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Marketing 101

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 

I'll stand up in front of everyone and admit, I really stink at marketing! Here's the thing, I'm a pastry chef/cake decorator and basically a shy person in social situations. I'd love help on how to market my work better. I don't have a lot of friends (only a few really good ones), I don't meet people socially because I don't do things socially. I don't have children so I didn't meet neighbors or parents of my children. My relatives live far way, they can't refer people to me.


I signed up for and I barely show up. If a bride does a search for wedding cakes in my area, I don't even come up. There's bakeries miles and miles away that show up. I know it would help if I had a bunch of brides who wrote review for me. But my average clients doesn't even know that I made their cake because I really only do wholesale and that's WHY I'm trying to market myself to gain retail brides.



As an example, using ArcGIS I was able to find a census tract (IL 170318042.01, near Crabtree Forest Preserve in Barrington) about 15 miles from Crystal Lake that has 566 households with an annual income over $250K. With some research you should be able to find dozens of similar areas to serve as a base for marketing high quality custom cakes


Jason made those remarks to me in another thread, to assist me. To some extent I reveal only so much here online but he tracked down where I really live. That's o.k. I have nothing to hide. I do live near wealthy towns, there are people in my town that are wealthy. BUT I just can't figure out how to get them.


To complicate that........the wealthy people in my town already know me. I worked at the local country club for years and they do call me for cakes, occasionally. BUT it's not enough to support me. I wonder why they don't call me more. My former employees at that job don't call me for cakes either.....I think they think I'm too expensive (but I'm not).


I do understand the basics of marketing but I haven't been able to apply them to myself. How do I market to those individual homes with money to spend? Those people don't go to bridal shows in our area.....the lower income brides do who are having backyard weddings. Wealthy people don't socialize on Facebook, they don't sign up to be on mailing lists.


AND having money doesn't mean that your willing to spend extra money on a cake. That's been the biggest struggle I see. They don't value the skills involved.........dessert is always an after thought.


I bought an ad at my local Theater (live plays not movies). I donate product to social events in my area.


please help..........I'm ready to throw in the towel....I realize it looks like I've done nothing but make up excuses........but I'm soooo stuck.

post #2 of 26

Marketing is all about exposure.  You need to be the person who is "top of mind" when it comes to cakes and desserts, for both past customers and new customers.  For general dessert business, I would start with postcards before the holidays - beginning of November, with a great glossy photo of desserts people can order for holiday get togethers.  Contact information, etc.  Follow up with another card beginning of December.  Send another before Easter.  Keep your name at the tips of their fingers when they have an event that requires your services.


For weddings, I would put my eggs in the bridal show basket.  Otherwise, you will really need to get out there and network with the other wedding related vendors: florists, bridal and tux stores, venues, etc.  Be the person they recommend to their customers.


Good luck, I know it is difficult when you are shy, but you just have to fake it, and get past the uncomfortable-ness of all the small talk networking requires. :)



Follow me on my Twitter handle: @Sugar_Iowa

Or on Facebook:


Follow me on my Twitter handle: @Sugar_Iowa

Or on Facebook:

post #3 of 26
In my experience the best way to reach specific target customers is by networking with other complementary businesses that serve the same customer base, and reaching out to them directly with targeted online ads. The prereq for this is having a web site that is optimized for SEO, a professional web designer should be able to help you with this.

And FYI, I clicked your FB link and went to your "About" page to find your location, it wasn't a very time-consuming investigation. icon_wink.gif

I actually checked your web site first and could not find where you were located, that's an issue that needs to be addressed. A usability test with friends and relatives (via web conferencing so you can see what they are doing) would probably help redesign the site so information is more accessible.

Do the country clubs host events, and do they serve desserts at those events?
post #4 of 26

Don't forget free social media also! Post pictures of your cakes on Facebook, start a Facebook page for your business, start a free blog to give people a place to go to see your work and prices. It's easy to post pictures, encourage your friends to "share" them to get more exposure.

Let's eat grandma. Let's eat, grandma. Punctuation saves lives.
Let's eat grandma. Let's eat, grandma. Punctuation saves lives.
post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 

I have someone working on my website, right now. It's not up to par at all, I'm aware of it (painfully so)! Which is a big reason I'm not promoting my business or doing ad's.....I'm on hold until the site is updated/better.


AND I've been searching for what direction to take my business, based on my abilities and the business I've gotten so far. I've been thinking about doing something like Since I get a lot of cupcake business and it's the best. The customers don't take up a lot of time talking little details and they are highly profitable! Of which I'd like to expand my products to be more then cupcakes, since I have a lot more product then that I'm "good" at.


