My eight-point marketing check-list
17th August 2012
I am working with a number of pub groups at the moment who want to know how they can increase sales in underperforming sites. Usually they believe that their locations are ok, their management teams are fairly strong and that their marketing activity is no better or worse than their competitors. They know though that they need a fresh pair of eyes to challenge them and to provide experienced and objective advice.
Whilst they don’t always say it, they often need someone too who can look at their business through the eyes of the customer – quite often they are themselves too deeply involved in the operation to be able to have that critical and important perspective
When we receive briefs along these lines I have a short check list I use:
1. How good is the manager? This sounds bloody obvious – but there is absolutely no point getting customers to come to a pub where the manager (and her team) isn’t superb at giving them an outstanding experience which makes them want to come back and recommend. Marketing can only persuade a customer over a threshold of a pub once – then it’s over to the operators. I look to see if the team are united behind some sort of message about the pub, that they know what’s expected of them and that they have regular feedback on how they are doing. It’s about great leadership at the end of the day.
2. How good is the BDM? If they aren’t, they don’t always recognise that the manager is the problem not the solution. If the BDM says he is too busy to meet me, there is usually an issue somewhere.
3. Is their offer right for the customers they want to attract? This means I review the whole of the customer journey from parking the car, to ordering food, to buying a drink, using the loo’s and paying the bill. It’s about every bit of the experience. Whilst patently it’s critical to get the food and drink range, quality, price and ‘value for money’ right, every single element has to deliver against their customer’s needs and expectations.
4. How well are they communicating this offer consistently and clearly to customers? This is much easier to assess in a branded managed environment but far less easy to evaluate in one that isn’t.
5. Do the team really seek out, listen to and respond to customer feedback? I look at every bit of evidence I can find from booking engines to mystery guest schemes to complaints. The answer to a poor performing pub is usually in there somewhere. I also watch the team in operation to see if they are genuinely interested in customers. Are they checking back, for instance, because it says they have to in the brand standards manual (if they have one) or because they genuinely care about giving their customers a great time?
6. How consistently great is the pub from an operational perspective? It only takes one ‘off’ night or meal or drink to put a seed of doubt in a customer’s mind and then a frequent customer can become an infrequent one overnight. The basics have to be right and delivered time after time. Normally I just sit and watch and it usually tells me all I need to know.
7. How well do the team know their local area? I expect a team, led by the manager, to know their local area street by street. They should know their local businesses, organisations, shops, universities and clubs like the back of their hand – they should keep a database and update it regularly. They should really be going out locally every week to make new contacts. Those managers who believe in the power of neighbourhood marketing do – they usually show me what they are doing before I ask for it.
8. What are they doing in terms of marketing and how are they measuring success? I have another checklist here. I review their marketing plan (to be honest though quite a lot of pubs don’t have marketing plans) and their marketing activity against this plan. I look at what they are doing in terms of activity, events, charity links, networking, PR, social media, printed communications and digital communications- and how coordinated it all is.
An underperforming pub often does needs to sort out its marketing but sometimes there is a lot more to do before it can even get to that stage.