Jim's Marketing Blog

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Doing fine or doing remarkable?

If my local Costa Coffee shop closed, it wouldn’t really matter to me. For those of you who don’t already know, they are a national coffee shop chain in the UK, similar to Starbucks.

My local Costa Coffee is typical of what I call a fine business.

  • The service is fine, but not exceptional.
  • The coffee is fine, but similar to other coffee served locally.
  • The atmosphere is fine, but unremarkable.
  • They offer a fine experience, worth what they charge for it.

Going beyond fine

Then there is a small, independent coffee shop that I use, when they have a table available. If they closed or moved out of the area I’d really miss them. I’d miss them, because they go beyond fine.

They focus on being remarkable.

  • The service is excellent.
  • The coffee is the best I have ever had and they sell a great range of premium quality teas.
  • The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming.

A remarkable experience

I happily pay more for my coffee in the independent coffee shop. These guys have a fraction of the resources available to Costa Coffee, but they use everything they have to create an experience that is remarkable.

I would have certainly used Costa Coffee regularly, (they are absolutely fine after all), had the remarkable coffee shop not been here. And that’s my point!

The smallest of businesses can thrive in today’s economy. So long as you are prepared to be remarkable, you can win a highly profitable share of the market, even against large, competent rivals.

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  1. This is so true Jim. I love that you always cause us to focus on going beyond normal.

    Thanks :)

  2. Hi Jim,

    Thank you for yet another thoughtful blog post.. I agree wholeheartedly about remarkable companies and my local independent coffee shop is perfect example of what you describe.

    I do find it slightly disappointing that you name Costa but neglect to mention the local coffee shop that rises to excellence. Surely such excellence would benefit from a little word of mouth praise?

    My local coffee place is called Coasters and I cannot recommend them highly enough.. local at its best


    • Hi Scot. There is no site for Creme – the shop mentioned on the post, so nothing to link to. Publishing their address won’t help them, but would identify the Costa branch.

      I’m not into ‘calling out’ people.

      Hope that helps.

      • Thanks Jim,

        I can agree about not calling people out. I see it more of celebrating excellence rather than putting down merely good enough. As you say, Costa is fine.. but is fine good enough?

        I do appreciate your quick and candid response


  3. I agree with what you’re saying, but which is doing remarkable and which is doing fine when you look at the end of year accounts?

    • Hi Steve. Yes – The income from a nation wide chain will clearly be bigger than a small business.

      This post is about being remarkable – Not churning out ‘fine’ or okay products – something that would kill a small business, when competing against big companies who have made an art of selling average ‘stuff’.

      The story demonstrates that a small business can thrive, against the power of a national chain, so long as they are remarkable. Costa, MacDonald’s etc all make lots of money, but they are not the people I write for. I write for small business owners, helping them compete in the worst economy in living memory – often against national chains and multi-nationals.

      I also believe that the end of year accounts for that independent coffee shop would stack up as truly remarkable, against most small business owners.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • :) touche!

        Really I meant branch vs branch comparison rather than Costa vs small independent.

        I absolutely agree something most small businesses can do better than a big chain is offer a more personalised/better/remarkable user experience, I guess I’m really musing out loud, would it definitely kill the small business to offer a Costa-like service or would they be OK because it should cost them less to do and therefore they may become more profitable even with a drop in sales?

        You’re obviously happy to pay more for a better service but plenty of other people are obviously happy to have average and pay less otherwise the Costa wouldn’t be there and the small indie would be twice the size, you’re talking about being competitive of course rather than being an outright winner, I just wonder because I’ve worked in companies offering the better service and seen it get abused by clients always demanding more; the great atmosphere at your coffee shop might lead to people sitting around in there all day nursing one cup of coffee for example; isn’t that an old trick, make the chairs uncomfortable so people leave quickly and you can get more customers in?

        Just thinking out loud, in terms of principle I do think small should think service, quality etc. but I wonder if it is always the best business decision.

  4. Great article , but i have one question in mind , how can a business be remarkable if it is short on budget.

    I mean is being remarkable directly linked to the amount of cash you are putting in your business? because the more you spend the more you get!!

    • Hi Farhan. Great question. Thankfully, being remarkable is all about creativity, not budget. It’s about thinking of ways to pump massive value into what you do and develop a story about your business, worth sharing. Thanks for the question, sir.

      • hey thanks for the reply,

        That’s true creativity has nothing to do with money but i guess it goes both ways.

        I really like your blog :)

  5. The difference between Usain Bolt his fellow competitors, may not be all that much in terms of effort put, but the difference in benefits are huge ; In many cases, to be the best, you just have to be slightly better than your competitors, and you will gain the whole market, or all the attention.

    I understand the point you make is that people do reward exceptional service; thus effectively allowing smaller businesses to compete in the same industry with larger firms, although they may not compete directly with their multi billion dollar cousins.

    Look to satisfy a market need that is currenty not being served – a useful tactic.

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