In the first post of this two-part series, we shared the standard marketing principles and techniques to follow as a nightlife venue owner or operator. After you've conquered the basics, you're ready to move on to more innovative ideas—several of which are listed here with the goal of sparking your imagination and getting those creative juices flowing.
Although forming partnerships with celebrities and influencers has its clear advantages, sometimes, it actually makes more sense to team up with micro-influencers. If you're unfamiliar, micro-influencers are people with a social media presence that is larger than the average person's but smaller than a celebrity's. As Forbes recently pointed out, when partnering with brands, they can have greater influence as they typically serve more niche audiences and can provide access to a small subset of a targeted demographic. They are typically easy to find and more accessible, too.
With this in mind, come up with a list of influencers local to your area, spanning across anywhere from Instagram to TikTok to YouTube. You don't have to limit yourself to just social media, though; think about reaching out to musicians, actors, or reality stars who happen to live in your general vicinity; a person with a strong following in a field related to nightlife such as food, lifestyle, or music; or a popular figure who has been to your venue before and presents a more organic fit.
Start by inviting the micro-influencer to your nightclub or bar to be the host for a night, providing them with a complimentary night out, their own private section, and bottle service. In exchange, they'll share captivating posts, recap videos, or documentation of their overall positive experience. You'll get publicity and quality exposure out of it, and they'll get a nightlife adventure out of it, free of charge.
You can even take it a step further, if you'd like, by integrating their personal brand into your business. As an example, allow them to design their own cocktail and serve it as a limited-edition drink. Their fans will want to come and try it—and post about it—bringing another marketing element to your business.
Negotiate Marketing Deals with Celebrity Guests
If a big-name DJ, popular band, or well-known artist is performing at your nightclub or event space, negotiate verbiage in their contract that says they will promote it in the days or weeks leading up to the show. Cut a deal that agrees they'll mention it on their Instagram page, share tweets, send an email to their customer list, split the pay for paid digital ads for the event. They can also create a video shoutout for you to use on your own social sites. This is a simple yet effective way to spread the word about the event and know that your messaging is going to the right audience.
Is there a reality TV show that films in your city? Provided you have the means to do so, encourage the cast to film a scene or night there. For instance, Bravo's Summer House, a reality show following the lives of a group of friends summering in the Hamptons, previously filmed several nights out at Southampton Social Club, which has now become a familiar nightlife spot among the show's fans. When everyday people see their favorite stars attending, along with footage of how much enjoyment they had, it will naturally cause them to want to see it for themselves.
Surprise and Delight
The right surprise and delight strategy can make customers more loyal, create higher-spending customers, and motivate word-of-mouth marketing. The goal when doing it is to make it a cool, dynamic, and viral-worthy concept. Think of it as a random act of kindness: the surprise can be a birthday "cake" or sign if the guest in attendance is celebrating their birthday, bachelor or bachelorette party, or a special day; taking a small group behind the DJ booth; presenting a meet-and-greet with a headlining act; or distributing sold-out tickets to people commenting online that they missed out on buying them. Other opportunities to surprise and delight include those who leave compelling reviews on your Yelp or Facebook page; locals on social media posting about a bad day, hurtful breakup, or other letdowns where they could use a night out; or a big-spender who you're rewarding for their business. If the person on the receiving end has never been to your venue, they'll likely return after such a positive interaction; if the person has, it only increases the chances they'll come back. Either way, they are likely to post about it and share what happened with their friends, painting your business in a great light.
If 2021 proved anything, it's that TikTok is here to stay—and no, not just for Gen Z. Use this platform to your advantage. The best part is that your content does not have to be overproduced or perfect; the raw, real footage can be enough to enthrall your online audience.
Record behind-the-scenes content of a day in the life of a bottle girl, bartender, or social media manager. Follow an artist from soundcheck to the big stage: have them record themselves from the moment they're packing for the trip to when they get off stage at the end of the night.
If you know of a celebrity coming to your venue, and they're comfortable doing so, have them participate in a buzzworthy video. A successful example of this came just last month when STORY Miami generated over 20 million views from a TikTok video. Chase Stokes, star of Netflix's Outer Banks, recorded a quick video for the nightclub where he mouthed the words to his most famous line from the show. The clip was just six seconds long, yet enough to go viral.
Should your resources be limited or posting isn't an option, there are easier ways to utilize TikTok. Oftentimes, brands will interact with viral videos by leaving funny or clever comments, inadvertently getting equal attention and eyeballs on their page. The American language-learning website and mobile app Duolingo is perhaps most known for doing this, so much so that it's "now one of the most viral brands on TikTok." Case in point: a 2021 interaction with Chick-fil-A that made the news. Duolingo's account has since exploded in popularity with 3 million followers and counting. Not bad for a tech company.
Design and Sell Merchandise
Besides being another stream of revenue and relatively inexpensive to manufacture, selling merchandise allows your guests to be brand ambassadors whenever they wear a piece of your clothing. If you run a hotel pool, consider swim trunks, bikinis, or hats with your logo on it; nightclubs can focus on t-shirts or props like branded shot glasses, mugs, and glow sticks; festivals can sell tank tops, jackets, and sunglasses. Other than that, the options are quite endless here, with many nightlife venues choosing to sell stickers, phone cases, keychains, jewelry, and bottle openers. You can even collaborate with local artists to have them design apparel and accessories for you, further promoting your business and theirs.
Once your branded items are made, place them for sale on your website, sell them at the entrance of your venue, and send PR packages to influencers or micro-influencers who are likely to share what they received.
