Peace, Love, and Coffee

A diary of the wonderful and wacky goings on at Coffee to the People, an independent coffeehouse located at 1206 Masonic Avenue in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, California.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Getting the Word Out

Okay, everybody. You've inspired me. Let's talk advertising.

As I mentioned in these pages before, I'm not exactly the business type. I've never studied marketing or budgeting. I am not a PR person. And I hate worrying about money. Still, as one of the owners of this small business, at some point I have to start thinking about how we can increase our business, especially during our lightest hours.

Up to now we've relied almost exclusively on word of mouth and foot traffic. During the first week we were open we handed out fliers and hung notices on door knobs, but that's about it. In many ways, this approach has worked well for us because it has provided a chance to grow with our customer base. If we had been inundated with customers during our first few months in business, I don't think we would have been able to provide the same level of service. We needed that time to work out the kinks in the system.

Now that we are ready to grow, however, it's time to start doing some "real" advertising. But where? How much? And at what price?

Taking a look back at our business plan, we originally identified four target audiences for CTTP: people who live in the neighborhood, tourists, students, and people who work from home (i.e. the laptop brigade).

So far, I think we are doing a fairly good job of recruiting customers from the neighborhood. Just by virtue of location and signage people are apt to try us out eventually and, if they like us, come back. However, there are still a lot of people who don't know that we now serve breakfast, soups, and sandwiches, so we need to work on advertising our food offerings. Our current plan for reaching this group is to place an ad in the Haight-Ashbury Beat.

We don't intend to put a lot of effort into advertising to tourists. For the most part, this group finds us when they are walking down Haight Street soaking up the local atmosphere. If we get lucky, maybe somebody will write something about us in a tour guide one day, but that's about all we can hope for.

One of our primary target audiences is students, but we have yet to do much to attract their attention. This point was (painfully) brought home to me a couple of weeks ago when I looked in my own school paper, UCSF's Synapse, and discovered that one of my classmates had written an article about places in SF where one can find fair trade coffee, but didn't include CTTP. Apparently, she didn't even know that we existed. Our current plan for reaching this group is to advertise in the campus papers at UCSF, USF, and SFSU.

Our final target audience consists of people who work from home and, again, this is a group we have yet to actively pursue. We have received a certain amount of free advertising from the websites that list free wifi hotspots so anyone who is actively looking for a place will find us, but I'm not sure that is adequate. I would like us to do more to reach this group, but I don't know how at a price we can afford. Some people have suggested advertising one or more of the city's weeklies, but those are expensive and not the least bit targetted.

What do you think? Does anybody have any brilliant low-cost marketing ideas that would help us get the word out to our target audiences? Are there groups out there that we should be marketing to that we haven't considered yet? Should we bite the bullet and advertise in the weeklies?

Any and all input greatly appreciated.

8 Comments:

At 2/22/2006 01:14:00 AM, Anonymous Ray said...

I was looking around the store over the weekend and I thought that you should make better use of the front windows specifically for advertising you presence.

Move the computer and curtained area further back in the store. Anyone who wants computer access doesn't need to see it in the window and by curtaining that window, you loose much of your street appeal and attraction to new customers. This is especially true because that window is closer to Haight Street and the majority of your local foot traffic. I don't ever look up at signs, but I do look in windows.

 
At 2/22/2006 01:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

flyers for "study nights" with student discounts around campuses would definitely bring in some students.

 
At 2/22/2006 02:35:00 AM, Blogger Karin said...

Ray--Unfortunately, that curtain is just covering a very ugly wall placed there a long time ago to keep the building from falling down. When we moved into the space we checked into having the wall removed, but it would have cost in excess of $50,000. Needless to say, we opted to simply cover it.

 
At 2/23/2006 03:06:00 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

"Now that we are ready to grow, however, it's time to start doing some "real" advertising. But where? How much? And at what price?"

