12 Secrets of The Most Successful Coffeeshops

Here’s a popular question on Quora: What’s the secret to a successful coffeeshop?

There’s a great answer by Peter Baskerville, which we’ve reproduced here with some light editing:

1.Consistently serving the finest espresso

It is rare in business to discover a product where consistently offering 100% quality is the best commercial decision you can make. In fact I’m the greatest advocate for the ‘80% is perfect’ commercial model.

But espresso coffee is one of those rare products where consistent 100% quality matters. Customers will walk past 10 other competitors to get the best espresso — this factor alone means you don’t need the highly visible, most expensive location.


  • buy the best espresso coffee machine (3/4 group Italian made with e61 groupheads and set to the right pump and temperature levels),
  • install it with a water purifier and demineralizer,
  • use a conical grinder,
  • only buy top quality Arabica or Arabica 90%/Robusta 10% freshly roasted beans, and
  • make sure every cup is made by a fully trained barista who is continually seeking the ‘the god shot‘.

2. Ergonomics is vital

Make sure the coffee workstation and layout is such that the barista hardly moves their feet in performing all their coffee making duties, and they are not competing for the space with other staff members or functions.

High volume coffee sales are the foundation stone of every coffee shop, so make sure this workstation is perfectly laid out with easy access to underneath bins, bean storage and bar fridge milk, having the right height bench-top with easy access to cups, grinder, accessories and reachable overhead storage of supplies.

The best setups also have a small inbuilt sink to allow for quick, easy ongoing cleaning.

Also, place the cash register on the front counter in close proximity to the barista’s workstation. This allows the barista to hear the customer orders and get a head start on making them in the busy times while allowing the barista to work alone in an efficient way in the very slow times.

3. Use loyalty cards to delight customers

I resisted using these for a long time … but they really do work. Make sure it is a quality card that will survive some wear and tear and look good in a customer’s wallet.

There’s nothing better than seeing a new customer’s face light up when you give them a buy 7 get the 8th one free loyalty card but tick off 6 of them so that on their very next purchase they get a free one ‘maybe for a friend’. Cheapest customer acquisition and referral system ever.

Looking for a modern, seamless loyalty experience? Try CandyBar for free today!

4. Promote multiple sales

A coffee shop will never make enough money to pay the bills from coffee sales alone. Coffee may be the prime motivator for customers coming to the business, but they must leave with multiple sales if you are going to be successful.

As a target, coffee should be no more than 40% of your weekly sales and 2 item sales per customer transaction is the ‘holy grail’ benchmark. So make sure the traditional coffee accompaniments (muffins, cookies, cakes) are close by at the point-of-sale and the coffee shop offers cold food, cold drinks and some hot food to ensure the best chance of multiple sales.

5. Limit the assortment

Many newbies in the coffee shop game think that wide assortments and extensive product offers are a key competitive advantage. They forget that the customer is simply hungry or thirsty or both and that a wide range of choices creates anguish for most people. So cover the necessary categories but with limited strategic offers. (e.g. three flavors are enough, three sizes are enough, three types of food/drink are enough).

Every item you add to the assortment creates many multiples of management effort (costs) and mostly without adding anything to the revenue streams or customer experience.

6. Merchandise your margins

Price according to perceived customer value not according to accounting determined markups. For some well known items (a can of coke, for example) you will need to be at or even below market price and this loss should be made up with high margins on other items that are exclusive to you or in the ‘don’t-care and addictive’ mindset of your customers.

So don’t add a blanket markup to your entire product assortment, but price line by line according to customer expectations and what the market will bear.

7. Get your beachhead strategies right

Getting traction in a competitive marketplace like coffee shops is vital and you will need to have a clear understanding of how to get customers to initially give you a go and a plan for keeping them returning and referring you to their friends.

This is a whole other topic that Peter has written about here: What are some Biz Dev best practices for startups?

8. Counter service

Counter service is the cheapest most efficient and effective service system for a coffee shop and it is now fully accepted by customers thanks to the global success of McDonalds. Counter service is hassle free for both you and your customer and it significantly reduces your wages bill. So get the customers to order and pay upfront, give them a number on a stand along with their drinks and deliver the food or better still give them a buzzer that calls them up to the counter when the food is ready.

Counter service means that you can handle the peak demands that occur in coffee shops at breakfast and lunch and it is a lot less stressful on everyone ensuring the friendly banter can remain an important part of your offer.

9. Pre-make as much as possible

Custom-made offers assume that the customers know precisely what they want. They don’t. Customers see you as the expert and are hoping that you will suggest to them the right combination of food/drinks they should be trying.

In a coffee shop context I found it best to pre-make the food and leave the custom making to the coffee. Custom food is also a high cost option for you because you can’t get the economies of scale making-to-order and it limits your turnover in those peak periods where you should be busy pumping out the sales as quickly as possible not spending the time making custom orders.

10. Understand what you are really selling

Too many businesses, including coffee shop owners, don’t fully understand the need they are really satisfying for their customers and so they often concentrate on the wrong parts of their offer.

Customers frequent a coffee shop for many more reasons than just hunger and thirst. There is the escape from a stressful office, the chance to maintain or grow a relationship, a place to get away to do some reflective work, a chance to engage with familiar coffee shop staff at a particularly lonely time or as a place to do business and reach an agreement.

Understanding the needs you are really catering to, will help you better construct your offer and make decisions that keep your customers returning and so maintaining the coffee shop’s success.

