Getting more people in the door and buying. An age old discussion and I need some ideas!

Hey all,

I work in a fairly well known shop, and I need ideas. 

I'm trying to get the door swinging more.  It's essential that I not only increase foot traffic, but also cross/upselling.

I want to hear about what works or doesn't work in an indie shop in a large city.

Things we've done so far to minimize expenses:
*lowered COGS in all catagories
*raised all prices to compete with local shops
*decreased vendor costs in all areas
*decreased labor to bare bones coverage

The recession is hitting us hard all of a sudden, and it's a matter of folks coming in.  We have a VERY limited marketing budget, so I'm looking for cheap, fun, guerilla marketing ideas.

How do you get your shop's name out?  Do you utilize coupons or give aways?  What brings people in?

Thank you for reading and contributing!  I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's ideas!!

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Hi Lisa, I want to re-iterate my basic obsevation. Make sure the experience your customers have is great. I looked at your Yelp reviews and I saw a lot of 4 stars that actually read like 3 and 2 stars. Make sure your bathrooms are clean. Make sure the staff are just as commited to great customer service as you are. Be the person on the floor thanking customers. As they say, "Be the change you want to see." Yelp is a great tool to connect with customers, as well. Respond to the reviewers, invite them back if they had a poor experience. Use the input to take action. Then I think you'll start getting some 5 star reviews that read like a 5 star reviews.

I still contend that if what you are doing inside the cafe is rock solid and you are totally connected with your customers then they will continue to choose you even if four new shops open up on either side and accross the street. If you are just recently rock solid then follow Brady's advice, find out the events that your customers already do/believe in and go there. Query your current customers and create the "value combo's" Brady suggested. Make your customers the center of the universe and they will pull you through.
Lisa - are you on Twitter? A three-unit shop in Houston (twitter handle @greenwaybarista) increased all-store sales by 15% in six months just using Twitter. Give him a shout sometime..

Lisa Kettyle said:
I love FB for this reason. Most of our promos go out through FB, as we have over 2k members and it's the site most customers mention when they come in. : )

Cody Kirkland said:
Having a Facebook page is pretty helpful. At the shop I manage, I post updates every few days about new coffees we have, daily drink specials, or events.
well i don't know if you have room or not, but expending what your offering for sell , our coffe shop is in a weird location in a small little mountain town, that have already to many coffee shop , and we drag customer away from the main area to come to our place , we make and sell gelato (italien ice cream) seriously , it our first summer and it work very well.We also offering some gelato base coffee drink , as affogato (espresso pour over a scoop of gelato),and our iced capp that we add gelato to it . they both sell like crazy.
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A couple of shops I know offer incentives for customers to help with the advertising. One has Retweet Tuesdays, which involves Twitter. Customers can retweet a shop tweet, and if they come in and show the staff their retweet, they get a 40% discount on their drink. Another shop uses Foursquare to similar advantage. Free product tastings, sending agreeable, engaging employees out to set up a mobile tasting booth, sponsoring local charitable events (especially those covered by the press, as press personnel love to hunt for fill material...if you do it right, they become intrigued), using Yelp and Urbanspoon to let out-of-towners know where you are, leaving business cards and menus EVERYWHERE you go, especially office breakrooms. Local business deliveries can help, as office personnel often do not have time to run down to the shop to get that caffeine jolt they need to finish out the day, especially as this coincides with the slowest part of the shops day. Another tactic involves reexamining the target market demographics - if it has changed, how so, and what do we need to do to refocus. Who is being ignored by neighboring businesses/competitors?

But the most critical thing is what Mike S and others have said. Keep product quality as high as possible, so that firsttimers become regulars. Maintain employee morale at a high, enjoyable level, and customers get better service.
In the process of lowering your cost of goods did you lower the quality? If you changed vendors to achieve lower prices you might have also change your taste profile. Customers that fall in love with a certain taste want to get it time after time. Don't confuse your customers.

see....you have lowered your cost of goods and increased the prices. Interesting approach when you are trying to attract new customers. How's it working for you?

So, you have worked over your vendors, reduced the wages or reduced the number of people servicing the customers. When you do this don't be surprised if you start losing employees. They get job insecurity when all the signs of going out of business are present.

Word of mouth in the most powerful advertising tool you have. You are not sending good signals to draw new customers and keeping the regulars coming back. Now is the time to run specials, know every by name and spend time passing out samples. Ask if they have ever tried iced coffee and if the say no then give them a 5 oz cup sample. Get creative with your new additions. If you don't have a gellatto bar then look into one.

