Is it time to take your coffee roastery to the next level?
It’s a tough market out there, but with the right ideas you can cut through the competition and show your product to a whole new range of customers. But it’s going to take some fresh coffee marketing ideas – and we’ve got just the tips for you.
In this guide to coffee marketing:
- 1. Coffee marketing fundamentals
- 2. Content marketing for coffee businesses
- 3. Growing your coffee fanbase with social media
- 4. Collaborating with partners and influencers
- 5. Innovating with new coffee products
- 6. Merchandising your brand
- 7. Telling your coffee brand story
- 8. Supporting your marketing with smart coffee software
1. The coffee marketing fundamentals
We’ll dig into coffee-specific marketing tips in a moment, but you can’t jump right into new marketing ideas without knowing where to start – and that’s here. While marketing is a whole discipline in and of itself, these four fundamentals are the crash course in what you need to know to get your money’s worth:
Have a goal
Strategy guides marketing, and strategy is derived from having a core objective: What are you trying to achieve? What is the point of turning to new marketing initiatives?
Increasing sales is the obvious choice, but it’s not the only choice. Perhaps your first campaign is all about increasing brand/product awareness? Or generating newsletter subscribers? Or building social media followers?
Whatever your goal, everything else follows it so this is the absolute first step.
Know your audience
You’ve got the ‘why’, now you need the ‘who’. Who are your customers? How old are they, what are their tastes, where do they like to hang out in person and online? Do they have challenges and pain points related to coffee? What kind of tone of voice (i.e. personality) resonates with them?
If you don’t know your audience, how can you ever find and talk to them? Writing down details like this can guide what marketing initiatives you choose, and more importantly, which will actually work.
Find out what your audience wants
This is a sort of part two to the above tip. You know your audience, but what do they want? What do they want to read, or watch? Is there a particular format that they enjoy more than others (i.e. live talking events over reading articles, or podcasts over YouTube videos)?
Beyond that, what are their questions and concerns? This relates to those pain points we mentioned earlier. As you’ll see below, part of marketing can be answering people’s questions, so of course in order to do that you have to know what people ask.
Talk to your sales reps, go online and Google search terms related to your business, use websites like AnswerThePublic – all of these will give you an FAQ list that could help you later.
Don’t set and forget
Marketing is not a one-time deal. You’ll put all this work into your first campaigns, but over time some of that work might change and become redundant (i.e. there might be a certain global pandemic that up-ends the market).
Be prepared to review all of the above and all of the below on a regular basis to ensure it’s still right for you. If it’s ever not– evolve.
The best coffee marketing ideas are a marriage of your brand with your audience’s needs.
2. Content marketing for coffee businesses
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a fairly broad term that involves using content to promote your brand.
Importantly, it’s not some substitute for traditional paid advertising; while both content and ads can get your coffee brand in front of more people, content is usually not about selling a product so much as providing an experience. The goal is to educate, to entertain, to delight or to inform.
We’ve got some examples of coffee content marketing below to help you understand.
Why is content marketing important?
Content is a fabulous way to build a relationship with your audience. Well-planned content doesn’t feel like ‘marketing’ – content is the answer to users’ questions, it’s their entertainment, it’s a place for them to learn more about a topic. The idea is to talk with customers about the topics they enjoy, rather than constantly say ‘buy this’. Of course, that’s often still the objective, but content achieves it by first building awareness, then trust, then carefully converting strangers into loyal, VIP customers over time.
Some examples of coffee content marketing objectives include:
- Build awareness of your coffee.
- Make your brand seem like the authority on coffee.
- Help people find your brand on Google (known as search engine optimisation, or SEO).
- Increase the size of your audience.
- Turn casual customers into fans – and loyal customers.
Examples of coffee content marketing
Write simple tips on your website: Consider dedicating a portion of your website to quick coffee tips – something easy to read and follow to give your audience practical advice to take away. Here’s an example!
Develop blog articles on coffee: Go further than quick tips and write whole articles on the subject of coffee. From lists of brewing techniques to coffee equipment product reviews and interesting stories about coffee, this is a great way to directly answer users’ questions. Giesen Coffee Roasters is a good example.
Host a coffee podcast: Podcasting is a booming industry – from 2006 to 2020 the number of US citizens listening to podcasts grew from 22% of the population to 75%! So, what could you talk about? April Coffee Roasters in Denmark has a good example of a coffee podcast, which they ran from 2018 to 2019.
Host webinars, online seminars and video tutorials: The next step up is to produce useful video content. Here’s an example of a brand really going for it when it comes to making hyper-valuable tutorial content. Blue Bottle Coffee in the US made an entire course on how to brew an amazing cup of coffee for users of Skillshare.
3. Growing your coffee fanbase with social media
Social media fits largely under the arm of ‘content marketing’, given that what you need to post on social media is itself content, but a lot of the theory and skill required is a bit different so we’ve given it its own section.
Why use social media to promote your coffee?
