Why it’s Important to Know Who’s Sharing the Local Coffee Market with You

Do you know why customers go to the cafes around you and not yours?

When creating a value proposition or USP for your specialty cafe, think of it as something that the cafes in your neighborhood can’t claim. Research your competitors inside and out, from their philosophy, to the types of baristas they have. You also need to know why customers are heading to these cafes, and what types of coffee and food they’re offering.

You can only set yourself apart if you know what’s already been done

Why is Important to Know Who’s Sharing the Local Coffee Market with YouSo, the first thing you need to do is research them! Take the 3 to 5  (specialty) cafes in your area and figure out what their unique selling propositions are, if they have them. Are they all claiming to be the cheapest cafe around, or do they claim offer the best coffee around? Because, if they are, you need to do the opposite! And, you gotta go over to these cafes! You can’t find out what sets yourself apart, if you don’t take this step out of your front door!

I know you’re busy! But, take the time to do a little research. Drink some coffee over there. Try their food. Talk to their baristas and to their customers. Especially to their customers! See what their customers are saying about them. Do they have any complaints and how can you take advantage of that? How are they serving customers and what problems have they solved, do they solve them better than you?

Not sure what ‘problem solving’ means?

Well, think of it the other way round. The ‘solution’ might be the ‘to go’ coffee you’re serving all those business people, or the food during lunch time, or the cozy atmosphere you’re offering for those families heading to your cafe on weekends.

So, the ‘problem’ your customer might have and wants you to solve is this: They might be looking for a quick caffeine fix in the mornings, or the students of the local university might want something to eat for lunch, or families might look for a place to gather with their loved ones and have some great cake and coffee while meeting at your cafe.

Do your competitors solve some of these problems for their customers? Or are you able to solve these better?

Also, peruse their advertising, marketing and social media messages; visit their websites to see what USP they’re promoting. By researching how your competitors are marketing themselves, you’ll be better able to position your cafe business as different.

A USP that is “shared” by others is, by definition, not unique, so while fast service or roasting on demand might seem like a great USP for your coffee business, it won’t work if any of the other dozens of coffee businesses in town have that same USP, especially when you’re finding yourself in a highly competitive coffee market.

You’ll need to choose something different, like the fact that you’re serving only specialty coffee from Mexico and Ecuador, because you grew up in those countries and have a lot of stories to tell around the coffee you’re offering.

Identify (specialty coffee) industry frustrations

Here’s an eye-opener: Ask people (and your customers) what frustrates them about people in the specialty coffee industry. If they remain incredibly polite, then take yourself out of the equation and ask them what frustrates them about your competitors. If you are great at probing and uncovering the root of an issue, you will find ways to turn this frustration into a strong differentiation.

Let me give you an example: One of the major frustrations for customers that are new to specialty coffee might be the fact that they often consider specialty coffee and specialty cafes as those ‘hipster places’, where the barista tries to ‘educate’ them by telling them how they have to drink their coffee. That’s a tough one we all know, right…?

When asked, you might hear, “Their service was poor.” or “I don’t feel comfortable at these fancy places”. But, when questioning further, to uncover the root of the distrust, you realize that it’s a communication problem between the barista and the customer.

Try to find that one little thing that makes you different in the eyes of your potential customers. That might be to offer samples (of a hand filtered coffee maybe) to your regulars that are open to try new things besides their large Lattes with a lot of sugar, which they’re usually drinking.

If you’re having trouble finding something that allows you to stand out from the local coffee crowd, or to just get a feel for a good USP, look around you at market-leading (specialty) cafes that do a good job of differentiating themselves. They don’t have to be your competitors or even in the same industry (specialty coffee) — the goal is just to analyze what makes a good USP.

Knowing your competitors is a huge part of creating a USP for your specialty cafe! Try finding out as much as possible about them!

One more thing: Within the specialty coffee community it is not about competing at all, we’re all in the same boat and want the same thing: to spread the word about specialty coffee! But, finding something that helps you stand out from the crowd can sure help you attract more customers, even from one of those generic cafes that are out there!

Interesting content? Share it with your colleagues

Leave a Reply