How Marketing Your Business Is Like Running a Cafe

By Renata Mathewson, Maple Marketing

I was sitting in a cafe the other day enjoying great food and excellent service when something occurred to me – marketing a business is very much like running a cafe. Begin by breaking it down into these easy-to-understand components.

Your signage and shop front

Is your business easy to find? Whether you rely on walk-ins and foot traffic, offer services by appointment or consultation, or sell products and services online – customers and clients must be able to find you easily. Are your website and social media pages optimised so that you show up in search engine results in the appropriate categories? Are there clear ‘contact us’ details available for prospects to find and use?

Your image

Is your business decor clean, tidy and contemporary? If you have a physical presence, this pertains to your shop or office. If you don’t have a bricks and mortar location, this pertains to everything that represents your business – your marketing collateral (brochures, sales sheets, business cards, etc), online presence (website, social media), and even you yourself as the business owner or manager (do you present yourself professionally in appearance, behaviour and punctuality?).

Your menu

Is your product/service offering crystal clear to prospective customers or clients? Is it easy for them to know exactly what you offer and how you can help? Is it easy for them to find out how much things cost? Is there enough variety for your target audience? Are there generic options (ready-made items from the cafe counter, if you like) as well as customised options (special made-to-order arrangements that can be altered or added to as needed)?

Your service

As I sat in that cafe, this is the thing that sparked my interest and got me thinking about my business like a cafe. The owner was having a meeting with a supplier at a table close by and I overheard him say, “We’re a small business so we like to treat our suppliers and customers well.” Clearly here was a man who knew the importance of having people know, like and trust him and his business.

Regardless of what you sell, how and where you offer it, client service can make or break a business. If you think of yourself as a waiter every time you come into contact with a client, you’re more likely to offer great service. Pay as much attention to every phone call, email and website query as you would to a face-to-face encounter, and give every customer touch point the undivided attention and professionalism it deserves. Great service is the one thing that will improve your word-of-mouth marketing, increase your volume of referrals and help create repeat business.

Feedback and follow-up

Think of every transaction as an interactive, multi-stage occurrence. Great sales processes are interactive because they encourage two-way flow of information between product/service provider and customer/client. Like a good waiter who knows when it is appropriate to check on his customers without being intrusive, a good business owner or manager has systems in place for gathering client feedback to ensure their expectations are met. Does your business have regular processes in place to gather client feedback to improve future offerings? Make sure you invite, and act upon, client feedback at different stages of contact – before, during and after the actual sale is made. Feedback and follow-up are extensions of your customer service, and if you get these right, your reputation will improve.


Marketing your business, obviously, can be more detailed and complex, depending on your business needs. But the above analogy is meant to be a starting point if you find it difficult to market your business or don’t know where to start. Break it down into these simple steps to start with to get the basics right, and then you will have a good foundation to build on more targeted and specialised marketing campaigns.

If you need help getting started, or would like to find out more about an upcoming marketing plan workshop – please get in touch with us on .