nice equipment (the latest iPhones and Android phones can work with the right aperture setting) and make sure you’re taking flattering photos. Not every venue is a photographer’s dream and try to focus on your strengths.  Seeing what photos users are posting on social to get a better sense of what your crowd likes the best. Encourage your patrons to post even more photos with your account tagged and a unique hashtag. Vida Taco bar offers a $50 gift card and has amassed hundreds of user-generated photos and videos they can use.



Don’t skip on using a professional once you continue to grow your brand and marketing. Invite talented professionals into your place and get their insight on ways to improve shots for them and your guest. There are a lot of photos tricks out there as you’ll see in this clip below. Yes, sometimes motor oil is used in place of syrup. Yum!



Being a Leader Means More Followers

There will always be another social media platform popping up. Knowing when to focus on the other platforms instead of just two or three really depends on your audience and your resources. When you do spot a trend that might resonate with your guests, don’t be afraid to jump in. David Kaplan leads Death and Co. which has an absurd 182,000 followers, bigger than most beer and spirit accounts! When asked about how he amassed such a following, he told NCB,  “I sort of said to my partner, ‘Look, this is something I think we need to spend money on. We need to deliver content that's informational, educational, and has the same tone and ethos that we approach everything else with,” says Kaplan. “We need phenomenal content. We need phenomenal photography.”

“In the beginning, and still, our mission was pretty simple, but no one was doing it: we wanted to deliver informational content, which again, no one was doing. They're like, ‘Here's the cocktail. Come in and try our drinks,’” says Kaplan. “Okay well, you're not really giving anyone a reason to follow you. And then we wanted just best in class photography. We wanted the photos to be striking. So, we were trying to deliver as much as possible on both ends: there's the visual appeal and then you learn a whole lot of things without really being top.”

Learn from Dave Kaplan. Don't be a spammer just telling everyone to come into your bar. Teach people or share a recipe every once in a while too. That is what leads to engagement and having followers share and tag their network of friends to check out your social posts.



Google Places, Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare, Etc.

Sounds basic but it is still shocking how many operations do not claim their accounts and make sure it's their best foot forward on these platforms. Google lets users upload photos and take advantage of those great shots you acquired from your guest and double check all your information for accuracy. It is much better to be able to respond if a crisis arises if you are already verified than scrambling when it's too late. Besides, these testimonials can be a great way to showcase feedback on your other channels. Take the positive comments and use them as content in emails, newsletters, or website copy.


Build a Database

In our latest 2018 Marketing survey, we found the nearly 40% of bars and restaurants didn't keep track of records beyond an excel sheet if at all. Being able to tap into your audience is key! Facebook and Instagram continue to devalue your organic reach in order to increase the $33B they already have in advertising dollars so as an operator, it is up to you to keep control of your audience. Many POS or loyalty programs can keep track of guest and other ways to grow database counts include ID scanners, Wifi lead capture, lead form pages, or even fish bowls for business cards. When times get slow, trust that this list will come in handy.

Growing a bar database not only gives more strength to email marketing efforts and personalized targeting, but it can also help the valuation of your business. Knowing who is visiting your establishment and being able to market to them afterward leads to more repeat visitors- a positive look on balance sheets and a good narrative to share.

Emails and Newsletters

Once you have the database, use it! Email is one of the least expensive ways channels with the highest ROI. Looking at email platforms Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or other alternatives comes with a number of free, mobile-friendly designs that even the smallest resourced operation can take advantage of.


For those that really want to get into the weeds of newsletters, here's a free 14,500-word guide on everything newsletters. Or sign-up for our BarIQ newsletter to get a taste for how we run them.


Google and SEO

Search engine optimization has been around since the dawn of search engines and a quick google search yields 38 million results. Where to start for your bar or restaurant if you haven't already? First, know that Google continues to find ways to thwart even the best 'hacks' and having real, authentic content is a good starting place as any. No bar owner should find themselves digging through rows and rows of metadata and it makes more sense to turn to experts- both for time and expertise. A simple rule to follow is the more content you add to your bar site, the better chance it has of showing up. Not everyone has time to be writing a bar blog on top of running a restaurant and try to determine that opportunity cost.

