Hi all! I have been looking at all of the great information on this site for quite a while now, but really haven't posted much yet...
On October 1st, I officially expanded my current in home floral business(which I've had for nearly 15 years - part time) to also include cakes. I'm temporarily renting a commercial kitchen until my licensed, home kitchen is built (the health inspector has already come out and given me the specs, and I plan on starting the project after the Holidays). I have always wanted a store front, but at this time I still have 3 children & they are my #1 priority.
Working from home just seems to make more sense right now and frankly, the overhead of a retail store is just more than I want to take on right now. Not to mention the fact that it will be far less to add a second kitchen to my home rather than invest in a retail store. I also plan to offer cake decorating classes and will be holding them in my home after my kitchen is built. I must add that I live in a very rural area, my town has a population of 1400 and has one bakery and no grocery store. The nearest cake shops are in the two nearest towns, 20 - 35 minutes away. BUT...there is a demand for this in my area!
My question is, does anyone have any good marketing ideas when not working out of a storefront? Currently, I'm utilizing facebook and I plan om joining several free networking groups in the local communities, but other than that, I would love some input and ideas!
I have a licensed home bakery also. I have found that word of mouth really is the best form of advertizing - plus it is free.
Do you have a website? In today's modern age, a website is a must. Keep it updated with new pictures as your portfolio grows and take down pictures of any cakes that do not reflect your currect abilities (meaning the cakes that at one time looked great to you, but 50 cakes later you realize there are a lot of flaws in those first several cakes).
I pay for a listing on the knot. For me, the knot more than pays for itself, but I also live in an area much larger than you. I have a free listing on just about every website that will allow it. Wedding Wire is a great website that allows free listings with lots of pictures and a place for brides to review you.
Knowing the types of cakes you want to make will help determine the type of advertizing you want to do. I focus on wedding cake because typically that is an occasion people are willing to spend the $$$$. I think like a bride. Where did look for wedding vendors? What mattered to me when I was looking for a vendor (pricing on the website mattered to me)? Sign up for a listing that allows reviews and ask clients from the past 6 months for reviews. Reviews go a long way with future clients. Especially reviews that are not your website, so you don't control the reviews and only show the best.
There is a large bridal show in my area that I participate in every year that generates a lot of business for me. It is pricey, but more than pays off.
Above all, do something that makes people remember you cakes and be willing to pay for them. I offer 40 different cake flavors and fillings. This makes me stand out against my compitition.
Thanks for the great advice, cai3011! I do have a website and have done the bridal shows with my flower business and they have been somewhat worthwhile. I am focusing mainly on wedding cakes, as it ties into my flowers. The next bridal show here is in January, and it is quite pricy, so unfortunately that isn't an option for me right now. I really like your last comment about standing out...I'll have to think about that one
I think it is easier for a bride to remember a bakery than a florist at a bridal show. Food is more memorable than a bouqet. I pass out mini cupcakes at the bridal show in the flavors:
Champagne cake with strawberry buttercream
Chocolate cake with mint buttercream
Pumpkin cake with buttcream (standard flavor buttercream)
All the other bakeries just pass out white cake or chocolate cake with buttercream. I have so many brides come up to my booth saying "I heard other people talking about the flavors you have here. I can't wait to try them."
The how is pricey. I pay $950 for the booth and another $250 for supplies. All my dummy cakes for the shows are done, so the price for them has already been covered. And the time to make the dummy cakes is no longer an issue.
The show is in Oct. I have booked $3500 in orders from the show in the past 3 weeks since the show. There is always a fair amount of orders in the 2 months after the show. But for the rest of year the orders from the show will still trickle in. Several brides had 2014 dates, so come the end of summer I will get calls from them saying they tried my cake at the bridal show last year and want to come in for a consultation.
Usually, the show brings in about $8000 in orders for me. Plus, it keeps my name out there in the community with brides and vendors. I know a lot of vendors do the show for networking, but frankly, the brides work better for me than other vendors.
Side thought... Since you have access to flowers cheaper than just a bakery I would suggest setting a display table up as if for an actual wedding and pull out all the stops. Most shows have an 8' or 6' table. Use that table for your display cakes/samples/cards/porfolio... I would them see if you could have a 24" or 36" round table (you will probably have to pay extra) next to your booth (or in front) with a cake on a nice display stand with fresh flowers on the cake and packed all around the stand and table. Maybe have twinkle lights under the table linens for a nice affect. Show a bride what her wedding could be.
I'm going to be the party pooper and disagree, but Ithink it's relevant. I got NOTHING from my ad on the knot. I also never made enough to have shows be worth it to me. My best business-maker is having good word-of-mouth from networking referrals. Other businesses send me so much business that makes up at least half of the people who call me. The other half is people who have found me online through my website or my blog.
I think it's worth trying different things, because I've heard mixed reviews about both the knot and shows. Part of it depends on your area and how people shop. The only ads that I do are targeted to local brides only and in print in the magazines that are handed out at wedding shows. I've spoken to a lot of brides who say that the shows are so big they get home, throw the bag in the corner and forget about it. A month later they'll go through it and look through the magazines, and if your ad is in there they'll see it even if they can't remember whether they talked to you or not. I've had brides call me and insist that they spoke to me at shows, when I haven't done a wedding show for YEARS.
The most important thing to do when you're trying out different marketing tactics is to ask where people found you. They won't be able to remember most of the time, but when they do you'll get an idea about what's helping people find you. I get a lot of people who call and say "I'm on your website right now..." so I know that my website drives a lot of people to me. I also get a lot of people who are referred by specific venues, so I know who's referring to me on a regular basis.
I always send a thank you note to my customers after their order is complete and I include 3-4 business cards. Works great!