Hospitality marketing can be a mysterious old beast. To some, it seems as though they have long since tamed such a beast and the promotion of their venue is an effortless endeavour as post after post of their offerings flood your feed yet catch your eye every time.
To others the idea of putting together any sort of coherent marketing plan to promote their venue is an endless parade of brick walls, confusing strategies and squandered opportunities.
I’ve fallen into the latter group more times than I care to admit, but I’ve also launched a successful campaign or two and there’s one thing that I realised along the way: everybody, no matter how sleek and effortless their marketing seems today, has been lost at some point.
Successful marketing doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to play out a little trial & error, or to set up the individual pieces so that they all fall into place at just the right time.
Thankfully, we’ve not only been through these steps first-hand, we’ve also put together an excellent eGuide which offers all of our shared knowledge for you to use with your own venue, broken down into these six key areas:
- Know yourself
- Know your competition
- Activate your network
- Engage the press
- Involve the influencers & bloggers
- Peddle your merch
Promote your venue today
Lightspeed’s comprehensive eGuide ‘6 Proven Ways To Promote Your Venue’ can show you how you can get your venue into the public eye and is available for free.
1. Know yourself
You can’t sell something properly if you don’t know what it is and this applies to marketing your business too. If you don’t have a solid idea as to where you want to align yourself amongst the hospitality landscape, you’re going to have a tough time figuring out the right way to sell it.
Look inwards at your business and cut right to the core of what you want to be known for. This could be something as simple as being the best vegetarian joint in town, or something a little more complex like having the best atmosphere. Either way, you’ll need to figure it out.
As the eGuide says:
“The more you know about what kind of venue you want yours to be, the better prepared you’ll be for creating an angle for your publicity strategy.”
2. Know your competition
Unless your venue is based in a real one-horse town (in which case, the only marketing you need is an open sign, congratulations), you’re going to be surrounded by other venues who are all trying to get their piece of the pie.
Now, although this initially seems like it could be a problem, it’s anything but. More competition gives rise to an opportunity to become part of a vibrant hospitality scene. Think about the most popular areas in your city for dining out. I’m talking about places like Newtown in Sydney, or Fitzroy in Melbourne. These places are some of the most competitive areas in the world to open up a venue, but plenty survive and thrive because they add to the scene.
Researching your competition not only shows you what the public want (and don’t want) from a venue, but can also highlight any potential gaps in the market that need filling. And wouldn’t you like to be the place that fills that gap and takes the requisite glory from a thankful and adoring public?
Of course you would.
3. Activate your network
Sometimes, and especially at the beginning, you need a leg up. After all, fame doesn’t come in an instant (no matter what the Hunger Games tries to tell us) and it has to start somewhere.
Piggy-backing off another person’s popularity might sound like cheating, but if these are the cards you’ve been dealt, then why not play a hand or two?
“Most people in the industry are more than happy to give a friend a boost when it comes to kick-starting their business. A simple Instagram or Facebook post from a big venue costs them nothing, but its benefit to you can be immeasurable.”
But what if you don’t have existing relationships with any of the big players in the local scene? Hit up your friends and family. With the promise of a couple of free coffees, you’d be surprised at what people would be willing to do for you and your business, especially when it comes to posting a little praise on their Facebook wall.
The point is, every little bit helps so why not lean on your connections, no matter their size, to get the word out.
4. Engage the press
This one is probably the most daunting tip on the list because the press seems to carry with it a certain stigma—the feeling that they’re a closed club, immune to the influence of somebody like you.
This is not the case at all.
“The thing about the press is they’re always looking for something to write about. And if it’s new information, like a new venue that’s just opened up, they’re even more keen.”
Now, I’m not saying you should get Murdoch on the phone just yet, but the local food press (like Broadsheet or Time Out) would certainly welcome information about your new venue. Put together a short press release outlining who you are, what your venue is all about and a few things that make it stand out from the rest.
The best part about this approach is that once one publication writes about you, the others tend to follow.
5. Involve the influencers & bloggers
Did you guys just do a little throw up in your mouth after reading that headline? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of influencers or bloggers because, in my eyes, they’re essentially reviewing a place without any real training or authority.
But they do have a purpose and their purpose can be harnessed by you to promote your venue.
Most influencers and bloggers like to project an idea that they lead a charmed life and this extends to where they go out to eat and drink. Unless you scorn them terribly, they’re not going to publish something negative on their feeds because it would be counter-productive to their brand.
This presents you with a very risk-free opportunity for some serious promotion.
“A lot of their followers will take their word as gospel and might even start recommending your place without ever having been there. It’s just people talking, and your venue’s name is all over their lips.”
6. Peddle your merch
I’ll come right out and say it: I love merch.
My wardrobe is stocked full of t-shirts and hats from my favourite spots ensuring that I’ve curated one of the finest examples of ‘hospo chic’ in modern history.
And whether I like it or not, this means that my own body is being exploited for the marketing and promotion of these venues every time I step outside the house.
Now, wouldn’t it be great if you could use people’s bodies to market and promote your place? I promise that sounded less creepy in my head.
Releasing a solid line of merchandise is an incredible way of getting your venue into the public eye and it’s also one of the only ways which is guaranteed to pay for itself over time. You simply set aside a budget for your first run and then feed the profits back into that budget.
And it can include more than just t-shirts and hats too.
Do you have a particularly good pickle recipe? Make it in bulk, chuck them into some jars and slap a branded sticker on it and boom: you’re in the condiment game!
I will mention that it’s important to make sure that your branding is air-tight for a merch run. This is most definitely the appropriate time to enlist the help of a good designer to make sure your logo stands out from the crowd and sparks a little conversation.
As I outlined earlier, these tips aren’t just plucked out of thin air or based on an assumption that they’ll work, they’re actual methods that I’ve used to successfully promote my own business (pardon the toot of my own horn there).