Have you considered using door hangers for the residential people who live withing a few blocks of your cafe? They can be printed fairly cheaply, and there are lots of kids who want to make a few bucks to distribute them.
I hope others join in with their ideas.
"the oldest guy at your party"
Ron's idea is great and I've seen other customers use it successfully. Depending on your area, facebook and twitter are great tools as well. You have to work at it by posting on a daily basis to build up a momentum.
Are there other businesses that you can co-market with? For instance. . . Buy x at bob's place and get a discount at your place and vice-versa?
With coffee prices going crazy, call the local newspaper and tv and see if they are doing press on what is happening in the coffee world. Offer yourself as a local voice.
Hope any of this helps!
Also great...thank you! I'm to the point now where I can hire more people to cover my hours so I can work more ON the business than IN it, which will give me more time to work on things like facebook and twitter. And - YES - that's a great idea to work with the other local independents who are also struggling to co-market.
The suggestion for articles on coffee prices is awesome--free advertising! Yay! Thanks!
Marketing (both type and scale) largely depends on what your goals are. Obviously increased sales are the objective, but more specifically, where is the gap you want to fill?
If you have a busy breakfast and lunch rush, and you are already working at capacity during those periods, then additional customers at those times won't help your bottom line, but marketing to increase your off peak hour business might have a great effect. To this end, marketing should be geared toward people who have flexible or non traditional schedules e.g. service employees, students, unemployed... Typically marketing to this demographic should offer timeline discounts and other incentives (half-price between 9-11 for example, or whatever is appropriate)
If you have an obscurity problem and your sales are flagging throughout the day, your marketing should be focused on branding. Discounts might help, but what you really need is a reputation and visibility. Effective means of marketing to this end include populating rating sites such as Yelp and Citypages with glowing reviews of your own product. - Is this immoral? Perhaps, but this is the age in which we live. Other branding methods include social media platforms such as FB and Twitter, event sponsorship, media interest, etc... the goal is to make your business name familiar.
If your goal is to become more of a neighborhood icon and industry branding is less of a concern, then you need to approach differently again. You need to imbed your coffee shop into the psyche of the neighborhood. Go to neighborhood association meeting and speak up, (always dropping the name of your business when appropriate). Use your store to host neighborhood meetings (PTA events, neighborhood watch meetings, even AA meetings), sponsor a softball team that plays nearby... the list goes on and on, but the theme is the same; become part of the neighborhood, not just a storefront.
In the end, blind marketing will almost never be successful. Marketing must always focused on the specific customer you want. Identifying that customer is the key to successful marketing.
This was pure gold, and it is amazing that advice of this caliber can be had for free on this forum. You'll do well to follow it!
I can add that I had a lot of success adding new business to my cafe a few years ago when I walked around my strip mall/neighborhood (I think I went as far as 5 blocks in all directions) and handed out free drink coupons to my neighbors. "Hey, come give us a try!" I'd say, with a smile on my face. We had a great return on that investment as we added a number of new "regulars."
Giving a drink away for free is diabolically awesome. The first one is free... you pay for the rest.
Marketing (both type and scale) largely depends on what your goals are.
Identifying that customer is the key to successful marketing.
A couple other comments on the marketing and branding part of things.
Don't forget to follow up. . . sometimes it can be as simple as a notebook to collect email addresses once someone does come in. To use Nathaneal's idea - have a spot for the email address to be written on the back of the coupon. This gives you the ability to start inviting them to your facebook page as well as to email specials or just information about you on a somewhat regular basis.
If you can, use excel or a POS to track the coupons and promotions that you do and see what works. I.E. If you are in an area with more mature people, then a quad shot mocha special may not be the most effective special to run :). Know your market and know what market you want to cater to.
One other idea as well (stolen from a customer of mine). Have your regulars help you out by providing them with a free drink coupon and ask them to pass it on to their friends. Make it a two for 1 type promotion. If a regular brings a friend in, you have a potential new customer!
Ok. . . I need to get back to work now :)
mobile media marketing.
learn here at: http://www.izigg.com/atek1
I love marketing. One of my favorite things to do on our bakery's Facebook page is to take this awesome picture of fresh apple fritters or some such thing, post it, and tease the customers with how yummy it is. Just drives them up a wall! Seems counter-intuitive, perhaps, but after only a year and a half, we have over 3000 followers on Facebook.
Perhaps, rather than approach it as marketing, consider it from a social perspective. How can you generate a relationship with people? You meet them where they are, and invite them to where you are, just a visit, so to speak. I get better responses from this approach than a "buy this, buy this, Special Sale!", etc. approach. People want to know you care. So we donate bakery products to local fundraisers, community events, church events, anywhere our customers put their hearts. And it works.