Time for the fun part! Marketing.
Alright, a lot of the best coffee roasters and retailers may not agree. But it doesn’t have to be the same belligerent marketing you’re bombarded with daily as you innocently attempt to navigate websites.
Good marketing is a tool to help people understand. It takes into account the intent of the audience it wants to attract and provides a valuable service. It helps them learn more about products and services. It helps them zero-in on the purchase that makes the most sense for them. Like any tool, it’s as useful or annoying as the person using it.
It’s also really powerful. You’ll see many quantified examples of that throughout this post.
So sit down, make sure you have a firm understanding of why your business is awesome, and explore seven tried-and-true ways to communicate it.
There are two types of word-of-mouth marketing. The first and most conventionally understood method is one person giving a recommendation to another. The second and more recent development is online reviews. They both have similar levels of intimacy. They’re not prompted by anything other than a genuine desire to spread the joy of a great experience. Or warnings to avoid a painful one. No evil corporate machinations. No paid actors. Just people. Saying things to people.
Those two types of word of mouth marketing form two concentric circles of trust around potential customers. According to a Nielsen report, 92% of people trust recommendations from family and friends over all other types of advertising. And the second, smaller circle: 88% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from family and friends.
Here’s how to get those people talking about your business.
Tell People About It
Advanced digital marketing is everywhere. But here’s a calming thought: marketing is, at its core, a fancy way to tell people stuff. And as your business begins, you can do that. You’ve been telling people stuff your whole life: your name, your age, your favorite candy bar. Now it’s time to tell people about your coffee subscription.
Reach out to everyone in your social network. Your friends, your family, every name on every business card you’ve ever collected, and every person in your phone. Tell them you’ve started a business, ask for their support, and give them a good deal.
Ask for Reviews
User reviews can be a little frustrating for business owners. Why should one upset—and maybe unhinged—customer have such outsized influence? It’s a bitter pill, but swallowing it and playing the numbers game ultimately bears fruit if you’ve got a good product. Here’s proof:
- Everyone uses online reviews. Almost 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase, according to Spiegel Research Center.
- The more reviews, the better. Spiegel also found that having five or more reviews results in the likelihood of purchase increasing by a factor of four.
Ask customers for reviews via your email list, confirmation emails, or physically in the packing materials in their subscription boxes. As your visibility and transparency grow online, so too will new users.
Have a Great Product
Having a quality product is an obvious requirement for generating positive word-of-mouth marketing. But what’s not obvious about it is exactly how customers define quality.
Harvard Business Review created a matrix of the factors that influence consumer perception on quality. Interestingly, the factors are different before, during, and after purchase.
- Before purchase, the company’s brand, previous experience with the company, and opinions of friends are the top three factors that influence quality perception.
- At the point of purchase, performance specifications, the sales experience, and warranty or return policies are the top three factors.
- After purchase, ease of use, the actual handling of warranty and return claims, and service effectiveness were important.
Qualifying quality is not easy. The expectations of customer bases change across industries and brands. And quality with a product like coffee isn’t objective. One person’s favorite roast is totally mediocre to another.
It’s even harder when most consumers struggle to articulate why they find quality disappointing. Imagine two people sitting in a kitchen talking about the bag of your coffee on the counter. “Do you like it?” one asks. “I don’t know, it’s just kinda blah” the other volunteers. Not exactly the stuff of focus-group dreams.
So, the best ways to figure out how your customers define quality is to ask them and guide them. Ask them to rate their purchase and experiences periodically via email or small cards in their monthly coffee subscription boxes. The more feedback you collect, even if it’s “blah,” the better idea you’ll have about how your customers define quality. And how you can deliver it. Then when you know the types of coffee your customers like, you can guide them with purchasers similar customers have made. “If you like this, you’ll like…” or “People who purchased this also purchased…” are great sections to have to make sure you’re getting the best product to the right customer.
Provide Amazing Customer Service
Customer service is often seen on the opposite side of the business strategy spectrum from sales and marketing. Good customer service is based on quick turnaround times and desirable outcomes. And a great way to build that into your coffee subscription program is using an ecommerce platform with fast web-based live chat and in-app customer support chat, like BlueCart. But it plays a big role in generating positive word-of-mouth coffee marketing, representing your values, buoying customer retention numbers, and increasing customer lifetime value numbers.
Word-of-Mouth Coffee Marketing: CS Style
While having a great product is the best way to generate word-of-mouth marketing, customer service is up there, too. One thing to be aware of, though, is that sometimes reviews don’t have to be a net positive. If you avoid a bad review, it can be as beneficial as getting a good one. That’s because good customer support need not surprise and delight all the time. It can also feel effortless and invisible. If you have a problem, its solution could come about so naturally it barely registers.
