Coffee shop marketing sure can get pricey—but can it also be done well on a budget? Likely the biggest name in coffee chains (yes, that one) spent a reported $416.7 million on advertising in 2022.
Seeing stats like that, local and regional coffee shop owners might feel like there’s nothing that can be done to compete. I mean, we don’t know about you, but there’s not an extra $416.7 million sitting in the Dilworth Coffee annual operating budget, just begging to be spent on marketing.
But here’s the thing: In our years of brewing (coffee), we’ve picked up a few things about connecting with consumers and building customer bases. And if you ask us, a marketing strategy for coffee shop smarties doesn’t have to cost millions. There’s a lot you can do to market your macchiatos without draining your entire budget—and some things you can do without spending a dime.
Optimize Your Online Presence To Drive Web & In-Store Traffic
You don’t have to be a digital whiz kid to turn your website into a smart marketing tool. Your shop’s website is more than just an online calling card—when planned correctly, the content on your site can attract digital traffic, which, in turn, can drive in-store foot traffic. To do this:
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly, easy to read on small screens, and convenient for coffee lovers looking for a cup of joe on the go.
- Optimize your website for local traffic and research search engine optimization (SEO) best practices like building key terms into your website content and mentioning unique local and regional terms and phrases.
- Set up individual landing pages for each of your locations if you’re serving up coffee in more than one spot.
- Claim your Google business listing, keep it current with updated store hours, and link it to your website and social media profiles—and don’t forget to do the same for sites like Yelp.
- Share details about deals, post pictures, and build a presence on social media that feels personal and unique to your brand.
The Host with the Most: Forge Community Connections In-Shop
Your shop has a very specific—and free—marketing tool that big, nationwide chains don’t have: Your existing connection to your community. You can partner with like-minded local businesses and organizations to host special events in your shop and attract a larger portion of your target customer base to walk through your doors for the first time. While this should look different based on your location and brand identity, you may consider the following:
- Fundraiser events for community foundations and nonprofit organizations
- Outdoor summer music series
- Local vintage store pop-up shops
Events with food trucks and tastings
- DJs, live music, concerts, and cabarets
- Pour and paint nights, art shows, or DIY craft events
Lean Into Loyalty Programs and Encourage Repeat Business
Loyalty programs are essential in the coffee shop world. Your shop’s loyalty card doesn’t have to be complicated—it can be as analog as a punch card to reward customers with a free cup after a certain number of visits.
But if you’ve already got a digital POS, you can take your loyalty programs and incentives to a whole new level – tracking dollar amounts and offering free products or sending emails and texts to share promotions with loyalty members.
Here’s the thing about coffee shop loyalty programs: They work. Increasing your customer retention rates by just 5 percent can boost your profits considerably—to the tune of a 25 to 95 percent raise in profits. What’s more, your regulars give you a more reliable cash flow and can spend up to 67 percent more than new customers.
Digital loyalty programs can be a huge part of this. These frictionless programs mean your customers don’t have to hang onto punch cards or fumble to find the card in their wallet or purse—and one shop reported their total transactions increased by 16 percent. These digital programs also give you a huge gift—data. This data can help you better understand customer buying habits, which you can use to refine all of your marketing efforts.
(Do) Make Your Text & Online Marketing Messaging Personal
Secretly, we all want to be recognized. That’s probably why 71 percent of consumers value personalization from their favorite brands. If you already have a customer loyalty program in place, you can use this information to deliver personalized emails and text messages for coffee shop marketing.
Personalization can (and should) go way beyond including a customer’s name in a text or email. Do they have a favorite order? Do they get a jumpstart on the day by picking up a flat white before the sun comes up—or do they stop by after lunch to ward off the dreaded afternoon slump with a jolt of caffeine and a treat from the bakery case? You can use your customer loyalty programs and sales data to provide tailored campaigns and personalized offers.
It’s helpful to curate this kind of customization if your sales data and your customer data live in the same place, like your POS.
Encourage Good Reviews to Inspire New Business
Reviews are important to any local business, but this is especially true in restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops. A long list of great reviews inspires trust in your shop and your coffee. How do you get a bunch of 5-star reviews on sites like Google Reviews and Yelp?
While review-based marketing starts with exceptional coffee (We know a guy) and stellar service, you can take things a step further by incentivizing customers to post honest reviews of their experience by offering a discount. While you can’t explicitly solicit positive reviews, you can provide a dollar or two off of an Americano, a free flavoring or espresso shot, or even a bakery item at no charge with purchase when a customer posts a review.
Don’t forget to make your review pages welcoming spaces! Keep your Google business profile updated with recent pictures, correct shop hours, links to your website, menu, and online ordering options so customers know what you’re up to. And where possible, respond to Yelp reviews (the good, the bad, and the ugly) with positivity and professionalism. Celebrate the big wins, express gratitude for good reviews, and share how you make it right if things go wrong.
Create Shareable Moments and Post-able Photo Ops
If you set the scene just right, some of your best marketing can come from the people already inside your shop—and for free, no less. A snazzy interior that’s worthy of photographs, latte art poured into eye-catching mugs, and even the right tabletop color that sets off the color of a steamy brew in a beautiful cup can inspire your customers to post a pic from your location, spreading the word about your shop to everyone on their follower list. Think about a feature wall with graphic wallpaper, a whole wall of green plants, groovy, retro tiles, a neon logo, art from local artists, or anything else that highlights what makes your shop unique. The key here? Make sure your shop name shows up in the post in some way. This can mean putting your logo on mugs, saucers, and disposable cups, but it also means setting up location tags for Facebook and Instagram so it’s easy for your guests to find and tag you in their posts. And don’t forget to repost and reshare these customer-generated posts from your shop’s social media accounts. Not only will this foster a sense of community with the original posters, but it might just encourage other customers to tag you in a post during their next visit.
If you’re ready to take this free marketing scheme even further, you might want to consider making a one-time investment in a great photo op. If you’ve got the space, a mural on an exterior wall that matches your brand style isn’t just a permanent billboard; it also beckons to budding social media mavens to snap a pic and say cheese; they’ll spread the word for you.
Dilworth PRO: Coffee Shop Marketing Support You Can Count On
Since our founding, we’ve collected all kinds of knowledge about what makes a successful coffee shop tick, from menus to marketing, operations, pricing, ordering, and more. And that information is just too good not to pass on to our partners. That’s why we do so much more than just roast beans.
(We mean it: Be sure to check out our collections—we’ve got coffee, teas, syrups, sauces, and just about everything you need to stock your shelves and fill your fridge.)
In fact, we’ve shared our expertise with over 1,000 coffee shops. Our biggest takeaway is that the core of the coffee shop experience is about bringing great coffee and your shop’s personality together to create wonderful experiences for your customers—and then spreading the word about it. If your marketing strategy for coffee shop world domination could use some guidance, or you’re looking for some focused consulting, let’s partner up. We offer a whole range of services to coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants (and more!).