11. Target takeaways

I know all your friends will tell you to get comfortable lounges, free Wi-Fi, table service and lots of in-house entertainment … but customers sitting on one cup of coffee for hours enjoying all these benefits, won’t pay your rent.

My most financially successful coffee shops had a limited number of not-so-comfortable bench & bar stools to make the coffee shop look lived in and loved, but I concentrated on building the takeaway business.

Takeaway customers pay the same price as the sit-down customer but without any of the occupancy costs and you will serve 10 of them by the time your sit down customer has finished sipping on their first cup of coffee as they enjoy a chat with their friends on Facebook using your free Wi-Fi service.

12. Serve on the front line

Coffee shops, like restaurants, are much more a people/service business than they are a goods/transactional one. While a goods/transactional business can still succeed with a non-present owner (convenience store), a coffee shop needs the owners care, attention and engagement.

Customers expect it and staff are far more enlivened when the owner is on hand taking orders, making coffee, or just generally hovering around actively caring for the business.

The Importance Of Acting On Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is critical to any business. After all, a business only exists because it’s solving a problem for its customers. So keeping customers happy and satisfied is at the heart of every business.

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO

And how can you know if your customers are happy if you’re not getting feedback from them?

There are several states you could be in when it comes to customer feedback:

  1. Ignoring your customers (bad!)
  2. Having casual interactions with your customers
  3. Actively soliciting feedback from your customers
  4. Soliciting feedback from customers and acting on that feedback
  5. Having a process or framework for soliciting and acting on feedback

Hopefully, you’re somewhere between 3 and 5. You can always get better at this process.

We’ve heard from some of our users that they enjoy talking to customers, even without any specific goal in mind – that’s part of why they run businesses in the first place! They love what they do, and they’re always interested to hear from other people who are in that space.

Anecdotally, we notice that these also happen to be some of the most successful merchants with the happiest customers. It’s not hard to see why – a business owner who’s personally inclined to care about her customers will take actions that improve the state of her business.

Research from HBR found that simply asking your customers for feedback improves their perception of you, making them likelier to stick around. I can vouch for this from my personal experience – anytime I’ve been at a coffeeshop and have had pleasant, positive interactions from the baristas or managers, I find myself a little more compelled to come back.

HiverHQ has a nice post about how to act on feedback – identify product improvement areas, feeding the customer feedback into your roadmap, motivate your team and so on. (Sharing happy customer stories is an especially good way to help your employees feel like they aren’t just cranking widgets all day.)

“But some thought leaders say we shouldn’t listen to customers!”

There’s a school of thought (often attributed to Steve Jobs or Henry Ford) that you shouldn’t listen to your customers, because they don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

“Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.” – Steve Jobs

To me, this sounds more like branding than a legitimate business strategy. After all, Apple’s iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player, and the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone. Apple didn’t make those products on a whim; they were confident that there was a market for what they were making. They definitely did their research. (And… we also don’t spend a lot of time talking about Apple products that failed, such as the Newton.)

There definitely is some truth to the idea that customers aren’t always clear about what they want, and might ask for faster horses. Business owners have a choice:

  1. Take their words at face value and try to do the impossible
  2. Dismiss their feedback as meaningless and irrelevant
  3. Discern the underlying truth (the customer wants to get from point A to point B in less time)

3 is obviously a superior choice!

Use CandyBar to get feedback from your walk-in customers

At CandyBar, we understand the importance and value of getting feedback from customers.

We know how wonderful it is to hear from a happy customer – it’s great for morale when you share it with your team; reminding everyone that they’re doing work that matters.

That’s why we have a feature that makes it easy for your customers to receive feedback from you:

Here’s how it works:

  1. When your customers enter their number to get a loyalty stamp at your store, they’ll get a message with a link to their digital loyalty card.
  2. In this message, they’ll also get a “submit feedback” link.
  3. They can type in their feedback right in their phone browsers, and this feedback will be sent straight to you!

We’ve heard some interesting stories from our users about this feature – one even got a long, late-night love letter from a customer who was especially impressed with a particular barista. You can imagine how that barista felt to receive the message from his boss!

Solicit customer feedback, and share it with your team. CandyBar makes it easier than ever.

Stop Ecommerce From Stealing Your Customers

The giant has arrived. Amazon is now in Singapore. The online retail behemoth launched its “Prime Now” service here on July 26th.

This is Amazon’s first foray into Southeast Asia, and their global expansion seems unstoppable. As a brick & mortar retailer, should you be worried?

I wouldn’t panic just yet. Amazon has been in the US for over 20 years, but American brick & mortar retail isn’t dead – it has just adapted. Singaporean retail will have to adapt too.

So what’s the game plan?

First, know where you can’t compete with Amazon.

Let’s start with an uncomfortable truth. Against an online giant like Amazon, there are a few points on which you can’t compete:

However, there’s still one critical area where brick & mortar can always outperform online: the customer experience.

This is the chink in Amazon’s armour. For proof of this, look no further than Amazon itself. The company has spent two decades killing brick & mortar bookshops. But in an ironic twist, they’re now opening real world bookshops of their own. The first Amazon Books outlet opened in 2015

Why is Amazon doing this?

“If you know exactly what you want to buy,” explains Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, “we already have this thing called Amazon.com. It’s very, very good at satisfying that need. And so this is about satisfying a completely different need.”

There are certain needs online retail can’t satisfy – and even the world’s largest online retailer admits it.

