Build an Iron Fence Around Your Existing Customer Base

Once your customer list starts growing, the next step is to bombard your list with quality advertising material that promotes your bar, provides entertainment value, encourages repeat business, and stimulates referrals. This is what I refer to as building an iron fence around your existing customer base. There are numerous competing clubs that your customers have to choose from every night they decide to go out. The way to put your bar at the top of their list of choices is to stay at the front of your customers’ attention.

When somebody gets on your customer list, ideally they should receive information about your bar in a structured format.

An Example of a Follow-up Sequence

Say, for example, that someone just gets on your customer list.

• Day 1: Thank-you card sent in mail, with guest passes to stimulate referrals and repeat business.

• Day 5: Phone call follow-up. Ask if they received card, chat to build relationship, tell them to come down if they ever want to party. Obtain their Facebook information. Add them to your friends list.

• Day 15: Mail last month’s printed newsletter.

• Day 25: Update Facebook status to reflect next upcoming promotion.

• Day 30: Send monthly newsletter by mail.

• Day 35: Send e-newsletter by email.

• Day 45: Personally text customer, invite them down.

• Day 60: Send monthly newsletter by mail.

• Day 75: Send e-newsletter by email.

• Day 90: Send monthly newsletter by mail.

That’s the kind of structured follow-up system you should have in place to build relationships with your client base. As you can see, the diversity of methods allows for a higher frequency of contact over a 90-day period than one that relies on just one method. This is how you build a fence around your customer base. You want your message, more than anyone else’s, in front of them. And you want to utilize as many different kinds of media as possible to reach your customer.

It is hard work to actually implement this kind of plan. You have to come up with the material and draw on various resources to get this done. Publishing a newsletter every month takes money, discipline, and focus. Also, you may have noticed that one of the methods I mentioned earlier involves actually phoning people. Talking on the phone can be difficult, but it is one of the best ways to stimulate repeat business. I’ll talk more about the phone later. Despite the challenges, following up with people using these strategies will undoubtedly produce more business.

Understanding Timing

You should never give up on contacting your old customers to try and get them to come back. Timing is a big issue that affects people’s ability to patronize your night club. Sometimes people are out of town. Sometimes people get out of the party scene and get married. Some people start families. Sometimes students have exams and other activities that keep them from going out. Others get caught up with work. The bottom line is that sometimes the timing is not always right for people to come out to party. However, the way you get them to come back to your bar when they finally do decide to go out is to keep your message at the front of their attention, even when they are not going out.

You have to reach out and communicate with your customer in order for them to come back and visit your night club. I meet large numbers of people in the night club industry: owners, bartenders, and managers who all mistakenly think that it’s the customer’s job to remember to come down. They have this backwards. It is never your customer’s job to remember to come back and patronize your establishment. It’s not their job to keep updated with your website and to know what’s going on in your world. You have to make the effort to go after them and stay in front of them.

There are many nights when going out isn’t even at the top of people’s minds-that is, until someone calls them and motivates them to go out. If your newsletter is sitting on their table, they got a phone call from you a week ago, and they got an email earlier in the day about a party going on tonight, they will probably select your club over the other options they have. If a friend calls them and asks them where they want to go, they will mention your club because they know what’s going on there. In a competitive night club environment, this is how you out-sell the other night clubs.

Most of your customers will purchase far more than you give them credit for. You may think that by contacting somebody too many times, you’ll become an unwanted pest. However, if you rotate your media between messages, you will mitigate this problem. Yes, calling someone five times in five days is overdoing it. But if you call on day one, email on day three, send a printed newsletter on day five, text on day seven, and send a Facebook message on day nine, it has an entirely different effect. You can NEVER over-promote. You just need to know how to change mediums to get your message across differently every time you contact someone. Many times it takes multiple contacts before a person will take you up on your offer and call or text you about coming down to your bar. The key is subtlety.

Steady Communication Makes a Big Difference

Last night I got a text message from a girl named Kristie, who I haven’t talked to in months. She is a cute little brunette I used to work with many bars ago, who ran into me probably about a year ago during a drunken night out. After we exchanged numbers, we hooked up a couple times just to get drunk and party, and since then I haven’t heard from her. Anyway, she texted me after a good chunk of time of not talking, and invited me to come to her birthday party this Saturday. I’m not sure I’ll go. To be honest, I think I could make plans with someone else and have a better time.

Contrast Kristie to another girl I know, Valerie. Valerie is also a brunette I met while working in a night club. Valerie and I used to drink together a few years ago, but I hear from her often. Sometimes she will text me things about life and non-business related topics. Coincidently, her birthday is also coming up soon. I will definitely be there. I would be there even if her party sucked, because I consider her a friend.

Do you see the difference between the two?

Valerie communicates frequently, therefore there is more of a relationship between us. We may only see each other face to face every couple of months, but there’s enough communicating going on in between encounters to keep the relationship strong. Invitations to parties and events are easier to say yes to because of this bond.

Kristie communicates infrequently, and therefore does not have much of a relationship with me. I have only seen her once in the last year, and I have barely heard from her. I can’t say we are even friends; we’re more like former work acquaintances who got drunk a few times together. Big deal. I can blow her off and not care about any of the consequences of losing the relationship.

Most people in the night clubs market like Kristie. They reach out and talk to their customers only when they want something. That’s not the way to build effective relationships with your customer base. The most effective way to solidify a bond with your customers is to communicate with them as personably and as frequently as you possibly can. If you only show up only when you have a party to promote, you automatically get grouped in with all the other night clubs making the same offer. The right thing to do is to reach out to your customers like a friend, talk to them like a friend, and talk to them even when you are not promoting. That way, when you do have something to promote, people will identify you more as a friend than as just someone who owns a night club.

When a new person gets onto my contact list, I intend to outshine every other club competing for that customer’s business. I want to create a relationship with my customers that is virtually unbreakable. I want them to think of my club as the best place to go and therefore the only place to go. One half of making this goal achievable is staying in touch with effective marketing strategies such as the one I mentioned above. The other half of achieving this effect is consistently throwing great parties so that people will be happy with coming to see you repeatedly for any of their partying requirements. (We’ll talk more about throwing amazing parties in another chapter, but for now let’s just stick with getting people in the door!)

You need not worry about most of your competitors once you take a serious approach to building a follow-up plan for each of the people you meet and you follow and execute that plan according to a schedule. Most people in your immediate competitive environment will not take this approach to account management. Then again, I would wager that nine out of ten clubs in your immediate environment will not be around in five years. Most bar owners do not follow up with their customer base, and therefore you will be at a significant advantage by doing so with your customers.

One of the psychological benefits of executing an effective follow-up system with your existing customer base is knowing for sure that your attendance numbers will be always be good. Doing things like sending newsletters and email newsletters and phoning people produces bookings, guest list requests, ticket sales, and measurable activity you can see before your bar even opens for business. Knowing you will be busy is a great feeling-and it takes away much of the stress involved in throwing parties.

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