The Power of a Brand Story

What’s your brand story? Storytelling is a timeless tradition our ancestors used to pass down truths, myths and traditions through the years. It is an impactful craft for strengthening your customer engagement. And it’s a vital extension of your brand and a great tool for creating and retaining brand advocates.

Tell Your Brand's StoryIf you are new to the scene, here are some guidelines on how to start developing your brand story. And for established companies, take a second look and be sure your story has all the necessities. Good stories can strengthen your brand, engage your customers, and inspire your partners.

Who: Every business has one mastermind behind the whole operation. Or maybe there’s a group of folks that conceived your enterprise. Whichever the case, be sure to say who had the idea. A photo of the founder in action will speak volumes as well.

Richard Rosendfeld of Two Leaves and a Bud Tells his Brand Story

Two Leaves and a Bud great job of communicating founder Richard Rosendfeld’s story and how he saw a need and made it his mission to fill it.

“Founded in 2005, two leaves tea company™ began with a journey. Founder Richard Rosenfeld travelled the world on business, where meetings are synonymous with amazingly flavorful cups of tea. After returning to the states, Richard looked everywhere for a good cuppa’ tea…but had a hard time finding one.”

When: This can be as simple as when the company started or a more detailed timeline highlighting significant changes in your organization’s history. Established companies will have many milestones recorded. But if you are new to the scene your accomplishments are still important to share. Letting customers/partners know, encourages them to celebrate your success too.

MAHLKÖNIG coffee grinder Brand Story

Grinder manufacturer Mahlkoenig has a rich history. They feature it on their website with photos and stories about the original machines and how they evolved.

Iced Coffee and Chai company Big Train also does a great job telling customers ‘when?’.

“The name Big Train was chosen by the founding partners in 1991…For over 20 years, Big Train has established itself…In February, 2013, Kerry announced the acquisition of Big Train”

A Taste of Southern Season Raleigh StoreWhere: Where is your store, company, factory located? You may have several locations but every company needs to have a home base. Be sure to let your customers now your ‘birthplace’.  If your origin is a small town it’s okay to associate with the closest biggest city or align with the region. But it may be more intriguing to stick with your small town.

For almost forty years culinary mecca, Southern Season had one store in Chapel Hill, NC. In the past few years they’ve opened three new locations, with the most recent being in our hometown Raleigh, NC.

How: Your brand story should include how you got started and how you came to be what you are today (which could be the same as when you started). How your goods are made (without giving away trade secrets of course). Or how you provide the service you do.

David Rio Brand StoryDavid Rio started as one of many products in a Japanese language catalog.  The company, still run by founders Scott and Rio, achieves success through its perpetual commitment to customers, employees, vendors and creditors. Now they are one of America’s premier chai brands.

Why: This is your mission statement or your core values. “Why?” could change as your company develops and grows so be sure to update it when necessary.

Great Harvest Bread Company Brand StoryGreat Harvest Bread Co. in Greenville, NC uses the walls of their stores to help communicate their brand story. Shop owners, Gregg and Kim Green “have a passion for ministry, service, fellowship and great food.”

Here at Stockton Graham & Co our obsession is blending the art and business of coffee. We haven’t always been a specialty coffee roaster and wholesale beverage company. Seeking the American dream of becoming entrepreneurs, our founders thought the Raleigh market was ready for a coffee house concept that offered high quality coffees, and handcrafted espresso drinks in a comforting atmosphere. Read more about how we became who we are today.

Storytelling is an age-old concept that brings people together, keeps them engaged, and builds trust. It might take some time for you to cultivate this story. But when you do, get other people to help you tell it. Make sure every member of your staff knows the brand story, so they can share it with your customers. Get your team together and make sure they know your who, when, where, how and why. Have them take turns practicing telling it with excitement and passion. Following these basic guidelines will get your storytelling efforts rolling, engaging your customers and converting them to brand advocates.

Dilworth Coffee Anniversary Event

STG513-ID-DWCstickerOur sister company, Dilworth Coffee is celebrating their 25th anniversary of providing craft-roasted coffee to the Charlotte area. To celebrate this significant achievement with their customers, the four licensed stores hosted a Free Coffee Day on November 18th 2014 featuring their 25th anniversary coffee, Organic Willow Oak Estate Blend. Dilworth Coffee’s 25th anniversary coffee was roasted exclusively for the store by Stockton Graham & Co.’s team. Don Keen, founder of Dilworth Coffee, made appearances at three of the stores on the day of the event.

For the Dilworth Coffee event, a press release was sent to local media outlets, the event was promoted on social media and added to community calendars, posters were hung at the stores and “bounce-back” coupons were given out to guests. Customers across Charlotte were delightfully greeted with free cups of Dilworth Coffee on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Dilworth Coffeehouse. Don Keen, the founder of Charlotte’s original and enduring coffee brand along with Thom Swain from Stockton Graham & Co. visited area locations to meet and greet customers. Some life-long Charlotteans were sure to stop and thank Don for his contributions to the coffee community. One visitor recounted her childhood memories of the intoxicating smell of roasting coffee that floated in the air in the Dilworth neighborhood. The impact of Dilworth Coffee’s commitment to excellence and customer service is as evident today as it was when the Keens first opened their café in the Dilworth neighborhood twenty-five years ago.

