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Five Cheap Ways to Market Your Coffee Shop

Guest post by Jack Groot

Marketing is so much more than an ad, a brochure or a TV commercial. Marketing encompasses, and is the most successful, when it includes categories such as guerrilla marketing and connecting with your community. Go ahead and spend money on advertising if you must, but learn and employ strategies such as these and you’ll benefit more, spend less and see the effects multiply for years to come.

Below are 5 easy and effective ways for you to market your business in real and tangible ways and get your community to know you exist.

Create a Coffee Raid Program

Coffee Raids are best defined as you going out and ‘raiding the neighborhood’, but instead of taking, you give: products, information and coupons. Look on a map of the business area around your store and highlight all of the businesses in that area. Choose one or two a week, call them in advance and tell them you would like to supply them with coffee and muffins on a particular day, no charge, just to get them familiar with what you offer. Find out how many employees they have and take coffee and muffins for the crew. Include menus and a couple of coupons good for 50% off their next catering job. Viola! New catering clients for the picking.

Connect with a local radio station

Determine which radio station either your customers tend to listen to, one that really fits with your business, or one whose local DJ comes to your place. Go to the station with a box of coffee or two and a half dozen muffins early in the morning and drop them off as a gift for the crew. Do this semi-regularly without looking for anything in return and see if they don’t start talking about your great coffee and your business. Don’t forget to staple a business card or menu to the box of muffins.

Donate leftovers to your local mission, pantry or shelter 

Giving what would be less-than-desirable away to those whom it would actually be a treat is a great way to give back to the community. It also brings with it the goodwill that being generous engenders. It really costs you little or nothing and markets your store while helping others. You may think that those at a local mission are not your target customers, but when they get back on their feet they may be. And it is very appreciated by the staff and volunteers at such places who are often your exact target.

Put up a community board in your store 

Before I did this I knew one thing – I did not want a board where everyone could pin their business card or lost dog or car selling ads. I envisioned a board where anything related to the community, anything non-profit, church, school or civic related could be posted for our customers to see. The board in our store has clear “non-commercial, must be approved” verbiage on it and anyone violating the policy has their poster removed and trashed. If you are wondering how this is a marketing tool, remember that anything that makes you more a part of the social fabric of your community also makes you both more visible and appreciated. And the reward is increased business.

Speak at your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary or other club or group

Marketing entails getting information about your business into the hands of people who may want it. It also entails being visible and a personal reminder that you are in business, part of the business community and eager to serve. When you speak choose a topic that is interesting to the group, don’t just make it a commercial about your store and products. Show them or tell them something that will improve their ability to enjoy coffee. As a matter of fact there is a reverse effect in blatant promotion vs. not promoting. Some people will resent others using such platforms as simply an ad, but the less someone talks about their business often the more it piques people’s interest.

Marketing and advertising only get people to your store once. It is what happens after that which determines whether or not they become regular customers. Great coffee, smiling employees, fresh baked goods, inviting atmosphere and clean bathrooms are what make repeat customers. Also, make sure that any products that you take to advertise your business are ones that hold well. You may sell fresh croissants, but unless those receiving them eat them within two hours it may be better take them fresh chocolate muffins. Limit the coffee options you deliver, or possibly take specific orders to ensure the best experience for those receiving.

Advertising doesn’t have to break the bank, and being in the coffee business, or any business for that matter, is all about relationships. Your support of your community will generate their support of you.

Jack Groot is a coffee shop owner, educator and consultant who currently runs JP’s Coffee and Espresso Bar in Holland, Mich., The Midwest Barista School and OnTrack Coffee Consulting


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