The challenges of being a small business owner in 2020 are truly unprecedented. In light of extended shutdowns, limited capacity and restrictions upon re-opening, and extreme uncertainty about the future, it’s no wonder that many organizations have put their marketing and outreach campaigns on hold. 

It can feel pointless to market a coffee shop or brewery when you don’t know whether you’ll be able to resume operating at full capacity this year—but this is actually where boosting brand awareness can come in handy. Marketing can be a very cost-effective way to keep or maintain customer loyalty to your business when your patrons can’t actually visit, or when they’re visiting in a limited capacity. Read on for some simple tips for incorporating branded merchandise into your marketing strategy.

Create Quality Branded Merchandise That Makes Sense

Most customers and business owners have experience with branded merchandise or “swag,” as it’s sometimes called. Some branded items find their way into your daily life, and some get tossed into the garbage or forgotten in a junk drawer nearly immediately. We can all point to the essential difference between those two categories of items. Spending marketing dollars wisely means investing in branded merchandise that ties in with your business and meets a standard of quality that sets it apart from throwaway swag. 

Handmade coffee cups make sense for a coffee shop, for example. Quality branded drinkware ties in logically to any establishment serving beverages. Brewpubs and brewery taprooms’ customers are bound to see the value in handmade custom beer steins, even at home. Perhaps especially from home, given that social distancing measures have everyone looking for ways to liven up their isolated lifestyles and home-cooked meals.

If you ask us, you really can’t go wrong with branded stoneware mugs or steins. At Grey Fox Pottery, we’re dedicated to working with small business owners to customize handcrafted quality stoneware coffee mugs, beer steins, tankards, and more. High-quality stoneware products show your customers and patrons that you’re willing to go beyond the cheaper, mass-produced merchandise that so often ends up emblazoned with a brand name.

Take Marketing a Small Business to the Next Level With Word-of-Mouth Advertising

The most valuable marketing for any small business is the kind you can’t buy directly. Word of mouth from people who know and love your shop is invaluable. Personal referrals from people whose opinions we trust and even strong online reviews from people we haven’t met are the most potent means of creating new customers. 

By investing in branded merchandise, sure to be integrated into your loyal customers’ lives, social media feeds, and routines, you’re putting your brand into their conversations with friends, neighbors, and followers. No amount of online marketing can buy the power of authentic, personal recommendations. It’s effective advertising because it doesn’t seem like advertising at all. 

Get the Most Out of Your Small Business Marketing Spend

If all branded merchandise were created equal, it would make sense to put your name on the cheapest or most mass-produced items available. There is undoubtedly a place for giveaways and more disposable swag. For instance, business owners heading to a tradeshow normally consider bringing something small to hand out to everyone they contact. 

But in 2020, many of those fundraisers, conferences, and other industry events have gone virtual. So have book clubs, bowling leagues, family reunions—you name it. With fewer people around, you have more wiggle room to create high-quality merchandise with your name on it.

In general, a branded item has to make sense with your business and should be of good quality. Putting your logo on an item that will quickly deteriorate or get left behind might cost less, but those dollars are essentially wasted if that plastic pen or flimsy coffee cup winds up in the trash. But that begs the question: once you have some beautiful merch, how do you get your customers interested in it?

Put Branded Merchandise Into Customers’ Hands

There are a few ways to market your small business with branded merchandise. Include handmade coffee cups or stoneware beer steins in your assortment of merchandise for sale. If you’re running a brewery or coffee shop with a retail section, drinkware that customers can take home should be part of the mix. Making quality handmade branded items available for customers to purchase shifts some of the marketing spend out of the small business owners’ budget while still getting your brand in their hands. And if you’re only open for takeout orders right now, show off your branded offerings on your social media accounts, or in your store windows!

Creating an “in-group” of customers who associate themselves not just with your product, but who feel personally connected to your small business is another way to garner invaluable loyalty. Do this by making quality branded products part of your events. Hosting an online class on coffee roasting? Put your custom coffee mugs front and center, and offer attendees a coupon code for their next visit. 

Establish a mug club for people who consider themselves regulars at your coffee shop, and they’ll be sure to return to you every time they head out for coffee. These types of clubs are simple to establish and can definitely still work during this period of social distancing. Club members buy a mug and get a free refill with every cup of coffee or receive a discount with every drip coffee, for example. Your investment will bring those patrons back to you again and again. If you have an existing mug club, you might consider hosting a virtual meetup for your regulars, or offering a discount if they swing by for a takeout order.

For small businesses like breweries, consider creating an event out of the launch of seasonal brews or the opening of your patio when it’s deemed appropriate. Customers can buy a handmade beer stein as an invitation to share the first pint of a new beer or purchase a limited edition stein to celebrate events with other loyal customers.

Work With Grey Fox Pottery

Grey Fox Pottery understands the unique circumstances facing small businesses today because we are a small business ourselves. We’re part of the community in Minneapolis, and the vitality and longevity of local businesses is important to us. 

If you’re looking for a way to create branded merchandise for your coffee shop, brewery, or organization, we can help. Our custom stoneware mugs and steins are handcrafted by skilled artisans. We work with you to create artwork you’ll be proud to show off and put in front of your customers, in person or online. And our small minimum order size of 48 pieces means you can place an order with confidence even if you’re just beginning to utilize branded merchandise. Reach out to us today to find out more.