Customer experience is the weak spot in online shopping. So if you want to survive, that’s where you’ll want to focus your efforts. And if you want to win, you’ll need to turbocharge how you make the customer feel. Here’s how.

1. Provide a superior “curation and discovery” experience

Often, customers aren’t sure exactly what they want – especially if they’re trying to choose between competing products. Help them figure out what they need.

On the Internet, they can read reviews and compare specs. But a faceless, daunting list of competing products simply can’t compare with friendly staff who can provide you with valuable, personalised advice about the products that best suit your needs.

What you’re probably doing now:

  • Giving quick, on-the-job training to your frontline staff.
  • Displaying a product’s basic information and specs in your displays.

Turbocharge the experience:

  • When hiring, look for candidates who are highly knowledgeable about what you’re selling. If they’re veteran customers, they’ll be expert salespeople.
  • If they’re not a veteran customer, make them one: give them some cash to spend on the item and have them explain their purchasing decision.
  • Provide as much relevant information as possible in your displays. Don’t just state the facts – offer your own opinions on the pros and cons of each product.

2. Encourage customers to try-before-they-buy, and make returns a pleasure

This ties in with another area where brick & mortar dominates: touching, trying and testing items before buying. Customers will always place a premium on the ability to try before they buy, and return if it doesn’t work out.

A merchant can win customers over by making returns a pleasurable experience. When customers know that it will be hassle-free to return an item if there’s a problem, they’ll be more likely to buy, and more likely to recommend you to a friend.

What you’re probably doing now:

  • Burying your returns policy in the fine print of your terms & conditions.
  • Making returns feel like a hassle for both customers and your staff.

Turbocharge the experience:

  • Make your returns policy clear to customers, without them having to look it up. Explain with large in-store signs and on receipts that you’d be more than happy to process their returns. Here are some of the best return policies.
  • Optimize your returns process to minimise any loss when there is a return.
  • Make your staff eager to accept returns. Give customers a post-return survey and reward the staff member who scores the highest on this survey each month.

3. Become a destination for tourists

Another area brick & mortar can shine is by appealing to tourists, who spend over a trillion (!) dollars annually. Don’t overlook them as a source of foot traffic. Many tourists like to shop while they’re away, and they’ll never do it online.

If you can figure out how to appeal to tourists and become a destination that naturally draws them, you’re tapping into a market that will never be cannibalised by Amazon.

What you’re probably doing now:

  • Taking out ads on tourist and in-flight magazines.
  • Or maybe nothing!

Turbocharge the experience:

  • Go further up the funnel: build awareness when tourists are planning their trips. One way to do this is to target tourist-centred websites like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet.
  • Proactively ask customers who are tourists to leave you reviews on these sites. Peer reviews are much more powerful than ads. Remember that customers are most motivated to leave a review when they have a negative experience – so encourage and incentivise customers to leave a review when they’re satisfied!
  • Keep tourists in mind when organising your window displays. What products are likely to get their attention and draw them in?

4. Emphasize the warmth of human contact

Finally, don’t underestimate the value of personalisation. Customers love being treated like human beings – an increasingly rare experience these days, especially online.

With every customer carrying a smartphone, it’s never been easier to use technology to give someone a highly personalised in-store experience. Cashiers can use software to remember a customer’s name and preferences, and incentivise them to stay loyal to your brand.

What you’re probably doing now:

  • Training staff to be polite to customers.

Turbocharge the experience:

  • Give your staff software tools to help manage their relationship with customers. With technology they can “remember” each customer’s name and purchase history, identify repeat customers and make them feel valued.
  • Use an automated system to encourage feedback, and make the process as easy and frictionless as possible.
  • Incentivise staff to provide stellar service. Reward them with cash when a customer mentions them by name in a positive review.

The bottom line is that there will always be customers who prefer face-to-face, human interaction. By emphasising this aspect of your business you can make customers feel valued and win your foot traffic back.

Amazon might be a giant. But even giants have weaknesses.

By focusing your efforts where online shopping cannot compete, you ensure the survival of your business. The best part? Your customers will love you for it, and reward you accordingly.

Welcome to the CandyBar blog!

CandyBar is a customer engagement solution for brick-and-mortar retail stores, by the team at ReferralCandy.

(Check out the latest features we’ve been coming up with to help you delight your customers!)

The CandyBar Blog writes about…

1: Understanding how customers experience retail stores.

We’ll explore things that have happened in the news that have made consumers love or hate the retail experience.

We’ll talk about what makes great stores great, the mistakes bad stores make, and how stores navigate the omnichannel retail experience in the mobile age.

We’ll go through examples of the best retail stores, how to make your customers happy, things that make customers want to come back.

2: Specific marketing tools and systems that retail stores can use.

Loyalty programs. Referrals. Analytics. Google Analytics for your foot traffic. SMS marketing to your customers as an SME retail store owner.

How do these things work, who uses them? How do you think about discounts and giveaways? How do you compete with online retailers? How do you define customer loyalty? What are the best small business blogs you should read?

3: Breakdowns of successful customer engagement tools and systems.

Why should you run a digital loyalty program?

What are the most important loyalty program statistics?

What are the most successful retail loyalty programs? What makes them tick, what are the variables and trade-offs you’ll have to consider?

What are some examples of loyalty punch cards?

We’re looking forward to exploring all of the above and more! We want to help SME retailers take their businesses to the next level and create better experiences for their customers. Stay tuned.

