If you're searching for marketing advice on how to promote your nightclub business, then I’ll get out of your way and let you enjoy this educational conversation with one of New York's biggest event marketers.
Meet Sam Levy, the ingenious New York marketing maestro who has redefined the nocturnal landscape from coast to coast. With an illustrious career, Sam has masterfully ridden the proverbial wave of modern nightclub marketing for over two decades, creating some of the nation's most lavish New Year's Eve parties. I'm excited to share my tête-à-tête with Sam as he divulges some simple and often overlooked marketing tactics and why he thinks TikTok marketing won't help your venue sell tickets.
So without further ado, here's my interview with New York's industry expert, Sam Levy.
What is the number one mistake you see nightclubs or concert venues making in their marketing strategy?
Sam Levy: Incentivizing customers to give you their contact information is more valuable than I think people realize.
As a New Year's Eve marketing consultant overseeing large holiday events, I often saw that the venues I was working with had abandoned their database. In some cases, the venue would not have updated its email list in over three years! That's an entirely useless contact list at that point.
I find that if you incentivize customers to give you their information while at your events, you can easily create a targeted customer base to send out future emails or text messages for events. I like to send out pre-sale ticket offers one to two months out. I see great results in those types of marketing campaigns, and I'm shocked that more clubs or concert venues are not taking advantage of it because it's so simple.
When you gather information, do you primarily focus on emails or phone numbers?
Sam Levy: Customers favor sharing their emails, but texting has become more acceptable. Emails are best for promotions a month or week out from an event, while many hospitality groups I work with tend to take advantage of texting on the day of an event or the night before.
How do you go about incentivizing customers to want to share their coveted emails with you?
Sam Levy: I like a freestyle approach of incentivizing customers into buying pre-sale tickets by "X" date. It's a great way to make concert goeser feel like they're a part of something exclusive, and the limited-time offer pushes ticket sales.
Don't be afraid to use your email list, either! It's not like you're sending boring emails from the Pottery Barn. It shouldn’t be surprising that your customers actually want to hear from you, especially if you have something fun to share.
What advice would you share with nightclubs or concert halls trying to get more eyeballs on their website?
Sam Levy: Most nightlife websites need more basic information to improve their SEO and help take the mystery out of what they are offering customers. What's the music format of the venue? What kind of system do you have? Are you mostly into live bands? What type of house music do you lean into? Who are your previous performers? Do you have a cocktail list? Answering these questions will boost your website's SEO and draw more traffic.
Google wants to know that any website it promotes to the top of its search is an expert in what they're talking about. Google's algorithm isn't thinking about you in terms of the paradigm that we as people see in our businesses or who our competitors are. So create content on your website that reflects your expertise: your mixologists, your lighting system, different things about the design of your sound system – anything to show that you are an expert in the hospitality industry. They're basic tactics, but it's crazy how many venues omit this kind of content.
What are your thoughts on Instagram ads for promoting events?
Sam Levy: In the current social media climate, Instagram is everything. I use successful Instagram ads for marketing all the time. You can't convince me of anything else. Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter have value here and there, but Instagram ads are where nightlife lives.
Concert venues should be thinking about using Instagram Live as an underutilized tool. If you can make your vertical videos look nice, have your mixologist prop their phone up at the same time each weekend and show your Instagram followers in real-time drinks being made at your busy bar while having a good time interacting with customers. Or point your phone at the DJ with the dancefloor in the background.
How about TikTok as a marketing tool for nightclubs?
Sam Levy: I have to say no to TikTok marketing. You have to remember that all of these social media platforms are global; If a concert hall has a TikTok post that goes viral, you have to ask yourself, "How many of those viewers are local and will actually drive to your event? The answer is not very many.
I can't think of any examples where a local club directly benefited from more foot traffic after a TikTok post took off. Yes, it's super cool and highlights the business, but I don't think you'll be rewarded for it. That may slowly change in time, but I haven't seen it yet.
You're going to get the most results with Instagram ads because you can set a geo net around your venue and notify people who are specifically in your area. I've seen that successfully work for tons of venues. TikTok doesn't quite have that down yet.
What are your thoughts on concert venues and their Google Review rating?
Sam Levy: I would say, for concert venues or nightclubs, it's highly forgiving what your rating might be, but I think Google Reviews are essential when responding to them as a business so that your customers can hear your side of the story.
If you abandon a bad review, it becomes a reflection of your venue and the type of effort put into your business. So I think that the effort made in responding to your customers – even if that customer feels that you let them down in their experience, it's still important to acknowledge when you fell short because it shows you care about your customer's experience.
What are the indicators of a healthy social media profile?
Sam Levy: Engagement will be a reflection, but to me, the more content you put on any social media profile, the better. It shows that a lot is going on at your club. Someone's always out there on their phone looking for the next place to go, and if they get a taste of something happening somewhere, you might land a new loyal customer.
You're always working on these massive special events. How do you stand out from the crowd and convince customers to spend more on your ticket over a more affordable night out?
Sam Levy: A lot of my event success is reflected in the communication or clarity of what's going to be happening during that event. Things like ensuring you're showing a fun portfolio of photos, a detailed description of the venue, and helping potential customers envision what their night will look like.
I think painting a good picture of the event is really important because, to a lot of people, bigger nights like New Year's means it's a more significant investment for those who just don't go out. People don't like to risk inviting a group of friends to an event if there's confusion about what they're walking into.
The events I help market are rewarded because I provide customers with lots of information about the events and the venue. If people want to skip through that info on the website, they can scroll down to the bottom to purchase tickets. But, the people who are looking for the opportunity to really understand what type of music will be played, what the bar looks like, what kind of liquor will be served, or the type of food that is included in their ticket, that's going to help people feel like they've really done their research. I promise you that you will be rewarded if you provide more information than your competitors.
What's the best way to spend marketing dollars on your events?
Sam Levy: I'd pick a few events to splurge on each year. Increasing your typical marketing budget for one or two special events goes a long way.
Rather than spending $15 a week on your Instagram ad – or wherever, pick one night where you provide that extra experience for your customers. Hire that cool robot or the team of acrobats – whatever it is, try to make a bigger splash around one particular event. It'll help you get on people's radar.
What does marketing do in clubs? Everything! From leveraging the power of incentivized customer email lists to creating SEO-rich website content that cements your venue's expertise, Sam's marketing wisdom is grounded in experience. In the bustling realm of social media, Instagram ads still reign king in the concert/nightclub world, and while cool, TikTok has yet to prove its value as a social channel.
Want to learn more about marketing?
I share some of Sam's best marketing advice along with other useful resources in my nightclub marketing guides linked below. Be sure to give them a look-see. I go over simple branding tactics and share field-tested marketing campaigns.