We know how much it takes to open a coffee shop. Our students pour their hearts, sweat, time, and savings into bringing their coffee shop visions to life. After so much work, there’s nothing more satisfying than turning on the “Open” sign on your brand new business. Unless nobody comes in, that is.
Before you can successfully open a coffee shop (and every day after), you’ll rely on effective marketing tactics to help you bring customers through your door. There are many effective strategies for marketing your business. What works for a mom and pop shop in a small town might be different than a multi-location coffee shop business in a larger city. Wherever you fall, this list of coffee shop marketing strategies can help you start connecting with your ideal customers.
Coffee Shop Marketing Strategies
Build Your Brand
Your brand is the way people perceive and experience your business–the look, feel, values, and personality your loyal customers connect to.
Many elements of your business influence your brand:
- Core values
- Unique point of view
- Customer experience
- Website and other digital platforms
- Coffee shop design and aesthetic
- Tone of voice in written content
Before a cohesive brand can exist, you must understand the demographics, psychographics, values, and interests of your ideal customer. Then, create a coffee shop concept (and brand) that intersects with your own passions. With a concept in place, you’re ready to start thinking about the name, personality, and visual brand identity.
Because good branding is key to marketing success, we recommend investing in a real branding agency to help you build the foundations. (A bad logo could be the difference that causes a potential customer to drive right by.) Share your concept and business plan with the agency. They will utilize a brand strategist, a creative director, and multiple designers to build branding materials. They’ll help you effectively communicate your brand values and positioning visually to potential customers.
Of course, a branding agency will cost more up front than a graphic designer friend or a logo website. Don’t spare expenses in this department. Your brand is one of your most valuable assets. It can make a huge difference in your coffee shop marketing success.
Connect to Your Customers on Social Media
Social media is one of the most effective places coffee shops can meet their audiences. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and others are great places for coffee shops to:
- Share pictures of your coffee shop and menu items
- Promote new products
- Announce coffee shop events and news
- Engage with customers directly
- Entertain and engage customers with videos, tutorials, humor, and photos
- Share a behind the scenes look at your employees and culture
- Reinforce your brand
One of our former students, Nelson Lewis from Coffee on the Red, credits social media for helping build his loyal following. Coffee on the Red opened in the middle of the pandemic. They had to create an identity, reach new clients, and share constant updates at a time when many people were staying home.
Just months later, the Coffee on the Red Facebook page has nearly 7,000 followers (and counting). They grew their following by posting funny employee videos, delicious drink photos, memes, and even “sock updates” from one of the baristas. Here’s a taste of their posts:
We can learn from Coffee on the Red’s social media success.
Social media tips:
- Post consistently to grow faster. Coffee on the Red posts on Facebook every day, sometimes multiple times a day.
- Choose the right platform. You don’t need to have a huge presence on every social media platform to be successful. Coffee on the Red knows who their ideal customers are, and determined Facebook was the best place to reach them.
- Develop a voice consistent to your brand. Coffee on the Red’s posts are goofy and fun. What voice captures your brand? Sophisticated? Health-focused? Family-friendly? Make sure your posts help showcase who you are.
- Be responsive. Coffee on the Red responds directly to nearly every comment they receive. They send commenters funny memes, answer direct questions, and tag customers they know. Engagement helps to build community and connection among your followers.
- Mix it up. Coffee on the Red alternates between high quality coffee photos and videos, customer features, memes, events, and casual, funny videos of the staff and founders. It keeps the Facebook page fresh and followers engaged.
Now that your social media platforms are established, grow your reach through influencer marketing. Influencers are people in your industry, geography, or niche demographic with large online followings. For a coffee shop, influencers could come in all forms: food bloggers, local leaders, news anchors, even a well-known student athlete.
Give influencers a reason to visit your coffee shop and share how much they love it. You can do this by inviting them to an event, sending them merchandise, or simply giving them all-star treatment whenever they come. The most important thing to know about this strategy is that influencers are people. Just like your loyal customers, they are much more likely to promote brands they genuinely love. To be successful with influencer marketing, you’ve got to have a product and a brand people are excited to share.
If someone is looking for great coffee nearby, you know right where they’ll go: Google. Beyond your social media platforms and website, there are other strategic places coffee shops can market themselves online. Google My Business and Yelp are two important platforms to claim. These platforms allow you to:
- Be found online
- Post hours and schedule
- Share your location
- Share your menu
- Showcase photos
- Collect and manage user reviews
It’s free to claim your Google My Business account, and it will vastly increase your online visibility. Business owners can also manage a free listing on Yelp, or boost their presence through paid ads and page upgrades.
Word of Mouth and Networking
It might feel like all marketing is digital now, but there is no substitution for good, old fashioned networking. Whether you’re opening your coffee shop in a small town or large city, get to know your community. Not only will it help you spread the word about your business, but it will also grant you access to small business resources like great contractors, local events, or skilled employees.
We recommend joining your local Chamber of Commerce, entrepreneur groups, or small business groups. Get to know your “neighbors” in nearby businesses. Do you share likeminded customers? There may be opportunities to partner to bring more traffic into your shop. Engage with local groups, organizations, or schools to better understand and serve the people around you. While you’re out networking, bring flyers, business cards, or other merchandise that promotes your coffee shop.
Events and Experiences
You’re not just selling a cup of coffee, you’re creating an experience every time a new customer walks into your business. Understand that lifestyle you’re selling to your customers, and create events and experiences that tie seamlessly into their day. Depending on your coffee shop brand and concept, events could include:
- Art installations from local artists or groups
- Yoga classes
- Library book readings for kids
- Study sessions for college students
- Live music
- Coffee and wine pairings
- Corporate networking events
- Trivia and game nights
- Coffee Cuppings or Latte Art throw downs
- Fundraisers for local nonprofits
The events you host can bring new customers in your door. And, events are a great way to reinforce your brand to your loyal customers. Here are some events from Carve Surf and Coffee in alignment to the local surf lifestyle brand they’ve created:
Continue Your Coffee Shop Marketing Education
Learn more about coffee shop marketing, creating a viable concept, writing a business plan, choosing a location, and more in our 3-Day Coffee Business Master Class. We teach you how to open a coffee shop, step-by-step. Already own or manage a coffee shop? Check out our barista training classes, coffee shop manager training course, and more. Or, reach out directly to learn about our coffee business consulting services.