Promote Seasonal Bulk & Retail Coffees Through A Pre-Holiday Open House

With this year’s holiday season just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how you plan to make the busiest time of the year a success. Studies show that 40% of sales during the six weeks prior to Christmas are a result of retail purchases: this is not something you want miss out on. Though retail sales are at their highs during the last few weeks of the year, they don’t generate themselves. Promoting bulk coffee and retail coffee sales is key during this time of the year. One great way to do this is by hosting a pre-holiday open house to showcase upcoming seasonal features to your customers.

Begin promoting your pre-holiday open house in October, with a plan to hold the event in early November. This gives your customers time to become aware of the event. A few weeks prior to the event, have employees remind customers of the time and date as they come in each day. Also, advertise your event details with signage near the entrance so everyone sees it as they come and go. Lastly, be sure to post it on your shop’s website, social media page and online community calendars. Today, social media is the easiest way to reach out to your whole customer base, so it is critical to have all details and updates posted on Facebook and/or Twitter. While promoting, consider mentioning free samples and giveaways and/or raffles which will take place at the event to help encourage your customers to attend.

So, what do pre-holiday open houses usually consist of? As mentioned before, this is a great time to emphasize your bulk bean program. Let guests know that a retail bag makes a perfect stocking-stuffer or a gift basket item. Also, this time of the year people tend to do a lot of entertaining, whether it is hosting holiday parties or hosting relatives. A fresh roasted retail bag of coffee or two would certainly be a great accessory to have! An open house is also a great time to introduce your upcoming seasonal features to customers. If you plan to bring in seasonal coffees, arrange for samples to be available at this time, and brew a few pots so your customers can taste test what you plan to bring in. This allows you to receive feedback, as well as collect preorders for customers who don’t want to miss out on your limited time offer. If you’re a bakery, consider having apple pie or other baked goods available so customers can sample and preorder their baked goods to pick up the week of Thanksgiving! The main objective of any pre-holiday open house is to get your customers excited about the upcoming holiday features you will be offering, while also convincing them to come to your store, as opposed to competitors, during the season.

This is also a fantastic way to show your appreciation for your regular customers. Business aside, an open house get-together is a perfect opportunity to have fun in a laid back environment and to say “thank you” to the people who generate a large portion of your sales. Let them know that this is not something that is designed to pressure them in to buying more, but a time to relax while enjoying a friendly, entertaining atmosphere with you, the shop owner. Nothing grows business better than strengthening relationships with customers.

Stockton Graham & Co.’s founder and former owner of multiple retail coffee shops, Jeff Vojta, said he would always hold a pre-holiday open house during this time of the year. “There is no better way to make your customers aware of what seasonal products you will be offering, and promote your retail program while it’s at it’s highest potential”, said Vojta. The fourth quarter is the most critical quarter of the year for all coffee shop owners, so make sure you are doing what it takes so help your 2013 go out with a bang! Happy Holidays!

For more information or other seasonal tips, call your Stockton Graham & Co. customer care associate at 1800.835.5943 today!

Build Your Business: Mid-Year Checklist!

ChecklistAs hard as it is to believe, we’ve just about reached the halfway mark of 2013!  So far we’ve made it past the “New Year’s resolutions” in January, a few of the early-year holidays such as Valentine’s day, St. Patty’s day and Earth Day, spring has sprung and now summer is here. Though summer is a time for relaxing, 2014 will be here quicker than you think, so 3rd and 4th quarter preparation can never start too early. Here is a mid-year checklist, to get you and your staff ready for the next 6 months.

Hiring– With school out for summer, part-time opportunities in your shop may open up.  This can be a great way to grab some extra help while other staff members are out on vacation, but often times, younger employees are only available during the summer.  September is just around the corner, so when your temporary summer-employees return to school, make sure your shop is well staffed for the busy season to come.