You are doing all the things that send negative signals to your staff and customers.
had i not been searching for discussions about the coffee bean (since i work there), i never would have found this discussion and never would have known that your shop had taken some major steps to improve things there. i go to indie places all the time, but i've avoided yours for a while as i had no idea that such positive changes had taken place -- and i live relatively close by (bouldin). i probably haven't been to your shop since before you took over. i'm thrilled to hear that you've got your people training at cuvee and all of that -- now i'm totally going to stop in again and check it out. training at cuvee was one of the best things i ever did. i'm afraid i don't have many suggestions, but whatever you're doing to get the word out, you need to do a lot more. i think more social networking -- and not just twitter -- is probably going to be key.
When SmartCup was just beginning we did some Market Research. The customer response was very significant in three responses on what they found missing in their coffee experience. They wanted choice, being able to buy any coffee or tea that the shop offered, not just what was being brewed. They wanted it fresh, not only fresh brewed, but fresh ground. And they wanted to be able to customize their experience beyond just adding sweetener, dairy or flavored syrup.
"Upselling" gives you the ability to have that portion of your customers who truly enjoy premium or single origin coffee, not only buy a fresh cup of that bean, but after having experienced it, buy it in bulk. You may also move more customers into premium customers if they could taste various beans.
This is ideal for using the brew bar, where you can custom brew one cup at a time. Not only can it enable a customer to choose a specific coffee to be ground and brewed fresh for him/her, it also enables the cafe to use price to educate the customers that different coffees cost different amounts.

Bruce Roberts said:
When SmartCup was just beginning we did some Market Research. The customer response was very significant in three responses on what they found missing in their coffee experience. They wanted choice, being able to buy any coffee or tea that the shop offered, not just what was being brewed. They wanted it fresh, not only fresh brewed, but fresh ground. And they wanted to be able to customize their experience beyond just adding sweetener, dairy or flavored syrup.
"Upselling" gives you the ability to have that portion of your customers who truly enjoy premium or single origin coffee, not only buy a fresh cup of that bean, but after having experienced it, buy it in bulk. You may also move more customers into premium customers if they could taste various beans.
Thanks for your response. I just found it.
I was a little vague. Our prices are fair, not too high, and items are moved to sell but to give reverence to the quality of the products we sell. We've actually increased quality while decreasing costs. This was possible only because prior ownership/management did not have any idea what the actual COGS were, and so pricing was incredibly underwhelming.

We have not dropped leaflets upon our neighborhood, which will become my main focus after all the encouraging statements here.

I talk with my customers quite a bit, paying special attention to die hards and, more importantly, folks that tell me they haven't been into the shop for awhile. I ask why they didn't come in, what brought them in today, what they like/dislike/wish we had.

We've tightened up customer service, cleanliness, and product line. Now we just need to inform our community about all of our hard work and motivate them to come into the shop.

I guess where I'm struggling is that I want to best utilize my time and resources. This thread has been great. : )


Dr. Joseph John said:
This is such a general issue that it is hard to figure out where to start without knowing your particular situation. Since you have already focused on cutting costs, perhaps you should now look at increasing revenue. Here are some thoughts:

1. Do people who live within 5 miles or work within 1 mile of your shop know you exist? If not, make sure they do. In residential areas, see if you can drop a leaflet by every household. In commercial area, see if you can visit every office/business and talk to the management. Spend at least one hour every day doing just that.

2. If people know you exist and choose not to come in, find out why. Look within your organization for clues. Are your customers' experience in your shop a pleasant one? Ask a couple of people who left you, not your current customers. You say, "raised all prices to compete with local shops." I am not sure what that really means. Is raising prices in the middle of a recession the right move?
Glad to have your input. : )

Quality is my number one focus. I replied to someone else in regards to this as well. Our old pricing structure and COGS was so out of whack that I'm not sure how they made money before we switched it up. Our prices are fair and our product quality has increased. We've also made a big push with employee training and customer service.


Brady said:
Oh, yeah... and to build on what Mike and Jonathan said, make your biggest focus be on the quality of experience. Marketing money is wasted if you don't capture the majority of your first-time visitors.

You never mentioned quality in your initial post, which makes me wonder if you are improving that as well. Seeing COGS dropping, prices going up, and bare-bones staffing are red flags. Are your drinks still the best they can be and getting better? How is staff morale? How about customer service?

If you do nothing else, try your best to make every customer a return customer - 100% retention.

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