In college, at the University of Denver, I worked at a small, entirely student-run coffee shop. Beans Coffee Shop is located in the Knoebel School of Hospitality, where we sold sandwiches, pastries, bagels, and of course, coffee. I loved working at this little shop, but not only because of the half-priced coffee. It was also because my co-workers and I worked hard to establish and maintain a welcoming presence while both on and off the clock. I strongly believe it was our sense of community and our desire to engage with our customers that increased our sales revenue year after year.
Beans were easy to maintain because it was a small company, composed of students working part time and was closed over the summers. During the on season, we were always behind the counter, ready to shape the customer’s experience. For most businesses, however, it can be much more difficult to shape the client’s experience. One of the ways you can is through inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is when your customers come to you, without the use of billboards, commercials, or any outbound message from your business. If properly managed, inbound marketing gets strangers’ attention, converts those strangers into customers, and customers into advocates of your business. There are a few lessons that I learned from Beans that apply directly to inbound marketing, especially now in the age of the customer.
Treat Your Customers Like Human Beings
This seems self-explanatory, but you would be surprised how much a simple positive interaction with a customer impacts their overall experience. For example, if someone sat down after ordering coffee at Beans we would try to bring it directly to them, instead of calling out the order and them coming to get it. Upon delivery, our customers were always visibly surprised and delighted at our heightened level of service. Businesses can follow this example by filling the pain points of their customers. How does your business help your customers? By answering this question, you can identify with your customers, and what they are looking for.
Educate Your Customers On What They (Actually) Want
One of the issues we tended to face as baristas at Beans was that some customers were unable to name what beverage they wanted, or they just ordered something they didn’t really like. This issue stems from the customer, not from the business. However, it is not the fault of the customer for their lack of knowledge on different kinds of coffee. Rather, it’s the fault of the business. If Beans were to put up an infographic next to their menu containing helpful information about different kinds of coffee, customers would benefit. We can apply this directly towards a business-to-business setting; a construction company would benefit from writing an online blog that outlines helpful DIY tasks. By putting information online, you establish your own expertise and you also help the customer make a more informed decision.
Keep Your Customers Coming Back
Considering the highly caffeinated state of college students, Beans was a popular study spot. We averaged five thousand to six thousand dollars in sales a week, and most of the sales were to the same customers coming in every day. Beans carried different products than other coffee shops on campus, and we were easily able to differentiate ourselves from our competition. In a highly competitive market, it can be much harder to retain your customers. However, by treating your customers like human beings, and educating them on what they actually want you will keep your customers coming back.
Successfully implementing inbound marketing gives your business the power to turn your customers into promoters that drive positive word-of-mouth. That word-of-mouth is missing in traditional outbound advertising, which is yet another reason why inbound marketing is better!