The short answer – it’s popular. Insanely so. Statista data predicts there will be 4.41 billion people on social media by 2025, and Hootsuite/We Are Social found the average person spends nearly three hours on social media each and every day.
From a marketing perspective, the key to getting content marketing ‘right’ is to be able to produce the right content, for the right person, at the right time, and – this is where social media comes in – put it in the right place.
If your brand is present and popular in the spaces that people like to hang out in, you’re able to interact directly with fans, talk to them, offer them new content and, over time, promote how awesome your coffee is.
Examples of good social media use in the coffee world
Telling a story: Stories have been around since the dawn of time, and now they’re digital. So what’s your story? Here’s an example of how Blackstar Coffee Roasters is using their Instagram account to showcase the human face of their brand.
View this post on Instagram
Educate your audience: The more people know about coffee, the more they can do with the beans they purchase – and if your brand is the one that taught them cool new techniques, your name is the one they’ll remember when they go shopping.
View this post on Instagram
Share cool coffee tricks and hacks: On a similar level to educational content, people love tricks and hacks. What ‘cool’ things can they do with coffee? How can they take their coffee to the next level? Or, what coffee tricks can they watch that are entertaining?
@bayespresso_nzWinnie the Pooh🐻❤️ ##fyp ##foryoupage♬ Stunnin’ (feat. Harm Franklin) – Curtis Waters
Take awesome photos: Sometimes all people want to view is an awesome photo. And coffee photography is its own brand of hobby for some social media followers. If you’ve got a good eye and a decent camera, you could join the ranks of Barista Daily and showcase some beautiful, interesting coffee-related photos.
View this post on Instagram
4. Collaborating with partners and influencers
Collaborating with other brands (and, these days, social media influencers) is a powerful way to take your roastery to the next level. Whether you’re working with another company to add your unique flavour to their product, or talking to a popular celebrity to create content together and have them promote it to their legion of followers, collaboration is rocket fuel that a lot of small businesses can use to get ahead.
Some examples of common collaboration objectives include:
- Build your brand authority by pairing with a trusted name.
- Reach more people by targeting someone else’s following.
- Increase your market share by targeting product sectors you previously had no access to.
But is it that easy to just start a collab?
No. For small brands in particular, relationships can take time to build.
First you have to find the right partners and influencers whose audience is likely to merge well with your own – people who will actually like your product. Then you have to reach out, and often that takes time and work, especially if you’re trying to work with someone popular. It’s likely you’ll need to start interacting with them on social media first and, over time, building up from there (from likes to comments to direct messages to, eventually, your sales pitch).
Finally, you’ll need a pitch that your chosen partners will really listen to. What can you offer? How does it benefit them? Show that you’ve done your research and discuss why your brand is the right fit for their audience.
Examples of coffee collaborations
Coffee and other products: Coffee roasters can team up with other product manufacturers to make highly popular combinations. Are there any local manufacturers in your area? Check out some of the product combinations coffee roasters have used to extend their marketing reach:
Coffee and events: When you become an event sponsor, not only does your brand name and logo get plastered all over the event, but you’ll become the coffee partner of the show – a chance to sell to a whole new range of customers without any real competition around you. For a UK example, look to Tiki Tonga Coffee Roasters and their sponsorship of the OVO Energy Tour Of Britain.
Coffee and influencers: Influencers are called influencers for a reason. Their followings are a very real opportunity for roasteries, who could benefit hugely from someone popular promoting their name and reviewing their products to a legion of already loyal audience members (like when Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters teamed up with TikTok’s Morgan Drinks Coffee to create a whole new product line).
Coffee and more coffee: Competitors don’t always have to be competition, but can be potential partners. Just ask the nine different Minnesota roasteries who joined forces in the name of charity, each roasting the same coffee blend but with their own spin, while donating proceeds to charity.
5. Innovating with new coffee products
Trends and fads don’t always last long, but the businesses that get in ahead of the game stand to win big when the wave hits. And if those trends stick around, it’s often those leaders who become the new face of the product.
Innovation is key to being ahead of the curve. After all, if you invent the trend then everyone else is just a follower. And innovation is not new to coffee – indeed, there are a variety of new trends growing quickly in the global market, such as RTD coffees (one of the fastest growing product groups in Europe) and single-cup brews (which grew 50% from 2015 to now in the US).
But isn’t innovation also a risk?
It can be. Innovation is always a gamble – a gamble that your new product will be the big new fad, not just a unique oddity that fades into obscurity within the year.
To save wasting money on new products that go nowhere, you need to think strategically about innovation. Here are some tips to consider:
- Start small: The bigger the gamble, the more you might lose. There’s nothing wrong with starting small and building up.
- Test first: When you’ve got a product in mind, test it out. First pass it around friends and family, and if they approve, roll it out to a small group of customers first – again, slowly building outwards from there.
- Fail fast: Failing fast is an unusual business technique that basically means if something isn’t going to work, don’t hang around. With a limited budget, often it makes more sense to let an idea go, learn from the experience, and move on rather than spend all of your time and money on something that isn’t going to return the investment. If you’re starting small and testing new products, you should see quickly when a product isn’t working.