Training– It is imperative that your entire staff is properly trained. The last thing you want is an unqualified barista in the middle of busy season, so take advantage of the summer and have your staff trained and ready to go before fall arrives.  Stockton Graham & Co. offers all the training you and your staff will need in our Coffee College courses. Taught by certified instructors, your staff will learn everything from pulling the perfect shot, to properly steaming milk, to preventative maintenance and more.  Call today to find out when our next coffee college is available!

Menu Cleanup– Now is the perfect time to revisit your menu and see what changes and/or additions need to be made.  If items such as iced teas, smoothies or frappes are not updated on your menu for the warmer months, they should be, or offered as a “Limited Time Offer”.  It’s also the perfect time to sample new products and add new items to your store.  From coffee to smoothies, Stockton Graham & Co. has dozens upon dozens of samples available for you! When things really pick up in the second half of the year, the time you have to sample and consider new products, will be harder to come by. Summer is also a good time to do a “Costs Benefits Analysis” to make sure you are making a profit on your drinks. Many times vendor prices rise a bit, and you can forget to update your menu pricing accordingly. Summer is a great time to make these menu adjustments.

Equipment Check– Just like your car, the equipment in your shop needs to be kept up and maintained. Coffee brewers, grinders, blenders and especially espresso machines all need to be operating correctly in order to produce quality product.  Here at Stockton Graham, we would be happy to recommend a technician for your area, or provide you with new equipment if it’s time for yours to be replaced. Right now we are offering several special offers on select Vitamix & Blendtec blenders, which includes free smoothie and/or frappe products. Use this blender promotion to re-vamp your blended drinks options this summer for bigger profits!

Marketing– By now, your shop probably has its own Facebook, Twitter or other forms of social media platforms. These are great tools to advertise and promote your business, but they are only as effective as you make them. It’s important to keep them up-to-date with current announcements, specials and new features. They’re easy to manage and can even be updated right from your phone. If you don’t consider yourself to be “social media-savvy”, have one of your trusted employees take the reins. Chances are, one of them is a “pro”.

Back to School– Come fall, everyone will return to their normal routine of school or work, both of which should result in more frequented visits to your shop. Student discounts and happy hour specials are great ways to get your customer base back into the swing of things. This is a perfect time to promote your menu with specials and other offerings, but in order for any promotion to be a success, preparation is required. Leave the procrastinating to the returning students, and start planning now! Check back with Stockton Graham & Co. blogs to get more ideas for back to school.

It may seem unnecessary to begin acting on these things now, but realistically, “pumpkin season” is just around the corner, and right behind that are the holidays. The 3rd and 4th quarters are traditionally the busiest, but also the most profitable, so ensuring that you and your staff are well prepared is essential. Call us today at 800.835.5943 to ask more about your mid-year checklist, and other ways to plan for a successful second half of the year!

Father’s Day Promotions

Father's Day MugWith Father’s day just around the corner, consider offering some promotions for Dads who visit your shop!  Here at a few offers that are sure to please fathers everywhere!

-Offer a free extra shot of espresso with any latte or signature drink purchase for dads

-Offer a buy one get one half off (equal or lesser value) drinks to customers who come in with Dad

-Offer discount mugs/tumblers to Dads to turn them into repeat customers!

-Utilize social media outlets such as Twitter or Foursquare for Father’s day specials.  (For example:  “Check-in with Dad and receive 15% off your order!”)

-Create a gift package for Dads that could include at mug/tumbler, some bulk coffee for home use, an instruction guide for premium brewing and perhaps a giftcard!

-Offer discounted bulk coffee!

Here’s to a very Happy (and Profitable) Father’s Day in your shop!

Google Acquires “Punchd”: Customer Loyalty Programs & Technology Join Forces

Customer loyalty programs have always been a catch twenty-two for small business owners. On one hand, customer loyalty programs can increase the frequency of visits a customer may make, build customer satisfaction and these programs usually don’t cost a lot. Conversely, customers will inevitably find a way to cheat the system, and loyalty programs can only offer rewards for short periods of time before they become difficult to manage. The real objective of long-term customer loyalty has always been troublesome to achieve, but customer loyalty programs and technology are on the verge of a fantastic relationship that may permanently change the face of traditional discount programs.

