Welcome to Bossy Like Me, an interview series and resource destination for and about women small business owners and pioneers.


Jenn Chen - Coffee Marketer

Jenn Chen - Coffee Marketer

Being in today’s casual conversation, fast-paced social media world does not mean we forgo the art of building a relationship with our customers. As small businesses, those close, trusting relationships are your bread and butter – they make you different from the corporate masses. 

Providing open lines of communication, including education in bite-sized pieces, is key to making your marketing stand out.

Today, I woke up and immediately opened my phone. Despite my morning grogginess, my fingers went to automatically open Instagram – my favorite social networking app. 

Double tap, scroll, comment with a heart, double tap.

Photos of coffee cups artistically placed on a table whirled by. A cafe 200 miles away from me talked about a fun event they were hosting this weekend. My thumb hovered on the image, reading details of the event. Nope, still too far to drive. Scroll on by.

Done with catching up on my feed in four minutes, I move on to Twitter… and Facebook… and to Snapchat… and back to Instagram. 

While I make my morning coffee, I come eye-to-eye with this beautiful red coffee bag, rich in its colors and gold patterned on the side to appeal to my creative self. I lift up my water kettle – the base has broken off – but do I care enough to ask the company what their warranty covers? Is this a product I’d recommend to my friends?

Within the first hour of being awake, I’ve been exposed, subtly or not, to dozens of marketing material. How and why I choose to engage with any of it is up to me. I care about companies that line up with my values, who do good in this world, and are able to succeed without becoming too “corporate.”

How do I find such wonderful businesses and vice versa?

For the business, it starts with having an open line to your customers. Like any relationship, building up trust takes time.

Smaller companies are more nimble and can make marketing decisions much easier on the fly. You, as a small business, have the marketing advantage over a large corporation, because you know your customers on a personal level.

I spend most of my time now on social media, whether it’s as a company or as a customer. I’ve turned comments into sales, blog posts into wholesale accounts, and retweets into loyal fans.

People outside the coffee industry shun the snobby barista. I’ve run into quite a few myself. Social media gives you a chance to project yourself in the manner that you want. You control your voice. You control your brand image. You prepare your customers for their cafe experience before they even step foot into your doors.

Of all of these, there is one item that social media can not substitute for:

A good product.

Social media and excellent customer service can mask shoddy construction, but in the end, you need to have a good product. 

So once you have that good product, you need to be authentic. And I’m using the word as its definition states, not as a marketing buzzword. Businesses evolve, because their loyal fan bases want them to succeed. And surprise: that means you have to listen to your customers.

Taking the time to listen to them, understand their woes and compliments, goes a long way. Once you have their attention, then you can create education around your business. 

People love learning new things! Marketing research shows that people who are surprised or delighted by content are more likely to share said content.

One of my clients is a scale company and wow, did I learn a lot about what goes into making a scale. I read research reports and manuals. It’s all pretty heavy, dull reading. So how did I translate that for customers? By creating an emotion around the content.

Some customers were complaining about the scale being “too sensitive.” What they really meant is that if they used it outdoors, wind would make the scale fluctuate wildly.

While the defensive reaction here is “You’re dumb, that’s not sensitivity,” it’s probably not the best response! Instead, I wrote about how environmental factors, like wind, can affect a readout – and more importantly, this is how you can change the settings. 

Education works, in bite-sized, surprising pieces.

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Dominique Ellis - Edition 3

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