How many 16p’s does it take to make a difference

Once upon a time, coffee was just a warm beige liquid, maybe with some undissolved granules of Gold Blend on the top.

Then we went all New York and discovered cappuccino, latte and the delights of the caffeine high.  There was suddenly a rash of coffee shops across the UK, with leather armchairs and noisy espresso machines.  They were exciting and different…for a very short time.

Now we take Starbucks etc all for granted. And while the ubiquity of the décor and the fancy names for the coffee may reassure some people who want the same frothy beige liquid in every coffee shop they go to. It becomes very difficult for anyone who wants to attract regular customers to make their coffee shop the one that everyone wants to go to.

This is the same issue that almost every small business faces – most of us are selling something which is very similar to what everyone else is selling. We might know that it’s the best, but how can we be sure, and how do we get this across to everyone else.

How do we make the thing that we care about, that made us start selling this product in the first place, into something that someone else is going to want to buy? I call this: making your business resemble a purple cow.

You’d be amazed at how many people don’t seem to think about this, or even to give a damn.  Of course, I’m just banging on about differentiation or unique selling point, which is a pretty basic business concept, but one that, unfortunately, many businesses seem to ignore.

Many people are continuing to sell the same old mediocre crap that everyone else does.  They’re selling a commodity – and the only way to make money out of a commodity is to sell lots and lots of it.

Which is what Starbucks does – they sell a lot of coffee and make big money.  Or they have historically – it may be that the novelty of New York style coffee shops is beginning to pall and fade now as we see Starbucks coffee shops closing down. So here’s my advice – if you want to make decent money, do something that is worthy of commenting on.

I’ve had two coffees today, both in independent coffee shops.  The first was probably one of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever had in my life.  Creamy, thick foam, and wafer-thin real chocolate floating on top, which of course I had to immediately eat with a spoon. Just like a child being given the first ice cream of the summer.


When I told the waitress how much I enjoyed it, she blushed and told me that she makes the coffee with 2 shots because she thinks it tastes better. She cared whether I had a good cup of coffee. Now I’m sure she’s on minimum wage + 50p like every other waitress, but I felt good because she cared.  The double shot may have helped as well.

The marginal cost of the chocolate and the extra shot may have cost the cafe around 16p, mostly for the extra shot.  16p for me to bother to take the time to tell the world about the quality of the coffee, and to make sure that I’ll go back there. Making your customers feel happy by meeting their needs just like the waitress did could help your business too.

How many 16p’s does it take for you to make sure that what you sell is worth talking about – how many 16p’s does it take for you to buy a customer for life?  And how much is that customer really worth for you?

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Photo credit to Robert Bye on Unsplash