Small Business Marketing by Jillian Shaw Marketing, Advertising & Public Relations for the Small Business

6 Tips for A Coffee Shop Small Business Owner

Small business owner Jim Davis asked me how I could help him promote his collection of coffee shops.

We own several coffeehouses – www.coffeehousesandcafes.com – what do you recommend? We advertise online and such with varied success – we are also big into social media….Thoughts?

And here’s what I suggested:

Hm, this is a tough one, because coffee is such an impulse buy, and choosing a coffee house to stop at is more about convenience than anything. I have a few ideas though.

  1. You mentioned you were big into social media – do you advertise on Facebook? It costs some $, but not as much as traditional advertising, and you only pay for the actual clicks you get. If you have a genuinely good deal, it’s totally worth it.For something like a Facebook Ad, I would suggest advertising your fan page and offer a deal like “Take a friend for coffee, buy one get one free.” It’ll click through to your facebook page, then just make sure you have a link to a ‘coupon’ they can print from your website. If you offer ‘exclusives’ just to your facebook fans, it gives people a reason to fan you, and you give them more reasons to come into your shop and spend money.

    If you have a new product, like a new muffin you’ve never had before – offer a free one to your facebook fans. Then encourage them to tell you what they think. That gives them a stake in your business and helps you improve your product offering. And gets people in to try the thing. I would make the offer – ‘free XXX muffin with your daily brew’ or something like that.

    Don’t forget to target your ads to people in your geographic location.

  2. Speaking of geography, check out Gowalla.com and Foursquare.com, if you haven’t already. These are neat new social networking sites that make location the central theme. Check out their site to see how you can offer deals and freebies to people who visit you often.Facebook (and maybe Twitter) is adding a location feature very soon – that could be utilized in the same way.
  3. How about good old-fashioned non-internet marketing? I’ve seen sidewalk advertising done very effectively in DC – no reason it can’t be done in Lexington. Use flyers or sidewalk chalk on intersections a hundred feet/yards or so from your business where people are walking to and from work or campus. Have the flyers point toward your restuarant, with your logo and business name, of course, and a pithy phrase telling the walker to get some coffee. I saw a smoothie place do one that said “walk 10 blocks and burn 100 calories – get a smoothie at (whatever smoothie place).”Check your city ordinances about taping flyers to the sidewalks.
  4. Office-type businesses often have early meetings and order those boxes of coffee instead of making a bunch there. Maybe you can talk to some receptionists and try to set up a deal with them. You may gain a corporate customer or two and then all their clients and employees will also be able to try your client. And then maybe when they want coffee on their own, they’ll think of your place.
  5. On the PR front, I bet there are lots of fundraisers that go on, especially in the summer months. If there’s a 5K to raise money for something, offer the coordinators free coffee and bagels for the participants. It’s great goodwill and then those people try your coffee, too.Hand out coupons or flyers offering 20% off or some other deal, and give them enough to give some to friends. Be sure the flyers are specifically for the event, that way you can track how effective your PR effort at that event was.
  6. This may go without saying, but, have awesome employees. In a coffee shop, atmosphere is everything. A cheery, outgoing, fun-to-be-around barista is 10 times more likely to keep me coming back than 10% off this, or a free sample of that.
  7. If you don’t already, have events at your coffee shops.  Open mic comedy night, poetry and play readings, acoustic musicians, or anything else you can think of.
  8. Two of your coffee shops are in Lexington, KY – do you have anything near University of Kentucky?  If so, anyway you can promote on campus, or bring campus celebrities (like college football or basketball stars) in for a special evening event, would be awesome, and bring a big crowd.

Those are just a few ideas. I highly recommend geo-targeting online, and lots of local, local, local marketing and PR. Hope this helps!  Starbuck’s is a killer for awesome local java huts, but Starbuck’s is the same everywhere.  Be different, unique, and fun.

Jillian's Currently Reading: Guerrilla Marketing, 4th edition: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business
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