When Philip Brown first introduced PERC Coffee to the world in 2010, it was a one-man show called Panther’s Eye Roasting Company, it was available primarily through its wholesale partners and the farmers market in Savannah, Georgia, and customers could contact Philip’s personal cell phone for recommendations on what coffee to purchase.
Now, Philip has a numbers-minded business partner, Alan Fischer, who’s the perfect complement to his right brain, and a solid team dedicated to PERC’s mission to share good times and amazing coffee with everyone they meet. Their slate of wholesale partners boasts Whole Foods Markets throughout the Southeast, and they’re growing a network of their own cafes in Georgia. Customers can also find PERC’s selection of mild, balanced, and wild coffees on their website. And while Philip’s cell is no longer accessible to the public, his team still aims to provide the same level of white-glove service since PERC was started.
To grow PERC into the omnichannel business it is today, Philip and Alan opted for roads less traveled, using more unconventional digital marketing tactics to acquire new customers. “Traditional ad spend has had little to no return and were abject failures,” says Alan. Instead, their efforts might lead them to show up in tight-knit communities through a podcast or YouTube channel sponsorship in hopes that people who have very niche interests might be interested in coffee, too.
PERC is all about meeting people where they are in a strikingly genuine way—and this type of engagement doesn’t stop for someone once they get past the awareness stage of the marketing funnel. Their marketing strategy is intentional about hooking people at every step of the customer journey and retaining their customers for the long haul. To do that, here’s what works for them.
Creating a no-brainer experience for the customer
PERC’s website attracts a spectrum of visitors who require different levels of engagement to usher them to a coffee they’ll enjoy. “There are about 10% of people who are coffee nerds like us and want to try the wildest coffees they can find. And there’s another 10% who are just pure convenience drinkers—they just want a normal cup of coffee,” Alan says. “The 80% in between is what we call the ‘coffee curious.’ That’s who we’re primarily targeting through our marketing.”
Ultimately, their goal is to provide the coffee curious with cues and useful content that’ll lead them to the best possible experience they can have at home, as quickly as possible. PERC’s bags are color coded to clue in the customer on tasting profiles—blue for mild, yellow for balanced, and pink for wild—and for the customers who don’t know what they like, they offer an “All the Vibes” box that contains samples to help them decide. They also have guides on their website to help customers choose their “vibe” and brew coffee using whatever methods they have available to them.
In addition to investing a lot into maintaining an intuitive, approachable brand, the team at PERC leans pretty heavily into the non-advertising parts of marketing. They analyze data they get through Mailchimp’s Shopify integration to identify and segment their customers based on psychographics and behaviors. Doing this allows them to personalize their content based on source attribution data, or retarget customers based on previous purchases with suggestions for a similar coffee if they liked the one they tried (or a different one if they didn’t). Once the coffee curious enter PERC’s marketing funnel, they don’t have to search for long before finding something they’re interested in.
Harnessing the strength of experimentation
If you had to sum up PERC’s approach to marketing in one phrase, it would be: Just try it. And when it comes to emails, this looks like running controlled experiments through their Mailchimp campaigns to understand how often to reach out, what to say, and how much of a carrot to dangle to convert customer interest into sales.
“Email marketing is the most powerful tool we have for sales conversion.” Alan says. “We look at all the data to know what worked and what didn’t, and try to attribute as many actions to these conversions as possible so we can double down on the things that are successful.”
For one experiment, Alan set up Customer Journeys with percentage split branches to A/B test varying discount amounts to people—like 5% off, $5 off, and even upwards of 40% off—to determine the most optimal amount. And they’ve even gone as far as testing whether offering the discount in the form of a dollar amount or percentage contributes to more conversions.
PERC’s also tested different ways to incentivize people to purchase sooner rather than later. They ran another experiment through “The Big Deal,” their monthly campaign offering a steep discount on the 13th of every month. One month, they launched a declining discount campaign—starting at 8 am, customers could get 35% off their orders, and the discount would drop every hour until 2 pm. They gave their newsletter subscribers an exclusive heads up so they could get first dibs on the deal before announcing it to their social media followers, and within the first hour, they generated 137 orders and over $6,700 in net sales. The campaign ultimately resulted in the highest revenue day for PERC’s website, bringing in over 10 times more than the typical daily average in the 3 prior months.
Focusing on increasing customer lifetime value
For PERC, “attrition is by far the highest between the first and second purchase, and then the next highest between the second and third purchase,” Alan says. Knowing this, he uses Customer Journeys to automate retention efforts and capitalize on key opportunities for repeat purchases.
“If someone hasn't made a second purchase in 21 days, they’re probably out of coffee, so we’re prodding them and offering discount codes—and doing the same for customers who are between their second and third purchases.” They also have a campaign to win back their customers by offering a discount after 45, 60, and 90 days since their last purchase.
PERC’s email newsletter subscribers purchase twice as often and spend 2.4 times more on average than non-email newsletter subscribers.
“It’s more important to us to focus on customer lifetime value,” he says. “I worry less about our basket size because there’s a limit to how much coffee people can consume. In terms of order frequency, it’s just gonna fit into people’s lives and habits. There’s a little bit of room to shift people up in dollars per pound of coffee, but that makes a less significant impact.”
Focusing on growing retail and employing new marketing tactics helped PERC achieve an average growth of over 40% in online sales from February through May 2023 compared to the same period the year before. But as much of a priority it is for PERC to keep driving sales, staying authentic and true to themselves is just as important. “In the beginning, the goal was to grow the company as big as we could without negatively affecting the quality or the way we treat our customers or our employees,” Philip says. And the goal has never really changed. Whether you’ve been a loyal customer for a decade or a year, what you’re getting is still quintessentially PERC.
Published June 12, 2023