Build Relationships with Pop Culture Content Creators
When a prominent musician is performing at your nightclub or bar, get in contact with their fan accounts on social media or those who run dedicated fan websites, and tell them about the event. If they choose to share an update about it, your exact target market will be reached.
Case in point, if an EDM artist is playing, get in touch with top EDM blogs like Dancing Astronaut or Your EDM, or popular Instagram accounts like @edm, @edmlifestyle, or @edm_maniac. Similar accounts can be found on Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook groups, as well. Down the road, once trust is built, more formal partnerships can be established.
Make use of the Instagram account Deuxmoi, too. She is Instagram's anonymous gossip queen who posts reader-submitted tips, news, and sightings of celebrities. Did a famous figure drop by your venue? Submit a tip to Deuxmoi online, and watch your nightlife venue get shared to over 1.3 million followers, mentioned in her podcast, and potentially reposted across the internet. TablelistPro partner Ray's has become a fixture on this account because numerous times, people have written in about Succession actor Nicholas Braun being spotted there.
Create Integrated Marketing Experiences
Interactive experiences can be done on a large scale or on a small scale—or both! One idea is to work with another brand on a limited, special-time-only collaboration. Host a giveaway together using Instagram's new collab feature. The key aspect is to prompt engagement in order for someone to enter: leave a comment, tag friends, follow your account, and submit a form with their email and phone number. This is another effective way to build your CRM database while also helping to build your followings, get entries, drive sales, and generate positive press.
Other than holding sweepstakes, you can throw an in-person event alongside another company, converting your space into something completely new. Pop-up shops at nightlife spots have become ultra-popular in recent years, particularly for local boutiques, liquor brands, and charities, as it helps attract an entirely new clientele and keeps things fresh and different for your regulars.
In the charity space, start with a toy drive or clothing donation collection, and give patrons an incentive like "donate one item, get one free drink ticket." Once you've tackled that, expand to larger-scale events like blood drives, fundraisers for a non-profit, or your own philanthropic cause. Big Night, Boston's top hospitality group and a longtime TablelistPro partner, hosts an annual "Day of Service" as part of its Big Night <3 Big Heart organization. Through the cause, Big Night partners with qualified charitable organizations in an effort to transform the Boston community for the better.
Attend the Bar & Restaurant Expo
Networking is an easy and productive way to increase brand visibility in a positive way, all while learning ways to expand and improve upon your business. One of the country's largest networking events for nightlife and hospitality professionals is the Bar & Restaurant Expo, though you may know it by its former name, the Nightclub & Bar Show. Taking place this year on March 21-23, the annual three-day conference program features a grand expo hall, hands-on workshops, keynote speakers, live demos, and interactive experiences. From single-unit to national chain operators and the industry's largest hospitality groups, attendees of all types and sizes can inspire you.
Even if you don't have a booth set up, though we do recommend that, you can still attend to network and meet others in the industry. Prepare to get inspired, come up with new ideas, and see what products and services are out there that can take your nightlife space to the next level. In fact, TablelistPro representatives have been in attendance across multiple years, and the benefits have been significant.
To get an idea of what types of companies you can find there, a shortlist of this year's attendees includes UberEats, Truly, Heineken, Partender, Ice-O-Matic, Clover, and Foghat.
Host Coveted Giveaways and Contests
Facts are facts: everyone loves free stuff. That being said, giveaways should still be carefully thought out and make sense for your business. For example, if you're a dance music nightclub located in Los Angeles, do a giveaway for tickets to Coachella; in Miami, to Ultra Music Festival; in New York, to Electric Zoo. The prize itself is up to you: a pair of general admission tickets, a full VIP table experience, complimentary drinks for the night, or a meet-and-greet with a performer.
Holding contests, as opposed to giveaways, is where you can really get creative and have your customers participate. From a best-dressed award on Halloween night to a singing competition on your bar's karaoke night, rewarding with money is the ultimate way to not only get them in the door but to actually participate.
Create a Loyalty or Membership Program
To drive repeat customers and build loyalty, it's becoming common for nightlife venues to create their own loyalty programs. At Hunters Nightclub in Fort Lauderdale, "your loyalty is not only appreciated, it's rewarded." By joining their loyalty program, customers earn one point for every dollar spent and receive a $20 credit for every 200 points earned.
An alternative is to develop a paid membership program. For a small monthly fee, those who sign up get access to exclusive perks like free entry, complimentary drink tickets, skip-the-line privileges, birthday rewards, VIP upgrades, custom merchandise, and more, similar to Tablelist's former program, Tablelist Diamond. This sets your venue apart from the rest and above the competition, encouraging guests to return for their and building advocacy in the process.
Double as a Party Space
A way to bring in additional income is by allowing guests to rent your nightclub or bar out as a private event space. Wedding receptions, holiday parties, business events, non-profit fundraisers, and private birthday celebrations come to mind as significant opportunities. Beyond earning you more money, it will expose new people to your venue who otherwise wouldn't have gone, and you can earn their business in the future.
We've introduced you to many of the unconventional ways to spice up your marketing plan, but have you ever thought to consider TablelistPro as one of them? A real-time reservation, ticketing, and venue management platform built specifically for nightlife venues and events, TablelistPro offers built-in tools that are proven to boost sales. Discover our instant booking widgets, sales tracking links, payment links, CRM, live customer chat, and each and every other revenue-boosting feature in detail on our website, then book a complimentary demo to see them all in action.