19 Instagram Marketing Experts Share Their Insights on How To Grow Your Following From 0 – 10K In 30 Days

Let me guess:

You have followed all the best tips found on the Interwebz.

You create fresh content daily. You use the right hashtags. You post 3 times a day. You reply to everyone who comments on your posts.


The number of followers on your Instagram account remains pitiful. You don’t even remember the last time your follower count went up.

At this rate that this is going on, you are going to give up.

How can Instagram be a profitable channel for your restaurant, if your number of followers don’t grow?

Fret not.

I am here to help.

I reached out to several Instagram marketing experts, and got them to answer this one question:

“If you were to grow a brand new Instagram account from zero followers to 10,000 followers in under 30 days, how would you do it?”

Below are their answers.

And I am 100% sure you will find something new to try… and skyrocket your Instagram following.

Try These Tips Shared By 19 Of The World’s Best Instagram Marketing Experts

Zach Benson | Assistagram

1. Powerliking method

Cost $1200-$1700 a month, depends on how many likes per day 1-3x, contact me at benson.zach@gmail.com to gain access to our network of 180 million on Instagram, several niches.

What are powerlikes and why does it work?

Powerlikes are likes/comments from a network of large accounts (100k+ accounts are considered large) as soon as your post goes live. The intent is to play into Instagram’s algorithm where a post’s first ten minutes are most crucial for gaining traction and determining how it’ll do in reaching beyond your current following.

It works two-fold: By flooding traffic from the large accounts over to yours from the ‘Following’ tab, as well as triggering the algorithm to recognise that large accounts are enjoying that piece of content.

This will not only increase the post’s reach to more of your current followers but increases its chances significantly in hitting the Explore page, where you’re reaching beyond your current audience and grow organically and quickly.

2. Telegram groups/rounds

Telegram is a messenger app that has become solely used for Instagram engagement groups. It’s hugely popular as you can code bots that take over the entire process for you, making everything automatic.

Below are screenshots of arguably the best and most exclusive engagement group, XPLOR Rounds.

Prerequisites: 80k+ followers, 2k+ likes per post avg

Niche: General/all

3. Direct message groups (free method)

Create a DM engagement group of 15 people with similar accounts, niche and a high quality audience— in this strategy, multiple Instagram accounts help each other grow organically by mutually liking & commenting on their content. The larger the accounts participating, the more effective it is.  You will need to be in 50-100 groups and participate constantly throughout the day, each and everyday.

Better to hire a VA to do this.

4. Shoutouts/giveaways/contests

Network with other big Instagram accounts in your niche and try and set up a giveaway contest with them.  This is a great way to grow your following fast.  By collaborating with a 3 million follower account and 300k + account, you could grow up to 2,500 -3,000 + in less than a week.  For example, maybe you have a hotel page and want more travel followers, you could create a 2 night all inclusive stay in your best suite for 2, full-board.  To be entered into the contest, you have to follow these accounts (the two large travel accounts and yours) and the more friends you tag, the higher chances of you winning.  The set up price of these contests vary in price and could cost you anywhere from $500 to a couple thousand dollars.  It just depends on who you know, like how big your network is and what you can offer these huge accounts in return to create a mutually beneficial business relationship.

5. Post viral content

Open up your Instagram app, look at whats on your Explore page tab.  All viral videos and pictures with thousands and thousands of views and likes.  Most of this content is what we call viral content, unique and original and “way out there”.  The more open you are to posting viral content the higher chances you will have of going viral on instagram while using the above methods.  An example of viral content: https://www.instagram.com/tribeinfluencer/

6. Be consistent

To be good at anything, you must do it every single day. For example, you aren’t going to be an awesome sports player if you only play 1-2x a week.  You have to practice each and every day.  Same with social media, you have to be consistent and posting each and every day, respond to comments, direct messages, like and comment on your target market, do market research, research and rotate hashtags daily, participate in engagement groups, use Instagram lives, stories, etc and create original epic content.  Easily 3-4 hours a day.  If you don’t have time to do this, outsource it.  Build your brand.  Your name is your most important asset.  Reputation is what other’s think you are.  Character is what you are.  Grow your following, provide great value for your fans, teach, inspire, give, give, GIVE and watch your circle of influence grow, network expand, and more opportunities will come your way.  You will find that it’s a lot easier to negotiate anything, seal deals, pretty much do anything when you grow your following and brand.  You are the brand. You are the commodity.  Think of Instagram as your new name card, so when you are out and about and you meet someone, exchange biz cards but then say hey let’s stay in touch via Instagram, pull up your account on their phone and then they are like WOW you have 100k followers. You are legit! Definitely peaks their interest more and helps you stand out from everyone else they met that night.

Nathan Chan | Foundr Magazine | Instagram

I would research the market I’m looking to serve, then create great looking content and post 3x a day.

Then I would find other Instagram pages that serve this target market and get them to share my content as much as possible from either paying, or working out reciprocal deals using my own accounts as leverage.

Then I would find other big accounts that serve this niche and convince them to like and comment on my posts.

Then I would run at least 2 competitions/giveways to get people to like and follow us – I would give away something that of super high value that would attract my target audience / niche – (that way we’re building a following of buyers too around this market).

 Alex Tooby | Website | Instagram

My answer will help you reach 10,000 REAL and TARGETED followers.. Not just any follower because what’s 10k followers worth if they’re not going to engage with your content or purchase your products or services?

