Using Social Networking

Knowing Your Customer

Many businesses have loyalty systems. You sign up and receive promotions and more usually, many annoying phone calls and a full spam filter. But how did a small coffee shop use their social networking and vision to grow from one store in Africa to a multi-million dollar successful business in a few short years?


Vida e Caffe is a successful coffee chain from South Africa that was started by two young entrepreneurial partners, Rui Esteves and Brad Armitage. Using Esteves’ mother’s muffin recipes and with his access to a European coffee supply, it was sold a few years later for millions. The company is now taking over the UK.

They have stuck to the original marketing strategy of the original store. The new owners decided to grow the business fast and Vida e Caffe, which is Portuguese for Life and Coffee, has a simple philosophy of providing the best espresso based European style café experience with an African twist. Most of all, they believe in word of mouth and social networking mixed with guerrilla marketing.

When they opened their first store, Esteves and Armitage hung out in rival coffee shops wearing specially printed t-shirts boldly declaring their product’s dominance in the market.

The new group of young businessmen, who bought Vida, introduced a loyalty system that was also innovative to say the least.

The signs up to receive a card similar to a credit card. It is then swiped at each purchase generating 5% cash back in bonus points, which a customer may redeem for food or coffee whenever they want at any of their stores anywhere in the world. It is all on a central system that is loaded with customer’s details. They say they can now track customers changing purchases with the seasons, and offer specials accordingly. They can see when and where, how many of their loyal band of followers jumps from cappuccino to frappucino.

The company has had massive success with its social networking too. Their Facebook group invites their fans to jazz mornings and encourage business meetings with wireless access and large order pre-prepared pick up service. Their turnover increased dramatically with each new rethinking of the old model of a coffee shop. They are no longer just a place that serves coffee to go in a paper cup. They are a social phenomenon in their home country.

The master stroke was to begin a VIP network which gives local celebrities including everyone from local sports stars to actors, TV hosts and even artists and photographers free coffee and food redeemable at any of their stores daily, on a card system. This means the celebrities use their cards often. According to them it’s the best coffee and muffins around and of course the fact that it’s free has absolutely nothing to with it.

These guys know their customer so intimately because they are in constant contact with them, embracing the times and current market, growing over the recession.

From one store to a highly successful business on a global scale in just a few short years, these entrepreneurs exhibit how one can achieve success. Knowing your customer is the future of every business and social networking is the key to business owners understanding their client base better than ever before.

Shane Krider