(Note: This story appears in the January 2021 issue of ED Magazine)

“Pandemic” was Merriam-Webster’s 2020 Word of the Year for a reason. COVID has infiltrated practically every facet of life and every industry. It has presented challenges unseen in generations.

“However, at some point, venues will once again be a pleasure that people across the country can enjoy,” says Jenna Gross of Moving Targets, a marketing agency specializing in direct mail, location-based mobile advertising, email, social media, and web design. “The actions that club owners take now will go a long way toward preserving their business through the crisis and equipping their establishment to serve customers, not just during—but also long after—the recovery.”

ED Magazine spoke with Gross about what you should be doing on social media to make the most of this time—especially if you’re closed—and to hit the ground running when the light at the end of this tunnel washes over us.

ED: What’s the biggest thing clubs should be doing right now as they prepare to reopen or transition to more of a sense of normalcy?

GROSS: Now is the time to take an offensive approach and transition from survival to reinvention mode. While some things will return to a version of “normal,” some will not, leaving those that double down on the same ways of doing business behind. The opportunity is not ‘How will we return to what we had?’ But instead, ‘What can we become?’ Operating your club the identical way year after year is akin to expecting 50-year-old entertainers to generate the same revenue as their young, fresh-faced counterparts.

As limitations on capacity may be in place for the foreseeable future, look into the ways you can improve your per-person average spend to compensate for potentially fewer guests through your door. Improving your per-person average spend can include allowing guests to reserve and pay for VIP seating online. For your patrons, it guarantees a spot in your club, and for you, ensures you’re giving a highly-coveted seat to a free-spending guest.

ED: How can clubs best utilize their remaining “downtime” before they’re back in business full-time and at full capacity?

GROSS: Your employees are the greatest asset for up-selling, and they should be constantly aware of their ability to do so. Almost every interaction they have with a customer is an opportunity to influence their spending. Whether they’re speaking with guests at a door or at the table, up-selling should seem like good service rather than a sales pitch. Prior to opening, coach them on how to up-sell gracefully and continue with ongoing training of all positions.

Use this downtime to analyze every aspect of your marketing and reallocate resources where appropriate. While posting on social media may be free; one must consider the opportunity cost. Analyze what worked, what didn’t, and, most importantly, what generated the most guests through your door. Review your online presence simply by Googling your club while using a private browser. Does your content online reflect the image you want to portray? Is your club info consistent across all marketing channels? Stay on top of what’s being said about your club by signing up for Google Alerts — you’ll get an email every time your club is mentioned online.

Communicating with your customers, staff and entertainers is crucial to winning back their business when it’s time to reopen. If you’re not communicating with them and telling them what’s going on, they could think you’re shut down for good. Stay relevant by continuing to post on social media channels or you risk losing them. Both on Facebook and Instagram, post at least weekly on your pages and stories.

Evaluate your P&L statement to better understand where your money is going so you can make better decisions now and in the future. This crisis is going to change the way we operate, and smart businesses are going to operate smarter. Take an outsider’s perspective of your operations, including marketing, and simplify wherever possible. All too often, we get caught in just adding things to existing structures and processes, resulting in unnecessary friction. This can be anything from scheduling social media posts in advance to keeping your social media accounts active while you’re busy running your club to how your guests are greeted at the door and guided to a table.

Jenna Gross speaks at the 2018 Gentlemen’s Club EXPO as part of a social media seminar.

ED: Clubs have dealt with COVID protocols for the better part of a year—what’s the most common mistake you’re seeing from club owners/execs and their club’s social media?

GROSS: Failing to keep the lines of communication open with their guests. Continue to post on your social media platforms to keep guests, staff, and entertainers in the loop on what’s happening, new policies, hours, being closed, etc. With all of the obstacles club owners had to go through in applying for PPP loans, struggling with no income or help from the government, it’s completely understandable why the last thing on their mind would be replying to the 20th Facebook message of “Are you open.” However, you don’t want to ghost them. There’s an easy solution: Facebook Instant Replies are automatic messages that users see when they start a chat on your Facebook page. Quick Replies on Facebook and Instagram save you time responding to frequently asked questions. You can select an answer you’ve previously written instead of retyping the same answer again, such as COVID-19 policies, employment opportunities, hours, cover, or dress code.

A more dangerous oversight is when club owners/execs post photos where COVID-19 best practices such as masks and large groups are being ignored. Clubs and all businesses have been shut down for disregarding safety precautions. Regardless of if you’re “anti-masker” or not, disregarding safety precautions that have been put into place is not advantageous to your bottom-line, and it’s a bad look for the entire industry that’s already under scrutiny.

ED: Forecasting a bit, what kind of traction do you think social media will have when things are ‘back to normal’?

GROSS: For the clubs that have reopened, there was an immediate increase in-door count. The initial club-goers were slightly younger while the older crowd was a bit more hesitant to come back in straight away, which I’ve seen across the board in all industries I work with.

We did get many questions on social media about policies, procedures, and what to expect, but we also got a significant number of new applicants who wanted to interview to work at the locations. Facebook and Instagram Quick Responses were a lifesaver in those instances.

For those clubs that have not yet opened, it seems their customers are getting antsy. Since most other businesses have been allowed to reopen, their fans don’t consider that they have not been allowed. Again, communicating helps—we don’t want to give the impression that they are closed for good, leaving them to give up and forget about all the fun that’s to be had upon restrictions being lifted.

For more information, visit movingtargets.com, call (215) 257-0880, or email cheers@movingtargets.com.

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