Rate Of Return Doing Events Giving Out "free Samples&qu

Business By FromScratchSF Updated 27 Mar 2011 , 12:00am by Kitagrl

FromScratchSF Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 4:36pm
post #1 of 24

Hello Cakers,

Any advice would be appreciated... I've done 2 pretty large events where I have been contacted by the event organizers, asked to cater an event for free and give out a ton of free product... and I've gotten NOTHING from it.

1st time: I was asked to enter a "Cupcake Wars" competition where there would be 2000 people in attendance. I could sell cupcakes and give out free samples. I brought 200 cupcakes to sell, 500 samples to give out (quantities provided by event organizer). Show up at the event and it was billed to the public as "free unlimited cupcake samples from top bakers". They charged $45 at the door. 2000 people showed up all demanding free cake. Me and the other cupcake vendors ended up giving away ALL our product (yeah, even the sell cupcakes, we started hacking them up in pieces and giving them away). Did I mention I paid $300 for a table there? To add insult to injury, I won the competition and was supposed to get $1500. Company never paid me, saying since we cupcake vendors didn't have enough cake to give to give away to all 2000 people for the entire 6 hours of the event, they had to refund some tickets, therefore I forfited my prize money.

2nd time: Was contacted by Y*** (er, don't want to type, but massive online customer review website) to participate in a massive dessert promotion week, all I had to do was discount something at 50% off. Would be massive promotion to the Y*** database, print advertising, and national media attention. Oh, and would I like to come to a Y*** Elite exclusive event and give out samples? "With National Media and putting me in front of the people that Y*** the most?". I said sure. So, I've discounted my cupcakes 50% for this week and did this event - where I again gave out 200 samples. Well, of course there has been very little promotion on the Y*** side, they've literally only sent out one email to their database 2 weeks ago, I've only sold 4 boxes of cupcakes so far, and the worst part is I've gotten a grand total of ONE Y*** review (4 star at least, taking one star away because I don't have a storefront), despite people swarming my table proclaiming my cupcakes the "best they've ever had".

So, do any of you do these types of freebee events, and have you gotten any benefit from them? I feel like I've waisted my time and LOTS of money for zero return. Is there some up-side I'm missing? I'd like to think of myself as a decent salesperson, but without the retail shop I'm thinking I should shy away from these types of events in the future... what do you think?

TFR,

Jen

23 replies
FromScratchSF Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 4:47pm
post #2 of 24

I also forgot to mention I turned down regular business for this week in anticipation of being really busy selling 50% off cupcakes. icon_mad.gif

sistercarey Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 5:01pm
post #3 of 24

Soo sorry about your free event. It sound like a scam when they ask you for $300 a table. There are some event that are good out there, be careful of what you chose.

snowboarder Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 6:51pm
post #4 of 24

// but without the retail shop I'm thinking I should shy away from these types of events in the future... what do you think? //

I think you're right. I live and work in SF and am not surprised. The kind of person attending those events probably wants a physical location to go get your product - either a shop or a food truck or to know, for example, that you're going to be at the Ferry Building farmer's market every Tuesday.

I know there are cake & pastry places in the city without a physical location, but there's a minimum order, a delivery fee and you have order ahead of time. That's a great option for those who order the catering for business meetings, but probably not as attractive to the average Y***er who is going to be craving a single cupcake at 3:12 pm between meetings.

FromScratchSF Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 7:12pm
post #5 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by snowboarder

// but without the retail shop I'm thinking I should shy away from these types of events in the future... what do you think? //

I think you're right. I live and work in SF and am not surprised. The kind of person attending those events probably wants a physical location to go get your product - either a shop or a food truck or to know, for example, that you're going to be at the Ferry Building farmer's market every Tuesday.

I know there are cake & pastry places in the city without a physical location, but there's a minimum order, a delivery fee and you have order ahead of time. That's a great option for those who order the catering for business meetings, but probably not as attractive to the average Y***er who is going to be craving a single cupcake at 3:12 pm between meetings.




You are in SF??? Are you a baker too? Do you have a shop? I thought I was the only one here in SF!!!!!

