Three tips to keep customers coming back

This is a brief guide to establishing long-term customer retention at your taproom by focusing on events and customer experiences. Dan Etiel is marketing manager (and trivia host) at Quiz Meisters. He has specialised in brand management and marketing strategy for over 10 years.

Improving customer retention through events and experiences.

Predictable revenue – it’s a pretty ideal. Unfortunately, most breweries don’t also run a SaaS business. You likely can’t rely on predictable, monthly recurring revenue from your venue. Until someone comes up with a beer subscription service for the taproom of course… maybe there’s something in that; I better get down to the patent office.

In any case, whilst you can’t set up direct debits for your bar/taproom patrons, there are a few things you can do to encourage repeat business. Keeping punters coming back is worth the investment of your time and resources – so we thought we’d highlight some ways you can keep patrons coming back.

Mix It Up

Someone once said, ‘variety is the spice of life.’ Turns out not only was it fun to say, it also makes sense. Sure, routine has its place but when it comes to entertainment and leisure this can quickly turn into monotony. Identify opportunities for change.

Tapping some limited release kegs is a start. It’s pretty much an expectation of any taproom worth their salt.

Look further than your taps or the food menu. Play with ambience, play with expectations, play with the physical features of your venue. The keyword is ‘play’, have a bit of fun with doing something different to stand out and create an experience that makes punters want to come back for more.

Here are some fresh ideas from a quick brainstorm that those in the Quiz Meisters office thought would be neat:

  • BYO Vinyl Day – Allow patrons to play their own vinyls for the venue.
  • Profession Specials Nights – One-off specials for those from a rotating list of professions (accountants, community sport referees, truckies, trivia hosts etc.)
  • Hidden Idol – Find the hidden action figure in the venue and win a prize.
  • Community Think Tank Sheet – An idea suggestion sheet at the bar for patrons, with 1 community idea picked and executed per month.

Make Sure Your Events Stick

Do you host any events at your venue? If not, I’d certainly recommend starting there – in fact I think I know just the thing…

If you do host events regularly make sure you’re keeping tabs on them. It can be easy to overlook important indicators of success. I’m not just talking total bar sales.

When it comes to venue reputation, and customer retention, factors like crowd numbers, time spent in venue, avg. transaction value, earned media (e.g. social posts, organic publication mentions) and even customer sentiment are critical. Don’t underestimate how much ‘the vibe of the thing’ can influence perception and retention. Oh, and don’t miss out on using these opportunities to capture patron information via newsletter sign ups, raffles, ticketing info etc. to promote future events.

Black Hops Brewing, who host trivia and a range of other events at their Brisbane taproom, do this organic promotion really well. Riley Edwards, Taproom Manager, notes:

“We are a marketing-forward brand, relying on organic, direct marketing – meaning we don’t spend much on promotion. This means for us to be successful we utilise social media alongside our in-house promotional material (posters, table talkers, emails). We also have a membership program which in turn gives us a large email list to let members know of upcoming events by text or email.”

Take expectations into account – make sure that there is no disconnect between your event promo and the actual event. It’s easy to go too hard on promotion and set unreasonable expectations that aren’t met.

We see this time and time again with themed trivia. Heavy promotion leveraging the value of a certain film or tv series franchise that gets people in the door, hosted by people who are not as passionate as the attendees, and no consideration for crafting a cohesive, branded experience.

It’s hard to get those same people to come back for non-themed trivia, other events or even just a drink at the venue in future. It’s simply all about the theme.

Pump Up Your Regulars

If you’re looking to grow your regular crowd, make sure you’re taking care of them. A little bit of special treatment goes a long way. Something as little as remembering their names and making a bit of a deal of their visit can be a good hook.

Riley from Black Hops also agrees here, noting that interactions with patrons shouldn’t simply be transactional, saying “Having a good product is a no brainer, but make sure people feel welcomed over and over. Not just that they have come to have a drink and give us money.”

Everyone likes to feel like a SIP (Somewhat Important Person) whether it’s via an organic interaction with staff, a freebie or discount here and there, or even a formal loyalty scheme. In fact, 77% of customers would recommend a brand to a friend after a single positive experience and around the same number would be likely to stay with a brand that has a good loyalty program.

Investing in an instant camera and having a patron wall of fame is a nifty way of recognising your loyal punters, as well as adding a nifty bit of décor to the taproom. You could even give a shoutout online across socials / newsletters to your ‘regular of the month’.

There are plenty of tools out there to manage such programs and they are well worth the short learning curve to implement.

Start Small

There are many ways you can influence customer loyalty – much more than can be described here. It can be easy to get stuck trying to tackle everything and spinning the wheels. So the best way to start is to find one project and follow it through. The work you put in to these efforts is compounding; it all adds up – no matter how small.

So remember – keep things fresh and give a little love to your customers. You’ll get a lot of love in return.

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