Many people in the beverage catering industry stumbled across the possibility of owning a mobile bar through a passion for slinging drinks and a desire to work for themselves (or ya know, Instagram…).
I did not come via this route.
A history of marketing and customer service led myself and my carpenter husband to strive to fill a hole in the market in our regional town. He builds the trucks and I do what I do best – market that shit!
But if we’re honest for a second, not many mobile bars in their infancy are focussing on the customer experience as a marketing priority. Instead they’re focusing on the aesthetics of their rig, pricing, and choosing between more traditional marketing methods.
We see weekly posts on the Mobile Bev. Pros Facebook group, people asking for tried and true marketing methods, advice about expos and, of course, where to get bookings. And whilst these are worthy questions for the new business owner, I have a surprising answer. And you may not agree initially but consider adding my input to your marketing arsenal.
Experiential marketing is a growing trend (and a buzz-worthy phrase) helping customers to experience a brand rather than utilising traditional selling and marketing methods. It is understood that ‘experiencing’ a brand, and their ethos, helps customers to create an emotional attachment that some research claims that it makes potential customers up to 98% more likely to purchase. Now, this figure is unlikely to translate directly to our industry as not everyone has an immediate need for a mobile bar in their life, and you can’t really mail a sample to your ideal clients, but it does get those cogs turning. As most mobile bars are small owner-operated businesses, this experiential concept is actually well suited for our niche.
Since most of our bars’ brands are so heavily entrenched with our own personal brands and personalities, our personal ethos’ run deep within our businesses and we, as owners, are the best representatives for our bars! No imagery or words associated with them in traditional media will do what we can do by “showing up.”
For those just starting out, this could be something as simple as throwing a launch party, an open invitation for people to experience your bar and your brand. We all know networking is one of the best ROI marketing methods out there, so there’s a good chance that a guest attending (even if they don’t need a beverage caterer themselves) may be more inclined to pass on that recommendation to a friend/acquaintance/etc in the future.
Relationships are hugely important in all industries but even more so amongst small businesses. Open yourself up as a contact for people interested in your business and see that emotional link spark and you’ll be surprised when they remember you years down the track.
For those of us actually already executing events, I believe that this experiential marketing is something we’re putting into practise at every event we attend. The ‘marketing’ doesn’t stop once the event is booked and client is happy, it extends right through to that last drink at the end of the night. There are still follow-ups and the relationships formed every time we work our bars and with every person we serve.
Couples getting married always invite friends, and they are usually at a similar point in their lives. How many event enquiries have I received from guests at previous weddings? Hundreds! Corporate event planners often network with other corporate event planners, so dazzling one can mean opening yourself up to dozens more when they tell others about you.
So, when people ask me what the most effective marketing technique is that I’ve found for marketing my bar I simply advise them to get out and show people what their brand is about. That will mean doing free events, networking in the evenings, and being an absolute stickler for every little minor detail, but the return will be better than many traditional and paid marketing mediums. And what’s more, they will keep coming back, over and over again. With this method, we’ve had repeat clients like we never knew was possible in the wedding market.
Ultimately, there are many ways to “market” your new business but the very best way we’ve found to incorporate “experiential marketing” into our marketing plan is to actually get ourselves physically out in front of the people so they can experience it!