Coffee shop marketing should attract new customers and build loyalty from regular customers. Our expert tells you how to do it.
Coffee should be easy to sell; it’s delicious, the aroma is enchanting, and drinking coffee is a daily ritual for many people. But to attract new customers and build long-term loyalty that gives independent coffee shops longevity, you need excellent coffee shop marketing. Your coffee shop marketing strategy needs to increase brand awareness, drive foot traffic, boost sales, and nurture loyalty. The best marketing for coffee shops also engages with the surrounding community.
I’ve managed multiple coffee programs over the years (DM me for my pumpkin spice syrup recipe) and have seen a lot of successful coffee shop marketing strategies. Here are my best coffee shop marketing ideas to help your coffee shop draw a crowd.
1. Get Your Signage Right
Customers can’t buy your coffee if they can’t find you. And a good, highly visible sign can be all a potential customer needs to see before they start craving a cup of java. If you do nothing else, make sure you have an easy-to-read, highly visible, and enticing sign to drive customers to your shop.
2. Develop a Loyalty Program
Coffee and loyalty are a natural fit since coffee (and other caffeinated beverages) are a daily habit for consumers. In fact, three out of four Americans drink at least one coffee a day. A robust loyalty program makes it easy for coffee lovers to pick your shop over others. You can go old school and print punch cards that lead to a free drink or another incentive, or you can offer a more complex rewards system with multiple reward levels via loyalty software or a coffee shop point-of-sale (POS) system with built-in loyalty.
A loyalty app is my preferred strategy as it allows you to offer more customizable rewards. Loyalty apps feed customer appetites for personalization (see tip 9) and give you contact information for sending promotions and marketing emails or text messages. Even though you are an independent shop, in most markets you’re competing with popular beverage chains like Starbucks and Panera Bread, both of which have hugely popular, and complex loyalty programs.
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3. Create Buzzy Branding
There are a variety of coffee shop styles that attract different customer types. Any coffee shop style can be successful, and ensuring your branding matches your vibe is a great way to attract your target customer. For example, Mon Vert Cafe in Woodstock, Vermont, is a classic coffee shop serving locally sourced food and beverages in a historic New England tourist destination. Its branding (pictured below) features classic fonts and elegant, line-drawn illustrations of local ingredients, and landmarks like barns.
4. Engage on Social Media
Speaking of Instagram, it is a great platform to showcase your brand, products, and shop story. It is also a terrific way to connect with customers. If you are not on social media, set up your shop’s accounts today. Seriously, right now. I’ll wait. With your social media accounts created, it is important to post regularly (at least once per week, but ideally, one to two times per day), and to post interesting content. Get customers excited about a new beverage by adding a video of how you make it (like this Instagram post from Brū Coffee Bar in Los Angeles).
Show your personality. Post fun stories and images of your shop, feature your team, and give customers a sense of your shop’s atmosphere. Post your seasonal drink menus and talk up your new bakery partner or new menu items. And set aside a few minutes a day to respond to customers when they comment on your posts.
5. Stay on Top of Trends
Latte art. Dalgona coffee. Oat milk lattes. Pour overs. Before they showed up in neighborhood coffee shops, they were trends on social media. Follow coffee enthusiast accounts on Instagram and TikTok and read industry publications like Fresh Cup so you know what trends coffee lovers are talking about and what trends are working for coffee shops like yours. You don’t have to add every new drink you see to your menu, but it’s important to know what is out there so you can jump on the trends that fit your brand or boost your brand visibility by creating menu offerings in response to trends.
6. Host Local Events
Hosting local events like art showings, concerts, literary readings, game nights, or crafting circles is an excellent way to build bonds with your surrounding community. Coffee shops are often viewed as de facto community hangouts, so lean into that idea by hosting local events. For example, First Branch Coffee in South Royalton, Vermont, hosts an “Old-Time Music” day on the second Sunday of every month. Local musicians drop in to collaborate and play folk tunes. The popular event drives foot traffic to the shop and has also garnered local press coverage. Building goodwill while earning free advertising? That’s a coffee shop marketing win.