So having said that.. here’s my approach: if you want your account to take off quickly you need to create a feeling of authority – like you’ve been doing this for ages and have perfected every inch of your Instagram strategy. To do that you need to laser focus on what your account is all about. It shouldn’t be “food, fitness, healthy lifestyle, travel, etc” it should be just ONE of those thing.

Niche down as far as you can then curate images that fall into a very specific theme.

Aesthetics are everything.. are your images white and bright? dark and moody? are they all desaturated except for the pinks and greens? Figure out what your aesthetic “style” is and stick to it like glue.

Upload a variety of photos to populate your feed, then post at least once per day moving forward. Select hashtags that aren’t too large (limit yourself to 5 tags that have over 1million posts associated with them) and write engaging captions that evoke a feeling, educate, or provide some sort of value to your audience.

Then.. the most time consuming part. Put yourself out there and start engaging with your target market. Like, comment and follow as much as you can (without getting blocked by IG) in the most authentic way possible. Make real comments, start true conversations, show your audience that you’re a real person who cares and is present behind the account. You could easily spend upwards of 1 hour a day doing this.

On top of this you can add SFS with complimentary accounts, run a giveaway, add relative content to your Instagram stories daily and go on IG live often to answer your audiences questions.

Bottom line is – Be present! Show up, be authentic and provide value.

Good luck!

 Ali Mirza | iSocialYou | Instagram

I would piggyback on the giant. Let me explain…

You are just starting out and have no audience. Right?

But there are so many other people in your niche who are 10 steps ahead of you (with huge audiences).

So reach out to them and ask them to feature you.

Yes, you may have to pay a little bit but it’s totally worth it.

If you pick the right influencers, their followers is your target audience also.

So don’t hesitate to spend some money.

Let’s create a step by step process so we can easily follow

1 — Find 10–20 Instagram influencers in your niche

2 — You can search on Instagram or use 3rd party tools (e.g. RightRelevant, Kear, Ninja Outreach)

3 — Find the contact info of the owners. Note: If their contact info is public on their account, this means they open for business)

4 — Reach out and find out how much their charge for a “shout out” or “feature post”

5 — I would pick 10 and have them feature my brand new account. Then pick the best 3 to 4 best performing influencers and do it again.

“You either build the audience from scratch or go to someone who already has the audience you need.”

 Leon Benjamin | Triple Your Tribe

Here’s my answer.

The main steps are
1. Who I’m looking to attract
2. My content + hashtags
3. Get easy quick followers
4. Shout campaign
5. Giveaway campaign
6. Engage with existing fans daily

First determine who’s my account for. And think about who else is serving them right now. What other instagram accounts are currently BIG that have them. I’d make a list of at least 30 of them who have over 40k followers and a fairly active comment section where discussions arise.

Next, I’d find out what type of content those accounts put out thats interesting for them to engage with. Make at least 30 posts that are similar to those kinds of post and add a twist to them with my brand. The rest can be posts with quotes related to the market.

Also from the previous listed accounts, scrape some of the hashtags that are in the medium range 20k-200k posts. And some in the more popular range +500k. From there I’d look a bit deeper to find more related tags through suggestions.

From there, I schedule the posts with later.com to go out once per day. And another post uploaded manually. While rotating 60 hashtags across 2 posts per day. (that’s 30 tags per post. NOT 60 tags per post – which can get you into trouble!)

Next, I’d ask my current network of friends, or fam to follow my new account. Just for the sake of growing momentum and some social proof.

Now for the giveaway campaign. I’d create a document of value either from my knowledge or from interviewing influencers in the market or get an existing product of value (maybe around +100$) that that audience will want. Something thats related to the market. And offer it for free. In a giveaway. They would have to follow and tag in someone to enter for a chance to win. The winner would be announced on the last day of the 30 days. All participants receive part of the document or online product as well as a bonus.  

Then, while that’s being promoted in the account, I’d get others to share it as well. I’d reach out to that list found in step 1 and ask them to give us a shout on their page. In exchange, shout them out on my page, or give them something of value in return.

While they promote the contest, I’d manually get traffic. The way I’d do that is by engaging (by liking or commenting or replying to stories) to the people who are active on the posts from accounts of list one.

In summary,
1. find my audience,
2. the content they’d like,
3. the tags that attract them,  
4. Ask existing network for some social proof followers
5. Create a contest
6. Get shouts from relevant accounts
7. Manually engage with the market

That could make me hit 10,000 followers easy. But in reality, hitting the 10k mark can be done by purchasing them.. however, would not make your account valuable to you or your market..

What would be the most bang per buck (your buck being in terms of your energy and time), would be to have an engaged and interested following instead.

So growing through the steps above, ensures you get interested followers. And less of the ones that unfollow you later.

Erica Eckman | Everything Erica | Instagram

Find out what is currently a topic going viral and create witty, funny or informative content around that topic.


 Jenn Herman | Jenn’s Trends | Instagram

I would never encourage a client to attempt to reach 10k followers in 30 days. It’s unrealistic and the audience will not generate the ideal results with that type of manufactured growth.


 Jason Stone | Millionaire Mentor | Instagram

I would do a giveaway and tell people to follow the account to win something



 Jaime Derringer | Website | Instagram

My best advice is do a lot of research. Find out which hashtags are critical, which are performing well, and who are the key influencers. Interacting regularly in this community is the best way to increase followers quickly and get noticed. Posting at least once a day using key hashtags is the right way to go, but don’t overdo it. Too many hashtags can get you flagged by Instagram. Also, consider posting video and doing a few Instagram stories regularly because Instagram favors these over photos and can help you increase your visibility within their algorithm. But most of all, be real, be human, and be authentic.