Before the invasion of technology, a punch-card was an efficient way of increasing customer loyalty. Customers received a unique stamp or hole-punch after each purchase that would count towards some free product; in return people would be more inclined to return on a regular basis. The overall idea works well, but it is easy for people to cheat the system or for cashiers to help their friends by giving them a few extra punches.

Eventually, grocers found a way to incorporate technology in the form of membership cards that customers could carry in return for discounts. These cards do not necessarily promote the idea of repeat visits, but the membership card model did introduce the idea that customer behavior could be monitored. Now when customers pay for their groceries, corporate offices can see exactly which items are popular and why certain customers buy the way they do. The amount of information is infinitely useful under this system, but the price for this sort of program is a deterrent for small business owners.

Now, thanks to “Punchd,” small business owners have access to a reasonably priced customer loyalty program and large amounts of information with a little more security under the medium of social media and smart phones. As of July 13, 2011, Google has officially acquired “Punchd”, a smart phone based application that replaces the old punch card idea with a digital version. Punchd software allows customers to store all of their customer loyalty cards in one place while providing valuable information to the businesses who participate. The software is relatively simple to use, and your café doesn’t need to endure a complete overhaul to employ the technology. The acquisition of Punchd is part of a much larger program entitled Google Wallet, which is likely to make a large impact on the way we do business in the future.

Punchd software even includes the ability to send out promotional messages or coupons directly to a user’s smart phone. The application also prevents users from committing fraud by incorporating location based security measures. This means that customers can only get their digital punch card checked off while standing in your café.

Other technologically-oriented customer incentives and social media platforms like Groupon, Living Social and Facebook are great ways to reach out to customers, but Punchd was developed specifically for cafés, and the marketing audience is more unique to your business and community. In effect, the people who want to know more about your café don’t have to sort through a bunch of vampire requests and event invitations to learn about the next big promotion in your store.

For more tips about how to promote your coffee shop, check out our seasonal marketing toolkit

To see what Stockton Graham & Co. is currently brewing, check out our Twitter and Facebook page

Reid Jackson
Stockton Graham & Co.

Dear Joe,

Everywhere we go we see “Follow us on Facebook” or something about Twitter. We don’t even know what a “tweet” is! Do we need to look at these in addition to our website for our business? We’re a small shop and don’t want to spend a lot of effort or money on some fad. What do you suggest?

Twitter Dee and Twitter Dumb

Twitters,

You should absolutely do these for your shop.  First of all, they are free and very easy to start.  Furthermore, those people that you get to follow you, do so because they WANT to hear from you.  We a have customer in a very small town who has over 600 fans on her Facebook page.  All of her followers are by association…no advertising, no mailing lists… simply through viral interest in her business.  Each week she will post a special, event or announce new products.  We’re talking maybe five minutes or less, two or three times a week.  These sites are also more dynamic and useful than most webpages today.  I highly recommend you start a Facebook Fan Page and link to it via Twitter so you can update while mobile.  Check out our blog at www.stocktongraham.com for more social media tips.

Yours Truly,

Josephius A. Graham

Dear Joe,

I need to revamp my email marketing. Do you have any recommendations for me?

Thank you,

Roberto

Dear Roberto,

Thanks for your inquiry, sir.

Emarketing is important, as you know. You are right to look at different avenues to build your customer base via the web.

Here is a list of email marketing vendors that many of our customers have used over the years. Find the one that makes the most sense for you and your business.

Contactology – www.contactology.com (866) 363-0670

Constant Contact – www.constantcontact.com (800) 221-2705

iContact – www.icontact.com (866) 803-9462

Bronto – www.bronto.com (888) 276-6861

Additionally, be sure to scour our archives in search of past emarketing articles for more ideas on expanding your businesses’ web presence.

Yours in coffee,

Josephius A. Graham

Tweeting to the Top Part II: Increasing Sales Through Twitter

This is Part 2 of a 2 part series on Twitter and cafes. Part 1 was an introduction to Twitter and determining if your business should be tweeting. Part 2 will focus on getting started on Twitter and tips to build sales through tweeting.