Communicate Your Values
Your customer service is also representative of your company’s mission. And that comes from the top, from you. Your customer support operation, how you treat people, represents you. You know you have a great product and a company worth paying attention to. That’s why you started it. But not every customer knows what’s in your head. If you use every customer touchpoint at your disposal to communicate what makes your business special, people will get it. And you’ll be at a huge advantage as your competitors’ customers flounder around in sad robotic live-chats.
Customer Retention and Lifetime Value
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 68% of customers leave businesses because they’re not satisfied with the customer experience. And customers that come back are 67% more likely to spend more the first time they visited. As is often repeated in marketing—for good reason—it’s 5–7 times more expensive to acquire new customers than retain existing ones.
And those retention numbers have a huge impact on customer lifetime value (CLV) and overall profit. CLV is the total revenue you can expect from a single customer throughout the duration of their interaction with your business. As you retain customers, the CLV goes up. That means that an increase of just 5% in customer retention can snowball into an increased business-wide profit of almost 25%.
Create Memorable Content
Succeeding in business means successfully providing value. Maybe you’ve heard content is a great way to do it. Well, it’s true. It’s what we’re doing right now. And we’ve identified three great options for a coffee bean subscription businesses to create eye-catching content that makes memories and drives sales.
Wikipedia rabbit holes, endless customer reviews, and all the other inexhaustible streams of free information have made the modern consumer expect one thing above all: knowledge. It’s simply inexcusable in today’s day and age, an online purchaser might say, to not know exactly what you’re getting. And they’re right to expect that, because that’s why online shopping is so great. It’s like normal shopping, but you can press pause, educate yourself, and resume.
Your website must deliver that experience, too. Use an epic digital catalog that has crisp, high-quality photos and detailed descriptions of everything you’re selling. Remove any doubts, be as transparent as possible, and there will be no hesitation to transact with you.
Content marketing is proactive creation and delivery of content that doesn’t specifically promote a brand or product. Instead, it delivers value on related topics and, ideally, stimulates purchase interest. The easiest, most relevant content marketing levers for a coffee subscription business to pull are blogging and social media.
We mentioned earlier the effect the internet has on our expectation of knowledge. You can deliver on that outside of your digital catalog, too. You’re an expert in coffee. The wider world would benefit from you sharing your expertise. The wider world would appreciate it, too. And they may even show that appreciation by learning more about you and trying your coffee.
Here are some great examples of coffee-related blog content:
Coffee Roasting Explained, Pinebrook Roasters
Single Origin Coffee Vs. Blends, Bean Box
4 Difference Between Coffee and Espresso, Atlas Coffee Club
All three of the above articles answer questions people on the internet commonly ask (information you can discover by learning a little about search engine optimization or SEO). They aren’t direct sales pitches; they’re just helpful articles that leverage each company’s expertise to provide valuable information for free. And earn a little brand awareness and goodwill in the process. If you own a coffee business, you’re the subject matter expert. Enlighten us. It pays.
Social media provides an amalgamation of benefits. The immediacy of replies and direct messages can be used for customer support. The reach makes it an ideal place for pull marketing, which delivers content meant to slide into customers’ content feeds organically and subtly pull them to your website. That’s opposed to push marketing that pushes a product, deal, or piece of content directly in front of their face—usually while they’re doing something else—and asks them to take a more immediate action. With pull marketing, you naturally become part of a relevant conversation instead of, with push, injecting yourself in a potentially irrelevant one. Social media is the perfect place to pull.
It’s similar in spirit to content marketing on a blog. Your goal is to create and publish content that your audience finds useful and valuable. The difference is in execution. Social media is much, much shorter and often heavily visual. The visuality, especially Instagram’s, are great for a monthly coffee subscription business that wants to create visceral and memorable impressions by showcasing the romance and mystique of expertly-sourced and roasted coffees from far-flung parts of the world.
Follow these two easy guidelines to build an engaged social media community that can be pulled toward you:
- Be where your audience is. To become an organic part of the conversation, go where the conversation is happening. Do your research, use the right hashtags, and hit up the right forums.
- Providing legitimately useful content. Once you know the tenor of the conversations your audience has over social media, you’ll be able to contribute meaningfully. Much like the blog articles referenced above, be useful.
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, you’ve got a steady stream of captive audience that strictly-digital marketers salivate over. Coffee Marketer even has a printable coffee subscription signup sheet that can be customized.
They even claim that in-store signups are the best way to sign people up for coffee clubs. That may be at the very beginning. But the sheer reach of successful digital marketing will be necessary for any meaningful scaling down the line. Nevertheless, none of these approaches are mutually exclusive. If you can do them all, you should.
