Is This Unheard Of To Build A Customer Base?

Business By SweetDreams98 Updated 17 May 2011 , 6:17pm by SweetDreams98

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SweetDreams98 Posted 16 May 2011 , 6:47am
post #1 of 16

I would like to preface this post by saying that any input, ideas or criticism will be appreciated!
I live in Ohio and I have started selling cakes and cupcakes. Luckily I live in a state that I am able to do so legally (I mention this as I am aware this is a recurring theme/question in many posts regarding selling/pricing of cakes from a new baker) and I am looking into having my home kitchen licensed. I am trying to build a customer base, word of mouth has been terrific but I am looking into the marketing end of things by meeting with an entrepreneur and marketing specialist. I am always trying new flavors for cakes and cupcakes so it was suggested to me that perhaps instead of baking "practice" cakes or cupcakes, I make mini cupcakes and pass them out to local businesses with my card.
I am absolutely not wanting to step on any toes or create animosity with any other local bakers in the area, I'm not undercutting prices or employing any other shady business practices. I actually have spoke to a spectacular cake designer in my area (whom I have purchased cakes from in the past) and let her know my plan and was offered to attend monthly cake decorator meetings that she holds. My question is passing out "sampler packs" unheard of? Has anyone else used this method for getting their name out to the public, and if so what were your feelings on this? Did it create buzz or lead to any potential clients? Each box I have contains 9 miniature cupcakes: 2 White Chocolate Cherry Cordial cupcakes, 2 Dark Chocolate Cherry Cordial cupcakes, 2 "Buckeye" cupcakes (dark chocolate with a peanut butter filling and topped with ganache, like my state's infamous candy), and 3 Signature Red Velvet cupcakes.
Again, any input would be greatly appreciated as I am just getting started and if criticism is given, my feelings will not be hurt! icon_lol.gif
Thank you in advance,

15 replies
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platinumlady Posted 16 May 2011 , 7:38am
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I've heard of others that did something similar.

1st you wanna make sure you are fully licensed & have insurance if something goes wrong. If you decide to do this I would give the gift package to those in your target market (what type of market are you wanting to attract) My only concern that there is a lot of different items flavor and options. This could get expense I would dwindle that list down. You're not even sure these people will become customers. So definitely consider the out of pocket cost. And finally after you past out the sampler box make sure you have their contact information to follow up or send a thank you note, email or some kind of follow up. And maybe put your business cards on magnets people are less likely to loose them that way


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Evoir Posted 16 May 2011 , 8:32am
post #3 of 16

Any time I have handed out freebies, I have had limited business referred as a result. For whatever reason, my paying customers are my best word-of-mouth, so much so that I do not advertise except in the phone directory and my website.

I do support my local school several times a year with literally hundreds of dollars worth of free cupcakes and cookies - but I am yet to book ONE single event from a parent who has a chold at the school. I have however, sold two orders to staff.

While you are getting licensed and starting up formally, I would suggest taking your time and taking it slow with paid orders. The orders will follow, I promise!

Just my experience - no offence meant to anyone!

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juleskaye518 Posted 16 May 2011 , 9:25am
post #4 of 16

I agree with all the above. I stick the fact that I am a decorator into every conversation. I bring a cake to every potluck, and when a cake auction is mentioned, even if I am not a part of the organization, I pitch in a cake. And I make them worth looking at, as well as taste good. I have garnered so much attention this way. Good luck

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SweetDreams98 Posted 16 May 2011 , 11:19am
post #5 of 16

Thanks everyone! No offense taken whatsoever! That's why this site has been SUCH a lifesaver, there's a wealth of knowledge to be learned from those who have been where I am previously. I can't imagine not having this site as reference...if I ever am curious about a technique, recipe, wisdom, or seeing how NOT to do things CakeCentral is right there to use as a reference guide!

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SweetDreams98 Posted 16 May 2011 , 4:54pm
post #6 of 16

juleskaye518 - that's a wonderful way to do things! That's what I've been doing as well...finding any excuse to bake a cake or cupcakes that will be seen by people.

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KoryAK Posted 16 May 2011 , 5:15pm
post #7 of 16

The freebies will not bring in a ton of business, but people will remember them. I think they say someone has to hear of you three times before it sticks? That's one - and a good one too. My advice would be don't kill yourself doing this but if you are wanting to test out a recipe anyway or have a baking bug for the day and don't want the temptation in the house, by all means use it to promote yourself!

