Clustomer Service

No, that is not a typo. Think of a “Clustomer” as a target market you have identified in close proximity to your business. The “Clustomer” is a cluster of customers that has a common point of origin or is connected by a shared cause or interest. Examples of this would be car buyers who shop at a local dealership or members of a church congregation nearby. But very often, it is not so obvious and it will take some detective work on your part to find your own “clustomers.”
One reason that the Clustomer is not always easy to locate is that they vary depending on the shop location, the surrounding business terrain, and the immediate demographics. Locating this elusive beast and taking it captive can provide new revenue streams otherwise missed by many coffee shop owners.
The hunt and capture of the Clustomer should be an ongoing part of your marketing efforts. As a coffee shop, widening the area that you draw customers from should be an important part of what you do. It should never be done at the expense of being locally relevant in service and quality, but it should be a first tier augmentation to your core business model.
Let’s look at a few examples and then touch on how to find your own unique population of Clustomers.

Common Point of Origin

A new car dealership is the type of business that attracts a lot of customers. Shopping for a car and going for a test drive can be much more than a simple and uneventful drive around the block.
Action Item: Make an agreement with dealerships that are within a few miles of your shop. Sell them slightly discounted drink coupons in bulk that they can give to people taking test drives. The customer and the salesperson drive to your shop, have a nice latte or mocha, and then go back to the dealership. The dealership looks good for very little money and you just exposed one more person to your product.
Real estate offices and mortgage companies do better when their customers are at ease. Buyers need to believe in their agent or broker and that they can help them in the process of finding and buying one of the most important and personal investments they will ever make. Nothing screams relationship and comfortable communication quite like sharing a cup of coffee.
Action Item: Get to know the agents and brokers. Make sure they know that when they bring a client in, the service and attention to detail will reflect well on their company.
Small colleges and specialized schools often do not have many of the internal amenities most big campuses enjoy. Even if there is a cafeteria, the coffee is often less than appealing.
Action Item: Provide a student discount program. By gearing a portion of your space that is conducive to studying, you will attract a demographic that otherwise may not have considered your business. One of the early uses for coffee was to help Catholic Monks stay alert so they could pray and study longer. What worked then is no less applicable today.
Actively promote your shop as an ideal place to hold a corporate board meeting or a company staff meeting. Make it real easy on them and bill the company monthly. Remember, expense accounts are your friend.

Shared Cause or Interest

School fundraisers are a little tricky and are not, generally, ongoing. But if a clean and efficient program is developed, they can be an effective conduit for increased visibility and revenue. No matter how seasonal the fundraiser is, if your coffee shop can capture even 10% of those new faces, the impact on your business will be tangible.
Churches come in all sizes but the needs remain the same no matter how big or small. The youth pastors and mission pastor are always looking for ways to augment their budgets.
Action Item: Put an electronic code on your cash register that correlates to each church. When any member of a specific church comes to your business, you ring it up under their code. At the end of each month, you donate 10% of the total sales to each delegated youth or mission fund. Let the church staff promote the program. You are not asking anyone to buy something they are not already buying. You are merely asking them to purchase it from you instead of where they do now.
Chess Clubs and Book Clubs meet surprisingly often and might just love a regular place to meet and discuss defensive strategies or banter about how glorious the world would be if Jane Austen had never written any books. (Male bias, sorry.)
City Councils and civil servants have frequent meetings or gatherings. They may well be looking for a new place to hang out while they squander our tax dollars.

Your Unique Clustomers

Imagine looking at your coffee shop location from an airplane. What you see is a bigger picture of your business as well as the surrounding area. You see more than just the street you are on – you see a large community. Ask yourself, are there pockets of service-oriented businesses nearby? Are you in close proximity to a high-tech zone? Are you in a bedroom community? What is the median income of the people surrounding your shop? The answer to these questions will help you in defining a typical customer profile and recognizing your own unique Clustomers. Drive-by and walk-by counts are fine, but if the people driving and walking by are not compatible with the atmosphere and services you are providing, they will simply keep driving and walking.
Assess the innate strengths and weaknesses of your location, and be brutally honest about it. You cannot make effective decisions about how to gain market share until you have an accurate understanding of who is in your immediate area. Once you have that understanding, you can more effectively craft marketing and service plans that will make sense to your own potential Clustomers.
Ron DeMiglio is an unreformed entrepreneur and generally great guy who is President of Ekobrew, manufacturers of reusable cartridges for the K-Cup Brewing system. You can reach him at

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