It’s not uncommon to meet colleagues, customers or prospects in public venues such as coffee shops. My observation is most people are using them strictly for scheduled short meetings with specific people – you talk, have a cup then leave. There’s more to it if you look deeper.
Schedule at least 2 mornings or afternoons (not lunch hours) per week – when you have “computer work” to do – and set yourself at a table. Announce to your SOI in advance when and where you’ll be. “I’ll be hanging out at Janie and Jackies’s Jumpin Java Joint Tuesday morning. If you’re out and about, stop by and say Hi.”
Sometimes people will come and sometimes they won’t. If no one joins you, you will still get your work done. Once you’ve been doing it a while, more people will visit. Ideally, you’d like a prospect who has been on the fence to walk in and green light a project. Not likely to happen too frequently – but you never know. More typically, you’ll see just people in your SOI – perhaps collaborators, referral sources, friendly competitors or even someone you’ve met on a social media site and comes by to meet you in person. Any and all of these meetings are good for your business if you buy into (as I do) the fact that building relationships in the community is the key to long-term, sustained success.
In addition to announcing it ahead of time, use a Geo-based app such as Four Square to Check-in. Comment that you just got there and you’ll be there until [whatever time]. If you do meet with anyone, post again on that site – or perhaps in Twitter. Something that let’s your followers know that you just had a cool, impromptu discussion with someone.
Post again when you leave or even later that same day about what a productive time you had there.
After you’ve done it for a while, you will be surprised at how many people take notice of this. Even if they never come by, they will comment on it next time you run into them somewhere else such as, “Hey John how’s life in the coffee shop?” This may not seem important but it adds to your presence. In other words, while it’s not a comment on how well you provide your service, it is something that raises other people’s awareness of you.
Use a shop for a mini-networking meeting. Invite two folks you know that don’t know each other for coffee. The idea is to make an introduction that, hopefully, will benefit both of them. They’ll both appreciate you for the connection.
If you have two or more clients (preferably not competitors with each other) who are using some of your products or services in similar ways, invite them meet together to share ideas, exchange problems and solutions, and to provide you with some valuable feedback.
MAKE YOURSELF FAMOUS
OK – this is something I have not done, but it’s on my list of cool things to do before I die.
If one of the shops you utilize for your meetings, is a mom and pop as opposed to one of the big chains, ask the owner to name something on their menu after you. Perhaps your favorite thing to order is a half-decaf latte with a dusting of foam and a banana-nut muffin, they can put your name on the combo and put it on their specials menu or blackboard.
The quid pro quo here is that you’ll get some name exposure even when you’re not there and you agree to promote the shop and your special meal on your social media platforms.
ENTERTAINMENT (No! I’m not suggesting you sing)
A lot of coffee shops and other small venues offer free entertainment on certain evenings. There are a couple of ways this can help you.
The first idea is to simply invite a few folks (using the ideas above) to join you for the music and some conversation.
The second part is to actually sponsor the entertainment. Offer to do some promotion for the event provided that there will be some type of signage mentioning that the entertainment is “presented by” you. The promotion will cost you nothing or next to nothing. It involves social media, maybe putting up a few fliers and inviting your own friends and family to come.