Whether you like the taste of Starbucks coffee or not, there’s no denying that the popular high-end coffee chain knows how to build a business.
Boasting a store on (seemingly) every corner, Starbucks has grown from a small roasting company selling only unbrewed beans into an international coffee conglomerate with its own culture and lingo. How did they get there? You can learn a lot from the experts when deciding how to market your small business. This week, we take a look at marketing like Starbucks.
Starbucks is a Game Changer
Starbucks wasn’t always the big company it is today.
When it started in 1971, the founders roasted and sold coffee beans. That’s it. No caramel macchiatos. No soy milk or foam. They did fairly well, and by 1986, had first started to sell espresso. Then Howard Schulz (now CEO) changed everything.
While working as Starbucks’ Director of Marketing, he traveled to Italy and noticed that coffee shops in Europe were a little different than in the U.S. They were hubs where students could linger over their espressos and share conversation. They were places to gather after work and meet with friends and neighbors. And Schulz saw a future where Starbucks could do that for America.
Initially, Starbucks wasn’t interested, but Schulz eventually won them over and took the chain national. (I guess it’s safe to say he was right all along.) Today, Starbucks continues its history of innovation with big sellers like the Pumpkin Spice Latte and their Via line, the first instant coffee that people actually got excited about.
It might not be possible to put on your thinking cap and revolutionize your industry on the spot. But start by taking a look at what you do better than your competitors (there’s always something, or why would you be in business?) and get that message out there.
Maybe you are the only hair salon in your town that does a specialized cut for curly-haired customers. Maybe you just have the best key lime pie. It doesn’t matter. Find the gap in the market that you alone can fill, then deliver.
Starbucks Knows Its Audience
Starbucks is popular with everyone, it seems. But there are two big demographics that seem to really take to the culture: hip youngsters and a group of people I like to call “the laptop crowd.”
Starbucks has paid attention to who their customers are and found ways to accommodate them. Soy milk and gluten-free options bring in the hip younger set, as do the eco-friendly practices. For the freelance workers, entrepreneurs, and students that make up “the laptop crowd,” Starbucks offers free wi-fi and tables in differing sizes, which are perfect either for solo screenwriting or working on a group project.
You want your business to take over the world, but maybe your product or service is not for everyone.
You have three options: you can focus your marketing campaign on bringing in the type of person who needs your business (curly-haired clients who need your curly haircuts, for example), you can offer more choices to bring in a larger crowd, or you can do nothing and grow stagnant. Deciding between the first two options can get a little sticky, which brings us to our next point….
Starbucks is Focused
When you think “Starbucks,” you think “coffee.” It’s just that simple. Yes, they offer tea, cocoa, hot cider, and even snacks, but their flagship product is coffee.
They do it well, too, by choosing to focus on making a quality product rather than lowering the price in an effort to bring in more customers. (Notice how I said “in an effort to.” That’s because the whole “lowering prices to get more customers” ploy doesn’t work. It just makes your product look cheap.)
The world sees Starbucks as the coffee expert, regardless of whether they truly are the world leader in coffee innovation.
In order to market like Starbucks for your small business, focus on quality rather than “cheapest price” or “more customers.” This sounds counterintuitive, but it works.
Selling just coffee would be too narrow a focus, alienating non-coffee drinkers or repeat customers who are in the mood for something different. Starbucks hits a happy medium that makes people want to come back for more, but still tells them what they can expect.
You don’t want to expand so far that you drive away your fan base. So go ahead and make sure straight haired customers know they can still visit your “curly friendly” salon, but don’t start dressing up like Scissors the Clown to offer kids’ cuts.
Now, it’s important to remember that Starbucks and the other big brands are already highly profitable and have established themselves in their chosen fields, so marketing exactly like Starbucks could actually hurt your business.
That’s not what we’re advocating.
We’re talking about taking tips from the experts and seeing how (and if) you can apply those to your growing business.
What companies do you admire and have you mimicked their practices in your own small business?
Clarity Creative Group is a web design & internet marketing company located in beautiful Orlando, Florida. We wait all year for the Pumpkin Spice Latte and we drink it like it’s never coming back. We should probably buy stock….