 Jim Tobin | Ignite Social Media | Instagram

Growing a following is extremely easy if you don’t care about the quality of your followers. There are companies online selling 5,000 Instagram followers for just $30. Several years ago, I actually ran an experiment and bought 10,000 Twitter followers to roughly double my follower count. Nothing beneficial happened and just a few months later, Twitter’s algorithms had deleted all of them. I was back to my natural follower level.

If you care about long-term value from your Instagram account, the steps are a bit more difficult.

  1. Start with a quality content strategy. Are you a drone photographer? Fashion? Food? Dogs? DIY?
  2. Create a significant amount of content, but be ruthless about deleting anything that’s not your best. Instagram more than Twitter is about quality over quantity.
  3. Begin posting. Use hashtags (between 5 and 10 is ideal), but place them as the first comment on your post, not in the body text.
  4. Once you have some decent content, follow people in the same space as they will often follow back.

This path takes some work, but if you’re not energized by it, building a large Instagram following will probably not have any benefit for you.

 Shawn Thomas | Website | Instagram

Unless you are a celebrity, or have some sort of public awareness, the ability to grow your account on Instagram to 10,000 followers in one month will require one or both of the following methods.

1. Find a way to get into what is called “Shout groups”. These are Instagram accounts all of similar size that will promote all of the other accounts in the group. For instance, on Monday if there are five people in the group, all five people promote want on account. On Tuesdayeverybody promotes the next account and that process keeps repeating each day. It works best if all of the accounts in the group are of similar theme.

2. Paid promotions. This is a method where you will reach out to accounts of larger size and similar theme and pay them to promote your Instagram account. This is the fastest way to grow your account on Instagram.

 Diana Marks | Lux Affair by Diana | Instagram

If I were to grow my Instagram account to 10K in under 30 days, I would still use the same techniques: consistency and originality of content, interaction with the community and existing fans, and using relevant hashtags. All accounts are different, but these are the three simple things that produce the best results.


 Lauren Bath | Website | Instagram

If you want to grow a brand new Instagram account from zero – 10,000 in under 30 days then you are overlooking the point of Instagram, to grow a community of like-minded people. Using Automation, Pods and other dubious methods might get you there but your audience will be shallow. My advice to anyone looking for  quick growth on Instagram is to take a step back and ask themselves what they really want it for, because if you want to influence your audience in any way then you’re going to have to settle in for the long run. The fastest ways to grow organically on Instagram is by posting world class imagery every single day using the right tags and engaging with other accounts for hours a day. Every day. For years. But if you build the base correctly you will start to see momentum and traction and if you’re a great person sharing great content then you might grow your influence here, and influence is not just about numbers.

 Mario Massitti | Website | Instagram

If I had to grow a brand new Instagram account from 0 to 10k followers in 30 days, simply put: I would run ads. Assuming I had a product established & content for Instagram, that would be by far the most efficient way. If I were trying to accomplish it with zero dollars, I would create partnerships and value for other influencers in my space (both on and off Instagram). I’m a big fan of growing organically (liking & commenting on potential client accounts, hashtags, etc.) but in this mindset – running a strong paid campaign would save a lot of headache and allow me to focus on what I do best and double down on my strengths: creating great products and creating strong, relevant content.

 Laura Lawson Visconti | Geography Creative | Instagram

I wouldn’t. I could, if I had a decent budget, hundreds of hours to spare, and employed all kinds of shady methods… but I wouldn’t. This is a common misconception nowadays, stemming from a greedy (or perhaps simply naive) desire both from brands and wannabe influencers to see numbers grow exponentially and unrealistically fast. If I was a brand, I’d want an engaged audience of 1000 people who are actually interested in my product, rather than an audience of 10k disinterested individuals (or worse, bots) as that doesn’t actually generate sales. It’s the age-old quality vs quantity argument. Quality is better, just as it always has been.

 Amber Renae | Website | Instagram

To grow in under 30 days, firstly I would create a really unique, beautiful and on-brand feed, that people instantly want to follow and collab with. Branding is step #1 in growing an audience. Once my feed is tight I would then start being super active
I would then make a targeted list of accounts that have a similar audience to the one I’m wanting to cultivate.
I would then actively target their followers, being super active on the platform, liking, commenting and DMing as often as possible.
I would also follow as many accounts as possible and unfollow anyone who doesn’t reciprocate
That should get 10k in 30 days

 Melissa McAllister | Team Made | Instagram

Easy! I would laser focus on my niche market and provide daily valuable tips for free.
How I was able to grow my account to 200,000 in less than 2 years (organically) was because I knew my market, which is fitness professionals, and I provided short workouts for them to do and use…FOR FREE!
Most people think you need to hang on to your BEST stuff for your paid content but that’s not true. You will have faster success over delivering right from the get-go while establishing trust and a good relationship which is the secret to a strong brand!

 James Shamsi | ModelGram | Instagram

‘Id pick a niche thats easy to grow that doesn’t have too many competitors – eg gaming. I’d then test new types of targeting for automation for the first 2 weeks, testing different options heavy for 2 days at a time. EG, those uploading content about different videogames, those engaging with diff videogame pages etc. I’d also start an engagement group with other accounts in that niche, helping to bring up average post reach and Explore page visibility. Last thing would be to do some influencer marketing, paying micro influencers with an audience I want, eg YouTube gamers, to do shoutout posts for the videogame meme page.

