Customer engagement for bars (or, teaching granny to suck eggs)

In the olden days (pre-1995), when customers knew the name of the person serving them and vice versa, life was good. Then along came the internet. People stopped going out for a drink to socialise, catch up or find a friend. We were told then that the power had to transfer to the brand, or at least the vendor. Marketing became about how you presented your brand and how you attracted people in. All the while customers were losing focus on what was attractive and turning their attention to what met their needs best… and online met their needs pretty perfectly.

So what are the best decisions that need to be made to address this change? First ask yourself: can we compete without going online? If your answer is ‘no’ then you need to assess how best to target your customers and by what means.

Social media, used largely (at least in my own life) to work out where to go for a celebration, catch-up or a noisy bit of fun. In other words, the perfect media platform to reach customers to start / maintain relationships. It’s pretty simple to make work in fact: get to know your customers by observing their behaviour (on your website, in response to your emails and/or tweets) then make sure you use those channels to say things that they want to know or hear.

However, social media isn’t the only option available. Email – today’s postcard – cost pennies to generate and send, even in relative bulk. For this kind of approach of course you need data. You could gather this at the point of sale and add it to a centralised database – which would be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. By offering some kind of value exchange when you visit the website – perhaps a free drink next time you visit – you will be able to further your data capture which will allow you to create targeted, timely and relevant campaigns to drive sales and support your ongoing relationships.

Where once in the golden days a bartender would know each customer by sight, today, bar owners can know the customer through digital tracking. The internet has enabled a one-step removal of customer engagement and, in turn, this means bartenders can engage with many more customers than before. As you can gain much more information through this channel than if you were to try and speak to each one on a busy evening. Twitter, Facebook and email will become your friends – and your new way to make new friends – because by being your customer’s friend you’ll take them back to the good old days, and this could be the difference between fading away and reinvigorated, transformational growth

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