💡 Open Idea: Local Award Marketing for Coffee Shops
Let’s explore an idea: using award marketing to generate local buzz.
There’s a reason Buzzfeed took the whole listicle content idea and ran with it: people love lists, especially if they make trustworthy recommendations.
But Buzzfeed didn’t start the whole “50 Best Coffee Shops” trend. The practice of identifying top-picks has been a common method for generating buzz for years, across just about every industry. A few examples…
- Sprudgie Awards (coffee publication)
- Best of the West (local news station)
- Top 50 Conversational Marketers (tech company)
In fact, there’s a whole award show economy that exists on making recommendations and finding top-performers. Chances are your local chamber of commerce or tourist board does their own “Best of [city]” lists each year.
I believe running a local award campaign is a largely untapped opportunity for community-focused businesses like coffee shops.
Let’s see how it might work.
How It Works: The Award Growth Loop
Award marketing events aren’t like paid ads or social media posts that try to bring customers down a funnel. Instead, it’s more like a LOOP.
You identify local businesses, those businesses get excited, they share the event, more people get involved, and excitement builds further. It’s a self-feeding hype machine.
There are three ways to give it a go (off the top of my head):
- Community Voting — You ask your community to nominate businesses, then conduct a round of voting online. Nominated local businesses will want to win, so they’ll get their customers to visit your website to vote too. You end up with a “Community Top Picks for 2021” result, which might even generate some local press.
- Barista Top Picks — You survey your baristas to find their strongest recommendations for different kinds of local businesses (restaurants, bars, theaters, etc). You publish the results as your team’s personal recommendations. This style of award event works really well for shops and roasteries that have strong customer-barista relationships.
- Community Superlatives — You create a handful of fun and goofy superlative statements, like “Most Likely to Open a Location on the Moon”, then have your community nominate local businesses that match those statements. This style of award is wacky and fun, and potentially press-worthy.
There are many ways you could tweak the award strategy to meet your customer and business objectives. Go crazy with it.
The Upside: Local Tastemaking and Excitement
Everyone loves a locally-minded, well-connected coffee shop, and there aren’t many ways to demonstrate you’re exactly that than to create a local awards event.
If you can pull it off, I think there are some big upsides.
- Creating Local Allies — It’s hard to put a value on allied businesses around you. Standard recommendations from those owners is one thing, but this award event could serve as an introduction for your next local partnership.
- Local Press — Press gets people in the door who otherwise wouldn’t have found you. Surprisingly every time the old shop I managed got featured on the news, the next week or two were extra-busy. Press also means relevant local backlinks, which helps your online presence.
- Community-Building — Coming together with customers to identify top-performing local businesses or sharing your team’s favorite spots are great ways to build emotional connections with customers about the people and places that matter to them.
How to Test the Idea in One Month
This one’s sort of hard to “test” per se, because if you only take a half-swing, it’ll look and feel like a half-swing. In my view, a marketing effort designed to be a big public event like this can’t be attempted. You just gotta go for it.
Thankfully, I don’t think it’s too hard to execute.
- Identify your award type. Are you going to get community nominations for “best of” or superlatives, or are you going to keep it smaller with barista nominations?
- Pick your categories. Restaurants, salons, local parks, theaters, bars, smoothie shops… whatever you want.
- Get your nominations. If you’re going the community route, get local business nominations via social media. You can also get in-person customers to nominate — just make to write them down. Identify the top 4-6 nominations per category.
- Set up your survey mechanics. You can use tools like Google Forms or Aida Forms (my preference) to set up a survey that asks people to vote for a winner for each category from the nominations.
- Make a spectacle out of getting votes. Go big or go home. Post it on social media. Post on your website. Send out an email. Reach out to local press. The more involved you can get your community, the more powerful that growth loop.
- Announce the winners. Don’t get lazy on me now. Go even bigger to announce the winners. Congratulate winners personally to build goodwill with new allies. Thank everyone for participating.
Your Turn to Start Awarding
Want to give this idea a go? Have an idea to add? Keep me in the loop if you decide to go for it 😊
Hey 👋 I'm Garrett Oden
Freelance Coffee Marketer
I'm a coffee industry native who works with coffee brands around the world to create and execute captivating marketing strategies.
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