7. Collaborate With Other Businesses
Coffee shops are typically surrounded by other, non-competing businesses that attract a similar clientele. Working with nearby like-minded brands can draw even more of your target customers to your neighborhood. The type of collaboration will vary based on your location and your coffee service style, but I love the example set by Abracadabra Coffee.
Through the summer, they host popular outdoor events that feature a ton of other small businesses. While a DJ spins tunes, customers shop at a booth from a local vintage store, and multiple food vendors sell everything from pizza to ice cream. Events like these drive sales and also boost brand awareness.
8. Create Seasonal Specials
Starbucks changed the coffee landscape forever when it rolled out the pumpkin spice latte (PSL); love it or hate it, no coffee shop can ignore the power of the PSL. But the big brands don’t need to have all the fun. Consider adding a handful of seasonally-inspired beverages to your menu. This might be adding an apple cider to your lineup in the fall and winter or crafting lemonades in the summer. The right seasonal specials can entice new customers to come in for something cravable.
9. Promote Regional Specialties
Specials aren’t just about the seasons. Elevating local ingredients in your brews is a great way to appeal to locals and travelers alike. Promoting local specialties is especially impactful in tourist destinations. Folks traveling to New England want maple syrup just like those traveling to Florida want oranges. Find unique ways to enhance your beverages with local flavors, whether that is a house-made orange-infused syrup or a maple latte. Regional specialties can also garner national attention if your drink is featured in regional or travel magazines.
If you are located in a popular food destination or a major US city, chances are there is an Edible magazine that covers your area. Check out the Edible website to introduce your shop to local food journalists.
10. Personalize Marketing Messages
More than 70% of consumers crave personalization from the brands they support. This is never more true than when coffee enters the conversation; coffee drinks are a form of personal expression to many customers. They are not a simple coffee drinker, they are a cold brew drinker or a dry cappuccino fan. They might drink their brews first thing in the morning to jump-start their day, or they might rely on a caffeine hit in the afternoon. Use your knowledge of your customer’s purchasing habits to personalize your email and text message marketing. This is easy to do if your sales data and customer data are stored in the same place, like your POS.
Most modern, cloud POS systems include tools for email and text message marketing that can be personalized based on filtered customer lists or custom tags. Set up categories of customers based on past purchases (espresso lovers, tea drinkers, cold brew connoisseurs, etc.) or purchase frequency (VIPs, regulars, rare customers). These POS tools also typically provide customizable message templates that make your email and text message promotions eye-catching.
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11. Market on Social Media
You can do more than engage with your customers through social media posts; you can use social media advertising to attract new customers and promote seasonal offerings, merchandise, or a subscription service. Social media advertising is especially useful when you need to move product quickly (like a specialty roast that didn’t sell the way you hoped), or during the holiday season (think gift subscriptions to your coffee of the month club or even digital gift cards).
Instagram and Facebook are obvious choices for coffee shops, since foodies tend to gather on those platforms and coffee drinks are photogenic subjects for image and video-based ads. Both platforms are owned by Meta, which allows you to identify detailed customer profiles to focus your advertising efforts, and set a budget for each ad so you don’t overspend.
12. Go With a Geofence
A geofence is a virtual fence around a physical location. A geofence advertisement is sent to a customer smartphone—via an app or social media site—when the customer enters a geofenced area. Geofencing works via GPS data, RFID tags, or Wi-Fi. However the boundary is managed, geofence campaigns are an excellent way to drive foot traffic to your coffee shop. You don’t need to look far for inspiration; industry leader Starbucks is known for pinging nearby cell phones with happy hour offers during afternoon business lulls.
The big brands like Starbucks hire software companies to develop and manage their geofencing programs. But most social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have geofencing options, as does Google. You can create location-based, geofenced ads via your social media and Google advertising dashboards.
13. Create Merchandise
Mugs and travel mugs are a natural fit for coffee shop merchandise, but you can also add shirts, hats, and other accessories. Merch drives sales in two ways—first, with the initial sale, and second, by driving brand awareness for your shop when your customers use or wear your merchandise out in the world. There are many services that print merchandise on demand— consider Printify or Zazzle—or you can design and print your own shirts on a design app like Canva.
