by Joseph Molloy September 14, 2022 6 min read
Opening a beautiful coffee shop with delicious food, banging coffee and tremendous service is no longer enough. It never has been. New customers need to know about you so they can visit. Will it be through word of mouth, Instagram or google searches? You need to cover them all and more.
Cafe marketing can seem out of reach to cafe owners. But everything you do markets your cafe in its own way.
A beautiful coffee or a smile to start someone’s day is also marketing. You don’t need to develop a complicated and time-consuming marketing strategy.
Do the basics and then try a few new things. Keep doing what works and try others as time goes by.
Here are a few of our favourite cafe marketing ideas.
Now, I know you’re not a web developer. You don’t need to be and you don’t need to spend lots of money. But you need to own the little piece of the Internet with your name on it. When people search for the name of your cafe, it needs to be at the top.
Get some pretty photos of your shop. Use them on the site and then share them on your social media accounts.
Your online presence needs to be more than just Instagram. A website is an effective way to claim internet real estate and make it work for you. It’s also yours. Instagram and Facebook (and Twitter, TikTok and LinkedIn) are their own platforms and they can (and do) change the rules to suit their own needs.
Google is still how most people find new things, so you need to give Google what it wants. Your website is the best starting point, but you can do more.
Get a Google My Business account. Fill out all the information and keep it up to date. There’s nothing worse than arriving at a place you think will be open to be greeted by closed doors and seats on tables. When you post something on instagram, remember you can (and should) be posting it on Google too.
This helps people find you by name on Google Maps but also in local search. When people search for ‘best coffee near me’ or ‘best sandwiches in such-and-such’ you want to be the answer.
Don’t forget Bing. Setting up and claiming a business profile is quick and easy.
Step outside your cafe and imagine how someone walking or driving by might view it. Will they notice it? Is the name clear and visible from a distance?
An A-frame or chalk board outside can be helpful. (Check with local regulations to see what’s allowed).
Even outdoor furniture and umbrellas send a signal that you are a cafe. Plenty of people will be walking and driving by without knowing you are there. Get their attention.
Google loves reviews. Ask your customers to say nice things about you. Make a sign for your counter with a qr code link right to Google (Google even provides one for you). At our espresso bar, we print cards we can add to orders and display on tables.
Online reviews are a fantastic way of showing potential customers that you are worth spending their precious time and money on. They also give your loyal customers the chance to rave about how much they love you.
While you’re at it, claim your business accounts on different platforms. Trip Advisor might be big in your area, or it might not, but claiming the business tied to your address only takes a few moments. Yelp is worth looking at and ticking off.
Yes, even the bad ones. Critical reviews are your chance to talk to a customer and learn about your business. They can be hard to handle and I never advise that you respond right away. Read the review and come back the next day.
If you write something heated, put it aside and come back the day after. Still angry? Get someone else to respond for you.
Think of your response as a chance to talk to all the other customers (and potential customers) who might be reading. Explain the mistake and offer to make it up to them next time they come in. A free coffee or lunch is often enough to get people back onside.
If the review is done in bad faith, then you might not win them back. Sometimes people want things from your business that you cannot provide. In that case, by responding calmly and clearly, you show anyone reading your effort and attention.
People telling their friends about you will always be one of the best ways to grow. Serving great coffee with terrific service can get people raving to their friends. But you can nudge them along.
Hit up all the local businesses, pop in, introduce yourself and what you offer. You can look at offering free samples or discounts to businesses in the local area. Free coffee is always popular but can send the wrong message if you want to position your brand at the higher end of the market.
We’ve had success with employers trying to lure staff back to the office by offering them free coffee. They pay us for 50 or 100 coffees and their staff claim them when they come in.
Try a flyer drop. Print up a small flyer with your name and address and try a special offer to get people in the door. Walk the streets in the evenings and put them in letter boxes.
When the pandemic hit. We started offering free local delivery within Kensington and Flemington. I walked every street, racing my five-year-old on his scooter to see who could finish their side of the street first. It was a tremendous success and kept our sales up when our wholesale sales were plummeting.
A loyalty card is another idea. People love working their way to free coffee.
We don’t do them as we think excellent coffee is worth paying well for, but it might suit you.
Sponsor a sports team. If you are in a tight-knit local community, then a good way to get your name out can be by working with local teams. It could be through the local school or footy club.
Social media marketing is important, but it’s not everything, most cafes already do a great job. Beautiful pictures on Instagram can help your brand, but they shouldn’t be the only piece of your marketing strategy.
Get a Facebook page, Instagram account and investigate other social media platforms when you have time. TikTok is enormous right now but might not suit your target audience.
If you don’t want to/can’t stand/don’t understand social media, then see if one of your staff is up for it. Give them guidelines on what to post and say and watch how they go.
Another thing to do is to use user-generated content. UGC, as its known, is when your customers post about how awesome you are. Reach out and thank them and reshare the post.
Reels are huge on Instagram as it’s pushing them to combat the rise of TikTok. Try a few videos and see how they go.
Look at what other businesses are doing and see if it would work for you. Don’t just stick to other cafes. Plenty of other industries have powerful marketing ideas that you can borrow.
I like to listen to podcasts, and find the Small Business Big Marketing podcast hugely helpful and inspiring.
Don't get discouraged if one approach doesn't work. Try something else and keep trying till you find something that succeeds. Then keep doing it. It might not work forever but make the most if while you can. Then find another avenue.
Good luck and enjoy. Marketing your business and getting the word out to new customers can great fun.
Sign up to get the latest on sales, new releases and more