November
05
2015

The Currency of Coffee

By Chris 0

What’s your coffee worth?

Depending on the time of day, that value could range from .30 to 5.00. As I wrote in “The Boldness Bump,” the price anchor for coffee has changed. But this essay is about the value of coffee to OTHERS.

Coffee opens doors. Coffee stirs conversation. Here’s how I’ve used it to great advantage:

  1. In Catalyst’s annual “Fit It Forward” week, the first assignment I give our clients is literally “Buy a stranger a coffee.” Every year, in drive-thrus and coffee lines, dozens of Catalyst clients say, “I’ll pay for the guy behind me.” The benefit is far greater than the price of a cup, and the purchaser feels good all day. But until I told them to do it, few were.
  2. In our second location (2006,) our gym was above a women’s clothing shop. On opening day, I took the sales staff a tray of coffee as an introduction. That same afternoon, a teenager dropped a power snatch from over his head; all the track lighting in the shop below broke free and shattered. We resolved it peacefully. That coffee saved me five years of war with the neighbors.
  3. Before Catalyst opened, I sought advice from an elderly attorney. My partners-to-be were friendly guys with successful businesses, but I thought it wise to be careful. I walked down the street to the attorney’s office and stopped to buy him a coffee on the way. I could barely afford the coffee, let alone his advice, but he said, “Thanks for the coffee. I needed that. No bill.”
  4. In January 2013, I sat in the original Starbucks in Seattle with some of the HQ “inner circle”–Andy Stumpf, Sevan Metossian, and Jimi Letchford–and we were waiting for Greg. I was dangerously close to missing a flight home. But the wait gave me the opportunity to lay out what I was doing with 321GoProject over coffee. The next time I visited HQ, my book was in Sevan’s office, and I was on the payroll as a writer for the Journal.
  5. When we published Ignite! Enrichment Through Exercise, I thought it would be popular around town. Instead, it seemed to be popular everywhere BUT locally: we had Skype calls with South Africa, Europe, Boston and Texas, but not our city. So we asked a local physiotherapist if we could bring his staff a coffee and a copy of the book. The discussion turned into lunch, and our first referral from them has been worth over $19,000 to date. That’s one single referral.

What’s a coffee worth?

Like coffee, your value depends on the context. To an overweight woman whose wedding dress is too tight, it’s priceless. To a shopper comparing your service to  an identical service across town, it’s worth the lowest price they see. A no-name coffee in a hotel room might be worth .30–or it might be worth $1000, if it helps me meet a deadline.

Want to have conversations with other businesses? Take them a coffee. Want to apologize? Take coffee. Want to introduce yourself around town? Take coffee. Set the context, then establish value. Price comes later. You’ll like the results.

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