Ideas & Resources for Marketing your Coffee Shop: Succeeding at the Daily Grind

Marketing a Coffee Shop

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Competitive is an understatement when trying to describe the state of today’s coffee shop industry. According to the U.S. Small Business Development Center, the U.S. coffee shop industry contained more than 22,000 stores as of 2016, with a combined annual revenue of $12 billion, and an expectation to reach more than $46 billion by 2021. With such a big boom in the number of cafes in recent years, the need for local coffee shops to distinguish themselves amongst the sea of competitors has become essential. But how can smaller coffee enterprises stand out besides serving up the best cups of joe in town?

One of the biggest advantages coffee shops have over other types of service industry establishments (restaurants, breweries, etc.) is the unique ability to market themselves. Over the years, coffee shops have grown to become meaningful areas of congregation within their communities; a place where regulars spend hours either typing away on their laptops or catching up with neighbors over fresh cups of coffee. The coffee shop is more than merely a necessity retail store; it’s become synonymous with creativity and socializing, and the way they market themselves should reflect these characteristics. Take a look at all the intricate and successful ways coffee shops can tap into the community and broaden their audiences with these effective marketing tactics:   

Ideas & Resources for Marketing your Coffee Shop: Succeeding at the Daily Grind

Building Loyalty

Arguably the biggest factor into retaining repeat customers is coming up with original ways to establish loyalty. Over the years, the most popular method used by coffee shops to build customer loyalty have been the standard punch card system, where cafes bank on their coffee being so good that someone is willing to return to their store ten times just to get a free cup of joe.

In addition to punch cards and coupons, try some other ways to build loyalty within your customer base. Start a referral program, where anytime a patron refers a new customer to your store, offer them a free cup of coffee. Don’t be hesitant to collaborate with your regulars, letting customers vote on any drink specials of the day, or be open to their suggestions on naming any new drinks for your menu. The more customers feel engaged with your shop, the stronger the bond will grow between them and your cafe.  

Social Media Incentives    

The role that social media plays into marketing is a crucial one, but especially pertains to coffee shops, as their clients tend to be more technologically advanced and socially engaged. However, successfully tapping into social media marketing requires more than Facebook status updates regarding daily specials or the occasional Instagram post of a lovely-looking latte. Utilizing the popular social media services requires getting creative to evoke customer reaction and participation, as well as being sure not to overload anyone with constant content on their feeds. Be selective with your social media usage, and make sure there’s incentive for patrons to also get involved in the action. Photo contests are an easy way to provide customers with a chance to contribute to your social media pages, allowing them to promote your business with their own creative vision, as well as get them excited about potentially winning a free prize. Daily trivia or random fact posts are also simple opportunities to keep your followers engaged, and be sure to add subtle incentives such as reminding customers they can get a percentage off of their bill if they mention the trivia post.

Another way to increase social media engagement with customers is getting democratic with them on Facebook or Twitter. Create polls where followers can vote on the latest possible menu additions, which not only helps them feel empowered but also gives you insight into what your clientele is looking for. The biggest thing to keep in mind when approaching the question of what level of social media activity should you produce is one word: consistency. Overdo the Instagram photo posts, and you could turn off customers who get tired of constantly seeing coffee pictures on their feed. Rarely post, and you can kiss any progress of customer engagement goodbye. A few posts a day on your social media platforms of choice should suffice in retaining followers and keeping them intrigued with any updates.

Visual Representation

Think about when you’re in a new city and in dire need of some java. What is it that catches your eye and convinces you to walk in and give a cafe a chance? The visual aesthetic you create for the exterior and interior of your cafe speaks volumes into how it will resonate into your customer’s’ psyche the next time they’re in the mood for coffee. As much importance as quality products and social media presence are, nothing denies the fact that appearance is essential into capturing passerby’s attentions. For starters, many people associate cafes as a hub for creativity, so if there are any artists amongst your staff, be sure to utilize their talents with indoor and outdoor chalk signs featuring immaculate and colorful displays of welcome.

Giving your coffee shop a theme of sorts is also another way to distinguish yourself amongst the sea of neighboring cafes. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box when brainstorming possible ambiances for your store. Sometimes the right amount of randomness is enough to attract attention, such as a southwestern vibe in your midwestern cafe, complete with cactuses, bull skulls, and license plates hung up on the walls, or maybe a fifties Grease-esque theme, with a jukebox, framed poodle skirts and vinyl records, and for sale leather jackets with your coffee shop’s logo embroidered on the back. This is also an opportunity to gauge customer feedback into what they would change about the look of your cafe.    

Active Community Participation

Establishing yourself as a coffee shop for the good people of the neighborhood requires active participation on your cafe’s behalf to demonstrate respect and admiration for the community. An easy way to market your brand and separate your shop from the rest of the pack is to get more involved with any community activities or festivals taking place throughout the year. Any volunteer opportunities you can partake in should be taken advantage of, as no good deed goes unnoticed, especially in smaller communities. If there are any neighborhood block parties on the horizon, look into setting up a tent or stand for the event and prepare a variety of free samples and small prizes that could catch the attention of those around town who are unaware of your store.

Collaborate with other local businesses by setting up cross promotional possibilities, such as a tenth caller to the local college radio station getting free coffee, or providing coffee mugs for nearby offices, so your logo will be spread far and wide. Know of a doughnut shop close by that serves generic bland coffee to its customers? Reach out to them to see if they’ll sell your coffee in their store and vice versa. You should also encourage customers to spread the word of local gatherings or happenings inside your coffee shop, by setting up a community board where patrons can see everything that’s coming up in their city. If you consistently find yourself with an excess of supplies, coffee, or food, see if there’s a local shelter or pantry you could donate to. Little acts such as these that encourage community participation will help give your store a sense of identity beyond serving incredible coffee.

Building Buzz

Sometimes capturing more attention around town requires a little assistance from local press. You should never be shy to reach out to any food and beverage critics that are known around town, as one positive review from a local newspaper or magazine could steadily boost awareness of your shop. But you don’t have to appease solely the big guns when it comes to the town’s press. Research if there are any local bloggers who seemingly have steady followings, and invite them to review the latest java concoctions you’ve whipped up. Nowadays, the biggest influences on the community tend to be those without a journalism degree and are armed with nothing but their laptop and a finger on the pulse of the community.

Creating your own events is another way to gain attention from local press around the area. You can orchestrate a bake sale to take place outside your coffee shop, where community members will bring their best cakes, pies, or cookies, and all coffee and beverages will be provided by your staff. Getting involved with the local music scene is another way to reach new audiences and build buzz around the neighborhood. Hosting a weekly open mic will always get your name in the paper for upcoming events, and booking occasional concerts with popular local acts can also capture more attention from the press. The more your coffee shop’s name continues to pop up in the paper, the more inclined locals will be to stop by the store and see what all the buzz is about.

Unique Memorabilia

Promoting brand awareness doesn’t have to be as thorough as organizing local events or managing active social media pages. Sometimes successful marketing is as simple as creating a striking logo that draws eyes and raises intrigue. Once you’ve found your distinct and appealing logo, draft up some T-shirt ideas with local artists or printing companies, and sell them at the store. Nothing is as underrated as an awesome T-shirt when it comes to marketing, as one, “Where’d you get that shirt?” question can lead to a new customer. And don’t stop at just shirts. Coffee mugs, hooded sweaters, even frisbees or koozies are little accessories that can make a big difference when it comes to spreading your logo all over town.   

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“To say [our logo mugs] are quite awesome would be an understatement. Fantastic job, Thank you. When we start running low, you will definitely hear back from us! I will certainly refer others as well. Thanks for the great work.”


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