3 Lessons From Starbucks On Growing A Community

3 Lessons From Starbucks On Growing A Community

Confession: I’m an addict.

This comes as no surprise to those who know me. My home-away-from-home is the local Starbucks, where I wile away the hours swimming in caffeine.

Few, however, realize the extent.

When I walk into my local Starbucks, I don’t just know the coffee drinks. I also know the baristas. I know them by name, know what many of them are going to school for, know what their goals and aspirations are, and I’ve even met many of their families.

One of the former managers now trains small business leaders, and he and I often collaborate.

One of the baristas recently finished her graduate degree in literature, and she edited the book I published last year.

Another manager was married not too long ago, and I was invited to attend her wedding (which I did).

Starbucks has become more than a coffee shop. It has become a community of intensely personal relationships.

And that was not by accident.

While the degree of the relationships I have built may go beyond the norm, it has always been Starbucks’ strategy to become a hub for community connection.

As bloggers, our aim is to build a community. Here are a few lessons to be learned from an enterprise that has rooted their success in it.

1. Make It An Experience

Starbucks does not just create coffee. They create a culture.

In every Starbucks I have visited, there is a cork board on the wall filled with flyers and notices for community events. There is the production roster for the local theater, a flyer for an upcoming concert in the park, and that barbecue hosted by a nearby church. They actively set aside space on their wall specifically for the purpose of building connection with the surrounding community.

There’s more. Nearly every location is a free wifi hotspot, encouraging patrons to linger and connect over a cup of coffee. When you log in to use that wifi, you are brought to a page promoting new and upcoming music artists. When you cash out at the register, you can usually find the CD available for purchase. Music is a cultural identity, and Starbucks aims to craft it.

In the midst of this cultural milieu, it stops being about the coffee. Coffee simply becomes an excuse to gather. It exists not to meet our caffeine cravings, but to speak to a deeper need.

It becomes the beverage of conversation.

And that is your goal as a blogger. Your website is more than an information hub. It is a gathering place for connection.

Granted, we seek to meet needs and cultivate ideas. We aim to craft content that actually speaks to the pain points of our target community.

But it is not mere answers that you put forth. You seek to draw out the conversation. To connect. To build relationships.

You want to create a culture and cultivate a community.

Stop talking at your audience. Start connecting with your community.Click To Tweet

2. Tailor Your Experience

Last month I was in Arizona, sitting in a Starbucks coffee shop enjoying a pleasant conversation with my sister. As I was in line to order another round of coffee, it suddenly dawned on me: the subtle differences between Starbucks locations were not incidental. They were strategic.

Near college campuses, the interiors would always be geared for productivity. There would be long tables or countertops lining the walls, with power strips attached underneath. Students then settle in with their digital devices and work tirelessly on upcoming projects, fueled by the bottomless java factory in which they dwelled.

Near business districts, the interior would often be much smaller, but the drive-through would be optimized to enable quick and easy distribution to the urban workers needing their caffeine fix.

In upscale neighborhoods, the reclining areas would be posh and spacious. Seats would be luxurious and cushioned, designed for relaxation rather than productivity.

In every location, Starbucks would be tailored to meet the needs of their surrounding community. They took the time to know what they had to offer that particular group, and they set out to emphasize it.

This is critical for bloggers to tap into. Like Starbucks, you have many ways that your expertise can be utilized. Have you taken the time to consider how to best make use of your talents in ways specific to the community you wish to build?

Consider a few key questions:

  • What is your unique specialty?
  • Who can use this, and why?
  • What are they like? What different demographics would be drawn to what you offer?
  • Of these different demographics, who would you connect with the best?

When you craft content, you always want to write with one specific person in mind. Write for the person in the demographic you would connect best with. By tailoring your writing to them, you will also grow a targeted community that resonates with what you have to offer.

Want to make powerful connections? Know who you are writing for.Click To Tweet

3. Make Them Feel Special

Several years ago, I finally decided to register my Starbucks gift card. I would then just reload the card as necessary, so I could cash in on some of the registration perks.

Six months later, I was in for a surprise. In my mailbox I discovered a letter from Starbucks, including a gold-colored card emblazoned with my name. Apparently, I had spent enough via that registered gift card that I was upgraded to being a Gold Member, and they took it upon themselves to send me a personalized card denoting my new status.

It probably did not take much on their part. In fact, it may have even been an automated process. It didn’t matter. That golden card became a source of pride for me. As ridiculous as it sounds, I felt like I had become part of an elite group.

It was a simple gesture, but that gesture secured my brand loyalty.

That’s the surprising thing about making people feel special: it really doesn’t take much.

Your readers want to feel like you know who they are. They want to know that you have noticed them, and consider them worthy of remembrance.

Sometimes, it is as simple as a comment to let them know that you appreciate them, or taking the time to answer a question they have personally. It may be noticing something they have accomplished, or sharing a piece of their content that you particularly enjoyed.

All of these really boil down to one principle: take the time to pay attention.

Attentiveness builds loyalty.Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts

Whether you are solo entrepreneur or a multinational conglomerate, it all comes down to relationships.

If you can create an environment that allows relationships to develop, then you have cultivated a soil capable of growing great things.

You have established the foundation for an impactful community.

Community lies at the heart of all we do.

And in the midst of the gathering, you’ll find a hot cup of coffee.

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  1. When I was working in the legal industry, my first stop on the way to work was Starbucks. After 2 weeks of regular visits, the coffee guy not only greeted me by name, but also knew what I wanted. It was great customer relations.

    After I had to go on long term disability, I never went to that Starbucks again. So imagine my surprise, when a few years later I ran into the same coffee guy at a different place. Not only did he remember me, he also remembered my name and my drink of choice!

    It is so important to make your customers/clients/followers feel that you value them.

    Great article, Thomas. Thank you for the mention, as well as the reminder to value our audience.

    • What a great story!

      I’ve had similar experiences, and it is always surprising to me just how focused the Starbucks customer-relations emphasis is really about building relationships rather than putting out fires. Pre-emptive strike, perhaps?

  2. Starbucks is known as the Evil Empire in my family. But, been known to go there. Loved the one outside Winchester (U.K.) when the baristo asked if I’d like butter and jam with my scone.
    Locally I go to a neighborhood shop Edge Coffee. My “edgy” cup has been on many an HOA. 🙂 And, yes, I know why one fellow has all green tattoos. And why one girl drives over 20 miles to work there.
    Community is what you make by reaching out.
    Great post.

  3. Just imagine what kind of relationships you could be at a place with better coffee (like Peet’s… ahem…)! lol

    Welcome back, Thomas.

    • Better coffee? What is this blasphemy?

      (Confession: When I wrote this article, I was actually sitting in a local coffee shop that was NOT Starbucks. Oh, the scandal!)

  4. Great article!
    I also re-read your article on Ana’s site about creating a community – it was well worth it, of course 🙂
    I am currently looking out for Facebook-pages with really engaged fans – and the inicial finding is that the pages that do well are all about humans!
    Human stories, human interaction, human needs..
    There’s a great lesson to be learned here!

    • I agree!

      I’m not a big fan of Facebook pages, but across nearly every medium the difference between success and failure comes down to relationships.


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