Email marketing is mostly based around the above mentioned push marketing model, though it’s permission-based. That means the recipient of your email has given you permission to inject yourself into their day. And it’s a good place to inject yourself, because, according to HubSpot, 99% of consumers check their email daily.
And once you're in front of them, 59% of consumers say marketing emails influence their purchasing decisions. But that’s not the only 59. A 2018 Emma survey states that 59% of marketers say email is their biggest source of ROI.
So how do you do email coffee marketing well?
- Segment. Don’t send the same promotional email to your entire email subscriber list. Some email subscribers are prospects, some are existing coffee subscription members, and some have made one-time purchases. Approach them with different content and with different frequency. They have different purchasing intent and expectations. Doing so is a windfall: Campaign Monitor notes that marketers who use segmented campaign record as much as a 760% lift in revenue.
- Don’t abuse the privilege. Being given access to someone’s inbox is an honor and a privilege. Don’t take advantage of their openness and spam the living daylights out of them. One email per day is often too much. Think about starting with emails a couple times a month.
- Iterate. Tweak your content, frequency, and subject lines based on engagement rates and open rates for each segment. It’s an iterative process and if you pay attention and react to the numbers, you’ll have a profitable email list on your hands.
- Use the right ecommerce platform. A good all-in-one B2B ecommerce platform makes it easy for you to use the built-in CRM in conjunction with email marketing capabilities to send promotional emails and deals to your best customers.
Loyalty, Referral, and Affiliate Programs
Finally, give your supporters some incentive to transact more and spread the good word. Loyalty, referral, and affiliate programs are all great add-ons to boost transactions and new users.
We know that the cost of maintaining existing customers is far cheaper than acquiring new ones. We also know existing customers are super valuable. 80% of your future profits will come from only 20% of your existing customers, per a study by CRM Annex Cloud. A good way to go all-out on your customer retention initiatives is to roll out a loyalty program.
There’s hundreds of compelling statistics out there that demonstrate the strength of loyalty programs, but one sticks out to us.
87% of shoppers reported that they want loyalty programs.
There you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. But what are these very loyal shoppers looking for? That same Annex Cloud study breaks it down into three parts:
- Personalization. 80% of consumers want a personalized experience. If someone signs up for your loyalty program, make sure they’re receiving content and offers curated for their segment. Also of note, 44% of consumers remain loyal to brands when the brand crowdsources design and service decisions to them.
- A brand. 26% of all consumers say they feel more loyal toward brands than products, and that number jumps up to 30% for millennials. If you invest in developing a unique brand voice and aesthetic, double-down on that with your loyalty members. Send them swag or content about your brand’s history, story, and founders.
- Access. 40% of millennials follow a brand founder or someone associated with a top brand on social media. Access to the company’s brass is important for brand value and customer engagement, so increase it for your loyalty members.
Affiliate programs bring the full force of internet marketers to bear on your behalf. If you have or are in an affiliate program, you’ll pay out a small commission to any online marketer (who is an approved affiliate within the program) for any business they send your way. And they do that by linking to your site via blog posts and social media posts. They’ll basically do your content marketing for you. It loses a little value because it’s not coming directly from you, but it’s still effective. If you don’t have a ton of resources to throw at coffee marketing but want to cast a relatively wide net, joining an affiliate program is a good idea.
Referral programs combine everything great about word-of-mouth coffee marketing with some of the benefits of affiliate coffee marketing. That’s to say, you generate organic recommendations and you do so at the speed of money.
You’ll need to decide on three things to get your referral program up and running:
- Referral reward. What will your referrers get?
- New customer reward. What will those referred get?
- Marketing assets. You’ll need email or text message copy for your referrers to send and a landing page for your newly-referred customers to interact with.
Here’s an example of a relatively common and effective referral program in the food and bev space. When a current customer refers someone, the current customer gets a credit towards their next order. But only after the referred user has made a purchase, who has gotten a credit toward their first order.
By making sure the percentage or dollar discount on each order is less than the cost of acquiring a new customer, it's a clean win for everyone involved But the biggest win is on the retailer’s side.
If you can set these up in your ecommerce platform, great. If not, you’ll need some marketing automation software like Zapier.
The Best Coffee Marketing Is Honest Coffee Marketing
Setting up end-to-end coffee marketing for your coffee delivery subscription business doesn’t have to be hard. Start with what you know and who you are. Share your expertise about coffee and what makes your company special. Use the coffee marketing ideas above.
If you can do them all, great. If you can’t, no big deal. You can only do what you can do, and if you do that well you’ll have no regrets. Just telling your story and being genuine is a great start. For those naturally humble folks out there, you’ll be surprised how much of your journey resonates with your audience.