 Zahara Jade | HireInfluence | Instagram

There are always a few things to do in order to grow an Instagram account from zero to 10k in under 30 days, but one of the best and brightest ways is to leverage influencers.  Aside from all of the basics like having a tight brand image, profile, and sleek images + videos posted with a nice amount of hashtags – not too many and not too little – have others spread the word for your brand.  This might include so many different strategies.  A few suggestions to get you started: a roundup blog post of popular IG influencers that is then shared on IG to, a guest spot on an influencer’s IG account, a true sponsored post via an influencer, a collaborative real-life effort (social cause, etc.) with influencers that is shared via IG, and so much more!

Skyrocket Your Instagram Following Now

So, you’ve now heard from 17 different influencers on how they would grow their Instagram following in 30 days.

Your mind must be exploding by now.

But don’t be overwhelmed.

Read through their tips, choose up to 3 strategies that you would like to try and experiment with them over the next week.

And then… Execute.

5 Ideas For Marketing Your Small Business

So you’re running a small business. You did the planning, you’ve set up shop, customers have been coming in. It’s been challenging but fulfilling. And now you’ve gotten to a sort of stable pattern, and you’ve started thinking about what’s next. How do you grow the business? How do you reach more people, get more customers?

Marketing a small business is tough, because of the many constraints. You’re not going to be able to hand over a big budget to a glitzy agency and tell them to ‘make it rain’. You’re not going to have the luxury of coming up with an elaborate, multi-part plan – you’re going to have to keep things simple, and get them done fast.

Here’s a list of things you could and should be doing.

1. Make sure your social media accounts are active and your site is search-friendly

Everybody’s on social media now, including lots of grandmas, so you really have no excuse any more.

It doesn’t actually need to be stylish, clever or gorgeous – it just really needs to be user-friendly.

The Oatmeal has one of the funniest ways of putting this across:

What your customers would want from your website (say you’re a restaurant):

  • Menu
  • Specials and happy hour info (including social promotions such as Foursquare, Groupon and Twitter specials)
  • Address with a link to Google Maps
  • Online reservation system that actually works
  • Operating hours, parking and contact info
Source: The Oatmeal
Source: The Oatmeal

2. Incentivize your customers to share their purchases on social media


People pay attention to word-of-mouth from their friends and peers more than they do to any other form of marketing.

So one of the best ways to reach new customers is through the friends of your existing ones.

Give your customers a hashtag to use, and you’ll start being able to see when they post their purchases on social media.

2. Clarify your story – make it sticky and contagious

One of the most powerful things you can do for your business’s marketing efforts is to improve your story.

How do you do that? You start by finding out what your customers are already saying about your store. Literally ask them – what brought you here? What convinced you to give us a shot?

Once you understand this well, you want to work this into your messaging.

Your end goal would be to make your store more remarkable – literally.

3. Guerilla marketing – make a strong impression with a bold statement

Photo taken by Mimi Ritzen Crawford
Photo taken by Mimi Ritzen Crawford

Guerilla marketing is all about creating maximum impact for minimum cost.

One of the best examples of this of all time was Warby Parker’s hijacking of the New York Fashion Show – they invited the editors from the fashion show to a ‘secret event’ at a public library, where they had staffers staking out all the seats. Just before the editors showed up, the staffers exchanged seats with models.

What about if you’re just a little brick-and-mortar retailer along the sidewalk?

Well, you could always get creative with your signage:


4. Do some niche marketing for your target audience

A Lululemon store turns into a yoga studio.
A Lululemon store turns into a yoga studio.

Every good product solves a problem for somebody. Even if your business serves a diverse group of people (say, a donut shop), there’s bound to be some pattern – you might notice that most of your best customers come from the nearby offices at a certain time of the day, for example. Maybe you could host some sort of ‘networking event’? Talk to your customers, and look for patterns.

Here’s a fun example – some Lululemon stores turn their stores into yoga studios after hours. This gives potential customers a judgement-free place to explore the brand, and help them to create a positive association with it. If they end up learning yoga and making friends at the store, and they’re going to need some yoga apparel and paraphrenelia, Lululemon becomes the obvious choice.

5. Try a loyalty program


Ever tried running a loyalty program? In the past, you had to do this with loyalty punch cards. This is often a tedious process – we’ve heard from our retailers that they spend too much money paying for the printing of the cards, and that customers get frustrated when they realize they’ve misplaced or forgotten their cards.

That’s why we made CandyBar – a modern loyalty program app for small businesses. No download necessary.

Test drive a free trial of Candybar.co  today!

Should You Use Groupon for Your Small Business?

Here are a collection of reads that we find helpful in thinking about the subject.

  1. Should I Use Groupon? Don’t Be Tempted By The Dark Side
  2. Quora: What do small business owners think of Groupon?
  3. Quora: Is Groupon a successful option for small businesses?
  4. Inc – 10 Pros and Cons of Using Groupon
  5. NY Times Business Blog – Doing the Math on a Groupon Deal
  6. /r/smallbusiness – GroupOn – Does it actually help businesses grow? – consensus seems to be that it only works for businesses that have a high markup, and that you really have to look at it as a generalized marketing expense.
  7. /r/smallbusiness – All my customers are from groupon

The general consensus seems to be that…

  • Groupon users are mostly bargain hunters who don’t look to signup
  • Some retailers have seen success with Groupon, but it seems like failures are far more common

So tread carefully!

