My Specialty-Coffee Business, Worth Millions Of Dollars, Was Started Four Years Ago.
These are our three main marketing channels. We also measure success using them.
People are often amazed to see how fast my direct-to-consumer coffee company has grown over the past four years. They also find it surprising that we didn’t have paid advertising during the first 1 1/2 years.
We were like many small businesses. We needed more money to spend. We relied on organic growth to grow our audience for as long as possible. Although we eventually added ad spending, this multi-channel marketing strategy has greatly benefited us. It allows us to reach different customers and create multiple touchpoints that ultimately encourage a potential customer to purchase.
These are the marketing channels we rely on, the unique opportunities each offers us to connect with consumers, and how they have all worked together to help us gain traction and build a multimillion-dollar business.
Social media was used to tell our story and build relationships.
Our marketing efforts have always focused on education, storytelling, community building, and raising awareness about our mission to elevate Vietnamese coffee, particularly the robusta bean. Because it allows me and my team to access our customers directly, social media has been a great place to do this.
I am available to share tips and tricks on how to use specialty-coffee equipment via social media. I can show behind-the-scenes photos of our Vietnamese coffee farmers and explain why Vietnamese coffee has such a unique flavor. I can share my story as a Vietnamese American founder and discuss the industry changes I would like to see.
Friends and family started following us as friends, but we quickly became affinity groups that shared my passions: the Asian American community, immigrant community, and specialty-coffee community. Social media has helped us grow our social following and have influenced our word-of-mouth marketing. A survey we did this year revealed that there are three ways people learn about us. Our profound commitment to storytelling via social media has led our followers to share the brand with their friends and have the talk points.
We used public relations to educate and shift the narrative.
Our company’s success largely depends on creating a positive narrative about Vietnam and the robusta bean. Public relations are an essential channel that we can use to complement social media and to legitimize and deepen our education efforts.
Traditional media can provide more profound and more nuanced education. Social media is short on time and can often be challenging to understand. Television spots or longer articles allow us to provide context and tie our mission to current issues.
It has also allowed us to reach more people interested in issues related to our mission. Major news outlets were targeted to discuss ethics and visibility in the coffee industry and how Vietnamese coffee’s perception is linked to anti-racism activism. We contacted food magazines to discuss why Vietnamese coffee needed a rebranding and the potential benefits it could provide serious coffee lovers.
We used to measure the success of PR by the number of published pitches. This helped us assess the effectiveness of our hook, angle, storytelling, and macro-cultural relevance. Once we have the ball rolling, cross-analyses of press pieces, site traffic, and Google Analytics are used to calculate impressions and traffic from each article.
To push our efforts even further, we added paid advertising
Walking on a farm with people
I realized that organic marketing and word-of-mouth needed to reach the right audience at the right time. This is especially true for social media. The algorithm limits the number of people you can reach organically, and it’s hard to control.
We added paid advertising to Instagram, Facebook, and Google to reach new audiences. We had to change our messaging to appeal to a colder audience, as it is called in marketing terminology. As a founder, I was unable to share what mattered to me. Instead, I needed to consider what is important to consumers: They want good coffee with energy and taste good.
To find the best paid-advertising channels for us, I had to experiment and do incremental tests. One example: I found a friend who had been successful with YouTube advertising early in my career. I invested a lot of money, which was a complete failure because the customer acquisition cost needed to be lowered compared to our average order value.
There are many channels to reach your target market. They will only work equally for some brands. Therefore, incremental testing is essential.
We find it helpful to consider how all these channels interact when measuring the effectiveness of paid advertising. Consumers may interact with several touchpoints before making a purchase. They may first see an advertisement on Facebook. Then they might read an article about us and then click on the Google button to make a purchase. Although Google Ads might get the attribution, other platforms played a part.
Instead of focusing on the return on advertising spent on any particular advertising channel, we look at the combined return on advertising expenditure (also known as the marketing-efficiency ratio across all channels): How much money is being spent on ads across platforms and how much revenue are they generating from eCommerce? This gives us a complete picture of how marketing efforts work together.