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Coffee Culture: Seattle-Style Marketing

All of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte commercials got us thinking about it.

The popularity of visiting coffee shops for specialty brews spans multiple generations and diverse income levels. Coffee is big business. And there’s a lesson to be learned from the local Starbucks and hipster coffeehouse on the corner.

Coffee Date with Data
It’s a truth more bitter than coffee, but marketing is so much harder now than it used to be. The trouble is that advertisers are relentless. Consumers struggle to escape the constant content they’re pummeled with.

To offset your prospects’ natural propensity to avoid your marketing, make it worth their while. Loyal sippers are often mailed coupons for their favorite drink. Coffee houses keep track of such preferences through rewards programs and data mining. For your part, pay attention to repeat customers’ orders. Can you upsell or increase the frequency of their visits by building on their favorites? Think reminders and incentives.

Flip of the Switch
Consider this: with technology like smartphones and tablets your prospects easily switch back and forth between the offline and online world.

For example, one of your prospects may meet a friend at the local coffee shop. While waiting for their lattes they’ll likely whip out their smartphones to show each other their latest Pinterest pins. They meet for coffee to spend time together—they’re tired of chatting on Facebook. But inevitably they return to bonding via social media.

The takeaway? Connect with prospects and customers both on and offline. Make yourself available on Facebook, but don’t neglect customers that prefer personalized direct mail and a welcoming storefront.

How Sweet It Is
Not every Starbucks regular prefers their coffee black (in fact, we bet few do). So how does a coffee house find customers in consumers who hate coffee? By marketing alternative concoctions. Salted Carmel Mocha, anyone?

Let’s say you’re a florist with a business that booms during wedding season. How do you make money in the off-season, or turn sworn singles into customers? Advertise specials for “just because” flowers, or print posters displaying your beautiful birthday-themed bouquets.

The same principle applies to services offered. Coffee houses don’t sell hot beverages. That wouldn’t make a brand loyalist out of anyone. Starbucks, for one, sells instant day-brighteners, a quiet place to study and affordable luxury (no matter how fleeting). So, as a florist you might sell the rekindling of old flames, simple pleasures or icebreakers.

It’s possible to spend too much time thinking about your business. Focus on your industry all the time and you’ll run out of inspiration. So take a step back and savor someone else’s strategy. This week, consider coffee house culture and brew up a fresh idea for yourself.