Running a small coffee shop can be a challenge. The market is crowded not just by giants like Starbucks but by other coffee shops. Digital marketing can be an asset for a small coffee shop if done well. If done poorly, it can be a disaster. One that can be newsworthy. I’m going to help you learn how to utilize your digital presence to increase your coffee shop’s profitability and avoid any pitfalls.
The 4 digital marketing strategies for a coffee shop are:
• Establish Your Marketing Early
• Remember the Basics
• Manage Your Marketing Closely
• Remember the Real World
Establish Your Marketing Early
Your digital marketing can’t be an afterthought when you’re starting a new coffee shop. You should be planning out your digital strategy as you are preparing to open your coffee shop. You should be building your website and social media presence as you build your coffee shop.
One of the biggest things you can do is to get your business listed on Google. If you have your business listed there, people will have all the basic information about your business like its location (which will help customers when they’re plotting a route in the GPS).
If you’re running a specialty coffee shop, like a gaming cafe, for example, get involved with the local Dungeons and Dragons and board game aficionado groups. Let them know that they will have a venue to play at (most of these groups are always looking for one). If you’re starting a specialty coffee shop for any other hobbies, local groups may also exist on social media so be on the lookout. Just remember to follow the group’s rules.
Building up a following on social media before launch day will help you. Use your pre-launch window to cultivate relationships with customers and generate positive first impressions within your community.
Remember the Basics
Sometimes people get so caught up in making special things for their digital strategy, like brainstorming special deals and the like, that seemingly basic things can fall by the wayside. Let’s go over a few things.
Is your branding consistent between your physical space, your website, and your various social media pages? Let’s say you’re running a coffee shop with a heavy emphasis on books and reading. You’d want all your digital infrastructure to reflect that. Having inconsistent digital branding makes things confusing for your customer. Customers don’t like to be confused, particularly when they’re going to a place they’ve never been before.
How much basic information is on the first page of your website and your social media pages? Do they have the address? Do they have pictures of the location? Do they have the menu and its prices? Do they inform customers of any food allergens or accessibility concerns? While some of this info can be found on Google, there’s always the chance that they’ll miss it. You should have the basics plastered on your digital infrastructure. A lot of people will give up if they can’t find the information they need quickly. Pictures of the coffee shop and the food are nice, but the main purpose of a digital strategy should be to inform your customers quickly.
What do your website and social media pages look like? Is it visually appealing or do they have so many clashing colors and flashing things that it makes your eyes bleed? Is basic information on your website accessible on the first page or is it buried in menus within menus within menus? Does the website load quickly or is it overwhelmed with pictures, videos, and other assorted clutter that it loads slowly?
These are a lot of questions but they are necessary to design a digital strategy.
Manage Your Marketing Closely
Here is a saying I was taught when I was a kid and things like social media and Youtube were just starting: The Internet is forever. This advice is as true for businesses as it is for kids thinking of putting up an ill-advised video. Even if it’s left up for a short period, an ill-advised post can be captured and shared around the Internet quickly. The worst-case scenario is that you make headlines for the wrong reasons.
This is why you can’t give your digital strategy over to just anyone. You have to make sure they are qualified and that they have good intentions and a good track record. You also have to take an active role and exercise veto power when needed.
If you’re managing your digital strategy on your own, you’ll need someone who will check you. A spouse, an employee, anyone you can ask for advice if you have a gut feeling that what you’re thinking of posting might be detrimental. If they’re an employee, you should make it clear that they have permission to speak freely. You need someone who will tell you what you need to hear, not someone who will tell you what you want to hear out of fear of getting fired.
Trends and Hashtags
A lot of businesses try to use the top trends and hashtags to increase engagement. This can be used to your advantage, but before you use a hashtag, look up the context. Failure to do so can lead to a marketing disaster like the one DiGiorno’s Pizza had. Now, DiGiorno is a major brand and was able to survive the faux pas. A small business just getting off the ground may not be able to do the same, so be careful when you use hashtags. For more pitfalls to avoid when starting your coffee shop, take a look at this article.
A common idea is to let customers name the next drink or other product. While this seems like a good idea to increase customer engagement with digital marketing, it can quickly spiral out of control. People all over the internet are known for turning contests of this nature into something horrible. Many times, they try to flood the company’s site with suggestions that are offensive to as many as possible until the contest is shut down.
If you want to have a naming contest every now and then, that’s fine. Just make sure that customers can only choose from a pre-selected group of names. Never let the Internet control your brand.
Remember the Real World
With digital strategy becoming increasingly important, it can become easy to get lost in web design and social media posting. As an owner, digital strategy should only take up a small portion of your time. Your primary role is to be out there managing your business and making connections with customers. Not in the office moderating social media pages. An important aspect of getting a small coffee shop off the ground is being an active part of your business and community so be sure that comes first.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sensitive topics such as politics should be avoided unless your coffee shop is catering to a specific group of people. Otherwise, use common sense. If you wouldn’t share it with your mother, don’t put it under the banner of your business.
Use common causes your community rallies around. For example, even if your coffee shop is not themed around sports, it’s still a good look to cheer on the town’s favorite sports teams.
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun
My adventure in coffee began when I first launched my first coffee shop back in the early 2000s. I had to figure out so many things on my own and to make it worse within 2 years of opening two large corporate coffee chains moved in just blocks away from me!
As I saw smaller and even some larger coffee shops in the neighborhood slowly lose customers to these giant coffee chains and slowly close up shop, I knew that I had to start getting creative…or go out of business.
I (like you may be) knew the coffee industry well. I could make the best latte art around and the foam on my caps was the fluffiest you have ever seen. I even had the best state-of-the-art 2 group digital Nuova Simonelli machine money could buy. But I knew that these things alone would not be enough to lure customers away from the name brand established coffee shops.
Eventually, through lots of trial and error as well as perseverance and creativity I did find a way to not only survive but also thrive in the coffee/espresso industry even while those corporate coffee chains stayed put. During those years I learned to adapt and always faced new challenges. It was not always easy, however, in the end, I was the sole survivor independent coffee shop within a 10-mile radius of my location. Just two corporate coffee chains and I were left after that year. All told the corporate coffee chains took down over 15 small independent coffee shops and kiosks and I was the last one standing and thriving.
Along the years I meet others with the same passion for coffee and I quickly learned that it is not only “how good a barista is” that makes a coffee shop successful, but the business side of coffee as well.
Hence why I started this website you are on now. To provide the tools and resources for up and coming coffee shop owners to gain that vital insight and knowledge on how to start a coffee shop successfully.
Stick around, browse through my helpful blog and resources and enjoy your stay! With lots of LATTE LOVE!