The traditional boozer is dying out, and it’s more important than ever for pubs to offer a quality food menu, alongside regular events, in a welcoming, comfortable and cozy environment.
Once you have your pub the way it needs to be, it’s time to get marketing. Traditional forms of advertising are no longer as effective as people use the web more and more for finding places to eat and drink. In this article we’ll go through the various offline and online ways in which you can promote your pub and increase your trade.
Before you start marketing… Is your pub at a place where it can be attractive to new customers? Maybe your local regulars are happy because they’ve been drinking there for years, but if the pub isn’t attractive to newcomers, there may be little point in investing too much money in marketing before you have got the pub to the right standard. For example, is the exterior or interior looking tired and unloved? Do you need a refit or spruce up? Is the menu and food quality up to scratch? Are the staff friendly, hard-working and attentive? The road to increased footfall actually starts with these things because your marketing efforts will fall flat if they’re not right.
1.0 Offline Marketing
1.1 Local Events
1.3 Banners, signs, posters, flyers, business cards, merchandise
1.5 Newspapers & Magazines
1.6 Word of Mouth
2.0 Online Marketing
2.1 Google Local Search
2.2 Social Media
2.3 Photo and Video on Social Media
2.4 Your Pub’s Website
2.5 Website Pitfalls to Avoid
3.0 Other Ways to Promote Your Pub Online
3.1 Search Engine Optimisation
3.2 Advertising through Google AdWords, Facebook Ads or similar
Although there are some offline marketing methods that don’t work so well any more, there are still some that do…
Community is at the heart of what a pub is. Getting involved in your community can be one of the single best things you can do for the life of your pub. Offer to host an event or two, whether it’s a biker meet-up, or a flower show. Your pub is a venue, and if you have the space, it can be a great way to encourage people who have never been there before to come in and hopefully return.
Getting involved in the community around you is about being visible, and demonstrating that you care about providing a service where everyone is welcome.
Chamber of commerce. Getting involved with your local chamber of commerce is a great way to connect with other business owners in your locality. Partnerships can be made in surprising ways.
Collaborate. Try and find ways you can connect with other businesses in your area to provide something of mutual benefit. Complimentary businesses such as butchers, bakers, farmers’ markets, are all potential suppliers and may be able to promote you if you can use them. perhaps consider running cross promotions for customers of other businesses.
Banners, signs, posters, flyers, business cards, merchandise.
These all still have a place, probably listed in diminishing order. You can use signs and banners to help people know what’s going on at your pub and to encourage them to enter. Posters and flyers are probably best suited to advertising events, particularly those that are linked into the community. Business cards can be useful sometimes, but an email signature does this job pretty well too. Merchandise can be cool if you have a loyal following who are happy to buy and wear your stuff to promote you.
Radio can still be useful, particularly if it’s a local radio station, and depending on your location and proximity to the city where most local radio stations are based. There’s probably not a huge ROI for advertising on radio for pubs, unless again, you’re holding some kind of mega event.
Newspapers and Magazines
Magazines might be good for those who are aficionados in the trade, but unlikely to be very useful for advertising to the general public unless it’s a very local magazine with a broad readership. The same might be true for newspapers, but local publications can be used for free promotion by providing them with newsworthy content. Send press releases to local publications letting them know what’s going on at your pub, or how you’re contributing the community, and they may even come and do a feature on you, without you having to pay a penny.
Word of Mouth
Finally, there’s nothing like word of mouth. Even in today’s tech savvy age, people still value a trusted recommendation above just about anything else. If you can get your loyal customers to promote you, as well as your staff, it should certainly be possible to increase your trade – plus it shouldn’t cost anything either. Promotions can often help to get this going though, as regulars may need some motivating to spread the word. You might consider loyalty programmes, or discounts for parties of a certain size.
Since we’re in a transition period where many publicans may not have grown up with in the computer age, it’s often the case that online marketing is dismissed as being too difficult or time consuming, or perhaps its value is underestimated. If you or your staff aren’t particularly tech savvy, then it’s understandable that you may have overlooked this area. However, it’s pretty important and doesn’t have to be difficult if you get some basic knowledge and skills on board, and it can have a huge effect on your business.
A huge amount of people now use the Internet to find places to go and eat or drink. Principal amongst these is Google Local Search, and social media (namely Facebook). So it’s very important that your pub is able to be found easily for searches in your locality on both of these platforms.
