In this post I’m going to outline 19 donut shop marketing ideas you can implement this week to bring in more customers and grow your revenue.
Before we jump into the marketing ideas it’s important to make the basics are handled first.
Every local business should have a Google Business listing. You need this in order to show up on Google map searches. This is the proverbial low hanging fruit of local marketing.
This one thing alone can help your business start seeing customers. Once you have one you’ll want to try and gather reviews but we’ll get into that later.
You may want to create a listing for your business on Yelp. While not as heavily used as Google, it’s still a popular platform for people to discover businesses.
Another low hanging fruit is creating a Facebook account for your business. While this comes with the job of posting occasionally it helps your business feel more real when people find it online.
Advertising Ideas for Donut Shops
There are many, many ways to advertise your donut shop. I’m only going to touch on a few options here that I like. Advertising is a key component to getting new customers through the door so consider this list a series of prompts for new donut shop marketing ideas to test out.
1. New Move in Gift
Whenever someone moves in to your local neighborhood you have an opportunity to become a part of their routine.
There are several ways you could do this but the easiest is to see if your city has a mailer for new move ins. Many cities put together some kind of welcome letter for new homeowners and many of these will have ads for local businesses in them.
You can do the same thing with apartment complexes nearby. Talk with the front office and see if they have a new move in packet they give residents. Then create a flyer/coupon to include in that packet.
2. Door Hangers
Similar to direct mail except your hand delivering a card to each house. If you do it yourself you want have to pay the postage fees for all of your cards but it will take a considerable amount of time.
You can purchase prints of actual cards made to hang on doors or you can print cards similar to postcard size and shove it in the crack of the door.
Just like direct mail, I recommend using a coupon of some kind so that you can measure how effective this is at bringing people to your business.
Another upside to this beyond cost savings is you can select what neighborhoods you deliver these and can concentrate on the homes closest to your business.
Just make sure you first check to see what policies your city has on these. Some cities don’t allow them or require a special permit to distribute them.
3. Curbside Signs
One of the simplest and easiest to implement marketing tactics is a curbside sign about your donut shop. This could be as simple as a sign that sticks in the grass near the street that says “Fresh Donuts, Delicious Coffee” and an arrow pointing to your business.
You could also use an A-frame sign that allows you to change out the message so you can test different offers to see what drives more foot traffic.
Some strip malls also have built in sign towers where you can have your logo and a custom message. Is this is the case for your business make sure you change out the sign often.
People that drive by every day are your core customers so changing up the message often will give them something to see and remind them regularly about your business.
4. Direct Mail
There are many different options when it comes to direct mail. The easiest and cheapest thing to do is run a mail campaign to every door in your zip code through the post office.
If your good with design you could create the mailer yourself or higher someone to create it for you. I recommend including some kind of discount to encourage people to actually come visit you.
You should also consider running the campaign more than once as it often takes multiple points of exposure before someone will act.
Carefully monitor foot traffic after you launch the mailer to see if you notice an increase in foot traffic. Another reason the coupon route helps is you can physically collect the cards so you know how many people actually used it.
5. Donut Delivery to Local Offices
Many small and medium sized businesses like to occasionally provide food for their employees. You could reach out to some of the local offices in your area and let them know you provide a breakfast platter for offices.
Create a small flyer the includes pricing options, food quantities (and the estimated number of people it will feed) and delivery times/order times.
When you’re delivering the flyer to the person at the front desk be sure to ask them if it’s something the company has done in the past and see if there is any additional info they would need to know.
The front desk person is often the one that handles coordinating these events so they’re the one you want to convince.
If your willing to spend the money, you could run a billboard near your donut shop. I’d recommend using an experienced designer to design it so that it actually looks well when it gets blown up to billboard size.
There are also other out of home ad locations like buss stop ads and bench ads that are available in some areas. Look for spaces that are close to your business where ads are currently running and see if they may be a good location that will push people to your business.
7. Local Mailing Ad
Many cities, big and small, will have a newsletter of some kind that’s sent out to all of the residents.
The monthly mailer in our city includes coupons for local businesses. Check to see if your city does something similar. It’s an easy way to get in from of the people who live nearby.
If you live in a larger city they may even produce a larger catalog that goes out once or more per year. These often have advertising opportunities in them you could purchase.
If you need some ideas of promotions to include in your mailing ad take a look at this list of donut shop promotion ideas.
8. Donut Catalog for local direct mail
This is more of a goofy idea but I think it would be an interesting experiment. I would pair it with the custom packaging idea shared earlier.
This is a piece of direct mail that is a small catalog. It would feature high quality close up shots of donuts. Use food photography tricks to help the donuts really pop.
Then list prices for each donut and a small paragraph describing the craftsmanship that goes into creating the donut.
Online Marketing Opportunities
Many donut shops do minimal online marketing beyond a basic Google business listing. But there is so much more you could be doing to market your donut shop.
9. Email Marketing
Email marketing for a donut shop is arguably rare. Few donut shops are taking the time to build an email list and sending emails regularly.
However, it may be the right marketing strategy for some businesses. It’s another channel to stay connected with customers and share special promotions with them to get people in the door.
