We live and work in the heart of the world-famous Kona coffee region. Needless to say, a big part of our economy is connected to the coffee industry. It is the only coffee we drink.
A lot of farmers are great at farming and less effective at marketing. This is not a problem if they sell their coffee to processors. If they want to realize more profits, however, they often try to market at least a portion of their coffee.
Here’s a list of some things we have learned about coffee marketing.
1. Coffee is a sensual product. Having consumers taste and smell the coffee is essential. Without a taste, it’s just coffee in the consumers’ minds. Do not expect a huge number of people to buy your coffee without tasting it. Get out to the farmer’s markets. Do in-store taste testing. Have farm tours. Get your coffee in the mouths of consumers.
2. Some people buy Kona coffee because it is made in America. Hawaii is the only place in the U.S. with commercial coffee growing. Try to tap into the “made in America” consumers.
3. Some people buy Kona coffee because it comes from family farms. Connect with consumers by sending a personalized note or a picture of your family with orders. Use newsletters to let people know what is happening on your farm.
4. Others buy Kona coffee because it is organic. These people value organic certifications and the farmer’s commitment to avoiding herbicides and pesticides. Words like “compost”, “mulch” and “sustainability” are buzzwords.
5. Your bag counts! Go with the standard bags and labels and you will look like every other farm. Spend twenty or thirty cents more for some nice-looking bags and labels and you’ll sell a lot more.
6. Repeat orders and coffee clubs are essential. You might only win four or five new customers a month, but over a year, that’s sixty new monthly orders—sixty pounds a month! These are orders for which you do not need to spend money on marketing. They are golden. When you get a customer, do everything possible—awesome coffee and customer service—to keep them.
7. Never ever sell a bad bag of coffee! If the roast is off, give it to family and friends. Never sell a bad product!
8. Coffee marketing is not about price. See all of the above. If you have these things right, you can demand a premium for your product. Racing to the bottom for pricing will make you busy….and broke!