Opening a coffee shop is a marvelous endeavor. Not only does it contribute to the community where it’s located, but it also produces a viable profit margin when managed well. However, coffee shops are first and foremost businesses, and one of the most important aspects of running a successful business is nailing down an effective marketing strategy.
Every industry has its own unique marketing culture, and coffee shops are no exception. In order to successfully market your coffee shop, you should:
- Know your brand and audience. If you don’t know your brand or audience, marketing your coffee shop will be extremely difficult. Discovering and/or establishing your brand and audience are vital when it comes to marketing.
- Create enticing promotional materials. Humans respond well to attractive aesthetics and advertisements. Printing well-designed promotional materials can help publicize your coffee shop in a positive way.
- Get your promotional materials out there. While promotional items are great to have around the coffee shop, placing them out in the world allows your materials to reach people they might not otherwise.
- Invite others to leave their promotional materials. While boosting other businesses, products, and individuals may seem counterproductive to sales, joining a supportive network of like-minded people will pay off over time.
- Use social media to your advantage. Social media not only has a nearly-universal reach, but it’s also a wonderful way to cultivate strong relationships between your business and current/potential customers.
- Perfect a few signature items. These are the products that make your coffee shop extra special, get happy customers talking about you, and keep people coming back for more.
- Throw and/or host events. A great way to get more people to check out your coffee shop is by throwing and/or hosting fun, memorable events in the community. Even if these events aren’t reoccurring, chances are attendees will consider your coffee shop a fun, new find and return in the future.
Know Your Brand and Audience
Before you can do anything else, you first need to establish your official brand. Is your shop fun, trendy, loud, and social? Artsy, punky, and alternative? Cozy, comfy, and homey? Based on a specific theme? Niche? Something else?
Your ideal audience will match your coffee shop’s general vibe. If you’re not sure what yours is, then that means you need to determine or invent the thing that makes your coffee shop attractive to certain types of people. If you’re not sure, ask family and friends how they would describe your coffee shop’s vibe based on the menu, customer base, and general aesthetics of the place.
Until you know your brand and audience, any marketing attempts you make are prone to wield unsatisfactory results.
Create Enticing Promotional Materials
A very easy, effective, and time-proven way to spread the word about your coffee shop and give people a sense of what you’re all about is by investing in some quality promotional materials. These can involve anything from business cards, brochures, pamphlets, or disposable menus to small art prints, coasters, or stickers. For this, it might be advisable to pay a local artist, photographer, or designer whose work speaks to the kinds of people you’re trying to attract.
Content and quality are key.
People are more likely to pick up things they find appealing to the eye. Likewise, they are far more likely to keep them around even after the fact. Make sure that whatever you put out there is not simply tempting, but simultaneously irresistible. You want materials that customers feel they absolutely must grab. If you see customers eyeballing these materials while you’re serving them or helping them out, encourage them to take one or as many as they’d like and pass them on to anyone they know who might be interested.
Promotional materials, of course, are only as good as they are obtainable and aesthetically viable. Giving people things to take home with them isn’t enough— these items should also be placed such that they are unavoidable without getting in customers’ way. Your promotional items should also be convenient and easily portable. Leaving these items by the cash register or on a separate table by the door are two of many ways to keep these readily available — even to those who always appear to be in a rush.
Get Your Promotional Materials Out There
Only once customers are already inside your coffee shop can you truly make them fall in love. That’s why you should prioritize getting that foot traffic up outside of your venue’s immediate perimeters as well. Keeping promotional materials readily available inside your shop is a great first step. Positioning them elsewhere in the community (in addition to inside your own shop) is a great second one.
Swinging by places that aren’t in direct competition with your coffee shop – such as privately-owned restaurants serving other cuisines, shops, offices, etc.— and asking if you can leave a small stack of promotional materials can be extremely lucrative. The worst-case scenario is that these other business owners say “no.” The best is that they say “yes,” and you attract new customers as a result.
Tabling at local fairs and events with your marketing materials, small samples of what you serve, and perhaps even hot or cool beverages for purchase (depending on the weather or occasion) works extremely well as far as getting the word out goes. This is also a great way to bond with potential customers on a more individual basis — or, at the very least, get your coffee shop on their grids.
Invite Others to Leave their Promotional Materials
A lesser-known custom among small businesses and creators is the age-old “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” approach. In other words, getting involved with a network of other local entrepreneurs is a superb way to stay in the loop and remain relevant.
Regarding those same privately-owned, local businesses we suggested visiting before, consider inviting them to put their promotional materials on display in your coffee shop. Leaving your stuff in their venue in exchange for leaving theirs in yours is an extremely powerful trade-off. Moreover, while some places might not do the promotional material display thing, they might appreciate your willingness to do so for them regardless, and pay you back later in a different way.
A strongly overlooked demographic by coffee shop owners is that of their local creative community. Writers, artists, musicians, and other creators are vital to the success, popularity, and publicity of many coffee shops. Make it known to writers that you offer free Wi-Fi to customers, and that your place has plenty of areas for them to plug in their electronics. If these perks don’t apply to your coffee shop, we strongly advise changing that.