Google Local Search
When you use Google from your phone, it can suggest search results based on your location. So if I’m looking for ‘pubs near me’, Google will provide search results based on where you are, including some regular search result listings for websites, as well as a map showing the various matching businesses in your area along with their reviews. This information can quickly help people choose a place to eat or drink and provide them with additional details such as opening times, popularity by time of day, contact details, website address, and photos that customers or the owner has uploaded.
It’s free and easy to get a profile onto Google maps. You can do it with a service called Google My Business. Create a free account here, then start filling out your online profile. Google may need to confirm that you own the location you’re putting in if it’s not already there, and will send you a postcard to the address you enter, with a code that you can verify your listing with, but that’s about as fiddly as it gets. Using the service, you can get customers to leave reviews (one of the very best places they should be encouraged to do so), upload images (you can do this yourself too), as well as enter all the pertinent information that will be useful to prospective customers (contact details, opening times, prices, website address etc). You can even create blog-style posts promoting events or offers that you may have running. This is one service that should definitely be on your list. If you do nothing else – at least do this!
Love it or hate it, as a business you probably shouldn’t ignore it! Using a platform like Facebook, you’ve got a direct channel of communication with your customers and potential customers. Most pubs now have a Facebook account and many are using it to keep up a constant stream of news, offers and goings on at the pub, and to interact with customers. Using a Facebook business page in this way often works better for businesses such as pubs, restaurants and cafés than it does for other businesses, like scrap metal merchants, for a random example, because a pub is a community-based business that can appeal to everyone, rather than a niche. It’s a hub for people to connect and communicate, and you’re providing a channel not just for your own marketing needs, but for everyone who attends the pub on a regular basis to keep in touch.
Facebook is also now used by a wide range of age groups and demographics, so you’re not just appealing to young people on this platform – plenty of older people are happily tapping away on their phones and tablets with the rest of them.
I know – Facebook or any social media platform can be a pain. It can feel like a loathsome chore at times. The best way to tackle it is to set it up and then commit to a consistent process. Make it part of your everyday routine, and recognise it for what it is – a marketing tool. You might be able to delegate the responsibility for social media to one of your assistant managers or maybe to particularly savvy employee – maybe pay them a bit more to take care of it for you. If you do that, be sure you can trust them, and monitor what they’re posting, or even prescribe it. Someone with the power to post on your behalf has the potential to ruin your business as much as they can promote it.
Consistency is key with social media. You don’t necessarily want to be in everyone’s face all the time, but too infrequent and people forget about you. Try and post a minimum of 3 times a week, at the same time, and make sure that your content is relevant, and interesting. Don’t annoy people with inane trivialities. It is possible to schedule posts to go out with Facebook, but that may not be a suitable method for pubs whose news is mostly current.
What should you post? There really shouldn’t be any shortage of material. Try images of your food and drink, staff, premises, views from the pub, offers, menus, events past and future. Try to post at a frequency that works for the volume of material you feel you have readily available.
You may feel that you need to be active on more than one social network. Perhaps your pub’s demographic is younger and may be more present on another network such as Instagram or Pinterest. Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, you can link accounts together and take care of 2 birds with one stone. You can also do a similar thing with Facebook and Twitter. Other tools allow you to manage your social media accounts from one place, such as Hootsuite or Buffer.
Don’t forget to interact. It’s great to be putting out news and offers etc, but don’t neglect the conversation. If your customers are talking on your page, get involved and make sure they perceive you as friendly, attentive, and helpful. Be aware that one of the risks of using social media is the possibility for negative comments, reviews and experiences to be shared on your page, so it’s good to be in the loop about what’s being said so that you can respond where appropriate. Of course, you don’t need us to tell you that this response will be public, so make sure you don’t lose your temper online! Keep everything polite and professional.
Photo and Video on Social Media
Photo and video plays a huge role in your social media accounts, and you’ll likely be uploading photos and possibly videos with many of your posts. Keeping these interesting and engaging can be tricky and it pays to understand a few things about taking a good photo. We’ll be posting a series on smartphone photography soon, but in the mean time, here are a few tips…
- Start with halfway decent equipment. There’s nothing wrong with using a smartphone, but if yours is old or the camera doesn’t take good photos, consider investing in an upgrade. The latest and greatest Samsung Galaxy or iPhone range have good cameras. If you’re looking for something that performs better in low light or that can provide a more expensive-looking blurry background (shallow depth of field) look to it, consider a compact camera such as a midrange Sony RX, Panasonic Lumix or Canon Powershot. Be aware though, that most of the time it’s the camera operator that needs an upgrade!
