This is Part 15 from 125 Building Blocks for Your Bakery Business
This chapter explores a number of ways to successfully market a bakery business in the technological age.
Get Listed on Search Engines
Local bakery businesses should establish themselves first and foremost on all the free business directories that are available, especially the ones linked to search engines. Here are the two most effective ones.
Make use of all the options that these free listings offer, such as uploading photos and filling in descriptions. Use as many keywords from your keyword list as you can.
Quite a number of websites also sell paid business listings. However there is no need to pay money for this sort of thing at the beginning stage of your business. I would avoid any listings that require a fee.
For wedding cake vendors, there are many websites that offer free listings for bakeries.
Seek Honest Reviews
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
– Wayne Gretzky
Having the guts to request customer reviews is one of the less fun but entirely necessary parts of running a business. Nowadays, with the ease of the internet, most customers do some research before making a purchase. That’s why your business needs reviews and testimonials. Not all reviews have to be fabulous! A variety of reviews gained over a long period of time is much more credible than a lump of positive reviews all earned at once.
How to Ask for Reviews
When a customer tells you how grateful they are for your services, it’s a perfect time to ask them to please share their thoughts online in a review. Don’t be shy when it comes to this topic. If you ask with confidence, your self-assurance will transmit to the customer and they will feel good about the idea of writing a review. If you ask with timidity, your insecurity will transmit to the customer, lowering the chance they will feel good about helping you.
Keep in mind that the majority of people who say they will leave a review won’t. People are busy. People forget. With the best of intentions, many will promise and never get around to it. That’s okay! Try not to get upset. Understand that this is part of the business of asking for reviews. You may have to ask 10 people to earn one review. Over time, this adds up to many reviews.
Please don’t ever penalize a customer or lash out for being honest in a negative review. A negative review, even if it’s not delivered in a constructive way, is still a form of feedback that warrants consideration. Negative reviews have the capacity to help you build better, more effective products and services.
Carry Business Cards
Business cards are a necessary and valuable networking tool. You never know when they will come in handy so every business owner should carry some in their wallet or purse. Your business card should include an email, phone, and website address. If any of those things stand to change in the near future, don’t invest in too many cards all at once. I use Vistaprint.
You might consider including one attractive photo on your business card. For bakers, a photo of one of your cakes or pastries is a good idea.
When it comes to selling wedding cakes or dessert displays, adding a small pile of business cards next to your display is a smart idea. If you have a particularly enthusiastic client, you might consider giving them a few business cards instead of just one so they can share your info with their friends.
Maintain an Instagram Account
Because it is a visually based platform and one of the most popular social media tools at the moment, Instagram has great potential to help advertise for your business. You can share behind-the-scenes photos of your cakes or pastries in process. The advantage to a platform like Instagram is that most people use it to keep in touch with loved ones. That means your posts will intermingle with photos that make people feel good. When your brand appears in a stream of good feelings, viewers are more likely to associate good feelings with your brand.
Since it’s owned by Facebook, Instagram has become a monetized platform. For this reason, I believe it is on a downward trajectory in terms of being a useful marketing tool for business in the long term. Another disadvantage to Instagram is that it doesn’t allow outbound links on individual posts. It only allows you to link once, in the description field of your profile. For that reason, it’s not as effective of a tool for SEO or driving traffic to your site. However, it remains an excellent tool for keeping in contact with your fans.
Part of your user agreement with Instagram grants them the license to use your photos. For this reason, I recommend adding a watermark to the photos that you upload there. This is somewhat tedious since it’s a mobile application. However, I still recommend doing it.
Start a Pinterest Profile
Pinterest is one of the most powerful social media platforms in the U.S. For visually based businesses like bakeries, I highly recommend being on there. Pinterest is the place where many potential bakery customers go to gather information and ideas about party planning and weddings, so it’s the ideal place for a cake artist to generate business.
Pinterest is also a place where you can intermingle photos of your own work with photos of other bakers’ work to create a virtual rolodex of ideas for your customers to peruse. This is a great way to build an idea-finder for the kind of customer who doesn’t know where to begin when it comes to designing their own custom cake.
Run a Facebook Page
Facebook used to be an excellent free platform for advertising your business and connecting with fans. In my opinion, it no longer is. Increasingly over time, they have adjusted their algorithm to limit page reach. Now you must pay money to “boost” posts if you hope to reach as many people as you did before. For this reason, I do not recommend using Facebook as a primary social media tool. I also do not recommend using it in place of a website.
Despite my disappointment in Facebook, I do recommend running a Facebook business page. Baby boomers and generation X-ers are likely to continue to use it, quite possibly for the rest of their lives. For so long as they remain viable consumers for your business, you should do your best to connect with them there.
Print Marketing Materials
No matter what kind of bakery you run, printed marketing materials will be a necessary component of advertising. Wedding cake vendors need a binder full of pricing options, sizing charts, and photos for when they conduct in-person consultations. Wholesale bakeries need product lists to use as marketing materials during sales appointments and trade shows. Retail bakeries benefit from printed menus for customers to take home.
You may consider printing postcard-sized advertisements with enticing photos of your work and perhaps a discount opportunity. Offering a deal is a smart way to get the most leverage out of your print materials.