Jen

snowboarder Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 7:24pm
post #6 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

Quote:
Originally Posted by snowboarder

// but without the retail shop I'm thinking I should shy away from these types of events in the future... what do you think? //

I think you're right. I live and work in SF and am not surprised. The kind of person attending those events probably wants a physical location to go get your product - either a shop or a food truck or to know, for example, that you're going to be at the Ferry Building farmer's market every Tuesday.

I know there are cake & pastry places in the city without a physical location, but there's a minimum order, a delivery fee and you have order ahead of time. That's a great option for those who order the catering for business meetings, but probably not as attractive to the average Y***er who is going to be craving a single cupcake at 3:12 pm between meetings.



You are in SF??? Are you a baker too? Do you have a shop? I thought I was the only one here in SF!!!!!

Jen




Yep. I don't do cakes anymore though. I was renting a commercial kitchen for awhile but the logistics were a nightmare. I also came to the realization that I'm definitely a baker. I hate decorating! I wish there was some way you could get your product to the financial district. It's a damn desert down here in terms of cake & pastry. Every afternoon there's a line out the door of Specialty's for their crappy cookies.

jason_kraft Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 7:27pm
post #7 of 24

Personally I find that paid advertising has a better return than giving out free samples. My advice with Y*** is to be patient, we were lucky enough to have a co-worker who was a Y*** Elite member order from us when we just started, and her review was featured as a "review of the day" which got quite a bit of exposure and really started the ball rolling. Purchasing ad space on Y*** (and/or Google) might be more worthwhile for now.

You're not supposed to solicit Y*** reviews from customers, but I find mentioning that we're on Y*** in customer communications gets them thinking about writing a review after they order. People don't typically write reviews based on free samples, it's mostly based on paid orders.

pattycakesnj Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 7:57pm
post #8 of 24

I have had the same zero rate of return on giving product to charity events. Now I only do it for charities that are dear to me, expecting nothing in return.

FromScratchSF Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 8:04pm
post #9 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by snowboarder

I wish there was some way you could get your product to the financial district. It's a damn desert down here in terms of cake & pastry. Every afternoon there's a line out the door of Specialty's for their crappy cookies.




Well, I'm in SOMA (5th & Folsom), but I WISH I could get a space in the Financial District. Rent is sooooooooooooooooo absurd. I was looking at a space in South Beach but they are even worse over there after the Giants won the WS.

Any idea how Batter got that weird kieosk on California & Montgomery?

And I happen to LOVE Specialties - that turkey cran sand is nom nom. icon_biggrin.gif

Hey, I DO deliver, ya know - wink wink

FromScratchSF Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 8:06pm
post #10 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

Personally I find that paid advertising has a better return than giving out free samples. My advice with Y*** is to be patient, we were lucky enough to have a co-worker who was a Y*** Elite member order from us when we just started, and her review was featured as a "review of the day" which got quite a bit of exposure and really started the ball rolling. Purchasing ad space on Y*** (and/or Google) might be more worthwhile for now.

You're not supposed to solicit Y*** reviews from customers, but I find mentioning that we're on Y*** in customer communications gets them thinking about writing a review after they order. People don't typically write reviews based on free samples, it's mostly based on paid orders.




Being honest, 95% of my business is generated by them and I'm 5 star - I am more questioning doing events giving out free samples in exchange for "exposure". Maybe I'm doing it wrong?

snowboarder Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 8:24pm
post #11 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF


Any idea how Batter got that weird kieosk on California & Montgomery?

And I happen to LOVE Specialties - that turkey cran sand is nom nom. icon_biggrin.gif




I wondered about the kiosk too!

I used to like Specialties but a few years ago and rather suddenly all the staff changed in the locations near where I work and the quality of their baked goods changed a lot. I liked their scones and muffins but now they taste like cardboard and everything else just tastes the same. I wouldn't turn down one of their wheat germ cookies, but it's not as good as it used to be. I've moved on to chasing down the JapaCurry truck. icon_biggrin.gif
I'll keep your delivery option in mind!

alvarezmom Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 8:57pm
post #12 of 24

A while back there was a thread (got lost in that black out) about doing events where you would pay for a table AND hand out free samples. Majority of the bakers that had participated said it was a waste. They had spent more on making the samples and paying the table fee than the business it generated from it.