One of my favorite thought leaders is Neil Patel. Here is a video of seven free tools he suggests. Remember, this can be a deep rabbit hole to go down into Alice of Searchland. For a novice with digital tools, this one would rank higher on the list for shopping out to a freelancer or subject matter expert. Take a small weekly budget of a hundred dollars or so, and track the impact of incremental investments using Google Analytics or other KPIs. 




Build Tribes and Audiences

Do your messages meet your core bar audience? While your bar or nightclub may be packed with a certain demographic, does your online audience match? Your ads and promotions need to speak and resonate with who you are trying to drive into the door. If you're trying to promote 'Girl's Night Out' but your social media says your online audience is 75% men, then the message isn't going to stick. Keep your general post to fit bigger demographic groups and use targeting ads to reach those niche audiences. This is where having a database to have 'micro-promotions' can come into handy.


Embrace and Hire Help When Needed

While not a true marketing tactic, it's important to state as no one can accomplish everything on this list by themselves and run a business. Delegating the work and finding help where you need it will be the key. Millennials are unashamed about being uber aggressive in their career development and finding meaningful work after being on the job for all of 10 minutes. If you trust them, be sure to direct the message and tone for your digital outreach but don't micromanage the details. Look for expert freelancers that can be quickly be brought on to solve a specific issue without having to pay someone to learn it from scratch. Check out sites Upwork or Credo for when you get stuck and a pro is better off handling it.


Get Inspiration From the Big Dogs

Finding a voice that can stand apart is a daunting task. Using the best of the best is a good benchmark of what to strive for. Check out where we ranked the top 100 social media accounts in the spirits and beer industry by follower count. While none of us may have thousands or millions of dollars in budget they have, it's good to see what and how they are posting. Take time to explore which of their post are getting the most engagement and apply the same principals to your bar marketing strategy.


Branding and More Branding

When you release a new menu, does the New York Times cover it? Well, that's because you probably aren't Dead Rabbit, which has finished top of the World's 50 Best Bar list back in 2016 and currently 16 in the latest list. Everything they do is over the top but meticulously in the name of superb hospitality. Serving over 50,000 of their world-famous Irish Coffees, this year they released branded glasses bearing the (in)famous Dead Rabbit logo. Providing those IG worthy moments with your brand is important. Remember- the quality of the product needs to match!



A post shared by Jack McGarry (@jackmcgarry1) on


Take Online Viewers on a Journey

Once you have retargeting setup, consider having multiple marketing ads that can serve in succession rather than just one ad that encourages a visit to your bar. If you're food heavy, trying showcasing ads in order of the most popular dishes offered at your restaurant. While you may be known for crab cakes, the guest may be allergic to seafood making that one seafood ad not of interest. However, the second ad showcasing a wood-fired pizza hits home and now your driving more business through your door.

If you're running an event, have the advertisements built just like a good concert promotes theirs. As the show date gets closer, the call to action gets stronger to create a sense of urgency.



Ever go to a website to only find that product or pair of shoes follow you around the internet? While creepy, it's effective. In order to stay top of mind and reinforce your brand, operators should ensure you can reach guest as they scour the internet. While researching places to eat they may hit your website or IG account. If they are researching a trip, they are probably seeing A LOT of competing establishments but you can stay top of mind by having a couple of mouth-watering ads show up on other sites or in their social media feeds. The way to do this is to pixel your site and connect your accounts. Depending on the type of site you have, google the phrase "how to install a retargeting pixel + your CMS" and take it as far as you can go. If you don't have the digital chops to complete it, no worries. Call your development team or hire a freelancer to finish this for you. No need to over research the 'how to' as that isn't the important part. Once you have the pixel setup, check out Facebook's business blog on best practices.


Marketing Spends to Fit the Holiday

Not all holidays are creating equal and a study by the National Beer Wholesalers Association shows the top sales by holidays at home compared to going out. Make sure your marketing spend matches the trends otherwise you may be overspending on holidays that most are spent at home. At the time of writing, four the of the top five on-premise drinking holidays are coming up over the next few months. Are you ready?


