💡 Open Idea: Hack Growth With Local Partnerships

by | Dec 22, 2020 | 🚀 Coffee Ecommerce, 🤝 Coffee Shop Marketing

Idea exploration: building an audience is hard work. The faster option is to leverage someone else's to hack your growth.
Coffee business customer research

Let’s explore an idea: leveraging local partnerships to accelerate growth.

Starting from scratch is hard. Creating a brand from nothing, building an audience for the first time, generating traction that sticks — it’s always an uphill battle.

Sure, you can just grind it out. Consistency is the unsung hero of business success in many cases. But there’s also another way to build something that lasts — and it can work a lot faster.

Partnerships.

Leveraging another brand’s audience or platform to boost your own is a powerful shortcut to gaining traction quickly.

There are a bazillion examples all around us…

  • DoorDash + NYC — My Chase credit card gives me DashPass for exactly $0 (no delivery fees, smaller service fees). Which food delivery service do you think I’m most likely to use?
  • Ritual + NYC — Ritual, a food ordering platform, partnered with NYC (the local government) to offer zero-commission ordering to local restaurants to help them keep more delivery dollars for pandemic recovery.
  • Atomic Roasters + Trade CoffeeAtomic sells their coffee on the Trade Coffee marketplace.

There’s a sort of imposter syndrome that holds many of us back here. We tend to think that partnerships are primarily for major corporations, and we smaller businesses must “pay our dues” by struggling through early growth stages.

I think that’s stupid.

There’s nothing stopping you from growing faster via a partnership — especially a local one. Let’s see how it might work.

Read: Open Idea: Build A Moat With Online Coffee Community Groups

How It Works: You Have Supply, Your Partner Has Demand

You have coffee (supply), but you don’t have the audience (demand). Meanwhile, someone else has access to an audience, but they don’t sell the coffee.

When you trade your supply for their audience, you get access to customers you wouldn’t normally have. In exchange, your partner gets a cut of the growth they enable for you.

Third-party coffee subscription boxes are a good example of this. I recently interviewed over a dozen industry experts to create this article on how to get your coffee into subscriptions, and what I discovered in the process was pretty interesting.

Subscription boxes (like Mistobox and Trade) take a significant cut of the profit margin, but they have access to potentially hundreds of orders per week. While you sacrifice margins, you get your brand and beans in front of hundreds or thousands of new customers each month.

Read: 3 Lessons From Membership Marketing Coffee Shops Can Apply To Boost Customer Retention

The Upside: A Shortcut To Customer Acquisition

Whether you’re an independent coffee shop or a growing ecommerce-only roaster, your business relies on acquiring customers. Social media, paid ads, search engine optimization — all of these tactics are designed to attract customers from the ether of the masses somewhere out there.

In short, there are no guarantees those efforts will perform, because it’s challenging to attract the right people quickly when you’re shooting your marketing off into the world, hoping it attracts new customers.

When you partner with a brand with a like-minded audience, you get access to people you already know will find your brand/products/story interesting.

Three examples…

  • Atomic Coffee Roasters got hundreds of orders the first weekend they upgraded their partnership with Trade Coffee (the subscription), because they weren’t marketing to randos — they were marketing to directly fanatical coffee lovers.
  • As a service provider (supply of marketing expertise), when I make connections with coffee industry consultants and agencies with existing customers (demand), it’s easy to get referrals to companies who are a great fit for my services, rather than hoping random industry people see my posts on LinkedIn or Twitter.
  • Counter Culture recently partnered with NPR to create a coffee club for avid NPR listeners. Now that’s a huge audience!

A few examples of  local partnership opportunities worth considering… 

  • Local Media — Your city’s newspapers are a great place to find locally-minded people who want to support local businesses.
  • Local Tourism — Everyone loves bringing souvenirs and gifts back from when they travel, and I’m willing to bet coffee brands that partner with local tourism boards get their beans in the hands of a bunch of travelers shopping at the tourist hotspots.
  • Local Coupon Books — You know those coupon books sold as fundraisers by school choirs and football teams? I know they’re cheesy. I know. But I know some cafe owners who swear by them, and re-up their partnership each year.
  • Local Nonprofits — This is a pretty common one. Beloved nonprofits are always looking for creative ways to raise money, and a partner blend of coffee, like Common Grounds’ COVID Relief Blend, are a great way to connect with the patrons of those nonprofits.

Read: Website Teardown: TOVA Coffeehouse Fights Tiredness And Poverty In Lubbock, Texas

This is just off the top of my head! I’m sure the gears are turning in yours.

How To Test The Idea In One Month

Identify five potential partners and send them an email explaining that (1) your brands and missions are a good fit and (2) that you’d like to explore the possibility of partnering.

Identify a payment model with each potential partner according to their business and needs. For example:

  • Donate $ per bag or cup of coffee sold
  • Give % of product revenue after a period of time (30 days)
  • Trade: promote their products to your audience too
  • Offer a flat-fee commission per new customer

Create a co-branded product, bundle your products with theirs, or generate unique discount code that the partner can share to their audience.

Measure the customers you received from the partnership after 30 days. Track to see how many of them came back for a second time (if they’re a good fit audience, they’ll keep coming back).

Measure whether the benefits of the partnership outweighed the costs and energy it took to run the experiment.

Read: $20K In Coffee Sales For Health Workers In 1 Day

Your Turn: Give It A Spin!

I’d love to see how this goes for you. Who are you going to partner with in 2021? How will you structure the deal?

Shoot me an email and let me know ?

Hey 👋 I'm Garrett Oden

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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