Cinnamon Toast Bacon Praline....REALLY???

FromScratchSF Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 9:59pm
post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by alvarezmom

A while back there was a thread (got lost in that black out) about doing events where you would pay for a table AND hand out free samples. Majority of the bakers that had participated said it was a waste. They had spent more on making the samples and paying the table fee than the business it generated from it.

Cinnamon Toast Bacon Praline....REALLY???




Thanks! You are all telling me stuff I suspected - to not do these types of events or promotions again. Total waist of my time/money.

And YES! Most people slap soggy bacon on a cupcake or throw bacon bits into the batter - I actually make mine into a praline and they are CRAZY good. icon_biggrin.gif

costumeczar Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 11:02pm
post #14 of 24

One of my chef instructors in culinary school gave us the advice to never, never, never do anything for free and expect to get anything from it. It gets you no return on your investment other than more people looking for free stuff. I've found that to be very true, so I just donate to causes that I personally would donate to anyway.

MimiFix Posted 23 Mar 2011 , 11:43pm
post #15 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by pattycakesnj

I have had the same zero rate of return on giving product to charity events. Now I only do it for charities that are dear to me, expecting nothing in return.





I agree with pattycakesnj. After a few bad experiences, I only donate to causes I believe in.

indydebi Posted 24 Mar 2011 , 12:04am
post #16 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by alvarezmom

A while back there was a thread (got lost in that black out) about doing events where you would pay for a table AND hand out free samples. Majority of the bakers that had participated said it was a waste. They had spent more on making the samples and paying the table fee than the business it generated from it.

Cinnamon Toast Bacon Praline....REALLY???


Oh this burns my biscuits big time! I've checked out shows in which the contract stated the food vendors HAD to provide free food samples with NO discount on their booth space. The photographers didn't have to take free photos, the limo guy didn't have to give free rides in the limo, the tux people merely had to carry their mannequins back to the shop and put 'em back in the window .... but caterers and florists had perishable expenses and if the guesswork on the headcount was wrong, we could really be out the bucks!!! I've mentioned this to a couple of show organizers who just gave me the "ohhhhhhhhh..... I never thought about that!"

dumba$$es.

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Mar 2011 , 1:10am
post #17 of 24

Well, I thought the 1st event was a good idea at the time - I later realized they are super shady. There was never even a contract about supplying free UNLIMITED cake to 2000 people for 6 hours... I never would have agreed to that. Nobody would have. Then to bust my butt in a decorating contest, win 1st place, have them present me with a big fake paper check and a stupid trophy in front of those 2000 people, only to get an email a few days later with "no prize money for you, we had to refund tickets because we promised free cake and you didn't bring enough" along with "we have vendor terms and conditions that by you paying the booth fee and by you showing up means you agreed to them, and they state you'd pay US 1.5 times any ticket price refunded due to your failure to provide enough samples for the duration of the event, which is in tickets $15,000 so be happy we aren't suing you".

Yeah, that really happened. icon_mad.gificon_mad.gificon_mad.gificon_mad.gificon_mad.gificon_mad.gificon_mad.gif

Anyway, learning experience about researching event promoters prior to signing up.

cheatize Posted 24 Mar 2011 , 3:25am
post #18 of 24

Were you given this vendor agreement before you handed over the money?

I used to chair a charity cake auction in my small town. I talked to a business owner once and asked him if he got more customers by buying cakes at the auction. Our auctioneer is really good and really knows the town and it people. He calls them by name and by business during the bidding process and again loudly after the item was sold. It is our hope that this encourages the business owners to attend and bid and for the most part, they do. I've had some of them write checks in excess of $1,500 at the end of an auction. That's a lot for a small town business owner! Everyone knows who buys what and keeps a tally in their head for each business. The joys of small town. icon_smile.gif

Anyway, despite all this, his answer was, "No. We don't get more business when we support local organizations. However, if we didn't, we'd get less business. As you know, everyone knows who shows up and how much you buy. If we aren't here, they assume we don't support the town and the people so they patronize us less."

