Coffee — the most powerful way to engage with your audience?

I’m a firm believer that coffee is currently THE single best way to engage with your audience. Why? Because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Now I appreciate that some of you may disagree (and I’m sure I’m not right in every case), so I’m thinking that I may need to justify this belief with some hard evidence. For all you marketeers and sales people out there, now is a good time to sit up and listen. And then, you may just take action. 

To justify myself to those unfamiliar with me, I own a mobile coffee business the uses coffee vans to take artisan coffee to locations on a temporary to semi-permanent basis. This means that I experience every day the power of coffee when it comes to starting a conversation. We can and literally DO take coffee to the customer and craft a beautiful flat while from outside of peoples offices and then enjoy sitting back and watching the interaction unfold and the relationships begin. And not just begin, but flourish. Marriott uses coffee as a way to get their customers to open up, talk about their needs, requirements and developments. These same customers will open up as to why they have chosen a competitor, or how to persuade a new decision maker into the business to work with them. All highly powerful insight.

In contrast the University of Law use coffee as a lead generation tool to discuss postgraduate courses with students at University Campuses. Here they have a captive audience to promote their brand to. Whatever the outcome, if you can reach your audience then coffee could just be the tool you need to get them talking.

Now let me take a step back and explain why I think coffee is better than any other gimmick out there.

  1. Coffee environments make people feel comfortable. Coffee culture has been around for long enough now that people feel relaxed whilst in a coffee environment or shop and most are happy to make conversation — even when alone. Coffee has the ability to make people open up and chat informally which makes it an excellent tool for engagement. Take someone out of their comfort zone and they close up, whereas take them to a coffee shop and it is the perfect setting for a chat. Compare this to the hard sales approach of trying to grab passers by at an exhibition stand for example and you’ll start to understand the difference. This is why so many companies use coffee as an exhibition stand giveaway, to entice people in with something non-threatening and to take the focus away from the sales pitch.
  2. It takes just the right time to make a coffee. It takes around 30 seconds to make a coffee (give or take) which means that people can’t grab and run. This gives you just the right time for initial engagement to take place. From the customer’s point of view they know they won’t be waiting that long, but it’s an opportunity to get a good opening conversation in that can then be extended if done right. And there’s a bigger opportunity to engage when a queue starts to form, as it inevitably will with free coffee. Look at how captivated the people in the photo are whilst they wait. Suddenly the tables are turned with people wanting to engage with YOU!
  3. Almost everyone loves a coffee. Having attended many exhibitions I’ve seen people that are on a diet and don’t want chocolate, people that don’t have the right shoes for a shoe cleaning service, and those who aren’t interested in yet more free giveaways. Offer a coffee however and it really is hard for most people to say no. There’s always a tea or hot chocolate available for those who’d rather have these options.
  4. It increases brand engagement and sales pipeline. Having carried out a number of sales tours to increase customer engagement and sales pipeline for our customers, every campaign for one customer has generated over 280% uplift in opportunity in the pipeline. That’s hard evidence that coffee does in fact create genuine return on investment.
  5. Add WiFi for the whole experience. As with most coffee shops nowadays, WiFi is also in big demand. If you want to go that bit further add an event wifi service that allows you to present digital media to people whilst they wait or to allow guests to sit down and log on, giving you a chance to create brand empathy. You can even capture details of users on a splash page to give you a database of prospects. We use Wireless Solutions for this. You can explore typical event WiFi costs to see if this makes sense for you.

If we’ve got you intrigued, what I will add is that it’s important that you maximise the brand footprint of your events and coffee vans can be branded to leave a more powerful lasting impression of your brand (including the cups). If you do decide to use coffee for your next experiential marketing campaign or event then I’d be happy to chat through our experience of maximising the impact and increasing the returns.

Beth Baxter


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