Why Starbucks Rocks at Relationship Marketing

Anyone who knows me knows I love coffee…more specifically – Starbucks coffee. I will confidently admit that I am a coffee snob. Just when I thought Starbucks couldn’t get any better…they BLEW me away again today – with their marketing this time.

StarSo, I drive up to my “favorite” Starbucks (literally 1 hour ago) just to grab a quick Flat White (if you haven’t tried it yet…you MUST! D-lish) on the way back to the office. And what to my wondering eyes would appear but new shiny order-screen-thingy and the face of a cheery Barista!

No seriously, her face showed up on the screen when she took my order. She was MUCH nicer than my picture depicts but I was holding up the line so I had to move on.

Ok, aside from the fact that I absolutely love Starbucks coffee I also love their marketing! They get it.

Marketing is about building relationships, and Starbucks gets it.

I have heard (on several occasions) opinions from Starbucks “haters” (a little too strong?) that I should support local coffee houses (which I do) and that Starbucks doesn’t deserve my business (as much) as local smaller coffeehouse businesses do because they are a big corporate business.

I get it. I am ALL ABOUT small business…but, here’s the deal – Starbucks was a small business once too (without going into the long story of Starbucks history).

Here’s why there’s currently a Starbucks on every street corner (in my opinion):

  • They write my name on my cup
  • They remember my order
  • They give me free Wi-Fi
  • They let me hang out in comfy chairs all day if I want to
  • They don’t care when I do hang out all day (been there too many times than I’d like to admit)
  • They don’t care how much sugar I take (and they don’t hide the sugar in a feeble attempt to reserve the sugar)
  • Their barista’s know their coffee (and have actually tasted everything on the menu)
  • And now when I run through the drive through I get to SEE the person I am speaking to!

They get marketing.

Are their small cafe’s out there that get it too….yep. I was just in Michigan recently and there is a coffee house that my kids says, “serves liquid gold in a cup” (yea, I have the kids hooked too…I know, bad Mom). And it’s true…I even paid $20 a pound to bring some of it back home with me to Arizona (@ $20 a pound!!! THAT’S how much I support small business!).

Unfortunately, I have been in too many small business cafe’s that literally get pissed off if it looks like I took too much sugar or one too many napkins. We have a coffeehouse nearby that we love to go to (awesome specialty drinks…not so good on their coffee) that will only let you use the internet for 2 hours (after you purchase your drink). I have actually gotten nasty remarks from owners who feel you have overstayed your welcome! I have been in coffeehouses (a few) that actually puts the sugar behind the counter so everyone has to ask for it (apparently, to deter people from using it).

I could go on and on….

I’m not beating up the small business…really, I’m not. I am however pointing out that just because you are small business does not give you permission to be cheap. I get that you have to “watch your overhead” and “be profitable”. Here’s my tip – CHARGE MORE.

I’ll pay it! I do at Starbucks.

Writing my name on my cup is a small (yet, significant thing to do)….heck, they even spell it wrong most of the time! DISCLOSURE: The Barista drops the “f” bomb in this video so if that offends you, (don’t watch).

Here’s a question to consider as a small business owner…”Do we sacrifice relationships with our customers because we are trying to save ourselves a few cents?”

This is important.

What are you doing to build relationships with your customers? Any new and exciting ideas you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them!

Putting in the new order-screen-thingy might have been a bit of an investment for Starbucks…this Starbucks lover appreciates it! I don’t know that the new order-screen-thingy will make me buy more (as I doubt it would be good for my health) but it definitely impressed me. Did you know that the average lifetime value of a Starbucks client is $14,099? Check out the case study from KISSmetrics below. I know that Starbucks stole my heart (again) with their commitment to building a relationship with me and maybe, just maybe – their investment will pay off for them ;)