Printed marketing material is expensive. Only make this investment if you can afford to do so.
Attend Charity Events
Once your business appears online, you will start to receive requests to donate your goods to charity events. Food businesses are especially prone to these kinds of requests because food is desired at social events.
As the business owner, you have the right to be selective about which events you choose to attend. If you are going to give out your product and time for free, then ideally it should gain you some exposure to a crowd that consists of your target market.
Building a relationship with charity organizations can be a great way to network and support causes that mean something to you. As a result of a gingerbread house charity event/competition to which I donated some of my work, I earned five local television news appearances. From those appearances, I met news anchors and producers with whom I was able to gain more opportunities to appear on television and advertise for my brand.
Attend Trade Shows
Renting a booth at a bridal bazaar or food show is a great way to network and gain exposure for your cake or bakery business. Follow the link below to learn more about this topic.
Appear on Television
Aside from local news channels, which will gladly feature you if you pitch them good ideas, reality television show producers are always looking for new talent to compete or appear on their shows. Here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to pursue this avenue for your marketing.
Unless you win first prize, you probably won’t get paid to appear on reality TV. The money, time, and resources that it costs your business to make the cakes for these shows typically come out of your pocket. The production company might pay for your travel and accommodations if the event takes place in a studio but in most cases, that’s all they will cover.
The producers will insist that it’s “free advertising” for your business. That’s a false promise. It will only be effective advertising if you perform well. If you lose a competition show or if you are cast in an unflattering role, it can hurt your business.
FACT: Reality television producers don’t care about helping your business grow. They care about shooting entertaining content.
Television Producers Want You To:
- Cry crocodile tears on camera
- Drop a cake on camera
- Fight with your employees or competitors on camera
- Make egotistical comments about yourself on camera, so if/when you lose or fail, they can portray you as an arrogant person.
That’s the kind of drama that earns high television ratings. Producers will do everything they can to push you in those directions. Keep in mind that filming television shows are long, exhausting workdays. Producers deliberately wear you down and throw curveballs your way to increase the potential that you’ll fall apart on camera.
They will frequently interview you in OTF (on the fly) interviews. During these interviews, they will ask you how you think you are doing on your dessert. Then they will ask you to say it again, but differently. Then they will ask you to come up with yet another way to say it. They will ask and ask and ask and ask until they have the sound bite they are looking for…or until they have enough sound bites collected so that the show editors can cast you in any role they want.
All the while they will tell you that you are amazing. They will use words like “hero,” “star,” and “celebrity.” However this flattery is rarely genuine. It’s designed to lower your guard so you can more easily be exploited.
A sizeable percentage of people who are cast on reality television shows are cast to look silly and fail on camera. The majority of those people don’t know that’s why they’re there. If you are new to the baking field, you may very well be the one who is intentionally cast in that role. That doesn’t mean you will necessarily flop. It’s reality television after all. You have agency over your own performance. I know several bakers who, early on their careers, upset a Food Network Challenge and won the $10,000 prize. I also know some exceedingly talented, highly experienced bakers who failed miserably under the pressure.
If it goes well, reality television can be an extremely rewarding experience. But it is no guarantee.
Successful business owners claim that word of mouth has been their best marketing tool of all. These entrepreneurs are doing a good job at the 80/20 rule. That means they are focusing 80% of their energy on 20% of their customers. Moreover, they are being strategic about that 20%, choosing the customers who spend the most money and have the most social influence.
The type of customer who falls into the top 20% category
- People who work in a related field and can refer business to you
- People who are active and popular on social media
- People who have lots of friends
- People who blog
- People who dispense lots of unsolicited advice to everyone they meet
Succeeding at Word of Mouth
Succeeding at word of mouth is not just about providing a high quality product and customer experience. It’s also about knowing which customers will go the extra mile for you. Rewarding them for their efforts will incentivize them to keep advertising for you. It’s a win-win relationship because people like that want to be known for giving good, trustworthy referrals. As long as you are a decent, trustworthy business, you help boost their credibility at the same time they help boost your word of mouth.
Networking is important in any business that you do. You may consider joining Meetup groups for entrepreneurs or people in your area of business. Attend seminars and webinars (although beware of the hard sell—sometimes these events are just designed to market an expensive product at you). The best groups are free or very cheap and are good faith organizations designed for fellow business owners to trade ideas and inspiration with one another.
Events for Wedding Vendors
Local wedding venues sometimes host events that are specifically designed for wedding industry networking. They usually ask bakeries to contribute free samples and/or a display cake, so it’s not a free service, but it’s a great way to forge connections.
Befriend Your Peers
Do not be a hostile stranger when it comes to your fellow bakery owners! This is your peer group after all. Fellow bakeries in your area are a great source of business referrals. If another bakery is overbooked or doesn’t handle the type of order that the customer wants, you want them to send that business your way. You can earn this type of referral by being friendly and courteous whenever you have a chance to interact with the competition. Furthermore, you never know when you might need a competing bakery to help out in case of an emergency or vice versa.
In conclusion, remember that success in this business requires more than just passion and desire for baking. It requires prudence, planning, foresight, humility, and above all, commitment. I have just given you 125 blocks for your bakery business. Now it’s time for you to start building or improving upon your existing concept. Ready, set, go!
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