- Pay attention to your composition. If it’s not interesting, don’t post it. Also, don’t be lazy with your background or objects in the scene. If there’s something unattractive, get rid of it from the frame first, or reframe your shot.
- Please don’t use flash on your phone or compact camera! It looks horrid. All those unnatural shadows or overexposed faces! Get more natural light into your photo, or at least turn up the artificial lights.
- Low light photography is susceptible to motion blur and noise (image grain). Smartphones work at their best with lots of available light. Use image stabilisation if your phone has it, or maybe invest in a mini tripod for a phone so you can keep it still.
- If you’re taking pictures of food, be especially careful to edit your photos before posting. The biggest problem we see with pictures of food posted by pubs is colour casts caused by incorrect white balance set by the camera. If your plates look yellow or blue, you will need to do some colour temperature adjustment on your phone first. Nothing says ‘yuck’ as much as food pictures that have unappealing colours. Get the whites looking white and you’ll be ok.
- If you’re going to use a filter on your photos, make sure the image has been corrected first by adjusting exposure, contrast, saturation, shadows and highlights and white balance. Otherwise, you’ll just have a crap photo with a filter on it! Filters are designed to work well on images that are exposed correctly to begin with.
- If it’s not in focus, no amount of post-fiddling will fix it. Just delete and retake!
- Video gets much better engagement than anything else on social media. But shaky, badly lit, wandering focus and framing will turn people off pretty quickly. If you’re going to post any video. Either hold the camera still, or be deliberate with your movements. A phone gimbal such as the Zhiyun Smooth 4 or DJI Osmo will smooth out that camera shake.
A poor website, photography, lack of social media presence or engagement all hinder trade. When done right and consistently, they have the power to explode your business (figuratively speaking, obvs!).
Your Pub’s Website
Most business owners now see having a professional website as a necessity, and that’s correct (although we would say that!). The reason it’s correct is that it’s the primary way people find the information they need about your business. Sure, that information can be presented on social media channels or through services like Google My Business, but often the information there is brief and only a summary. A website is a resource that you own (you don’t own the content on a social media platform – the platform does) and one that you fully control. You say what goes on it and how it’s presented. If Facebook goes down (hey, it might one day!) you’d lose everything on there, but your website is your property. It represents your brand to the highest quality, or at least it should if it’s designed well.
Your website should be the hub of your operations, and can provide the following:
- Beautiful presentation of your premises, your logo and signage, products and services.
- Professional photography (and video) to showcase your food, drinks, the pub’s exterior and interior.
- Food and drinks menus to explore or download.
- Contact forms to simply get in touch or make a table or room reservation.
- Integrate social media so people don’t need to leave your website to read your feeds.
- A blog so you can create more useful content that will help you get found and seen online.
- Provide a backstory and context for the pub. Create intrigue with history of an old pub.
- Provide information on the proprietor(s) and staff to foster a more intimate feel.
- Give details of your services, and how you go about providing them
- Calendars/online booking can provide details of events you’re involved with, and even allow people to buy tickets.
- Be expandable with a huge range of plugins and add ons to perform any functionality you require.
Website Pitfalls to Avoid
Since there are so many ways to get a website these days, it’s important to outline the good and the bad so you can choose wisely.
Out of Date Design. Things move quickly in the world of web design. What looked good in 2010, doesn’t necessarily cut it in 2019. For many pubs, the website may have been created over ten years ago and is positively well out of date. Or perhaps it doesn’t exist at all.
DIY Website Builders. Some companies have capitalised on the need for low cost websites, and provide cheap DIY services where you can buy a template and customise it with your content. This works well for some and less well for others. If you don’t really have a clue about design, it might be better to choose a professional that can create something great on your behalf. It’s also worth noting that your website wouldn’t be unique as you would share the design with thousands of other establishments around the world. For busy publicans, hiring a professional webs designer often works better than trying to create something yourself… a time consuming process that often yields less than satisfactory results if you’re not tech savvy and don’t have an eye for design. Additionally, cheap website providers often have a restricted selection of functionality you can apply to your website, or restrict what you can do with your content – so that if you wanted to move providers, it might be difficult to bering your content along. Finally, support is an essential component, and it’s great to be able to speak to the same person who designed your website, rather than a different support worker who knows nothing about you or your business every time you call.