If you want to get deeper into this topic check out my article on email marketing for donut shops.
Email marketing is also a vital part of increasing customer loyalty for your donut shop.
There are many platforms to create video on. YouTube and TikTok are probably the two largest right now.
There is tons of video content you could come up with to feature your donut shop like behind the scenes, decorating videos, and more. If you enjoy shooting videos already, this is a great option for you.
The big downside here is that videos on those platforms may not be great at reaching people who live within driving distance of your donut store.
So I wouldn’t make this the central focus of your marketing plan.
11. Be Active on Nextdoor
You can create a business listing on the website/app Nextdoor.
You join the local neighborhoods and can then interact with people who live there. Simply becoming an active part of the community can help more people know who you are.
You can also look for simple opportunities to hand out free donuts or coffee to people if they come but your store.
This is also a great resource to read so you can learn what people in the local community really care about. If there’s a cause you can align with like a school fundraiser, it’s another opportunity to get in front of people.
In the Shop Marketing Ideas
12. Unique Product Offer
There’s a donut shop around the corner from our house that sells specially decorated donut holes. I’m sure other donut shops do this but not the other ones in our area.
When we first moved here multiple people mentioned this donut shop as a place to take their kids to for a treat because they decorate donut holes with popular super heroes, holiday decor, and other kid themed characters and designs.
If you’re not much of a decorator consider other unique products you could offer that someone buying donuts may want. There are many variations on calachies that absolutely appeared as people tried to make something more unique.
Coffee and donuts are pretty standard but you can absolutely come up with something more unique for your shop that other shops in the area aren’t doing.
13. Reward the Regulars
This isn’t necessarily a marketing idea as much as a way to build routine and habit in your customers.
You probably already recognize and remember the people who come in every day or a few times each week.
If you aren’t already, look for ways to reward their loyalty. This could be through a formal rewards program like a punch card or it could be through random, surprise rewards. An example would be giving them free coffee one day or making their entire order free.
Doing this every once in a while will make them feel great and will help keep them loyal customers.
Your regular customers are also your best source of good donut shop reviews that will help attract even more customers.
14. Coffee Cups and Donut Boxes
Most donut shops use generic coffee cups and donut boxes. A simple way to help your business become more memorable is to use custom ones.
While this is an expense for your business, it can have a significant impact on the customer. Using an attractive custom donut box makes the product feel more unique.
When people pick up a box of donuts to take to work they won’t be placing a plain white box of boring donuts in the break room. They’ll be placing a box of high end donuts in front of their coworkers and it will make it feel like they spent some extra money for higher quality donuts.
Packaging sets the stage for the product. Higher end packaging will help people see your donuts as a higher end product.
You could even use local artists to create custom designs specifically for you that highlight local landmarks or significant local events on the box.
Events can be interesting opportunities to gain new customers. They may not always be the best revenue generators but they can do a lot for growing awareness in your community and bringing in new customers so I’ve included a few on this list of donut shop marketing ideas.
15. Donut Eating Contest Event
This is a simple but fun way to pull people to your donut shop. Host a community donut eating contest either at your business or at a local community event.
I remember as an elementary school student when school events would have a donut eating contest.
Looking back, I don’t know if a local donut shop sponsored the event but it would definitely be a good idea.
16. Booth at Local Farmers Market or Craft Fair
Essentially you’re moving your business to where the customers are. Farmers markets often take place first thing on Saturday and Sunday morning so it’s a great opportunity to get in front of a lot of foot traffic.
You’ll simply rent a booth and then bring donuts and coffee.
You’ll want to make sure you get there early and go around and offer a free coffee and donut to the other vendors there. It’s a great way to build a connection with them and get your coffee cups in all of the booths so when customers start walking around they’ll all see your cups.
You could also offer free coffee to everyone and then include a tip jar and sell donuts. Yes you’ll lose money on the coffee but many, many people will stop by your booth when they find out you have free coffee.
Find your local farmers markets here.
17. Booth at local Sports Fields
Many youth sports fields have games starting early in the morning on Saturday and Sunday.
If you work with the organization that owns or rents the field you may be able to set up a small booth and sell donuts and coffee to parents while they watch the game.
This is one of my favorite donut shop marketing ideas when it comes to events.
18. Sponsor Coffee and Donuts at a local church one Sunday a month.
Many churches will have coffee in their lobby for their congregants before or after the service.
You could reach out to some local churches and see if their interested/willing to let you sponsor the coffee bar and bring donuts or other breakfast pastries as well. While it won’t make you any money you could have a small sign with your name and address and cards for people to take with them.
You’ll have a better chance at gaining business if you do this more than once. The more people are exposed to your business the better your chance of getting people over.
Your flyer/takeaway for people could also be a coupon for a free donut with purchase of a coffee or something similar.
19. Pop up at a college campus
If your donut shop is near a campus you could talk with the university about setting up a pop up tent on campus to sell donuts and coffee or even give it away.
Again, you’ll want to have some kind of coupon takeaway material so people know who you are and can visit your donut shop.