Reviews of the new anniversary blend were glowing; Organic Willow Oak Estate blend harkens back to the origins of Dilworth Coffee at the former home of the Keens who once lived on Willow Oak Dr. The alluring aroma of this coffee, which blends Latin and Indonesian coffees and is matched by its seamless balance of mild chocolate and spicy notes drew customers in, and will surely have them coming back for more. For a limited time, area Dilworth Coffeehouse locations are still offering a free commemorative mug with the purchase of a pound of Organic Willow Oak Estate.

With the coffee market fluctuating within the recent months, many of our customers are cutting budgets, with marketing and events being the one of the first things to go. This can be detrimental to a business that needs to be constantly promoting itself to new customers while giving regular customers a reason to come back more often. By hosting or sponsoring an event, a coffee shop strengthens relationships with their customer base and the community. It is also a great way to garner media exposure by contacting local outlets and adding the event to online community calendars.

Events are great ways to promote your stores and bring customers back again and again. Read more about how to host an event for your business:

  1. Contact Local Media Outlets: Draft a press release to send to local media outlets. Make sure to cover WHO, WHAT, WHEN and WHY in your release. This gives any reporter you reach out to all the information they will need to cover your event.
  1. Social Media: Promote your event online with social media. Tweet or Facebook in the weeks leading up to the event and post reminders on the day of the event.
  1. Flyers/Posters: Put up flyers or posters in your store to promote your event to current customers. Make sure it is clear on the poster WHERE and WHEN your event is taking place.
  1. Coupons: Create coupons designed to bring any one who attends the event back to your business. This usually includes a coupon that expires within a month after the event.

For more tips about how to create an event to build your business, call us at 800 835 5943 or browse our blog archives.

Using Marketing to Grow Your Cafe’s Profits! Part 2

marketing-part2In Part 1 of this blog series, we discussed the importance of marketing your store and developing a marketing plan to do so.  We also re-introduced our MAP (Marketing Area Profile).  If you have completed your MAP, then you can now begin to identify potential targets and events in your immediate area.  Recall that we are hoping to achieve a FAT bottom line.  We do this by increasing the number of visits from each customer (Frequency), how much they spend (Average) and, of course, getting new customers through the door (Trial).

Before you dive into marketing your location, let’s do a little housekeeping first.  It is a good idea to make sure every customer, new and old, is having the best experience possible while visiting your shop.  I once had a mentor who would say that the best way to go out of business is great marketing.  What he meant is that before you spend money to bring in new customers, make sure you aren’t driving them away with a bad first impression.  So, take a look at your operation from the customer’s point of view.  Is each barista well-trained and producing great drinks consistently?  Are all staff members presentable and friendly?  Is your store clean and well-maintained?  Look on both sides of the counter; are work areas kept neat and clear? Are the retail shelves clean and inviting?  How about your fans and light fixtures; are they burnt out and covered in dust?  Are the floors and furniture clean?  Is the outside of the store inviting?  What about your drink and food menu?  Do you have what customers want, and would you eat the food you have displayed?  Check online reviews and find out what customers love and hate about your shop; address any issues, and applaud your staff for successes.

You may want to invite some friends in to give honest feedback about what they see and how they are served, and then treat them to coffee at a competitor for comparison.  While you are there, check their prices against yours.  Are you in-line, too high, too low?  Does your pricing model even make sense?  We hear some of our customers say that they haven’t changed prices in several years, while the big guys change theirs yearly.

When you first opened, you probably had a check list for each shift.  Now would be a good time to dig it up, update it and reinstate this policy with your staff. This will ensure that your store remains as presentable as you originally envisioned it to be.

As you review your menu, please feel free to call any of our Customer Care Associates for ideas and suggestions on the latest trends.  We can help you round out your menu with the types of items that customers are asking for, and help you do it profitably.

In the next installment, we will discuss the details of Frequency, Average and Trial, and how this concept can add double digit growth to your bottom line.

Written by: Thom Swain – Business Development Representative

See Part 3 to finish off this series!

Using Marketing to Grow Your Cafe’s Profits

marketing-1Now that we are in the New Year (the Fiscal Cliff has been averted and consumer spending still seems to be on the rise), it is a great time to plan for the rest of the year, if you haven’t already begun to do so.  Marketing your business in the coming months will be a key to maximizing your business potential in 2013.

We fully embrace the idea that the only sure way to grow your business is to increase the top line (sales).  If everything else with your business is in check, your bottom line will grow too.  All too often, we hear customers ask how to cut costs, and that is usually a red flag that all is not well.  If you are only seeking to cut your costs, you may enjoy short-term gains, but often there are consequences like, lower quality that can lead to lower sales.  Instead, if you seek out ways to grow the top line, many of the woes that come with a small or negative bottom line will disappear.