You want to make sure you go into it with your eyes open, and not just end up giving away your products and services without getting anything in return.

Make sure you have a plan for getting more long-term value out of the customers that you get (since you’re effectively ‘paying extra’ for them).

11 Of The Best Cafes Around The World

By some estimates, there are over 15,000,000 cafes around the world.

Which are the best ones? We went to look them up.

Here are some of the most popular ones we’ve found.

1. La Caféothèque de Paris

Not just about atmosphere (which you can get everywhere in Paris, because it’s… Paris), La Caféothèque has an incredible collection of beans from all over the world.

2. Cafe Tortoni, Buenos Aires

Cafe Tortoni is Argentina’s oldest cafe, opened in 1858. The specialty is chocolate con churros, crunchy fried dough dipped into thick hot chocolate. And apparently they have live tango from time to time!

3. Cafe Central, Vienna

Cafe Central in Vienna is incredibly beautiful. It looks like a literal palace. It also has a lot of interesting history behind it, and it was frequented by all sorts of intellectuals throughout history – including Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and Freud.

4. Sant’Eustachio il Caffe, Rome

A cosy, relaxed sort of atmosphere.

5. Winkel 43, Amsterdam

Apparently, they have the best apple pie in Amsterdam.

6. Kaffeine, London

Very modern.

7. Toma Cafe, Madrid

Toma Cafe Madrid

8. Caffe Vita, Seattle

It’s a cliché to describe Seattle as grungy, but that’s certainly what it looks like – in the best possible sense!

9. Analog Coffee, Calgary

Image: fratellocoffee.com
  • “Staff always friendly, decently priced, espresso and hand pour are good”
  • Excellent coffee and selection, friendly atmosphere and very cool atmosphere!”

10. The Coffee Academics, Hong Kong

Very warm and homey.

11.  LES, Moscow

Certainly interesting to see a coffeeshop with all the signage in Russian!

11 Of The Best Small Business Apps To Save You Time

If you’re running a small business in 2017 or later, you know that you need to get online. We covered some of the specifics in our post about small business marketing.

But there’s more that you can do to take advantage of online tools and resources to support your business.

Here are some of the best apps that can help you take your business to the next level, from real business owners in /r/smallbusiness:

1. For accounting: Quickbooks

Helps with accounting and managing money.

2. For bookings – Booker

Booker business app

3. To keep track of todo lists and general information – Trello

Trello business app

4. Also for tracking projects – Asana

Asana business app

5. Google Apps – for shared calendars and timesheets

6. QuoteWerks – make impressive-looking customized quotes and invoices

7. Dialpad – $20 a month for business lines to avoid mixing up work with your personal line

8. Mailchimp – for email newsletters and drip campaigns

9. Streak – CRM in your Gmail inbox

10. ShipStation

11. Candybar Loyalty (that’s us!)


Ever tried running a loyalty program? In the past, you had to do this with loyalty punch cards. This is often a tedious process – we’ve heard from our retailers that they spend too much money paying for the printing of the cards, and that customers get frustrated when they realize they’ve misplaced or forgotten their cards.

That’s why we made CandyBar – a modern loyalty program app for small businesses. No download necessary.

Test drive a free trial of Candybar.co  today!

3 Things To Consider When Hiring Employees

Hiring and managing employees is one of the hairiest, most frustrating parts of being a small business owner. But it can also be one of the most fulfilling things, if you do it right. So let’s talk about it.

“Great employees are not born, they are developed in a business atmosphere where training is stressed, individuality is encouraged and personalities are respected. Word travels about the work environment in all sizes of stores. The key to recruiting quality employees is promoting and possessing a positive work environment no matter how large or small you are.” – Anne M. Obarski, customer service expert

1. Hire with purpose

Image: Reddit

You’re busy, but you cannot afford to be vague when it comes to hiring employees. You’re asking somebody to spend their time working for you – you want to make sure that it’s worthwhile for everybody involved.

Before you even hire someone, be clear about what exactly the job is. What are you going to be hiring people to do? What tasks need to get done? What are the specific demands of the job? What are the commitments and obligations? What are the expectations?

Hiring is something you never want to compromise on, if you can. In particular, you want to make sure that whoever you hire fits well in the culture of your company. An unskilled worker can be trained, but one with a poor attitude will be toxic for the rest of your working environment.

2. Make training a priority

Image: LinkedIn

Once you’ve hired somebody decent, you can kick back and let them run the show, right?

Of course not.

It’s unlikely that you’re going to find somebody who’s able to perfectly perform all of the tasks that you require of them. Anybody who’s so amazingly qualified for your role is probably looking for something bigger and better.

So you’re going to have to train them. You need to spend time and energy coaching your employees to get better at their jobs. As a minimum, you should have an ‘onboarding’ process where you walk them through everything they’ll have to do.

3. Keep your staff motivated

Image: Dilbert

Once you have employees, your business now becomes ‘a place to work’. And whatever your business goals are,  you’ll want your business to be a good place to work.

You can vary in terms of how obsessive and particular you want to be about this, but you want to be on the positive side of this. The moment your place becomes a bad place to work, the whole operation begins to get toxic. Your employees are less likely to treat your customers well.

You want to develop a practice of recognizing good work. Thank them when they do things right. Listen to their feedback.

Creating a great work environment is something to be proud about as an end in itself. And it has so many benefits. Employees will want to refer their friends to work at your store. They will treat your customers better.