Imbibe Live Online: 11 ways to market your hospitality brand online

Clinton Cawood

Clinton Cawood

04 November 2020

With the second lockdown looming, boosting your online presence is more important than ever. Luckily, at Global Bar Week recently we brought together a panel of experts to discuss how venues can maximise their online presence to engage customers, drive footfall and build loyalty

The seminar was packed with useful tips from Annica Wainwright (2Forks and The Food Marketing Club), Samuel Boulton (The Pineapple Club), Mark McCulloch (Supersonic Inc) and Alexandra Chatwin (LX PR), hosted by Mark Stretton (Fleet Street Communications). They covered the practicalities of social media and other online channels, how to build relationships and retain customers, and how to use these online tools to navigate the specifically challenging times we find ourselves in.

1. First things first

Take a breath before beginning with social media, says McCulloch. Your brand and brand strategy need to be in place, and this is the time to sense check what your business is about.

2. Front of mind

Acknowledging the challenging times we’re currently in, Chatwin’s advice is to remember that your customers are still there, and will still be there. The aim is to maintain engagement with them, putting you in a stronger position in the long term.

3. The importance of planning

The team at The Pineapple Club spent more time planning than executing anything, says Boulton.

4. Relationship building

Wainwright stresses the importance of getting to know your customers. Pick up the phone and find out what makes them tick. Similarly, people need to get to know you and what your brand stands for.

5. Community

Chatwin highlighted some of Swift’s social media activity during lockdown that showed the human side of the team at the bar, and made followers feel more engaged with the team there.

6. Key communication points

For McCulloch, there are two main aspects that venues need to communicate to help them survive the pandemic. The first is showing that your offering is safe, and the second is that it’s quality. Beyond that, it’s about making that offering 'craveable', and available any way that customers want it.

7. Find the right channel

It doesn’t matter how much you love Instagram if your customers don’t, says Wainwright. You need to find out where they hang out online, and it’s not always where you think it is.

8. Channel-appropriate content

It’s important to tailor communications to each channel based on the audience you’re reaching there. Boulton gives the example of The Pineapple Club reaching an older audience on Facebook compared to Instagram, an audience that likely wants to know more about the quality of the offering rather than how it looks, for example. 

9. Third party recommendations

Chatwin sees social media as a shop window for your venue. Regional listing sites, blogs and expert recommendations help to amplify that to a wider audience.

10. Don’t forget email

When it comes to digital marketing, many skip straight to social media, says Wainwright, but email is both cheap and effective, particularly when it comes to retention of existing customers.

11. Early adoption

Don’t be scared to play with new services like Tik Tok, or new features such as Reels from Instagram, says Chatwin. Wainwright adds that there’s potential to stand out on sites like LinkedIn, where there isn’t necessarily the same amount of content from similar hospitality businesses.

You can see the full session below and check out any of the sessions from Imbibe Live Online, part of Global Bar Week, on demand here.

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