We have found that most store marketing and promotions goals are ultimately designed to:  convince your customers to visit more often, sell them more stuff and get new customers in the door.  We refer to these as “Frequency,” “Ticket Average” or “Average” and “Trial.”  Just remember “F.A.T.” for a FAT bottom line. We believe these goals are important to any specialty coffee shop regardless of their size, location or years in business and are a central part of building a successful and sustainable specialty coffee operation.

Nearly every business ever invented has needed to market itself in one way or another, and in our industry, the best type of marketing is done locally, in person and by the owner/operator.  We call this Local Store Marketing or Neighborhood Marketing.  LSM quite simply means you market to nearby businesses, neighborhoods, schools, offices etc.  It also includes marketing within your own store. As with all business tactics, good marketing begins with strategy… the marketing plan.

Before you can begin to develop a marketing plan, it helps to know who your target audience is.  We have developed a guide to help you, called the Marketing Area Profile or MAP.  This is the first big step in working to increase your sales, average ticket and profitability.  The premise behind the MAP is to help you build upon your core strengths using the area surrounding your store, which offers the greatest opportunities for building and sustaining your business.  While it might seem detailed, we believe it’s critical to help document your current situation, competition and areas for growth. You may also discover that these questions will help you think about marketing opportunities you may have underutilized in the past. Understanding your specific circumstances and customers should help you to position them as strengths. Once you know your strengths, you can leverage them as effective marketing messages to build sales!

Having operated coffee shops ourselves, we understand that sometimes the thought process of building these programs can seem overwhelming. Remember that no successful excursion starts without a great MAP. We start there and then we can help you to break the process down into smaller, more attainable goals and targets that can be sustained over a long period of time. To request your Marketing Area Profile, please call your Customer Care Associate at (800) 835-5943 and let them know you want the road MAP to success!

Read more with Using Marketing to Grow Your Cafe’s Profits in 2013 Part 2 and Part 3!

Written by: Thom Swain – Business Development Representative

Stockton Graham & Co. and Big Train Introduce New Smoothie Ideas!

Customers are always looking for something new and improved, and smoothie customers have had their fair share of the cheap smoothie blues. Luckily, while many of the large chains were bombarding the market with strawberry lemonade and coconut mocha, Big Train was cooking up some, high quality versions of the recipes that your customers require. Along with some specially developed marketing materials and posters, we hope that these new recipes will help your coffee shop compete at a higher level than the major chains.
Big Train has put coconut mocha and strawberry lemonade smoothies at the forefront of their advertising campaign. Using many of the same ingredients that you may already have, you can create a higher quality smoothie program without investing lots of money on advertising. Posters, sampling cups & recipe cards among many other marketing materials are at your disposal, free of charge. This leaves you with time to focus on the part that really matters, quality. Toppings, fresh fruit slices & personal touch will put you on top. At the end of the day, quality will bring customers away from the faster, albeit less personal competition.

The foundation of this smoothie program is naturally the Big Train Fruit Tea Blast product line, of which coconut, strawberry & lemonade are featured. Utilizing Stockton Graham & Co.’s mix and match style ordering, you can order one case containing each of these flavors as a way to launch the program. Even the best ideas don’t work everywhere, so take advantage of our low order minimums and test this smoothie program in your shop to see if it will keep your customers coming back.

For more information about our smoothie offerings, click here
For more information about blenders and equipment, click here
Or call us at 800.835.5943 and speak with one of our customer care associates.

The True Cost of Errands

Over the years, I’ve heard this in various forms from a few customers:

“We love your service, but we stopped buying “X” from you because I can get it at (insert big box store name) for less.”

Though we pride ourselves on maintaining the most competitive pricing in the industry, it’s still tough for most companies to compete with the big box boys on certain allied product pricing. They have the buying power to turn out a lot of small business lights. Taking the price difference at face value is one thing, but I always caution our customers to take a deeper look into pricing discrepancies before running out to the super store. How much do your errands cost?

The most important and yet most underrated cost component is quantifying how much your time is worth. Let’s say the average coffee shop owner runs errands three times a week and spends an average of two hours purchasing supplies each trip. That amounts to 6 hours per week – a whopping 300 hours per year! Much of that time is spent behind the wheel, using expensive gasoline and adding wear and tear to a vehicle. Imagine if you could spend four (or more) of those weekly hours networking at local businesses, handing out coupons at apartment complexes, giving out samples at festivals, etc. Now you’re actively working to grow the top line instead of focusing on the bottom. A business can only cut so much, but top line growth is limitless! So I ask, How valuable is your time?

Secondly, when you head out across town for supplies you are out of the shop, meaning someone else must be paid to be there for you. Even if you decide to leave during a slower time and don’t bring in additional help, you could be setting yourself up for a disaster. Let’s say you get an unexpected rush while you’re out running errands; how many potential new regulars could be turned off by a long wait thanks to an understaffed bar? While it’s impossible to calculate this totally, the thought alone is a little scary. It could be pointed out that time away to market the business could also lead to these issues, but when you run errands you only cost yourself money but while you’re out marketing, you’re investing in potential sales growth.

Customers who order from Stockton Graham & Co. know we offer options for free freight so you can spend more time growing your top line. Call a customer care associate at (800) 835-5943 today and begin to truly value your time.

Mike Adams
Stockton Graham & Co.