Starbucks: The Physical Networking Platform

In recent history Thrive has highlighted both Starbucks and Dr. Jospeh Michelli, who wrote a very good book called “The Starbucks Experience”. One of the most often asked questions of Thrive, and one of the search terms that most regularly points people to our blog, revolves around Starbucks. People are fascinated by the culture and experience involved with this organization. Starbucks has been just as key to changing our culture as Facebook and Goolge have been. You can say what you want about your preference for their coffee or whether you want to support the local shop. The fact is, we have all received benefits from Starbucks whether we purchase their coffee or not. Everyone’s relationship status with Starbucks is, at a minimum, friends with benefits.

While we could write an entire book on Starbucks (which there are plenty of already), there is one very unique aspect that we all should grasp: Starbucks is the physical social networking platform. It’s Facebook with a storefront. Now this concept isn’t totally revolutionary. It’s what your local shop has been doing for years. While Google has changed the world being an online platform by which people can connect, Starbucks has become our physical platform via which we can connect. Imagine you are on the phone with a client from out of state and you will be flying into their city next week for a meeting. Your client asks where you would like to meet. No time to think, you just need to respond. Odds are that many of us would say “how about Starbucks”. It’s where we go to have meetings, meet friends, get work done, connect with school groups, and even connect with Facebook friends in person. If we need a place to connect, we go to Starbucks… oh, and we buy coffee there too. How often do you go to Starbucks exclusively to buy one of their products? Your answer is most likely something less than “every time”.

There are many reasons why we choose Starbucks. One of the major reasons is they deliver a consistently excellent and structured experience all over the world which we use as a platform for our own services and connections. If Thrive is meeting clients in Chicago, LA, or Tokyo, we can suggest a Starbucks connection and know exactly what we are getting. It’s a fact that success in the coming years will be based on your ability to be a platform for customers to connect, as well as present consistent excellence based upon your customers perception and not your own. This is what Starbucks does so well, and what they have forced other organizations to do for you. Every time you walk into a store and receive that well structured experience, you can thank Starbucks. If you don’t really like the coffee or prefer to shop there, you’ll end up there because it’s a platform for connections. If your organization is really wanting to grab some of that “fairy dust” that Starbucks has, then work on making your organization an open platform for connections and community. Don’t force your products to people, let people come to your platform for connection – and they’ll buy something while they’re there.

What are your thoughts? Do you see the advantage of being a platform for your clients to us for connection or business transactions? Has Starbucks really changed the way we do things? And most importantly, do you like their new Anniversary blend of coffee (kidding… kind of)?

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3 thoughts on “Starbucks: The Physical Networking Platform

  1. Jesse Stoner says:

    You make a great point. Our local Starbucks recently replaced the comfortable chairs with a stark long table. It’s lost its cozy atmosphere and a lot of people have stopped hanging out there. It doesn’t seem like it matters to them. I’m going to print your blog and drop it off there to encourage them to consider the value of the social network platform they provide.

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