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How To Promote A Club In NYC

Tonight I watched an episode of the reality show "Who Wants To Be A Hilton?" All in all, a pretty silly show.

The contestants, split into 2 teams, were faced with the challenge of promoting their half of the NYC nightclub named Quo to see which team could get the greatest attendance.

Promoting a nightclub is really no different than promoting any other business at the essential level. Both teams went about promoting the club in the exact same fashion. More interestingly, they went about it the exact same way most business owners go about promoting their businesses.

Here are the steps they followed:

  1. To start, the teams spent an inordinate amount of time trying to think up a clever name for their club. They racked p_quo_1.jpgtheir brains, and tried word play, foreign languages, alliteration, rhyming, etc. Finally, they settle on Status @ Quo and Lunes at Quo (lunes meaning Monday, the night this event took place). I can't be sure exactly how long they spent on this task, but I think it is safe to say more than an hour. Like most people, these folks just weren't that creative, and they doubted their skills, so they really struggled with the task.
  2. Armed with their name, they started calling as many people as possible. This was their message: "Hey, my name is ___ and I'm throwing a party at Lunes at Quo tonight. I heard you know a lot of people. How can you help me?"
  3. Then they were allowed to announce the party on a major radio station. Their message: "Improve your Status @ Quo." They were pretty proud of that clever concoction.
  4. Finally, they started walking the streets, handing out flyers, promoting the event. Anyone between 1st and 8th Ave. and 85th and Wall St. and everyone listening to the radio was invited.
  5. After a hard day's work, they stood at the door of their respective clubs and waited for the crowds to come. They each got about 100-200 people. Fair job. It's a free party in NYC with Cathy Hilton attending. My grandmother could have gotten more people than that together.

OK, so what did they do wrong? First of all, they spent too much time doing something they weren't cut out for - trying to be creative. People believe that marketing is what they see on TV at night. Well, that's part of it. But clever, cute messages really should be left to the professionals on Madison Ave.

Marketing at ground level does not have to be cute or clever. Quite frankly, most people didn't even get it (lunes or status).

The next big mistake was the message: "Come to my club!!" or "I was wondering what you could do for me?" You know what the people they invited all seemed to care about? The guys wanted to know what kinds of girls were going to be there, the girls wanted to know what kinds of drink specials were going on. The people at the radio station wanted to know what celebrities would be there. They didn't care about helping the contestants - they wanted to know how the contestants could help them!!

This is an essential truth in marketing, and the most frequent big mistake. Most people miss the point and talk about themselves instead of how they can help others.

The final mistake, in my opinion, was that they invited everyone. Conventional wisdom would tell you to invite as many people as possible...invite all 8,000,000 people in New have the best odds for a good turnout. In practice, that is a terrible strategy.

It makes sense when you think about it - a party for everybody is a party for nobody. People want to get into the places they can't get into. Human nature.

This is how most businesses operate their marketing: spend way too much time dreaming up cute, clever, or pretty designs or slogans, then "getting their name and their message out" to as many people as possible. Sound familiar? Sure it does.

But in this competition, the contestants only had 8 hours from start to finish to pull it off. In business, we don't get a whole lot more time than that before the clock is ticking and we're losing money.

So, here's how I would have done it if I were on the show:

  1. While the other team wasted an hour on the name, I would have stuck with Quo. Who am I to argue with their existing name recognition and success?
  2. I would have made a beeline to the bar manager to find out what we could use to create the best specials. He may have said, "I just got this case of cheap Tequila in," to which I would respond, "$.85 Margaritas!!" If he had beer, we could have gone there. Or maybe we could have agreed on a flat-fee, all-you-can-drink deal. Whatever. Something. I would create an irresistible offer and I would lead with it as my message. Like this, "Hi - my name is Travis. I'm hosting a party at Quo tonight. Cathy Hilton is going to be there along with some of her family (maybe Paris??) and we're giving away free shots at the door (some extra mint schnapps they had around) and all you can drink for $25 after that. How many people are you bringing? Oh by the way, gentlemen, I guarantee there will be 2 girls for every guy, or you get a second shot - on the house (big whoop - more schnapps)."
  3. Same thing on the radio.
  4. No flyers on the street.
  5. Now, as for a target, I might play it this way: drag queens students only...or...models only...or....hospitality staff only...or...redheads get the picture. Something for people to latch onto - something for people to relate to.

If I got on the radio and called party promoters and made a pitch to a very limited audience, with a specific, irresistable offer and a guarantee, I would have cleaned up in this contest.

It goes the same way in business. Look for narrow audiences, give them a specific offer, and guarantee it, and you win. Try to be cute, clever and creative to everyone and you lose and waste a lot of time in the process.