This might sound absurd if you’re unaware of the fact that coffee shop culture and writer culture are famously intertwined. Oftentimes, they rely on one another for long-term survival. The most successful coffee shop owners not only recognize this but play into it as well. They also cater, at least in part, to a larger creative demographic.
Hang up local artists’ artwork in your shop. Put their sculptures on display. Sell these works on behalf of the artists, and pocket only a reasonable margin of the profits. While you’re at it, look into playing songs and albums by local bands and musicians in your coffee shop. Hand out their business cards while you’re at it [in the event people ask for additional information]. Customers will enjoy the originality, and creatives will consider you a space for communal art-sharing, therefore continuing to support your business moving forward.
Essentially, allow your coffee shop to become a vital, well-loved, and wonderful part of your community. Being friendly, approachable, and community-centered goes a long way in the business world. While larger corporations and organizations may have the room to throw things like personalization, generosity, and intimacy to the wayside, small business owners don’t. Kindness infused with a personal touch is the best marketing tool any coffee shop owner can have available to them.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
One of the most critical aspects of marketing is not only knowing your audience but also how to reach them. Another is accepting that we’ve entered the digital age. Here, social media is essentially inevitable and can either make or break your business. Of course, social media isn’t a monolith. There are numerous platforms, and knowing which one(s) you should use can be tricky at first.
Here’s a very basic, general breakdown of the most influential social media platforms at the moment, and what they’re best used for:
- Facebook: Facebook is ideal for reaching middle-aged and elderly people, as well as families with children. This is the place for wholesome, old-fashioned advertising.
- Instagram: Instagram is ideal for reaching teenagers, young adults, other small business owners, and creatives of many types. Oftentimes, these are people who will appreciate strong design, interior, social media, and product aesthetics.
- Twitter: Twitter is ideal for reaching people across age groups, but especially younger and middle-aged crowds, creatives of many types (especially writers with a passion for coffee shops), and those drawn to counterculture themes. The best way to connect with Twitter users is usually through quippy, clever, surprising one-liners. These are best paired with gritty humor and subtle irony.
While there are exceptions to each rule, as well as relevant additional details, please keep in mind that this list isn’t comprehensive. Rather, it’s a starting point for those new to social media marketing.
When it comes to posting, develop a strategy, establish an aesthetic or vibe, and schedule quality content with marketing-conscious captions and hashtags. In between posting your own content, be sure to engage with posts by individuals who follow you, as well as those by other small businesses. Social media is a wonderful place to establish and enhance your coffee shop’s unique brand.
If you’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with social media, or even just find that your best attempts are coming up short, it might be time to bring in a social media manager. These days, social media managers are extremely common and sought out by businesses of all sizes, goals, and scopes. It might even be worth bringing in an experienced photographer to get some strong shots of your coffee shop that’ll grab people’s attention on social media.
Memes go extremely far with the public — just ensure they’re actually good and suited to your audience’s tastes before posting them.
Perfect a Few Signature Items
People talk. If they love something, they tell their friends. If they hate something, they also tell their friends. Your best bet as a coffee shop is being known as “the place with that one thing my friend really loves and insists I try.”
While every single one of your products should be delicious and high-quality, a terrific marketing tactic is focusing on one, two, or even three items and perfecting them. This product can be something common you make extremely well (above average), or else an item unique to your coffee shop. These menu items should be the ones you become famous for in the community. People’s mouths should be watering for these items at 4 o’clock in the morning.
Pull this off, and customers will always have the glorious taste of your signature item(s) in their mouth. As a result, they’ll continue coming back for more.
Throw and/or Host Events
Oftentimes, the most popular coffee shops aren’t the ones with the best, most delicious stuff on their menus. Rather, they’re the ones that host and throw the best events. Here’s how it works.
People need public venues to host their one-time and/or reoccurring events. Sometimes, these are gamer groups. Sometimes, these are writing groups. Sometimes, these are even community organizers or business people looking for a semi-formal space to meet outside of the office.
Watch the floor for groups of these natures, and remain receptive to customers who ask you to host events for them. As a result of hosting these events successfully, your coffee shop will make its way into attendees’ consciousnesses, and they will be forced to buy items off the menu. Better yet, if they enjoy the food, drinks, service, and ambiance, there’s a very strong chance they’ll return in the future. New customers!
Should you decide to throw an event all your own, ones that generally fare well in coffee shops are open mics, spoken word events, musical performances, minor art shows, book fairs, speed dating rotations, and trivia nights. These can be one-time, weekly, monthly, or even annual events. The frequency is entirely up to you.
Just don’t forget to get the word out so people actually show up!
Social media is such a hassle. Is it really necessary?
Succeeding without social media is usually only possible for businesses that are well-known staples, have existed for a long time, and already have a loyal customer base. From a marketing perspective, social media is a necessary tool for coffee shop owners. Used well, it can also be a major gamechanger. Get more tips for using digital marketing for your shop here.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all mentioned here, but what about TikTok?
Currently an extremely popular social media platform, TikTok is ideal for reaching teenagers and young adults. However, TikTok is also extremely active, unpredictable, and demanding. TikTok should only be used if you can pull off the specific flare and content users of this platform require.
If you’re ready to start your own coffee shop, but you’re not sure what to do next, check out our easy-to-use startup documents right here.
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.