Thursday, 3 September 2009

HoodenersHorse Marketing

Its CanterburyGeeks night tonight I have blogged my talk as I would hate you to miss it.

Last year the Hoodeners Horse pub at Great Chart had a great year until the recession hit in the September.I realise this was later than most people At this point we rained in spending and costs as much as possible but a number of things were beyond our control.

1) Beer Tax & price rises from brewery companies.

2) Cost of utilities & power.

3) Fresh Vegetables.

4) Transport.

Suddenly we were seeing people who had eaten 2-3 times a month with us only coming out once a month. Having made it through to the New Year we had some respite due to some costs falling such as vegetables and meat. However beer tax and brewery prices continued climbing.

Our food offering is mostly cooked fresh from local ingredients where ever possible and we have gained an excellent reputation for the quality of our food. We therefore choose not to discount our food as others have done. Being a small venue(40covers) we couldn't have gained economies of scale to allow this.

The cost of drink however kept rising and we chose to deal with this differently:-

1) No pub 1/2 pts in peoples pint glasses.

2) Retrained the staff to cut wastage when pouring pints.

3) Changed the cellar to incorporate real ale tilts to cut wastage down when dispensing the last part of the cask.

4) We are just about to sign up for an EPOS system and dispense monitoring to further cut wastage.

These measures enabled me to reduce a pint of real ale to the customer by 20p a pint and the other beers by 10p a pint. We also reduced the price of the spirits and went back to 25ml measures.

Within a few weeks whether by luck or judgement, turnover started to return to 2008 levels so the reduction in cost to the customer meant they actually spent more.

One of the master strokes occurred in May 2009 when thanks to Perry Mayer at the Pub & Bar Network I was bullied into first looking at Twitter and then joining. To tell the truth i spent 2 days looking at the joining screen thinking now what do I do?

Brilliant I entered a name and password and had my twitter account in a "Blink of a Twitterers eye!" Before I had a chance to change screens I'd gained 2 followers. This isn't difficult I thought, until I saw the followers and to this day I don't like Britney Spears especially not with a corn on the cob in her mouth. Note to self get eyes tested.

In a flurry of righteousness and panic, as my children use my Desktop occasionally, I took my account private and thought up my next move.

What was the reason I was using Twitter and what did I intend to achieve?

I decided that I wanted to make people aware that the Hoodeners Horse existed and still did Mexican food although differently to when it used to be part of a chain of Hooden Horse pubs!

In fact one of the most annoying things for us, is when a customer tries our pub for the first time! Having previously used one of the other ones that used to be part of the chain and says "We tried the Chilli/Fajita/wraps at such and such and it was awful hope yours is better! Your part of the same chain aren't you?"

So People The Hoodeners Horse is not part of a chain unless I decide to expand and open others, the food is fresh and the Real Ale Real!

Back to the plot.

I wanted people to know how good the food was and that we did real ale.

I wanted to get the message out to people in Ashford and close by to attract in new customers.A business without customers is not a business

I wanted to achieve this at minimal cost!

My first mission then was to identify local potential customers and Perry pointed my at which proved a god send. I quickly identified 120 people using Twitter in Ashford and followed them all, naturally my copious output did not suit them all and I faced Twitter rejection from one or two.

On the whole though I made some contacts and by talking on Twitter started to make progress and connections although I'm not see the Hawaii followers will be in too often. We do now have Twitterers in most days for lunch or an evening meal .

One lunch time recently I was talking to @suvvo & @canterburygeeks via Twitter from my office in Sellindge only to realise 10 mins later they'd both been sitting feet apart, twittering to me without even realising they were talking to the same person. This was made possible by the fact that they didn't know each other via Twitter .

@babssaul was in the those early days a great encourager of Hoodenershorse and in fact still is although I'm not sure if its me she is encouraging or my Homemade chips? During one online conversation she suggested a tweet lunch and I obliged. Its been years since Ive been asked out even if its my own pub. We were joined by @niftyknits and @kent_it.

The Lunch flew by and we all agreed to meet the next month. To my surprise the three of them spent the afternoon twittering how good the pub was and how good the food was! Is this the power of twitter?

The next lunch came and we had 10 people,and of course the famous @canterburygeeks who it turned out has been drinking most of his adult life at a pub who shall remain nameless here at least. The point of explaining this is because I drink there with friends on occasion and had never met him.

This same pub can't see the point of Twitter and can't see that if you help people to Network and relax then you can achieve your own aims as well. "It is not what you can do for yourself but what you can do for others that is the measure of a man!" I'm sure someone famous said that just don't ask me who.

I look forward to these lunch's now, to meet the people I now regard as friends and because I enjoy the atmosphere they create.

The third lunch came and we had 20 people, the last ones leaving at gone 4pm and they all went back and twittered about the food and the service and I didn't have to pay them to do it!

I must say, some very clever people come to network at those lunches and to a man or women it makes me proud to know them and more than a little humble.

By this time I'd spread my following net to Folkestone, Canterbury, Hythe and Faversham and currently follow 690 people, on the follower side I have around 500 it changes daily depending which side of the bed I get out of.

Due to requests from Twitterers we are now going to have a Twitter meet up evening once a month as well and other opportunities have arisen in addition, that are still in the planning stage.
My next step is to master Facebook, which is a little less dynamic and more suited to leaving messages for your customers. I realise that there will be some overlap between Twitter uses and Facebook users but I hope to be able to go through our client base of 260 names and identify who uses Facebook.

Then I can add those to the 89 fans of Hoodeneners horse already on facebook and see what happens.

With the combined power of reaching our customers through Twitter and Facebook as well as the other mediums we use I would hope to drive the business forward at minimal marketing cost.

Any Questions and there were 4 questions in total which must prove people were awake and I gained 5 new followers as a result of the talk.
If you want to risk the video of the whole thing filmed on an Android phone the link is here via@canterburygeeks Wow - 55 views clocked up of last night's video of CGN#4. I wonder if any has watched the whole 2 hours?


  1. Trying again. What an excellent post. This shows the power of online networking and making connections. I do little, well no offline marketing all my business comes from online networking.

    Interesting what you said about Facebook, I have not been a big fan of Facebook I use it for keeping in touch with friends. More and more people are mentioning Facebook, so looks like I will have to give it a go.


  2. Excellent post, Andy! Though I couldn't make the meet, it feels like I was there!

  3. Evenings too huh? I've never been so social since joining twitter! Regarding facebook - I revived my dormant account last weekend and PURELY through the power of twitter easily gained more than 100 fans and was therefore entitled to a "memorable" name:

    Twitter rules!

  4. Hi I still cant understand twitter even though I inverted commas met you through it . Facebook for me is a big no no I am a Christian and got fed up with being asked to join this prayer group or an other so cut my losses and closed my account but I do know of others who use it as a marketing tool. Not sure where this blog went but it got there and I enjoyed it and if our car is ok after being attacked by a passing Renault as it sat quietly in its disabled parking bay We may venture one day as far as your pub and try a wee dram

  5. Just tried to follow your blog but it wanted me to signup again with facebook so sorry I cant bring myself to do it

  6. Thanks for all your comments. Don I do hope you come back again to the blog and keep up to date with it. Further down the page you can follow without going through facebook!