3 Lessons From Membership Marketing Coffee Shops Can Apply To Boost Customer Retention
Turning first-time customers into repeat customers isn’t luck or chance. Apply these three lessons and let me know what happens!
“When our customers leave, they should already be thinking about the next time they’ll come back.” — I used to say something like that to the team of baristas I managed at Yellow House Coffee.
The idea was: customers become repeat customers before they leave the first time, so what can we do make sure they get there?
At the time, I wasn’t too sure.
Now that I’ve spent a few years outside the cafe working alongside subscription and membership businesses—both in and outside the coffee industry—it’s clear we were missing opportunities.
I’d like to share a few of them.
Precision Is Better For Customer Retention Than Variety
There’s an ever-circulating idea that, if we just offer more and more to our customers, if we 10x the number of opportunities to buy from or engage with us, we’ll generate more loyalty.
Because more products = more purchasing, right?
Eeer (buzzer sound)
Unless you can offer stunning variety that your customers cannot find anywhere else (Amazon.com-style), trying to solve all problems for all people is a recipe for poor loyalty.
Your customers aren’t looking for pretty good coffee, decent tea, or acceptible pastries. They want a damn-good coffee experience created by great baristas who get them.
Find out who your best customers are. See what makes them so compelled that you’re the best place to get coffee from regularly. Then target them in your marketing. You’ll find more of those bread-and-butter customers who’ll spend money at your shop again and again.
Find The “Rention Point”
In his best-selling book, Retention Point, Robert Skrob tells the story of Netflix created a new metric for measuring customer retention. For every series, Netflix looks for the point where a viewer becomes hooked.
Maybe 50% of people will stop after the first episode. Another 20% will quit after episode five. But those people who make it past episode six? They’ll watch all seven seasons.
Every customer has some threshold you must pass before they’ll commit to sticking around. Your job is to figure out what that threshold is, then create experiences that satisfy it as often as possible.
I’ll make it concrete.
My hometown of Lubbock, Texas has a vibrant coffee community, and the increasing competition has forced shops to compete on personal relationships. Everyone knows the baristas, and local baristas know a stunning amount of customers by name.
This warm, relational culture is manifested in greeting people when they walk in the door, taking names with orders and genuinely learning them, and smiles. Lots and lots of smiles.
When I visit coffee shops in other cities, that’s what I look for. That’s my rention point. Who is going to try and learn my name?
It’s less about the coffee and more about the experience: is this really what I want in a long-term coffee shop?
Think of your new customer as someone who walks into a Sunday service at a church for the first time. That person is trying to decide if the philosophy and the people are what he’s looking for. Same with your business . — Robert Skrob
My favorite way to help customers reach that retention point faster? Run the smile test.
Show Customers What’s Possible If They Stick Around
People don’t visit coffee shops for coffee.
Sorry quality-assurance folks. Your job is still important.
They visit because…
- It’s been a rough day and they need a pick-me-up
- It’s refreshing to see true craftsman at work in a Walmart economy
- A friendly smile goes a long way
- Geeking out on coffee creates community
- And a whole slew of other things
When you know what kind of people you attract, and the kind of transformation they’re looking for, you can shape your shop’s experience to help customers imagine the possibilities.
If you want to create community, show that community being formed in your social media. Create opportunities for people to connect. And then—this is important—invite new customers to participate.
If you want advocate for a cause, educate customers about it in your marketing. Create chances for customers to join the mission. And engage new customers in that cause from the start.
The sooner you bring people into a deeper WHY, the more quickly they’ll see what your business means in the world—and the more they’ll want to belong in your community.
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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