The best news about getting started is that account creation is very simple. On the Twitter homepage, click the ‘Sign up now’ button. You’ll want to use your business name as your username for the site, so direct access to your feed will be located at www.twitter.com/yourcafesname.

Once your account is set-up, you are ready to start tweeting. Tweets are 140 characters, including spaces, so it’s important to be concise, clear and on-message. Your first tweet might be, “Mike’s  Cafe is on Twitter!” Then, follow that up with, “Stay tuned for features and specials for our followers!”

Getting Followers

Now, how do you get followers? Immediately after you have created a Twitter account for your business and sent your first tweets, create one for yourself and follow your cafe. Also, immediately notify your staff and close friends to follow the business. Encourage them to join Twitter, if they aren’t a member already. Having these close contacts check out your cafe’s page gives you a solid baseline of  followers. Now you’re ready to use the site to gain new customers and build sales.

Chances are, in your city, many of the local businesses are on Twitter. You can search for them by clicking on the ‘Find People’ link at the top right-hand corner of your page. Look for every complimentary business you can think of and click to follow them. In many instances, the person/business you select to follow will also follow you in return, especially if you can offer them something. Car dealerships, hospitals, bakeries, banks, accounting offices, etc. make for good Twitter contacts. Organizations that might be looking for meeting spaces/catering are good targets, too.

Every time you get a new follower, it is important to contact them directly through Twitter. You can set your account up to receive an email notification that someone new is following.  Send the new follower a ‘Direct Message’ (which can only be seen by you and the recipient) with a greeting and a special offer, e.g. “Thanks for the follow! Please stop by for half-off a specialty drink of your choice. Mention “New Friend” 2 your Barista. See you soon!”

Now that you have a few followers, you are ready to put some signage up in your cafe promoting your social media to your current customers. As always, it’s important to give them a reason to follow you. Your counter cards could say something like, “Follow us on Twitter for EXCLUSIVE daily specials, features and updates from Mike’s Cafe!”  To initially encourage follows, promote a contest in which the person with the best tweet on why Your Cafe is the best coffee house in town gets free coffee for a month.

Sample Tweets

We’ve heard that some customers hesitate to tweet because they aren’t sure what to say. It can take time to get into a groove, so check out what other businesses are doing. Here are some examples of tweets to help drive traffic to your store:

– “It is Twitter Tuesday! All Mike’s Cafe tweeps receive a FREE flavor shot in their iced tea.”

– “We are hosting a coffee cupping on Sat. at noon. Come experience coffee in its purest form. Call to reserve a spot.”

– “Did you know we cater breakfast & lunch? Make your meeting! Check out our catering menu: (attach link using bit.ly, which shortens URLs.

– “Calling all local businesses! Enter the contest for FREE breakfast catering. Tweet “I LOVE MIKE’S CAFE” @MikesCafe b/t now and 3/15 to enter.”

– “Daily Lunch Features: Coconut-Crusted Shrimp Po Boy w/ Mango Remoulade & Cherry Tomato Soup w/ Black Pepper Crème Fraiche”

– “Barista Charlie just pulled out a batch of hot Decadent Double Dipped Fudge Rounds from the oven. You want one?” (include a picture using TwitPic)

-“I am testing a new espresso blend this afternoon around 2. Help me decide if I should bring it in and we’ll taste together. Need your opinion!”

Stockton Graham has  a few customers who have used Twitter as a way to take orders in advance. One person in particular created a new Twitter profile in addition to his main business feed, e.g. @MikesCafeOrders and made it private, request/invitation only. Applying Twitter in this fashion creates the appeal of exclusivity and can be a real convenience for busy customers.

If you have further questions or would like more tips on using social media to build sales, please contact me at 800-835-5943 ext. 3552. I also would be remiss I didn’t direct you to Twitter 101 for Business, which is available on their website. Very useful information there, too.

Follow us @StocktonGraham!

Mike Adams
Stockton Graham & Co.