Four Marketing Lessons Extracted From One Of My Favorite Places: The Coffee Shop

Published February 23, 2015

Everyone Loves Coffee

I don’t know about you, but I can stop in a coffee shop around town at just about any time of the day and see the majority of tables filled with customers from many walks of life. Twenty something’s with cappuccinos in hand, staring at their laptops; soccer moms in gym clothes, catching up on their Facebook and soy lattes; dapper business types conversing over the drink du jour - they're all in the mix.

Then there is the constant flow of people, in and out, seemingly with only one thing in common: they all love that coffee shop.

Here is where my marketing mind kicks in and I think to myself, "Wouldn’t it be great if every business could grab, hold on to, and engage with their customers like a coffee shop does?" And, "How can one place capture such a diverse group of people?"

No matter what business you’re in, you’re seeking to court and engage customers. So with curious eyes and caffeine in my veins, here are four observations I brewed up that can help you win and retain customers.

ONE. Don’t Stop At Just One Solution

Good coffee is clearly the primary draw for a coffee shop customer, but the best coffee shops go beyond just handing you some joe. They provide a comfortable space and free WiFi. A place where people can sit down, relax, talk, work, etc.

The patron’s needs often expand over time and the astute proprietor accommodates and innovates by providing tables, chairs, internet, a comfortable climate and a stylish atmosphere. Their solution isn't just caffeine - it's facilitating community.

There are many customer needs and if your business can provide more than one relevant solution to your customer you’ll be more likely to increase your opportunity for growth with that customer. Providing multiple solutions in one place and anticipating a variety of different needs encourages your customers to stick around. It also communicates that you understand their range of needs/wants and respect their time.

The business professionals will need a table for multiple people to converse and take notes. The hurried commuter will need fast moving lines and quick, friendly service. The aspiring novelist will need a window to stare out of and a comfy seat. Think about your business and what solutions you provide. Take a minute and list out the solutions your business offers. Is there room to add more relevant solutions for your customers?

BE BOLD. Ask your customers what other pain points you may be able to ease for them.

TWO. Be Relevant

Let’s face it, things are moving quickly. There’s always room for growth and advancement. Don’t lament for the way things use to be, embrace new ideas, and innovation. An advancing business moves with the needs of its customers without giving up relinquishing the principles of the company.

Coffee shops are great when it comes to change and relevancy. There’s always a special “drink of the day”, which gives the customer information about what beverages are available seasonally. It also lets the shop offer something new while they gather data on what new drinks are trending and might be worth adding to the permanent menu. Testing new products/services drives innovation and can both reveal the unexpected and underscore which of your staple offerings keep your customers coming back for more.

At some point lattes went from regular to vanilla to bourbon horchata with sea salt caramel whip. It’s unlikely that these ideas were simply pulled out of a hat and are most certainly a product of research and market testing. Both driven by “healthy” competition.

THREE. Make It Personal

Peoples' taste in coffee are wide ranging. Some like it extra hot, or with sweetener or disguised as a milkshake with almost zero coffee-like attributes altogether. Coffee shops truly make an effort to cater to personal tastes. It doesn’t even need to involve actually changing their product. For instance, I like it when the person making my drink asks if I would like room for cream. I don’t drink coffee with cream, but I like that they ask.

Customization according to interests in local markets is a way to create brand and customer loyalty and increase your sales. The best baris­tas and cashiers rec­og­nize reg­u­lars and recall and accommodate for their tastes - creating a strong positive connection between the customer and service provider.

Why would I risk going to the café down the street and having to explain my weird preferences when my barista knows exactly how I like my triple-shot Americano with salted goat’s milk foam, gingerbread whip and just a hint of drinking vinegars for balance. No judgement.

When customers are loyal to your brand - you can also flip this around and say when your brand is loyal to its customer - an environment more conducive to upselling is created. Knowing your customer and solidifying a rapport with them uniquely positions your business to identify and provide additional solutions. It also makes them more likely to say yes, because you took the time to build a relationship.

FOUR. Have Fun and Lose The Apathy

My favorite coffee shops are brimming with life and a diverse range of people and conversations. You can feel the vibrant exchange of ideas resonating off the walls. In short, they are fun, energizing places to be. They help me shake off whatever doldrums I may have entered with and what’s more…give apathy the dodge.

Whatever you may be selling, nothing kills the mood like apathy. Create an environment that is attractive and fun and fill it with folks who love what they do. Both apathy and genuine passion are infectious. You can tell almost from the moment you enter a place whether or not your expectations are going to be met or not. Your customers are surmising the same about your business with each interaction.

Get The Right Blend

When examined closely, you’ll find that coffee shops aren’t really doing anything special. They are just offering a customer experience that blends the right amount of solutions, relevance, personal care and fun.

Perhaps your business might not offer something as universally beloved as the blessed bean and a cozy place to sit, but these observations can be applied to your business to make your customer’s experience that much better.

Do you need help developing your brand and extending your marketing capabilities with a well-balanced blend of solutions, insights, accountability and fun? It's gotta be fun, right? We'd love to help you get there.


Sources Cited

Feature Image Credit: Zack Stack

Background Image Credit: David Young via Compfight