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Coffee shop advertising

Your Guide To Coffee Shop Advertising

Grace JidounAuthor

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Coffeeshops used to rely on word-of-mouth for marketing and advertising; even Starbucks didn’t pay for advertising for several years when the chain first opened. Today, according to Barista Magazine, nearly 70% of coffee shops spend less than $100 per month on marketing. There is clearly room for growth and improvement in the realm of coffee shop advertising, and it doesn’t always have to cost an arm and a leg. The question is: what is the best approach? (Hint: it’s not all online.)

This article will teach you about coffee shop advertising, from soup to nuts. Whether you’re a stand-alone coffeehouse or a small chain, coffee shop advertising is a unique endeavor with specific challenges. Knowing how to draw in new customers and deepen relationships with your existing base is one of the most crucial aspects of running a coffee house. Drinking coffee is an everyday habit for more than 60% of consumers. Effective advertising is the key to getting those daily coffee drinkers through your doors.

Define Your Target Audience

Before you can build a connection with your customers through advertising, you must define your target audience. This isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but with the right kind of research and communication strategies, you’ll be able to edge out the competition.

Selling any product, regardless of your industry, is all about meeting needs. But this is especially true with coffee shops, where customers can be extremely particular about their favorite beverages. What are the needs your coffee shop fulfills that others in the area don’t? Perhaps your customers seek you out for special single-origin beans or your super smooth advanced ordering system. Doing a deep dive into the demographics of your target audience — including age, gender, location, and interests — will help you answer that question. Before investing time and energy into advertising, you need to analyze your customers' preferences and understand what inspires them. The connection with your customer should never start or end with the point of sale. 

There are several tools at your fingertips to do this. Survey data is a popular way to define your audience. With survey sites like SurveyMonkey and Google Forms, you can pose open-ended questions to potential customers about brand awareness and ordering habits to glean meaningful insights. Similarly, social media analytics is the practice of gathering data to get the pulse of your brand on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and the like. There are also sites that will tell you how many people interact with your content on social media and how many sales your posts generate. 

Online Advertising

Let’s be honest: most internet users are determined to block, mute, or scroll past any ad that comes their way. One thing that makes a difference, and inspires people to click, is a strong online presence. Even with a clever pop-up ad, potential customers might not give your cafe a second thought without all the elements in place. This includes an optimized website, a solid social media presence, and an easy advanced ordering system to ensure you make the most of your online advertising. In today’s marketplace, you need to be firing on all cylinders.

Organic Online Advertising 

Online advertising generally falls into two categories: paid and organic. Though coffee shops typically rely primarily on organic (read: free) advertising, a blend of the two will give your coffee shop the farthest reach. Let’s learn how organic advertising can boost your followers online.

  • Social Media - Organic social media is any free content shared on social media, including videos, posts, blogs, stories, and more. It can be as simple as posting a new latte flavor on Facebook to featuring fun videos of your baristas on TikTok. Approach this as your coffee shop's highlight reel, broadcasting your unique brand personality to the world. For more on engaging with customers and driving sales, check out our restaurant-focused Guide to Social Media.  

  • Search Engine Optimization - With so many cafes and restaurants vying for attention, it’s hard to get noticed online. Search engine optimization (SEO) will help your coffee shop’s website appear at the top of search results. When someone types “Where to find matcha vanilla lattes?” into Google, you want your café to pop up first. Consider these sobering statistics: 27.6% of people click on the first Google result, and only 0.63% go to the second page, according to Backlinko. SEO will improve your ranking and visibility, increasing clicks and customers. While there’s no shortage of advice on SEO best practices, an excellent place to start is our detailed Guide for Beginners, written explicitly for restaurant owners.
  • Online Directories and Review Sites - Online directories and review sites help people weed through local listings and find businesses faster. Though not as fun as crafting an Instagram Reel with music and special effects, registering in a business directory like Google My Business is a free and easy way to give your coffee shop an air of legitimacy. Think of these directories as online versions of the Yellow Pages. High-profile review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor provide a different service, giving customers a real-world glimpse into the customer experience at a cafe. And according to a study by Northwestern University, they profoundly impact sales.

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Paid Online Advertising

Sometimes you need to cut through the digital clutter, and that’s where paid advertising comes in. It’s a more precise way of targeting customers, optimized for reaching people who may actually visit your coffee shop.

