Learned My Lesson (Long)

Business By LoveMeSomeCake615 Updated 21 Mar 2011 , 8:27pm by LoveMeSomeCake615

LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 4:32pm
post #1 of 13

Got to remember to think like a business person!

Last week we had a lady contact us about a birthday cake for her daughter. It seemed really promising, because she has ordered custom cakes before, and seemed to place a lot of value on the cake, even saying that she looked at it as a piece of art, and wanted something really special for her event. Great, that's what we do! She had found our website and really liked our cakes and our overall style.

So she asks if they can try a sample of our cake before they make a final decision on whether to go with us or not. I SHOULD have required her to buy a sample cake, but I caved and said we could do a small cake for free and meet somewhere central to bring it to her (We don't have a storefront). So we brought her a 4-inch square on Friday. It wasn't much extra cost to us, because we mainly used icing and stuff that we already had to make for the weekend orders. So we meet them and once again it seems really promising, she said she just has to meet with one other cake person tomorrow that was referred to her by a friend. We also gave her a quote for the design she wanted.

Well, she emails Saturday and says they loved the sample, and they would let me know for sure tomorrow. I get an email from her this morning saying that they decided to go with the other person, but they would be sure to refer us to their friends and family and they look forward to using us in the future. Ooooook, but why we wouldn't you just use us this time?? The only thing I can figure, since she really liked us and she really liked the cake, is that the other person undercut our price. She may have even shown them our quote and asked if they could do better, who knows. At least we hadn't done a sketch for her yet! icon_rolleyes.gif

Anyway, I have learned my lesson and with the exception of weddings and large events, there will be NO more free samples for anyone, I don't care how promising it seems!

At least it wasn't a super expensive lesson to learn... icon_confused.gif

12 replies
pastryjen Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 4:40pm
post #2 of 13

I hate when I make an exception for someone to be nice and then it doesn't work out.

That's too bad.

pinkpiggie78 Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 4:47pm
post #3 of 13

I think sometimes people just feel bad about saying "no" to someone. I had a bride who came for a tasting with an attitude and therefore I knew there was no way she was booking with me. I tell all my tastings to let me know if they decide to go with someone else, and she sent me an email saying she choose someone else to make her wedding cake (YIPPEE). However she also said she loved my cake and wants to use me for a bridal shower and birthday. Really? Guess she thought I only made nice special occasion cakes!

jenmat Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 4:51pm
post #4 of 13

i'm not seeing where you went wrong. Yes, you bent over a little more backwards than maybe you should have, but if she implied that it was a big order, you probably did the right thing. Maybe have bigger boundaries next time- dictate when, where and what you give someone like this, but she made it look like she understood quality and was the kind of customer you want to attract.
So, just like a bride can come to me and then change their mind or go with someone else, so can this lady. Yes, you lost the business, but you weren't going to GET the business if you didn't offer something to her.
Now, if this lady was only going to be spending $75, and you went out of your way, then yes, shame on you! But if she really wanted to spend money, then there's no need to scold you, keep your chin up and say "NEXT!"

MacsMom Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 5:07pm
post #5 of 13

I don't understand why you feel so terrible... You seemed to be very professional, a free sample is a great way to get business, but most of the time a person's final decision is decided by cost - especially in these times. You had to give her a quote regardless, so you can't beat yourself up because they came to you before heading to the other place.

You should feel awesome for the experience of holding a professional meeting!

I also do not have a store-front and I think sometimes people worry that I may not be as professional as the competition who does have a store-front. I am certain that I lose business when my meeting is held at Starbucks versus a bakery - when a customer wants everything to be absolutley perfect, I think they simply feel more comfortable with the latter.

Marianna46 Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 5:30pm
post #6 of 13

I agree with jentreu and MacsMom about your not beating yourself up about this. I know it's dissapointing, but it's just the nature of the business. One thing you could do - and what many decorators do - is to charge for a tasting, say $25.00, applicable to the cost of the cake they order. You could also hand out cupcakes as samples instead of actual cakes, even 4" ones, which you still have to fill, stack and ice.

enchantedcreations Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 5:39pm
post #7 of 13

Hi Cakemaster2009, I don't run a business, but this is purely from experience. When I was planning my wedding a few years back, I found a cake decorator which seemed promising but I too wanted a tasting before I made that final decision. She told me up front her tastings were $30. However, if I booked with her the $30 went towards the deposit. That seemed fair to me. I certainly didn't want to waste her time (nor mine) and I know she did not want to run around making cakes for "maybe" orders. Cake was a small 6" round with butter cream and fondant and was to die for. I got my tasting and took the rest home and I did book. Not because I felt pressured because of the $30, 6" cake, etc., but because it was really, really good!!!! Maybe this is a direction you could take in the future for bigger orders.

indydebi Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 6:16pm
post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by pinkpiggie78

I think sometimes people just feel bad about saying "no" to someone.


agree. I found a good way to soften this for them is that part of my speech tells them that I will email them the quote .....