The custom cake orders I get are just painful!!! They need hours of my time giving qoutes and ideas for a $100. cake....I'm not enjoying that.


(I realize it was easy as pie for anyone to figure out who I really am, all my info. is linked on every post I that's cool. I didn't think you did anything wrong at all.)


How do you mean directly targeting them with online ad's?


The clubs do buy my desserts for events. That's what my current business is. But they are holiday specific. Like I'll do a 20 to 30 large desserts and a couple hundred mini cupcakes and mini pastries for Easter or Mothers Day. Or they buy 20 cakes/desserts for one party. You'd think that was good, but it's not. In order to do that volume I need more equipment, larger equipment. In order to invest in the equipment and kitchen I need more steady wholesale orders. Wholesale desserts for clubs and restaurants is a whole different bag. (I LOVE the work because I'm a pastry chef more then a cake decorator) The profit margin is TIGHT, the orders come at last minute, they need delivery, they need net30, they want you to call on them weekly like a salesman, the volume is hard for one person to handle but not consistent enough to employee anyone else.


What I really wish I could do is find someone who loves the business and customer side so I can do the baking. I've searched high and low to find that person but haven't found that match....and I can't afford to pay someone with any real skills. I have hired students to help in my marketing and sales but you get what you pay for....

post #6 of 26
Thread Starter 

I do post photos all the time. Did you peek at my page?


 I don't say much because I'm uncomfortable trying to figure out what to say that isn't redundant, mindless or just talking to myself out loud.

post #7 of 26
Thread Starter 

I sound like a bunch of makes me sick! ........sorry........I do want help, honestly.

post #8 of 26

WOW just went to your web site you do GREAT work,go to some of the bridal shops show them your work see if you can put a dummy cake on display then swap it out from time to time,or a poster board of your work and web site let them know you do all kinds of cakes. hope you have bussines cards with you at all times have your web site listed on it and give them out every where you go and to everyone you meet. Even though you are shy talk up your bussines to everyone. Good Luck you will make it. I am just starting out and was at wal-mart today and saw a lady looking through their cake book and wished I had some cards to give her could have been a customer.

post #9 of 26

You sound like me!  Marketing is not my best area.  I tend to be shy and not as "social" as I should be.  Having a cake business really has tested me in this area!  I think the thing that you and I should focus on is networking like mentioned by others.  Letting florists, dress and tux shops, and venues know you are there will help.  Take them a few samples when you visit them.  They will remember you that way for sure!  

post #10 of 26
Cupcakes can be a good niche, but many areas are already oversaturated with cupcake shops so competitive analysis is a must here.

Regarding targeting online ads, most providers (like Google AdWords) will allow you to purchase specific search queries to advertise on and restrict ad display down to a specific radius or even individual zip codes. Advertising with AdWords is another new topic in and of itself, there are several good books out there covering the details.

If I were in your position I would keep working the country club angle. If their event rooms are underutilized you may be able to talk to other vendors who target the same market (florists, event planners, etc.) and put together a marketing pitch to the club for offering upscale bundled event packages (like birthdays or corporate events).

Another alternative if you don't like the business side is to instead look for a job as a pastry chef working for a club, hotel, or restaurant.
post #11 of 26
Thread Starter 

I've worked for others as a professional pastry chef most of my life. I first got layed off when the economy crashed and since then I've bounced from bad job to worse jobs. I search everyday threw the help wanted, but I must move to live closer to the jobs and my spouse can not move. Also the life plan is..........if I could create a business that would give us a small steady income it would let my hubby retire early.


Private clubs run their own businesses professionally. They aren't a target for any kind of package things. The don't typically buy services, the members contract their own. Being private means just that, private! They are non-profits so they don't care if the rooms are not used. The membership pays the bills regardless.


Chefs are smart enough not to put all their eggs in one nest. So they buy a little bit here and a little bit there (for desserts and other ingredients) I'll never get any solid work from any one club. Then when you market to multiple clubs.... holidays land on the same day for everyone. So If I could make 100 dessert cakes in a week every holiday I could get some good orders from multiple clubs. But since I can't produce that many items with-out my own kitchen and staff if I market to more clubs they'll be mad when I can't supply them for holidays which is when they really need product.


