Many coffee shops are lucky enough to have the benefit of regular customers and frequent foot traffic. Is it any wonder that Dunkin Donuts is one of the largest franchises on the East Coast? How about Starbucks? There is such a large portion of the population who consider coffee to be a must in their morning routine.
The benefit of being a small independent coffee shop is that there's a large portion of the coffee drinking population who prefer not to purchase from the big guys, and instead want to support local business. When you are a small independent coffee shop, here's a quick list for convincing those other neighborhood locals to switch from the chains and start drinking locally.
Marketing a Coffee Shop Tip #1: Offer Wi-fi.
You might think that is a feature, rather than a marketing strategy, but the strategy is to put a big Wi-fi sign in your window. Offering wifi says two things about your business: you don't mind people coming in and working, and you probably have enough space for people to stay for while. These are all considered mental benefits to people who walk or drive by your coffee shop. As the number of folks working from home increases, more people will require a good spot to shake off the cabin fever!
Marketing a Coffee Shop Tip #2: Talk to people on Twitter (and Facebook).
There are very few businesses that have opportunity to speak casually with their Twitter followers and coffee shops are one of them. This is because you already have your own vibe and personality that is recognized by your customers. Especially as a small coffee shop, you have the ability to show off a single distinct voice.
Since coffee is such a general interest, you can attract all kinds of different people and talk about any subject. Movies, coffee, tea, music, you name it. Make sure that your Twitter and Facebook URLs are up front and center at your counter. When someone gets a great latte, they can say "I'm drinking the most amazing latte from @YourCoffeeShop", rather than just simply "I'm drinking the most amazing latte" without attribution.
Marketing a Coffee Shop Tip #3: Start making YouTube videos.
One of the most successful marketing strategies in the coffee shop world is video marketing. There are 5,500 people per month searching for "latte art" according to YouTube's keyword research tool. Shoot, there are 10,600 searching for "how to make coffee" in the YouTube search engine. Seeing any missed opportunities? Someone at Cafe Yala started making YouTube videos demonstrating an array of latte art, earning over 10,000 hits on several of their videos.
Marketing a Coffee Shop Tip #4: Introduce yourself to nearby businesses.
This is a great tactic explained personally by Chris Lamb from Crimson Cup in Ohio:
"Greg [Ubert, Founder] visited each and every business, large and small, in a targeted area. The targeted area was much bigger than the few blocks around our store, but it was still within a few miles of the coffeehouse. When Greg would visit he would introduce himself to the owner or manager of the business and offer free drink cards for all the employees.
The camaraderie and support he received was energizing and led to some important community partnerships. The time Greg spent networking was extremely valuable and it helped raised the level of awareness for our store in the local community. The coupons were very effective in bringing in new customers and it was a great way for us to track the return on time and money invested in the project. This coffee shop marketing idea has been a huge success and something we encourage other coffee shops to consider trying."
Marketing a Coffee Shop Tip #5: Be transparent.
As I've mentioned, the biggest advantage you have over the big franchises and chains is the ability to inject whatever personality you want. Jesse Burke from Posie's Cafe in Portland, OR learned this quickly when she blogged about Groupon in Retrospect and earned herself a solid spot on TechCrunch. Jesse also wrote a heartfelt blog about her mom on Mothers Day, and another about the emotional rollercoaster of owning a business (and taking criticism along with it). Comments always support and offer personal doses of genuine gratitude for Jesse and her coffee shop. Readers and customers truly appreciate her brave transparency. You have a personality, so use it!
Of course there are plenty of other ways to market your coffee shop. Offer a special on one of the billions of geolocation mobile apps, start a loyalty rewards program, heck you might even want to build a drive-thru. In any case, try these ones first and I'd love to hear how they work.