Learn Your Market

The Customer

Understand who your customers are before designing your business.  The more that you know about the people who may walk into your shop, the more effective your efforts will be to attract and retain repeat business.

Ask yourself: who is (are) the customer(s) for my business? Yes, we realize that these are coffee drinkers, but what else do we know about these people? What is his or her background? Is he or she traveling to or from work? School? An attraction or event? How old are is he or she and what are their tastes in style, food and music? What are social issues of particular concern to these people?

Tailoring a business model to the local community is a smart approach. Consider the coffee shop at the base of an office building with a steady pedestrian traffic of white collar workers.  Use the demographics, traffic patterns and interests of potential customers to attract them creatively.

Understanding the market will also help with promotions and to determine how to communicate with customers.  Is social media the best way to reach new customers or a simple knock on the office door with free coffee?  A narrowly targeted approach is best.

The Competition

Do you think that your only competitor is that big name coffee chain store around the corner? Think again.

Your competition is everywhere in places that you may not expect. The local restaurant, fast food business, convenience store, gas station and even your consumer’s own home! With competition from sources of coffee and other beverages, it is important to send a clear message of differentiation.

Consider:

  • The convenience of a location. How easy is the product to access? Are there barriers to prevent a consumer from visiting the coffee shop? For example, an inconvenient unprotected left turn from his or her normal morning commute?  Also in this category: consider the standard of speed of service. Be sure that the speed of service does not present an inconvenient obstacle for the customer.
  • Consistency of the experience. Consistency is the most important the criteria identified here and the central foundation of any brand. Studies have shown that consumers would rather know what to expect than risk an unknown product. Substandard but consistent is more attractive than often but not always exceptional.
  • Quality of the product. Not everyone is a coffee expert and consumers tend to prefer those things they know.  That aside, following best industry practices for coffee quality and beverage preparation improves likability.  Beverages that are sweet and balanced with coffees free of defects are generally preferred.  Work with a skilled artisinal roaster and develop a palate of flavors for your local consumers.  Next, prepare your beverages using brewing standards established by the SCAA and others.  Cutting corners on coffee quality or espresso brewing might save a few pennies but it will cost dollars.
  • Cleanliness of the location.  This is simple and objective.  Everyone prefers a clean environment. Remember cleanliness does not sacrifice the ability to personalize a space or inhibit free expression. Don’t confuse a clean environment with a sterile one.