14. Offer Subscriptions
Your subscription service can be as simple as setting up a recurring order option on your website, allowing your customers to order online and subscribe to receive shipments of their favorite beans at a set interval (like once a month). Alternatively, you could create a coffee of the month club, where subscribers receive a pound of coffee beans you’re excited about. Subscribers can pick up their beans in your shop or get them shipped to their home. A coffee subscription is especially suited to shops that roast their own beans.
Coffee Shop Marketing Goals
Coffee shop marketing has five main goals. All of your efforts should aim to accomplish at least one of these goals. Some marketing strategies will accomplish multiple goals.
- Increase brand awareness: Creating fun, sharable branding, selling branded merchandise, and engaging with your local community and social media followers can all generate brand awareness.
- Drive sales: Offering seasonal and regional specialty drinks, creating fun merchandise, engaging on social media, and riding the waves of coffee trends are all ways to drive coffee sales.
- Nurture loyalty: Personalization, loyalty and rewards programs, and subscription clubs are excellent ways to encourage customers to purchase from you again and again.
- Drive foot traffic: Strategies for driving foot traffic include traditional marketing, email marketing, and geofencing campaigns that remind potential customers it would be nice to have a coffee right now.
- Engage with community: Independent coffee shops have always been community hubs. Engaging with your community can be as simple as hosting a community bulletin board to promote local events or hosting community groups in your shop.
Keeping all of these goals in mind will help you focus your marketing efforts and also help ensure that you diversify. If you just fill your social media channels with sales and promos, potential customers are likely to tune you out. By marketing through multiple channels, you’ll drive new business while building a loyal customer base.
Coffee Shop Marketing Costs
Your costs will vary considerably depending on your marketing strategies and your location. For example, hosting a community event during your standard business hours will likely cost you nothing. But if you host during hours you are typically closed, you’ll need to budget for the additional electricity and staffing costs.
Here are some ballpark estimates of what each type of coffee shop marketing strategy can cost:
- Signage: Signs can run you from $250 for a sturdy wooden or PVC outdoor sign or up to multiple thousands of dollars for custom-lit or neon signs.
- Loyalty program: Most coffee shop POS systems include loyalty systems in their software. Some include this for no additional charge, while others charge an add-on fee of $25 to $50 per month. Freestanding loyalty tools like Blackbird tend to be custom-quoted based on your restaurant type.
- Designing your brand: If you have design skills and access to design software then designing logos and brand colors might only cost you some time. Though, if you hire a freelance designer, you could spend $250 to $5,000. Printing branded paper coffee cups and sleeves tends to run around $150 per case of 1,000 cups and $115 per case of 1,800 sleeves. Look at WebstaurantStore or The Cup Store for options.
- Email marketing campaign: Your costs for email marketing will depend on the email tool you use. Most coffee shop POS systems have some email marketing tools (though most charge an additional monthly fee of $25+). A freestanding email marketing tool like Mailchimp runs from $0 to $350 per month.
- Social media advertising: With social media advertising, you can spend as much as you want; as little as $100 or as much as $3,000+ per campaign.
- Geofencing ads: Using a social media platform for location-based advertising will run you a couple of hundred dollars per campaign. Working with a third-party geofencing company will run you $10,000 or more.
- Creating merchandise: Your merch costs will depend on the merchandise you want to produce and whether you create the designs yourself or contract with a designer to create designs for you. For example, printing T-shirts can vary from $8 to $18 per shirt depending on your design and the number of shirts you order (per-item prices tend to be lower when you order large quantities).
- Subscription club: The biggest expense with a subscription club will be the payment processing fees, which typically run from 3% to 5% of your total price. If you primarily sell your subscriptions online, your processing fees will be closer to the 5% to 6% range.
Collaborating with other businesses, engaging on social media, and hosting events can cost you mostly in administrative bandwidth. However, if you hire talent (like musicians) or equipment (like tents or a generator) you’ll have to budget for those expenses.
Marketing a coffee shop requires a multi-pronged strategy. You’ll need to drive sales and brand awareness as much as you build community. One of the things I love about marketing a coffee shop is that you have so many opportunities to build relationships and use your creativity to elevate your brand. There has never been an easier time to market a coffee shop; coffee shop POS systems, freestanding email marketing tools, and social media platforms are continually developing user-friendly tools to help you boost your brand.