You've ruled guerrilla marketing I assume? Don't do it! You're supposed to be an unconventional coffee shop. :)

Ritual Roasters is doing a good job at this. For Halloween they dressed as Zombie starbucks employees:

http://laughingsquid.com/2005/10/31/ritual-starbucks/

This was picked up by Scott Bealle of laughing squid and quickly made it to BoingBoing which has 15k readers.

Now Ritual Roasters is the #1 cool geek place in SF.

My goal if I were you would be to push them from this position.

Think outside the box.

Read this:

http://www.niallkennedy.com/blog/archives/2006/02/linuxcaffe-serv.html

Send Niall an email. Do what he says. Hell, if you were really good and seriously became a geek coffee shop you could make it into Wired. Of course then I wouldn't have a place to work anymore but hopefully the free market will drive this forward.

"Our final target audience consists of people who work from home and, again, this is a group we have yet to actively pursue. We have received a certain amount of free advertising from the websites that list free wifi hotspots so anyone who is actively looking for a place will find us, but I'm not sure that is adequate. I would like us to do more to reach this group, but I don't know how at a price we can afford"


You can try Google Adwords... advertise against people who are seraching for "San Francisco fair trade coffee" for example.

The other key point I'd bring up here is to just innovate. Ignore conventional paid marketing and just target blogs. If you do COOL things people will link to you and thousands of people will read about you for free. Heck if you do a few CRAZY and unconventional but cool things you could get some serious press.

Some quick ideas:

1. Offer to sponsor a Bay Area Wireless Users Group Meeting in your coffee shop. Just stay open late and ask them to come by and that you're really serious about WiFi.

2. Have a "laptop week" where you can only stay there if you have a laptop ;)

3. Put the URL of this blog RIGHT on the front of the store. Encourage people to participate in the blog.

4. Setup an IRC channel for CTTP members. This is amazingly easy and you could let people in your store talk on a backchannel while they're working. Hell that ALONE is a brilliant idea and could get you a TON of press! I'd blog it in a minute and I know I'd get 1/2 a dozen other bloggers to follow. Doesn't cost you anything more than $10 to buy a sign with the IRC info.

I'll try to think of some more.

 
At 2/23/2006 03:07:00 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

Another thing... can you PAINT the wall? Maybe make it look like its part of the store. That whole front section needs some work.

Onward!

 
At 2/23/2006 05:30:00 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

http://gigaom.com/2006/02/22/the-new-office-space/

 
At 8/03/2006 02:26:00 AM, Blogger Gale Force said...

First - watch Gordon Ramsay's program, on BBCWorld, called Kitchen Nightmares. It is the best education you will get anywhere on any type of food or catering business.

Next, define your main target market. Only that. Market to one segment only. The rest will come.

Third. Wander around every competitor and watch what is happening. What are they serving, at what price. Who is buying what? Where do you fit into this market? Sell what the community buys, at the price they expect.

Fourth: the hell with what you think people want. Throw out any preconceived ideas you have about what people want. Sell what they actually want. The word is "is-ness". More dreams have died in the food and beverage industry than any other. Get real, get pragmatic and face facts. You're running a business.

Fifth: No one ever went out of business when they sold what people want at a reasonable price with great service to an available target market. Get into the shoes of your customer. Think like your target customer. Dress up like your target customer and walk into your business pretending you are your target customer. Look at it through their eyes. Give them the service they want and expect.

Sixth: be consistent: consistent service, consistent quality, every day, no matter what you feel like or whether you have a headache. The customer doesn't really care how you feel. The customer is interested in him or herself. Get over it.

Seventh: visit www.lushforlife.com and have a laugh at life when you are tired, down or low. I'm rooting for you :)

 
At 1/29/2008 04:06:00 AM, Anonymous Nutty Guy said...

I use a card that gives me credit for sending people in. After so many "friends" purchase I got a discounted cup of java and a cool t-shirt. I saved money and they got new customers and thier name out in the community. Not a bad trade if you ask me . . . and judging by the lines nowadays he would agree

 

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