Sometimes it's not about more business, it's about keeping the business you have.

indydebi Posted 24 Mar 2011 , 4:49am
post #19 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheatize

Anyway, despite all this, his answer was, "No. We don't get more business when we support local organizations. However, if we didn't, we'd get less business.


Sounds like what hubby told someone when asked about political yard signs. Hubby ran for public office and was asked if the yard signs really get votes. He said, "I can't say that the GET me votes .... but if I didn't have them, I get lots FEWER votes."

Its about maintaining the visibility, which is the whole purpose of "marketing". thumbs_up.gif

Ads are for selling product.
Marketing is for selling (i.e. "keeping it visible") your name. icon_wink.gif

Annabakescakes Posted 24 Mar 2011 , 4:18pm
post #20 of 24

I have never done the exact same thing you have done, but I do bring cake to my church, often, and have provided things for free and at cost for several events up there. I get a pretty great rate of return for that, and I really just do it to be nice, because I am a sucker! icon_redface.gif People see it and taste it and wonder where it came from.

I did a free baby shower cake for our Mercy Maternity Home for unwed mothers in crisis, and she had friend come who told her own mother that she wanted a cake from me when she had a baby. 3 years later, she's pregnant, they got my number from the church, I do the $200 dollar carved cake and the mom(who works at Toyota) and mom to be post pics on their facebooks. A friend from Toyota sees i and I do her a cake (peanut safe). And now I have a huge following with business monthly for 20 to 50 servings just from Toyota employees. And more business from friends and family who went to the parties, and repeat customers. All for spending about $12 4 years ago, just to do a nice thing.

Oh, and the mother with the kid with peanut allergies is in a local online community with other moms, all who can't get a nicely decorated cake for their kids due to allergies, and she shared my cake photo with them. Since then, I have done more peanut-free, gluten free and egg free.

And more business from friends and family who went to the parties, and repeat customers. All for spending about $12, 4 years ago, just to do a nice thing.

Of course, I have donated cakes for "exposure" sevral times and gotten nothing in return.

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Mar 2011 , 5:54pm
post #21 of 24

So from what I'm gathering from the replies is...

1. Charity = good to donate - that makes sense, charitable people that attend those events I think tend to be more in the mindset to pay attention to sponsors and remember them when it comes to giving referrals.

2. Be patient to see the return, it might take a little while.

3. Giving away free food at events billed as free food = waist of time, since people only attend those events for the free food and could care less where the food comes from as long as it's free.

4. Never pay for a table to give out free food.

Am I missing anything?

Thank you all for your experiences and advice!

Jen

Annabakescakes Posted 24 Mar 2011 , 6:16pm
post #22 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

So from what I'm gathering from the replies is...

1. Charity = good to donate - that makes sense, charitable people that attend those events I think tend to be more in the mindset to pay attention to sponsors and remember them when it comes to giving referrals.

2. Be patient to see the return, it might take a little while.

3. Giving away free food at events billed as free food = waist of time, since people only attend those events for the free food and could care less where the food comes from as long as it's free.

4. Never pay for a table to give out free food.

Am I missing anything?

Thank you all for your experiences and advice!
Jen



That is what I am getting from this, you condensed it nicely! thumbs_up.gif

Harmonycakes Posted 24 Mar 2011 , 6:31pm
post #23 of 24

I have done 1 freebie event, but it was a breast cancer benefit, and i ended getting a number of customers from it. The only other time i have paid for tables, and the tables were less than $25... i have charged per sample/cupcake. I think they took advantage of you icon_sad.gif I would only do a free sample thing at an actual charity event. There are too many people out there looking for free everything, i cant believe they made you pay $300! Im so sorry that you had this kind of experience icon_sad.gif

Kitagrl Posted 27 Mar 2011 , 12:00am
post #24 of 24

I have had to limit my freebie events to one or two I WANT to attend each year. I find going to a bunch pays off no more than going to a few. And if I do them, I usually try to do the ones that are free...not shows where I have to pay for a table (I only do one of those per year and its a charity event and a competition as well as giving out samples).

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