"....that way you can lay the quotes out side by side with your other samplings. And if I'm the first you've sampled with, I ENCOURAGE you to sample at least 2 others. You're about to spend a lot of money on this event and you want to make sure that what you get fits your style, your taste and your budget. If you find someone that is a better fit for you, I WANT you to book with them. this is your wedding and you want everything to be perfect! I just ask that you let me know just so I know this date is no longer a 'possible' and I can confortably release the date to other brides. Deal?"

This let them know that I knew they were checking other places and that I knew they MIGHT go with someone else ... and that was ok. It happens. You could almost see the relief as the pressure was off.

It also conveyed a message that I wasn't just a salesman .... that i also CARED about their wedding. That I also, like the both of them, wanted THEIR wedding to be perfect. They didn't walk out thinking "She's all about the money!" They walked out thinking, "Gosh, she was so nice and really cares about us!" icon_wink.gif

One bride told me, "Wow, I've never had someone tell me to check other bakers before!" I said (with my gramma grin on my face and my Paula Dean voice shining thru), "That's because I'm arrogantly confident enough to know that if you check other places ... you'll be back." (And yeah ... they were back in 2 weeks to book their wedding! icon_biggrin.gif )

Marianna46 Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 7:50pm
post #9 of 13

Excellent advice, Debi, as usual! I'm definitely going to incorporate that into my sales pitch! It takes the pressure off the customer and off the baker as well.

LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 7:58pm
post #10 of 13

Ok, so then how do you determine how big of an event merits a free sample? For example, this cake would have been about $200, including tax.

It's not even so much the sample itself, since like I said, the little 4 inch cake didn't cost us much. It's the time it takes to bake the sample, ice it, cover in fondant, and drive it to a central location to give it to them. If we had a storefront, not only would we most likely have something on hand in the flavor they want to try, they would have to come to us to get it.

The hardest thing for me in all of this is not knowing why she didn't go with us, other than just having to assume someone else was cheaper. If she hated the sample we gave her or something, then obviously that would be why. I guess she could have been lying to us about liking it, but that seems unlikely, since if they didn't like it she just wouldn't have said anything about it.

Marianna46 Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 8:12pm
post #11 of 13

You know what your cakes taste like and you know that they're good, but not everybody has the same taste - otherwise there would only be one cake recipe in this world! Yes, she may have gone with someone else because they were cheaper. Not a reason to change your pricing structure. You'll get some orders and some will go to other people. I'd just use this as a lesson in how business works and move on.

chefjess819 Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 8:19pm
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacsMom


I also do not have a store-front and I think sometimes people worry that I may not be as professional as the competition who does have a store-front. I am certain that I lose business when my meeting is held at Starbucks versus a bakery - when a customer wants everything to be absolutley perfect, I think they simply feel more comfortable with the latter.




I lost a chance to make a wedding cake (would have been due this weekend) because of not having a store front. I even wayyy under priced the cake in my mind because she was a friend. she checked with an actual cakery in town and said they were cheaper...REALLY?! icon_confused.gif you managed to find a 3 tier wedding cake w/fondant for LESS that $50???? sounds very unlikely...If you would rather go with an actual bakery instead of me, thats fine...just dont lie to me about why you made this decision. so i feel your pain...just drives you nuts doesn't it?

LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 21 Mar 2011 , 8:27pm
post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefjess819



I lost a chance to make a wedding cake (would have been due this weekend) because of not having a store front. I even wayyy under priced the cake in my mind because she was a friend. she checked with an actual cakery in town and said they were cheaper...REALLY?! icon_confused.gif you managed to find a 3 tier wedding cake w/fondant for LESS that $50???? sounds very unlikely...If you would rather go with an actual bakery instead of me, thats fine...just dont lie to me about why you made this decision. so i feel your pain...just drives you nuts doesn't it?




Yeah, right!! No WAY she found someone to do it cheaper than $50! icon_rolleyes.gif

Most people we talk to don't seem to take issue with the fact that we are not a walk-in bakery, this lady even said that the cake lady she used to use (who moved away last year) did it the same way we do. But I am sure there are some people who are more comfortable with a storefront.

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