Is marketing meant to be an expensive, complicated, mystical art form? Of course not. Small businesses are at their best when they keep it real & make genuine connections. For most coffee businesses, the foundation of sales is regular customers. If you don’t have customers coming back regularly, then the numbers simply don’t work. Who are these regulars? People who live or work in the area. What do they need? Consistently tasty coffee & fast service. Ok, got those locked down…good, let’s get onto phase 2:

1) Free is better than discount

Getting people to change their regular habits is hard, even if what you’re selling is really good. Give them a reason to change their routine: free coffee. Why not discount? 1) it’s not a strong enough motivator, 2) It implies that what you’re selling isn’t worth full price. How? Get some free coffee cards printed (basic self-serve business card printing is super cheap) and target people most likely to be regulars: local businesses, schools, medical facilities or anywhere that that people make regular trips to and from during the week. while you’re at it, introduce yourself to the local…

2) Real Estate Agents

Particularly if you’re in a neighbourhood area, real estate agents are about as locally connected as you can get. They are also on the lookout for ways to reward their clients (coffee vouchers) and they do a lot of letterbox drops…it’s a win-win.

3) Do something remarkable (or Instagramable)

Not everything you do is going to be worth taking about - but it’s not as hard as you might think to be exceptional in one or two areas. Here’s an example: In a business I was involved with 5 years ago, we decided to bottle our own iced coffee as an alternative to the sugary cartons available in petrol stations. We had some labels made up and sourced glass bottles. The designer put the concept on her blog and within a couple of weeks we had journalists (local & international!) writing articles about it before the shop had even opened - a number of places are doing this now, but back then it was remarkable… This is where the internet can be your friend, social media can be a great way to leverage word-of-mouth - but you have to give them something worth talking about While we’re talking about social media…

4) Facebook

As much as I hate to say it, for now, Facebook ads are the cheapest and easiest paid advertising out there. why? because you can target exactly who you need to be talking to and avoid everyone else. that’s the problem with traditional media, you waste most of what you spend. For a local business, that’s gold. target only people who live or work in your immediate area, and tell them about something interesting/different/personal you’re doing (see #3) - avoid writing it like an ad.

5) Community

Get involved. local schools, community & church groups. Its not about getting your ‘brand’ on everything, it’s about building relationships. People support (and talk about) people they know. You can help with prizes for fundraisers, reward local heroes (teachers, police, nurses, etc), but the most important part is meeting people and making connections.

What about loyalty cards?

Loyalty cards have the right idea - encouraging people to become regulars. but they are now so common, that in most cases, they have lost the effect completely…and they still cost you 10% (or more) in product cost. Maybe that money is better spent on surprising people in other ways.