In case you are not ready and as a bonus, here is a link to some specific holiday promotions that you can take advantage of:

Work with Your Community

Last year at Nightclub & Bar, we had David Grutman deliver our keynote on how he grew LIV to the massive empire it is now. He said he never stopped promoting- from art galleries to private events, he was always looking for ways to draw locals and visitors alike into his venue. Are you targeting your local influencers? Sign-up for sites like Alignable to connect with local business and find mutual interests.

Find a Cause

Audiences love a cause as it makes them feel better about spending their hard-earned dollars in a venue. Most bar operators find themselves being asked for donations on a frequent basis and instead of looking at this as a burden, find a way to make it a win-win situation. Ask them to come in and set up a charity event on your slowest night or create monthly promotions where your guest can choose the charity you all are giving too. Even better, give your staff paid time to go volunteer and be a part of the community. Danny Meyer is well known for letting his operations choose a charity to support and you can't argue with his results or success. Look at sites like Causely that can promote users to check-in or leave reviews to amplify social efforts. 

See Your Competitor's Playbook

Thanks to the scrutiny of Russia and the elections, Facebook wants to be super transparent of ads being run on their platform. Take advantage of this by seeing how your competition and others are advertising. For example, look at the ads Chipotle is running online. It's clear the message they are driving to users focuses on catering, fresh ingredients, and using their mobile app. This makes sense as their lines are normally packed so they want to encourage other ways to generate revenue or reduce guest friction by waiting in line. Go to any Facebook page on a desktop and click "Info and Ads" on the right hand side to get this insight.

Don’t Reinvent the Design Wheel

Not every establishment has a designer on staff or even a reliable resource and that is A-OK. We live in the era of the freelance economy so take advantage of it! Need a new logo or design? Check out 99Designs where for $99 (the name is very straight forward) and have multiple designers bid on your job. You get to review dozens of submissions and only pay for the one you choose.

Need a promotional banner or display ads to jumpstart the strategies discussed here? Go to GraphicRiver and type in exactly what you need where you can pick up templates for a fraction of the price of starting from scratch. Now your designer can swap out text, contact information, and the promotional elements in a matter of minutes significantly cutting down on freelance hours. Their sister sites are great to find videos, audio, and photos as well. 

Drive People to Your Business (Literally)

Uber's monthly number of users was forecasted at 100 million in 2018 and Freebird is hoping to take advantage of that massive audience by rewarding riders with cash-back and points for taking rideshare. How does it work? You decide how much you want to spend to bring a guest to your bar and through their linked credit card, you can verify the guest took an uber to your establishment and spent money in your place of business. Guests are already using rideshares to safely get to the bar, make sure they stop at your venue first by offering a few dollars off their fare and then it's up to you keep them there once they're in the bar! Use promo code 'q7226' and save $10 off your first ride to try it out. 

Daily Learning

As I mentioned, don't try to do all of this at once. Take micro-learning courses and when you have a 15-minute break, take a quick. Check out 'Primer' from Google which has a really easy and intuitive app where you can have bite-size lessons at your own pace. LinkedIn Learning (which was formerly is another free resource. YouTube and IG have plenty of other influences to learn from. Just remember, treat it like a diet. You aren't going to lose all the weight in one session and you aren't going to learn it all in one sitting. Experiment, fail, learn, recalibrate, and start the cycle all over again.

Take this playbook and be proud of the ones you already have in place and try to add a few each month. Your business and profit and loss statement will thank you. 

Any marketing and promotions ideas are working that you would like to share? We’ll pick the best ones and update this article with it. Alternatively, what are your biggest challenges on this front? Shoot an email to [email protected] and we’ll be giving away a random free ticket to our Nightclub & Bar Show as a way to say thanks.

Jeremiah Batucan is the Director of Conference Content for Nightclub & Bar and a ten plus year industry veteran. He'll be presenting at the 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show session, “NCB Presents the Marketing Industry Report,” to dive into data-driven decision making, social media strategy, and the database growth initiatives. This research was collected Through audience surveys, industry interviews, and analyzing top performing brands benchmarks. Be sure to register today!

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