When you're launching a new business, it's never too early to get the buzz building - so that when you do open your doors to the public you have a ready-made audience, and lots of people excited about what you're up to. Jaya Da Costa is the founder of Pause Cat Cafe, the south of England's first cat cafe, and a key part of her marketing strategy was making sure that plenty of promotion was done before the cafe had even opened - with awesome results. 

How to get customers excited before you're even trading

Pause Cat Cafe is the debut for cat cafes in the South; a home to 12 rescue cats that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of the local community, both for humans and animals! We like to think of Pause as a place of increasing happiness; a haven for humans and cats to enjoy each others’ company.  

The cafe first opened on International Cat Day 17th February 2017 and has been bustling with activity ever since. The first three months were fully booked, and people from all over the south came to visit.  

Ensuring high levels of excitement for Pause was vital even before its opening, as the cafe requires a lot of work behind the scenes to keep it running consistently. The refurbishment and initial opening were costly, plus the running costs and rent each month are rather high. Thankfully, we have a wonderful group of volunteers who help to look after our cats and provide excellent service to our customers. Without their passion and dedication, it would be difficult to provide our cats with the love and care they need whilst still being able to serve customers.

Generating buzz beforehand

From the start, my goal was to present Pause as a new, exciting idea within Bournemouth for people to visit and enjoy.  I wrote the marketing strategy shortly after the business plan was finished, focusing on things such as the types of customer I wanted to attract, where they lived and how to reach out to them.

The theme of the cafe was kept secret until a month before the opening so that I was able to create a bit of ‘teaser PR’ such as leaving cat sculptures around town, hosting a cat’s tea party in the park with people dressed up as cats, and walking around town in the same feline attire!

How to get customers excited before you're even trading - Pause Cat Cafe

What we did upon launch

  • When we finally went public, I did a month of PR including:
  • Revealing the ‘cat cafe’ sign at the front of the cafe
  • Persuading some local businesses to change their homepage to advertise the cafe on launch day
  • Launching a crowdfunding page selling advance tickets and souvenirs
  • Creating a social media frame that people could use on their profile pictures
  • The local University performing arts society did a flashmob in the town centre
  • Creating a Facebook group and mailing list for cat lovers
  • Collecting press contact details and sending out press releases
  • A ‘preview’ event for the local press and bloggers to come and visit the cafe before it officially opened
  • Printing and handing out flyers and posting them door-to-door   
  • Going to networking events, stalls at trade shows and talking to people
  • Making a countdown on the website and social media pages
  • Getting involved in blogs and asking people to blog about us
  • Facebook live videos of the cafe refurbishment progress

All of these contributing factors in the run up to launch and during led to a great deal of hype when the concept was publicly revealed. I managed to secure coverage in the Times Newspaper as well as two local TV news channels and many other press organisations, both national and local.  PR is an affordable type of marketing for start-up companies and can help when you can’t afford to spend a lot on advertising.

How to get customers excited before you're even trading - Pause Cat Cafe

Jaya’s top tips

For any other businesses trying to create a buzz, I’d recommend having a brainstorming session, maybe with some friends, to come up with some ideas for newsworthy angles related to your business launch.  If you can make it of interest to the press then you will likely get some free advertising!   

You should get as much out there as you can, from different angles and different routes, but always with the same key message so that you don’t dilute your brand. Work out what you want to say, and to whom, and think of different ways to get the message out there!

Make sure your marketing fits with your brand ‘personality’. For instance, my cat cafe is quirky and fun, so I can be a bit cheeky with my marketing, but if yours happens to be selling tax software, you might want to try a different style.

Pause is proud to be the first cat cafe in the South, as well as a safe, relaxing haven for both humans and cats alike. We hope to continue providing an excellent experience to our customers and have many plans for the future.

Wishing good luck to all new startups - enjoy each step of the way to creating your dream business!

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