  • Pay-per-click -  (PPC) advertising is where a coffee shop pays a publisher (like Google or social media platforms) only when someone clicks on their ad. The fee is known as cost-per-click (CPC). Though coffee shops are notorious for not spending money on advertising, this method is considered very cost-effective. Since paid search ads appear at the top of the Google page (the ones marked “sponsored”), it’s often a good return on your investment. The most popular platforms include YouTube Ads, Facebook Ads, Amazon Ads, and Microsoft Ads. It’s easy to laser focus on specific markets, track the number of clicks, and scale up or pull back depending on your results.  

  • Social Media Ads - No one is asking how Facebook makes money anymore. It is one of the fastest-growing online ad networks in the world, representing more than 60 percent of social media ad revenue globally. Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter are other popular platforms that enable you to create targeted paid advertisements based on specific demographics and interests. It’s often worth the investment, as you can fine-tune your ad and your audience as you learn who interacts with it.

  • Display Advertising - It’s the O.G. of digital advertising: the Banner Ad. Typically shaped as a strip and located at the top of a page, banner ads can be effective if placed on relevant sites and blogs your target audience frequents. Display ads typically have lower click-through rates but can help create brand awareness in your neighborhood. Banner ads now come in all shapes and sizes, including videos, pop-ups, and interactive features.

Collaborations and Partnerships

Collaborations with local businesses, complementary brands, and influencers are where coffee shops shine.

Strategic partnerships with other relevant businesses are a great way to extend your audience reach and nab new customers. When approaching potential partners, outline what’s in it for them. Say your coffee shop specializes in over-the-top caffeinated creations with whipped cream, marshmallows, and sweet syrups. Partnering with a bakery makes sense as you likely have similar customer bases. Bookstores, bars, fitness clubs, and nightclubs are just a few ideas of places you can negotiate with.

 Social feeds and YouTube channels are flooded with people sipping creative flavors or showing off the barista’s foam art. How do you rise above the fray? Influencers still hold, well, influence in the world of online marketing. Identify social media influencers in your area — people with large followings who post frequently — and strike a deal. Cafes often offer influencers free drinks and baked goodies in exchange for sharing their experience with their followers. This is a low-impact way to increase visibility and credibility for your restaurant.

Traditional Advertising Methods

Nowadays, it’s easy to forget that print ads tend to be bolder, more original, and more memorable than digital ads. You can get creative with eye-catching colors, fonts, sizes, and layouts. Additionally, placing an advertisement in a local newspaper, magazine, or community newsletter provides a chance to connect with an offline audience. 

  • Flyers and Brochures - Having a physical flyer or brochure in your hands captures your attention immediately. There are no ad blockers or ignore buttons in the real world. The key is distributing them in high-traffic areas where your intended target audience will be, like local businesses, community centers, and campuses. Trust us, most busy professionals on their way to work would love to hear about your discount for advanced online ordering. Incentives like coupons will make people look twice.
  • Local Events and Sponsorships - One of the main advantages of participating in local events and sponsorships is that it inspires high trust among community members (aka your target audience). For instance, having your café’s name emblazoned on the back of a Little League jersey creates a lasting impression (tired parents in need of caffeine will see the name repeatedly at every game). Getting involved in local events signals a solid commitment to your neighborhood and is a wonderful way to build brand recognition.  

Tracking Advertising Metrics

After putting things in motion, it’s time to take a coffee break and watch the money roll in, right? Wrong! It’s crucial to track their effectiveness to make data-driven decisions (and not rely on hunches or feelings). Here are some key metrics to be familiar with:

  • Impressions: The number of times your ad was displayed

  • Clicks: The number of times your ad was clicked on.

  • Click-Through-Rate (CTR): The percentage of people who view a website, see your ad, and then actually click on it.

  • Conversion Rate: This takes the CTR a step further. The percentage of click-throughs that lead to a sale is a valuable way to determine an ad’s success.

  • Cost per Click (CPR): The average amount you pay when someone clicks on your ad. 

  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): The revenue generated for every dollar spent on advertising.

  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): The total cost of winning a new customer through advertising. To calculate your CAC, define a period of time (month, quarter, etc.), take all marketing and sales expenses, and divide it by the number of customers.   

Though coffee shops traditionally don’t invest much money in advertising, targeted, strategic moves can put you way ahead of the curve. With our practical tips and tactics, you can turn all those potential customers into regulars.

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