I want to market wedding cakes wholesale to clubs (that was my original goal/plan). But it's damn hard to get them to change wedding cake suppliers. What happens is they get the cake artists cake book and the clients choose their cakes (usually when then book the wedding well in advance) so the club is locked into keeping that decorator because all their brides have already chosen their cakes. Or they are just scared to change suppliers unless they are forced into it, because something went wrong with the last decorator. So there's a lot of brick walls there.


Clubs and restaurants want desserts already sliced, packaged strong for freezer storage which is a extra expenses for no additional profits, etc... Believe me there's a lot of reasons why bakeries don't target wholesale dessert sales to clubs and restaurants. It takes a huge investment to pull it off. Then the places abuse the product freezing things that don't freeze well, defrosting and refreezing, defrosting in microwaves and before you know it, they've turned your product into the poop like the other wholesalers cakes.


The point with cupcakes, I get.........I read that article about them dying too. That's o.k. by me. I can do anything baking wise from scratch, including candy. Oh, I sell toffee wholesale too. I was thinking very gourmet cupcakes so I wouldn't be competing with the typical cupcake shop. Very gourmet and delivered so I don't need a store front.

post #12 of 26

Some good suggestions by others above but I wonder if there's another possibility for you.  That would be the idea that you need someone who would basically act as your sales rep/agent/booker.  You say you are not the sales person type because you are shy so the bottom line is if you can't be the sales person you need to get one.  That person would be paid based on some commission you determine on sales.      But being a great idea person (and even final product person) is only one piece of the puzzle. You do the things you are good at or can tackle well, otherwise you have to enlist the assistance of others.  (If your goal is your husband's early retirement, maybe he's another piece of your puzzle!)


It sounds like you have a wide skill set  - which is great - but maybe you need to narrow your baking plan and specialize in one area.  Do you know how much you can actually produce in a week without a store front and doing it alone? Spreading yourself too thin by saying you can do all things as a sole practitioner may be hard for the buyer to believe you can pull it off.  Can you make something that no one else is doing right now? (We all know how easy it is to copy - so emphasis on right now!)  Can you provide something that makes the country club people look good?  They will want to use what you make because you will be making their job easier.  There isn't a person on CC who doesn't know - from the baking angle to whatever their day job is - how hard it is to get a business started and running.  So I empathize with you and encourage you!



post #13 of 26
There are people who do PR for wedding businesses, and they can help you, but I don't know how much they charge. One of my friends does this, I'll send you a pm and you can get in touch with her if you want to. She works with international clients because PR is something that can be done remotely, so your location isn't an issue.
post #14 of 26
Thread Starter 

I feel like my biggest weakness is not focusing and staying at something for a long time. My hubby screams at me to only make one thing. But I don't think that's right/logical. If I offer everything I do very well (and not other things) I always figure the market will determine what I should do. Eventually one thing will out sell the others or take off more.


When people ask me what my specialty is, I tell them it's baking really great tasting desserts. I'm really all about taste and good food, decorating comes second. That still leaves most people perplexed, I see it on their faces. But all my Chef friends get this, they've worked in the same kitchens as me, they know my skills.


Hubby is less of a people person then I am.


I really want a partner who likes the front end stuff. I'm a total work horse, drill Sargent, workaholic, I'd rather work then play..........but I'm socially shy. None of my friends can afford to go into business with me or have those skill sets. How do I advertise for a partner? I've tried.....god knows I've networked hard over the years looking for that person.


I just keep coming up with business ideas after more business ideas, nothing sticks..............then I day dream that a retail store would be the magic trick for getting people to 'discover' me...but I think I'd fail at that because I'm not good talking with people............god I need a shrink or a drink now.......


ps The sales person wants more in commission then I make. They want a percent I don't have to give away.



post #15 of 26 are very talented.  You say the  taste of your cakes overrides your decorating abilities, but your cakes are beautiful.  Sad to say, but we must be our own best networkers.   Find your most outgoing friend and enlist her help.


Also, use marketers from other entities to your advantage.  Open a business account at a new bank and chat with the banker about your business.  Bankers love to chat and sell...  Bring some cupcakes.   You don't even have to be outgoing...I know this because  My sister is in biz dev for a bank and she knows EVERYONE!!!!  She doubled my business.  (I do a very small volume, but still)


Good luck.  You'll get there, word of mouth is a powerful thing.  


By the way, rich people ARE on Facebook.  I'm loaded and I am on Facebook all the time...  icon_biggrin.gif  (You know I'm kidding...!!!) But seriously, wealthy people use Facebook a lot, my business from the wealthy (2nd highest income in the state)  next town over comes from Facebook.

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