Coffee Marketing via Time Tested Tips

All entrepreneurs and small business owners have to learn this marketing mantra: “Everything is Marketing and Marketing is Everything.”

Marketing can be summed up as the art of figuring out the best combination of graphics, headlines, offers and delivery methods to get the highest response rates. A marketing plan must be part of every business’ operational foundations, but it is often overlooked in the coffee industry.

Whether you’re just starting out in the coffee industry or you’ve been established for a while and just need to increase sales, you’ll find this list of coffee marketing tips an indispensable value. Don’t miss the BONUS IDEA at the end of this article.

  1. Naming: This can be one of the most important parts of any new business venture. Naming creates character and personality or lack thereof. Some key factors to always keep in mind when naming – be original, avoid tricky spelling and difficult pronunciations, and avoid words that might limit future growth (i.e. Delicious Red is better than Washington Apples). Use conventional standards when naming products to avoid customer confusion, but get creative with signature items and specials. Please don’t name your products in a manner that might confuse the customer (like calling a flavored latte a Caramel Macchiato –SBUX).
  2. Branding: Get advice on color theory when creating your color schemes and reflect your chosen colors in your logo. Using a consistent color scheme in your logo, marketing materials, products, store, and website will create a sense of professional dependability and instill subliminal trust within your customer’s minds. Have a Brand & Style Guide created that lists all colors, dimensions, fonts, graphics, keywords, layouts and styles that must be followed to ensure consistent branding. You absolutely MUST have a website, even if it’s just a one-page information site, companies without websites nowadays appear archaic and untrustworthy. A great frugal way to extend your branding is to have custom printed labels that you can stick on everything from bags to cups to marketing materials.
  3. Quality: This includes hiring employees based on ability and personality then continually evaluating and developing their progress through testing and training. Making sure that you have the best ingredients, stored in optimal conditions, prepared to exact specifications to consistently deliver the most delicious products. Ask your customers for feedback to ensure that the quality meets and exceeds their expectations and show your sincerity in appreciating their patronage.
  4. Loyalty: Customers expect you to have a loyalty program in place. They want to know that by giving you repeat business they will get something in return. The absolute best way to have one is through software that is tied into your cash register/terminal and functions via a barcode/swipe-card or by telephone number input, second best would be through a stand-alone merchant terminal, and third best would be with a marked/punched “club card” (i.e. buy 10 drinks, get 1 free). You should always use the opportunity to celebrate your loyal customers birthdays by giving them a free item … your cost is low but your returns will be high. One of the best ways to deepen your customer’s loyalty is to remember and use their names and their order specifics (i.e. Joe likes an ice, triple-shot, large, soy, caramel, latte and a fruit parfait, to go). See if your local Chamber of Commerce would be willing to sponsor a neighborhood discount/loyalty club for the residents and businesses within their zone.
  5. Databases & Direct Mail: Using CRM software (ACT! by Sage is good) you can notate birthdays and anniversaries of customers and have alerts set to notify you in advance so you can do something special in celebration of such events and deepen your customer relationships. You can also often purchase or rent a list of residents within a certain radius of your business that you can import into your database and then send out direct mail ads and coupons to them. Often your local chamber of commerce will have such a list for sending out occasionally required notifications to area residents. For an extra fee, many online printers will import your list, print your marketing piece, apply bulk postage, and then mail it out for you. Postcards are one of your best direct mail marketing tools.
  6. Special Events: If you’ve got the space for it, then hosting special events like art shows are an excellent way to draw in crowds and support your community at the same time. Provide your space for business meetings, school groups, parent/teacher conferences … if you’ve got the space, get creative in your use of it. Host a monthly seminar on coffee or tea tips, or invite your customers for input on what they would like to learn about. If you have a local Farmer’s Market, you might want to staff a coffee-cart there or you could provide free coffee to the other merchants if they let you advertise in their booth.
  7. Media & Press: When you do have special events or host community functions, make sure that you send out press releases to your local business newspapers and magazines. It’s a smart idea to provide a few of the local morning talk shows (radio and television) with your product (plus some branded mugs) for free and they might mention you over the air. You can even ask them if they are willing to barter a 10 to 30 second weekly ad mention in exchange for supplying their staff with coffee.
  8. Promotional Products: Once you’ve moved your customer through the loyalty cycle from a buyer into an advocate, they’ll be ready to start actively promoting your brand themselves. Whenever you market with promotional products, make sure to include your business info: logo, name, address, email, phone, and website. At a minimum, you’ll want to offer branded –coffee, coffee sleeves (javasnuggies), hats, mugs (ceramic & travel), pens (customers always ask for them anyway), and t-shirts. You might also consider offering branded –calendars, eco-friendly tote bags, gifts, keychains, mouse pads, pocket notebooks, refrigerator magnets, stress toys, USB drives and other promotional products that work well for your target audience.
  9. POS Materials: Many of your vendors will have their own marketing and promotional materials they’ve invested in that you can use for free in your business. These include: ceiling danglers/mobiles, counter cards, display racks, lapel buttons, mail inserts, menu clips, posters, shelf barkers, table tents, window decals, etcetera. If you’re a Roaster/Wholesaler then you should invest in POS materials that you can give out to your customers to use in their businesses; to make it more economical and use it as a reward tool, you could charge your customers the cost of the materials and then offer it free if they spend x amount of dollars on your products and services.
  10. Social Media: Social networking has become all important in our everyday, fast-paced, interconnected, microcosmic world. We use it to connect with friends, relatives, employees, and like-minded individuals, groups, and organizations. Social Media refers to the different forms that this networking may take and how it may be utilized to benefit multitudes of people. A company should have at least one major form of social networking (like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, etc.) and a blog/website that utilizes social media built into it (like a chat room, events calendar, forum, friends feed, status feed, etc.). You should read the excellent entry of Wikipedia-Social Media.
  11. Super Saver: Create a joint venture in your area with complimentary businesses and have everyone create a coupon. Compile the coupons into a calendar or small booklet, have thousands printed and mailed (and handed out) to local businesses/residents, and split the total costs among the participants. Depending on the number of participants and costs, you could run this marketing campaign weekly, monthly or yearly.
  12. Happy Hour: “Coffee Quickies” –take your slowest hour in sales and turn it into the “Free 12oz Drip Coffee or 12oz Tea” for an hour event. Customers love this and the word usually spreads quickly and virally and gets new customers to at least try your products. You could do this daily or limit it to one day a week. If you only do it one day a week, then to celebrate special occasions you could run it for an entire week (like Christmas, Spring Break, Yearly Opening Anniversary, etc.)

BONUS IDEA: One of the most successful promotions I’ve ever created was to canvas the local area and hand out a “THAP FLAP” to businesses and residents. A THAP FLAP is a small packet of enough pre-ground coffee to make a pot (THAP = Take Home A Pot) attached to a brochure, flier, or menu (FLAP). If you have wholesale customers (who resale your products) you can expand this marketing campaign into a “lumpy” mailing with a THAP of roasted whole beans, A THAP of ground coffee, and a THAP of un-roasted green beans, along with your regular marketing packet.