Running a local pub in the current climate is tricky, and you may already be aware that in the UK around 18 pubs are closing each week. If you don’t want to be part of those statistics, then you need to have a robust marketing strategy in place.
When thinking about marketing your business, you first of all need to consider how your pub stands out from all the other local pubs in your neighbourhood. What in particular makes your pub different and unique?
For example, is your pub housed in a very old building with a colourful and fascinating history? If this is the case, then your marketing strategy should include discussing the history of your pub on social media, at networking events, in blogs posts and the local press, etc.
Once you have pinpointed your USP (Unique Selling Points) and refined your branding, you need to turn your attention to how to get your message out there. After all, local residents may know that you exist, but they may not know what you have to offer if they have never been given a reason to step foot inside your pub!
So, without further ado, here are five essential techniques local pubs should incorporate when putting together a marketing strategy for their business.
Networking – both offline and online – should form an integral part of any pub’s marketing strategy.
Online networking is discussed in some detail in the Social Media section below, but there is still much to be said for good, old-fashioned business networking in the “real” world.
Most towns and cities have a Chamber of Commerce – this is a good place to start when you’re looking for information about local business networking events and meet-ups. Plan ahead and try to schedule at least one event per month to attend.
Go along to each event armed with a specific plan. Your goal might be to seek a mutually beneficial partnership with another business, or it could be to check out a particular competitor or potential new supplier for example. Be sure to follow up promptly with any potentially valuable contacts you make at these events.
Getting involved in local community events will increase your pub’s exposure and improve its reputation within your immediate neighbourhood. Supporting local charitable causes by offering to host fundraising events can be a great way to increase community goodwill towards your pub, for example. Or you could offer to supply a mobile bar for small outdoor festival and fete-type events. You could even put on your own annual neighbourhood / village festival event too!
It is imperative to maintain your social media channels, and you should always strive to keep the content up to date and the conversation flowing. Imagine what a prospective customer would think if they searched for your page on Facebook, only to find that it has 5 Likes and nothing has been posted since 2015. It would be better not to be on Facebook at all! What you are aiming for is a fully-engaged, interactive community on your social media channels.
So, which platforms should you be using? Well, it all depends on your target audience. For a broader customer base, you will most likely find Facebook and Twitter most relevant, but if your primary audience is mostly aged 20-35, then it might be worth investing more time on Instagram or Pinterest instead.
Social networking is a great method for word-of-mouth recommendations, promoting events, doing market research, and targeting specific groups. However, there can be negatives as well as positives. The main drawback is the ease with which people can air their grievances in public. You should be sure to respond to any complaints promptly and effectively. This will help to minimise any damage to your pub’s brand before it occurs.
Finally, don’t forget LinkedIn. This is an excellent source for making new business contacts in particular, and every small business should have a profile there.
Gone are the days when people used to rely on the Yellow Pages and other physical sources to look up information. If a potential customer wants to find out anything about your pub before making a visit, they will most likely look for your website via a popular search engine before doing anything else. For this reason, you should make sure you have a well-presented, professional, easy-to-navigate website. Here are a few examples of the types of information potential customers might want to find out – you should include all of these on your site as a bare minimum:
- Your contact details – address, telephone number, email contact form, and an interactive map.
- Your opening hours.
- Your food offer (if relevant) – including the menu, images of the food, when food is served, and Food Hygiene ratings.
- Your entertainment / events calendar (if any).
- Whether you have a beer garden / outside seating area.
- Positive reviews / testimonials: make sure you have a Trip Advisor presence you can link to.
- Plenty of attractive images of the pub – both interior and exterior.
- Interesting information / facts about you, your team and your pub.
- An active blog.
It is not enough to rely on a Facebook page to advertise your pub online. For one thing, Facebook’s increasingly complex algorithms make it very difficult for posts from Business Pages to be seen in people’s feeds, unless they are sponsored posts. For another, you don’t own Facebook or other similar social networking sites and consequently, your page – and all the content you have amassed – could theoretically disappear or become obsolete at any time (remember MySpace?).
Think of your website and your domain as your mothership; the central hub of your online presence. You own it, therefore you are able to control your message and the content. Your social networks are satellites, which should all point back and drive traffic to your website.
SEO & digital marketing
As we have seen, constantly driving traffic back to your website should be the focus of your local pubs online marketing and promotional efforts. Through your website you can attract potential new customers, sell your offer on your own terms, and collect email addresses for your mailing list. But how do you make sure your site is found amongst all the “noise”?
One of the most effective ways to greatly enhance your site’s presence on the web is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). There are plenty of companies out there who offer this highly specialised service, but there is also much you can do yourself.
Blogging is perhaps the most effective method, if done smartly. Focus on useful, informative or entertaining content that local people, businesses and organisations will want to link to, and in time you should start to notice an organic increase in targeted traffic to your site.
Marketing is essential for all local pubs. Without a plan for attracting new clientele your business would not survive, and the challenge is always going to be how best to get the word out whilst building your brand and your reputation. Combining each of the five strategies above will certainly put you ahead of the competition and it shouldn’t be too long before you start seeing new faces coming through your doors.