Examples of innovation in the coffee industry
Out-of-the-box coffee flavours: What can you add to your coffee to create a unique, limited-time special flavour? Think mint, berries, herbs such as sage or basil, spices like cardamom or chili, or even stranger: Wormhole Coffee once featured a coffee with ginger and curry sauce notes.
Vegan milks: We all know that veganism is on the rise, but what can you do to replace milk additives in your RTD coffees? Think almond milk, soy, coconut, even pea milks.
Sustainable packaging: We’re seeing a big push towards sustainability in the global food and drink processing industries. Some questions, then, to ask yourself: Is your packaging biodegradable, compostable or better yet, refillable? Can your coffee pods be recycled?
New takes on an old idea: Sometimes the best new thing is an old thing done differently. For example, we all know that coffee is a get-up-and-go drink, but what if it wasn’t? In 2015 Canadian brand Counting Sheep Coffee experimented with decaf coffee that could put you to sleep!
6. Merchandising your brand
If your brand is popular enough, coffee isn’t the only thing you could sell – how about merch? Merchandise gives your audience something to purchase as a memento of your brand, a way to show loyalty, or just because they think it’s a neat product. Either way, you’re making more sales while getting free airtime for your brand.
Is merch right for your brand?
It’s hard to answer this question because every coffee roaster is different, and it depends how you’ve set up your brand already. If you’re a fun, trendy roastery then merch will probably fit right in, but those of you with a more ‘pure’ classic brand, untainted by, say, the ‘corporate’ world, might struggle to make merch feel right to customers.
Of course, we could be wrong on both of those counts as well – like we said, every brand is different.
So what should you look for? Merchandise is a product, which means there has to be an audience for it. If you think your audience is of sufficient size to warrant investing in merch and you feel your customers are energised enough about your brand in particular to purchase merch, it might be worth giving it a go. But if they aren’t ready, it might be a drain on cash and a waste of time (at least for now).
What to think about when selling merch
- Figure out what to sell: Look at what your competitors offer, or brands in a similar category to you. Could you do the same thing, or sell something better/more unique? You can also pose this question directly to customers, who may be more than willing to tell you what they’d buy.
- Make it easy: The logistics of making and selling merchandise can be a lot to balance on top of keeping your roastery running. From manufacturing to shipping logistics, financials, website design, product design, it’s a lot. So make it easy – look for platforms like Shopify and other digital tools that take some of the complexity out of it.
- Start small: This is just another type of innovation for your brand. Start small, test new products with small groups of consumers, then think about expanding from there.
Read more: Running A Shopify Store in Unleashed
Is there a brand story in your coffee’s origins?
7. Telling your coffee brand story
As we mentioned earlier, people love stories. Not only are they a way for us to connect with the history of a brand, or its human side, but it can have real commercial benefits too – 55% of customers who love a brand’s story are more likely to make a purchase from it, while 44% will recommend the story to someone they know and 15% will purchase immediately.
So what does a brand story look like for a roastery?
We can’t tell you what your story is, but we can ask you some questions to help you get there on your own:
- Where does your coffee come from?
- Who farms your coffee and how does it get to your business from there?
- Who are the faces behind your brand?
- What do you do to your coffee beans when they get to your roastery?
- Why do you do what you do?
Some tips for telling a brand story
- Be human: Stories are a uniquely human thing. Imagine you’re telling your story to a friend or group of friends at a cafe. How would you talk to them? Chances are that personal tone will resonate with your audience, too.
- Connect on an emotional level: Emotions are key to success in storytelling. People want to feel something, be it delight, sadness, empathy, laughter, anger, whatever is relevant. Discard that old corporate-style, sterile tone and think about the emotion behind your narrative.
- Get to the point: People are busy, and most audience members won’t read past the first few paragraphs or watch past the first 30 seconds or so. Of course, you can change that by making fabulous content, but it’s also best to try and cut any rambling and stick to a cohesive, well-edited story.
- Use the gamut of content opportunities: Articles and social media posts aren’t the only options on the planet. Think about videos, animations, infographics, podcasts, and even speaking at live events (when live events become a thing again).
8. Supporting your marketing with smart coffee software
If any of the above work really well for you, chances are you’re about to grow. If it goes really well, you’re going to grow a lot – and that means you need to be ready.
One of the best ways to prepare for the ups and downs of growth is to have efficient coffee inventory management software ready to go in your back office. Smart software can help you track and report every little detail of your roastery, from tracking bean shipments to warehouse storage levels, creating a bill of materials, tracking customer purchases, automatically adjusting orders to suit demand, and reporting all of this back in the form of data analysis (so you can learn what works and what doesn’t).
Sources in this article
Article by Greg Roughan in collaboration with our team of inventory management and business specialists. Greg has been writing, publishing and working with content for more than 20 years. His writing motto is ‘don’t be boring’. His outdoors motto is ”I wish I hadn’t brought my headtorch’, said nobody, ever’. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with his family.