Chris Maclean: Marketing your pub

By Chris Maclean

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Business, Website, World wide web

There is an unhealthy preoccupation with websites in some areas of the industry. It is worrying for two reasons. Firstly, gullible licensees are...

There is an unhealthy preoccupation with websites in some areas of the industry. It is worrying for two reasons. Firstly, gullible licensees are spending vast amounts of money on building websites in the belief that this is critical in the development of their business. Secondly, there is little evidence that a website, in many instances, is any good for the business whatsoever.

I should perhaps qualify this.

For pubs that provide accommodation a decent website is crucial. A vast percentage of our hotel business comes from exactly this. Anyone putting "hotel" and "Faversham" into a search engine will find us pretty much at the top.

For pubs that provide regular entertainment a good up-to-date website can be enormously helpful.

For pubs that provide food a website might be of some use; explaining opening hours and maybe some sample menus.

But, for a pub that simply does wet sales, a website is probably close to useless.

Today I have been sent an e-mail by a website designer offering me a site for only £299+VAT. It's lunacy. For this I have the reassurance that "Our websites are designed and built to meet current standards of compliance and accessibility" Okay. What does that mean? They threaten to send me a consultant.

So I apply the test I measure myself by. I type their business "website design" and their location "Ashford" into a search engine then I search for their company. Nothing. These people claim to offer you the cutting edge of publicity - yet, frankly, are unable to create a visible local presence for themselves.

There have been several occasions when new licensees have outlined their business initiatives to me for their forthcoming business. Often, close to the top of the list, they have commissioned a website. Why? In many instances they cannot be effective and are often very expensive. There are plenty of alternatives. Here are a couple of examples.

Local newspapers are gagging for news. For April 1st this year I persuaded both my local papers (which published on Thursday 1st) that I was launching the Faversham Fiver ~ a five-pound note that could only be exchanged locally in shops, pubs and businesses. I was offering two Faversham Fivers for one £5 note. The papers fell for it, I got loads of publicity and dozens of people responded to it. Cost to me? Nothing. Equally, radio stations and local TV will jump at the chance if you can create something that appears to be "newsworthy".

I admit I despise chalk boards, particularly chalked A-boards where too much information is written on it, in 2" high letters. You drive past unable to see what is on offer. Better, for me, is to use A-boards in the style of something else. For example I've had some success with A-boards in the style of newspaper A-boards. Black felt-tip on large sheets of paper.

I have also employed, with some success, the use of chalk pens on the large glass doors at the entrance to the pub. I write in the style of a Parisienne cafe. It seems to work.

With all publicity you need to innovate. To do unorthodox things. To pleasantly suprise people.

But to buy in pre-packaged websites is, in almost all conceivable ways, the most ineffective foundation for developing your business.

Live in your business. Stretch in your business. Get comfortable in your business.

Only then should you contemplate marketing it.

Related topics: Training

Property of the week

The Hazeldene Hotel

- Tenancy

The Hazeldene Hotel is opposite the Famous Blacksmiths Shop in Gretna Green. With 11 letting rooms, it is in a prime location to offer fantastic...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more