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tabpomkarfel Posted 16 May 2011 , 6:19pm
post #8 of 16

I had thought of a similar idea but have not tried it yet. I was thinking the other day as I was driving by a bank that had just opened that maybe I should bake a cake with their logo on it and drop it off as a "welcome to the community." But, as others have mentioned, I was concerned as to whether or not I would get any response from it. Thanks for comments.

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nannykaren Posted 16 May 2011 , 6:36pm
post #9 of 16

I do all the above plus I have a Preferred Customer Plan where I print out a sheet (10) of my business cards. Then on the back I have the customer's name and customer number with blanks to fill in for new customers. When my customer passes out all 10 of her cards and the new customers (people she passes them out to) all call for a cake or cupcakes or whatever, and I have received all cards back with orders, my original customer gets a free 1/4 sheet cake for her next occasion. When the new customers pick up their cake or whatever, they too receive a Preferred Customer Plan packet with their own 10 cards to pass out and a chance to receive a free cake as well. The only stipulation I have is that you can't pass out a card to a current customer or it doesn't count. This has been very successful for me.

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Paperfishies Posted 17 May 2011 , 1:06am
post #10 of 16

Maybe I am just a big fat fatty (lol) but a bakery here gives out freebies every time they have a new item. Every time they offer the freebie I end up going in there, checking it out eating the freebie and buying stuff and taking it home with me.

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Kitagrl Posted 17 May 2011 , 1:30am
post #11 of 16

I get tons more business by word of mouth and just a web presence than I do giving out freebies....and that includes shows or setting up a stand somewhere and giving out samples. People love free samples because they are free, not usually because they want to hire you.

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cownsj Posted 17 May 2011 , 1:59am
post #12 of 16

The one thing that jumped out at me was the mention of peanut butter. I'd either leave that out, or make sure you have something posted on the top of the box that it contains peanut butter. You have to make sure people know this in case of allergies. And it's not just if they eat the peanut butter one itself, just by being in the box could be enough to trigger a reaction in some people.

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VickeyC Posted 17 May 2011 , 2:28am
post #13 of 16

I personally did this when I first became legal. The only thing is that I baked cupcakes and cookies and packaged them all individually with a business card attached with the twist tie. I took them to the court house and several other businesses close to me. I would let the people choose whether they wanted a cookie OR a cupcake. I would also leave business cards at every location that I went to. This has worked pretty well for me. I have had a few orders from the people that I gave samples to and several orders from referrals.
My thought process on this was that there is not going to be a cheaper form of advertising, it allowed people to see that I was a clean person, and they were able to sample my products so that they could tell others that it tasted good. It worked for me and I hope that it works for you.
On a side note. As far as cake auctions, they have not been as successful. I haven't had any customers that I am aware of that ordered after seeing one of my cakes at auction and they don't seem to bring the money that justifies the time spent on the cake. I have started donating a set $ amount gift certificate to fund raisers and benefits. HTH

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calicopurr Posted 17 May 2011 , 2:34am
post #14 of 16
Originally Posted by Kitagrl

I get tons more business by word of mouth and just a web presence than I do giving out freebies....and that includes shows or setting up a stand somewhere and giving out samples. People love free samples because they are free, not usually because they want to hire you.

I agree. Not many people pass up a freebie. I had freebies yesterday at Costo and I didn't buy one of the things offered. Word of mouth is your best way and it's free!

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scp1127 Posted 17 May 2011 , 2:44am
post #15 of 16

Check with your HD for labeling... they may require allergy and ingredient info.

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SweetDreams98 Posted 17 May 2011 , 6:17pm
post #16 of 16

cownsj - I did label the boxes to make sure people knew the flavors and that there were peanuts in the box, peanut allergies is no joke! Everyone's advice on this was spot on, and I think that for the most part you're right, a freebie is just that and it probably won't cause people to buy. I was working on some new flavors and experimenting though and although I think my cakes are tasty and delicious...I can't eat them. It was nice if nothing else seeing how excited people got when I passed out the cupcakes! My favorite stop was a tattoo shop that I went to. It's not the shop I personally get my work done at but the guys there were BLOWN AWAY that someone would just give them free mini cupcakes (they were all in super adorable printed boxes too). It was like no one had ever just done something randomly nice for them so their level of excitement really made my day! (My favorite moment was the guy looking at me in shock and going "You're just giving me cupcakes...for no reason??? Wait...what's the catch, I have to buy something right now or you take them away from me right? No?!?!?! OMG THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I will definitely keep your card and if I ever need cakes call you!) I did have several people already contact me about doing graduation I said I think that the timing was just right with everyone graduating right now! That being said, I'm glad I use the tracing method for writing because I don't want a "Congratulations" mishap to end up on Cake Wrecks!

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