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I’ll Drink to That!
“If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.” Abraham Lincoln 8/7/2018 | Gregg Emmer, Marketing Matters
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Our 16th president left no question that he was not satisfied with what he was drinking. That is much less of a problem today. Sure, some people accept that they don’t make a good cup of coffee while others, including me, are told that we make a great cup. I have to take their word for it as I have never had a cup - ever! But that puts me in a very tiny minority. Out of home coffee is currently an $85 billion business!

To put that in perspective, “drinking place” (bars, lounges, taverns, night clubs - not restaurants) consumption of adult beverages is a $23.15 billion business. That is about 27% of the revenue for coffee!

Coffee consumption in America coincided with the Boston Tea Party in 1773 becoming a patriotic duty to avoid tea, today it is an essential element in most people's lives. A Starbucks on every corner is evidence of that. Therefore - if you are not including coffee establishments on your client list - why not?

Before you make the excuse that Starbucks is so huge it is out of your reach, consider that they control about 25% of the marketplace at $22.39 billion. Tim Hortons is just $3 billion, leaving a rather nice 70% of the market to independent coffee shops. Virtually all coffee shops sell branded merchandise to their customers and use branded items in their day to day operation. While some may be connected with smaller franchise operations, most are truly independent and can source these items from whomever they choose. Be their choice! All it takes is a little attention and a few great ideas from you.

Beverage containers certainly are top of the list with travel mugs and tumblers, but the range of branded items can be (and are) much more varied. Picnic blankets, ice scrapers, touch screen gloves, bandanas, fun flyers, tote bags, insulated lunch sacks, hand sanitizer, computer screen cleaner, flash drives, hand fans, cooling towels, earbuds and headphones, and dozens of other items are currently available at coffee shops nationwide.

The low minimums and quick production offered by the promotional industry allow shops to test the water with new and exciting branded merchandise. They can easily change their offerings to be seasonal, coincide with community events or national holidays. The items make great employee gifts and incentives and can also be used in customer loyalty programs and promotions.

The focus of this article certainly is coffee shops, but I can’t simply ignore the $23+ billion at bars and taverns! They too are great prospects for what you do! The variety of things they sell will generally be less but when you consider that tee shirts and ball caps are very popular, they stack up well next to the coffee shops. Add growlers, coasters, lighters, bottle openers, towels, steins, and golf accessories - and you can easily see that the potential is worth the effort.

What I am advocating is that you choose your customers rather than waiting for them to choose you. Being all things to all businesses is not a really good way to earn a place in your market. The idea of focus or specializing works. Visit a few coffee shops (and taverns) and see what they are currently selling. Take some notes and when you get in touch with the owner or manager you will be able to discuss their operation and make specific recommendations. Telling a manager that you can increase revenues for goods sold without increasing the space they are now using to display, will most likely lead to a discussion recognizing that you have been in their place of business. That is a huge positive!

One other area that you can help coffee shops with is sponsorships. Things like water stops for marathons using branded cups or bottled water, supplying playing cards to schools and civic centers for card parties, handing out hand fans on parade routes, and other creative ways to have a strong branding impact in the marketplace.

Always promote what you do - not what you sell! Discuss increased revenue for merchandise, greater store traffic, customer loyalty, employee incentive and motivation, community recognition, and most of all, that the local independent coffee shop is a fun place to keep going back to.

Gregg Emmer is chief marketing officer and vice president at Kaeser & Blair, Inc. He has more than 40 years experience in marketing and the promotional products industry. His outside consultancy provides marketing, public relations and business planning consulting to a wide range of other businesses and has been a useful knowledge base for K&B Dealers. Contact Gregg at gemmer@kaeser-blair.com.
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