The Set-it-and-Forget-it Approach. A website can be a static and unchanging online brochure or it can be a constantly evolving entity with up-to-date information, current news, interesting content and interactive elements that promote engagement and return visits. Setting and forgetting your website leads to out-of-date content, which is misleading and frustrating for would-be customers. A static website also doesn’t really encourage return visits or any interaction. Furthermore, a website that has actively updated content is more likely to be found on the web, and increases your chances of new custom.
I’ve got a mate/sister/cousin etc who can do websites. It’s rarely a good idea to skimp on your website. Neither is it wise to entrust it to someone, who although might mean well, may not have the time or inclination to be there for you down the line when you need to update or fix it. Websites tend to decline in their presentation over time and need an expert hand to keep them looking professional. It’s important that you can get the assistance that you need when you need it. That goes for whether you’re maintaining the site’s content yourself or if someone is doing it for you.
Non-professional Imagery. We’ve talked about photos above. Well in terms of a website, photos make or break it. It might be tempting to fill your site full of your own photos or those of your customers, but the likelihood is that they aren’t professional quality, and it will show. Alongside a professionally designed website, images are of huge importance, particularly in the hospitality trades. If you’re making a website, you’ll need professional quality images of your pub premises, food and drink. Ideally the website designer and photographer should liaise to a degree to ensure that the photos and the web design are well matched.
Other Ways to Promote Your Pub Online
It’s obviously a good idea to have a Google My Business profile, but there are other directories to belong to that can help get your found online, such as FourSquare, Trip Advisor, thegoodpubguide.co.uk, pub-explorer.com, bigpubguide.co.uk, bing Maps, Hot Frog, Scoot, Yelp, Yell.com. This can be a time consuming process and there are services that allow you to post a profile to multiple directories in one hit, also enabling you to modify them from one central location too. Examples include: 123-reg.co.uk and moz.com/
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is what you would pursue if you wanted to make sure that your website comes up on the first page of the search engine results when users type a phrase like best pubs in Bristol. For pubs, it’s generally more local search optimisation that you should be interested in rather than general web search results, as pubs are a local business. SEO companies can be expensive, and there are lots of people doing it, some less honestly than others, so finding a good company can be tricky. Go for recommendations from trusted businesses in your area that have seen positive results if you decide you need this. I would argue that most pubs and restaurants can simply concentrate on having a good website, social media presence and Google My Business profile to do well in local search results, without the need for professional SEO services. Also, a good web designer should be able to perform a certain level of SEO throughout your site’s pages.
Advertising through Google AdWords, Facebook Ads or similar
if you decide you need to sit right on the top of Google’s search results for a particular search phrase, then Google AdWords is where you need to head. This advertising platform allows you to bid for keyword phrases which will determine your position in the search results in the sponsored sections. It can be very effective in generating a lot of traffic to your site, but be careful to target the right keywords and location. It can be helpful to hire a digital marketing company to help you if you don’t have time to research and create your own ads.
Facebook advertising works slightly differently by showing ads within the feeds of users, and around the Facebook website / app. It can be cheaper than AdWords but is often less direct in generating traffic compared with Google AdWords, since users of the latter are actively seeking a particular service, whereas Facebook relies on it’s vast amount of customer data to target potentially receptive audiences. Facebook ads can be very effective but work best as part of a strategy. This stuff is within the capability of everyone, but time is required to research, plan, execute and analyse – so if you’re mega busy running a pub, again, it’s something that a digital marketing company should be able to help you with.
Do you need a professional website for your pub?
You might be reading this and feeling a little overwhelmed. There’s a lot here and it all takes a lot of time to do. We can help. In fact, we might have the perfect solution for your pub.
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- Cutting edge Website, photo and video service combined.
- Hosting, domain, email, and support included.
- Get a FREE photo shoot when you sign up annually. (Worth up to £380)
- Special packages with discounted pricing for pubs, restaurants and cafés.
- Add the functionality you need to your site, whether it’s to take bookings, display upcoming events, display your menus or showcase photo and video of your pub.
- Choose from exclusive high quality site design templates which are then customised to your brand by professional web designers to make them unique to your business. You’re not left to do it yourself, and your website won’t look the same as thousands of others on the web.
- There’s an account manager to look after you personally, and be on hand to communicate with however you need.
- We’ll set up your Google My Business account, analytics and integrate all your social media.
- Integrate mailing lists, social feeds and reservation tools.
- Easy to use visual editor to maintain your site, or add site maintenance to your subscription if you want us to do it for you.
- Help and advice with all aspects of managing your online presence.
One page websites are available from only £15 a month. Multipage websites from £29 a month.
Click here to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation to explore how we can help your pub excel this year and into the future.
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