Five steps to writing a pub marketing plan

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Successful British pub

British pubThe rate that British pubs are closing is slowing, with net numbers falling from 27 to 21 in the last six months, but this is still a significant number and, as such, landlords and ladies need to do more to protect and grow their businesses.

Do you find yourself asking the following questions?

  • How can I increase sales?
  • How can I communicate what we offer?
The more we get rid of traditional pubs the more we forget who we were, the more we FORGET who we were, the less we KNOW who we ARE. Damon Albarn 19.12.2014 Share on X

Successful businesses use marketing plans to set goals and communications plans (‘how to do it’ plans) to help them achieve these goals.

Your plan needs to cover core elements that are specific to your pub, but it doesn’t need to be pages long; in fact, often the simpler plans, when researched well and properly implemented, have the greatest impact.

Can you answer these questions?

  • Where is my business now?
  • Where do I want it to be this time next year?
  • How will I get there?

Where to start!

1. Situation Analysis

This bit is really important and will take a bit more space than on the back of a beer mat! Here you want to note down all the information about your pub and the products and services you offer, and how what you offer and the benefits you bring set you apart from your competitors.

Here you can list all the products you sell and the services you offer, are you a wet pub or do you offer food too? What food; any snacks? Do you specialise in anything i.e. do you offer. A particular cuisine or do you specialise in ales etc.?

You may not want to hear all the answers but it’s really important to know who they are and what they are doing. Of course, all the other pubs, and possibly restaurants, in your local area will be competitors, but also remember local shops who serve alcohol and any social clubs. Basically anywhere that serves a similar product offering to yourself. Where do your customers go if they are not in your pub?

What might they do better than you? What do they charge; are they perceived to be cheap or expensive? Do they have any special offers on food and drinks? What events do they hold?

You could include staff, experience, customer care, location… remember to include yourself against the competition. You may find this easier to do using a table listing the competition and yourself against a list of above-mentioned criteria.

Target Audience
Who’s visiting your pub now and who might in the future? You will want to consider:

Existing and potential customers – where do they live, how old are they, what needs do they have, how do they spend their money, do they work, what sort of income levels are they earning, what times do they visit, do they have young families with large financial commitments?

You may think you know most of the answers, and you could be right, but don’t second-guess. You have a customer base; ask them what they like and don’t like, what they would like more of, what you aren’t doing now but they would like to see you do: is it just a drink they want or would they like food too? Might they like entertainment, for example live music?.

You and your staff can ask them as you chat or you could devise a short written questionnaire and offer a prize draw to those who complete it; a bottle of wine or maybe a meal for two when you draw the winner. Be sure to collect email addresses so you can let them know of your future plans!

Pricing, Positioning and Branding

From the information that you have gathered, you should be able to establish the price for your products; you will off course be governed by the cost that you purchase them for, but where are you positioned against your competition and how you will achieve your ‘brand’ awareness? For example:

  • Somewhere that is both welcoming and friendly
  • With a community feel
  • Which offers a good quality and inspired product offering
  • That is value for money/ has balanced pricing
  • Where you can bring a friend or family; including four paws…
    … a place where one wants to go to see and be seen

SWOT Analysis

Having conducted the above research, you now need to summarise where you are. To do this, you need to produce a SWOT analysis.

A SWOT analysis is a simple and useful framework for analysing your pub’s
Strengths and Weaknesses, and the Opportunities and Threats that you face. It helps you to focus on your strengths, minimise your threats, and take advantage of the opportunities that are available you. Strengths and Weaknesses refer to characteristics that exist within your pub whilst Opportunities and Threats refer to outside factors.

To do this, you need to draw a grid and title each square in the grid. You need to ask yourself to describe the four factors in the list… not what you want them to be but what they actually are:


  • Good location
  • Great staff
  • Good basic food offering
  • Good market knowledge
  • Loyal customer base

  • Operating in a saturated market
  • Over dependent on a few key staff members
  • Funding to recruit additional staff
  • Lack of ability to use social marketing
  • Not open all day

  • Could develop food offering
  • Highly populated residential area ABC1
  • Expansion into new markets: increased female custom
  • Possibility to develop existing club (darts) whilst starting new clubs: golf
  • Opportunity to expand opening hours to mornings and open as a coffee shop targeting school mums and retired customers
  • Extend opening times to the lunch time food trade
  • Start monthly music nights and film nights

  • Strong competition
  • Downturn in economy
  • Good staff leaving
  • Business rate increases
  • Rent increases
  • Increase in beer prices


Mission Statement

This is a short statement which, as it says ‘states what you do’. It could include your products and services, your customers and where you operate. For example, ‘We are dedicated to providing a warm and inviting community gathering place; serving inspired food and drink. Through our dedicated and friendly staff, we are committed to offering a personalised experience to all our customers.’

2. Marketing Goals

Your marketing goals should fit into your overall business goals. They need to be measurable, specific to your pub and realistic to the abilities of both you and your pub.

Key Business Goal
Example: To continue to integrate our pub as the hub of the community whilst expanding the business and product offering to encourage new customers, including growing the female demographic.

Key Marketing Goals for 2017-2018

  • To achieve a target of £250,000 through both wet and dry sales. With specific focus on a 15% increase in real ale sales
  • To increase female demographic frequenting the pub by 20%
  • To maintain existing customer base
  • To develop a more solid food offering in keeping with the traditional pub style
  • To showcase the pub as a live music venue

3. Marketing Strategies

Your ‘how to do it plan’. Here you can put down all your ideas that you might consider such as: leaflet dropping in the local area, press releases in the local paper, advertising in local newsletters/ parish newsletters, you might produce your own newsletter, internal and external chalkboards, using social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, building a website…

4. Budget

Looking back at your strategies, what can you afford? What can you do in-house? What do you need to outsource? You may want to consider your customers, do any of them have marketing skills, designing, web building etc., are any of your staff au fait with social media? Or do you need to be looking to outsource some of your marketing to an agency or do you need some training?

5. Monitor Your Results

Successful British pubOnce your strategy is in place, you will want and need to track your activities against what you set out to achieve. This is a continuous process; if something isn’t working, you can quickly find out and adapt what you are doing to achieve your goals. Taking the example of increasing sales of a specific beer, you will be able to track against your EPOS system and through regular stocktakes.

“The more we get rid of traditional pubs the more we forget who we were, the more we FORGET who we were, the less we KNOW who we ARE.”
Damon Albarn 19.12.2014

If you would like assistance with your marketing plan (be it for pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels or bars) or would like help to achieve your business goals, then please get in touch.



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