HOW TO MARKET YOUR CAKE DECORATING BUSINESS
Word of mouth – Without doubt, this is the best means of promotion for your cake decorating business. Always make sure people know who made the cake at the function they are attending, and make sure they have the means of contacting you easily. This is like highly targeted, and very effective advertising, and best of all – it’s free, apart from the relatively inexpensive cost of getting business cards made. You get paid to make and decorate a cake for a special occasion, and the guests at the function provide you with a captive market for promoting your business for free.
Make a calendar – A wall chart is good for this, or if you are comfortable with computers you could use the variety of calendar, diary, and reminder programmes that are available. Note dates of all special occasions, local civic anniversaries, graduation days, or any other widely celebrated occasions and work out a plan to supply these markets. Keep a database of individual people’s birthdays and anniversaries and contact them each year to congratulate them and enquire after any cake requirements they may have.
Participate in bridal expos, local business forums, and trade shows –
Work out which ones are appropriate for you and establish a presence with well displayed examples of your best cakes (and bite size pieces of cake for people to sample), plenty of promotional material – business cards, brochures etc, and maybe even a demonstration of your craft. The end result of cake decorating is a beautiful, artistic creation, and people are always interested to watch the creative process in action.
Photograph your cakes: The advent of digital photography means that keeping a pictorial record of your creations is now not only really easy, but also, very low cost. (and the cost of a digital camera is tax deductible if it is for your business). As well as enabling you to maintain a diary record of all the cakes you make and the methods you used on each of them, digital photographs are especially good to use in your promotional efforts and even just your basic business communications.
Deliver a top-quality product every time This is perhaps a bit obvious – it applies to all businesses, not just a cake decorating business – but there are few businesses where first impressions are more important than a cake decorating business. The chief appeal of a well decorated cake is visual, and it is how the cake looked that will be remembered for the longest time, especially now due to the enormous proliferation of digital photography and the easy ability of anyone to transmit photographs instantly to anywhere in the world. In a visual medium like this, the cake is by far its own best advertising.
Use all your networks Everyone you know knows a lot of other people that have various celebrations coming up. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries – the list is endless. Make it known in all circles in which you move that you are a professional cake decorator and available for business. Keep a supply of business cards with you at all times, give handfuls of them to people you know that have a lot of contacts, and never miss an opportunity to mention in conversation what you do for a living (people usually ask anyway).
Get a website This is great for promotion of your cake decorating business, excellent for showing your portfolio of photographs, really easy to do.
Look for co-promotional opportunities within your niche Most niche markets – weddings are a good example – are supplied by a variety of businesses that focus on one aspect of the occasion. Wedding dress makers, for example, or wedding planners. And don’t forget – every wedding has a photographer, and these can be a good source not only of high-quality photographs of your cakes for your portfolio, but also of informal co-promotional arrangements.
Get to know local cafe and restaurant managers Many of these do catering for special occasions and celebrations – either as in-house functions, or as outside catering arrangements – and are always on the lookout for people to create cakes for them. Show them some good photos, or even samples of your work, and ask them to keep in touch with you regarding opportunities they may have. Become their “go to person” for cakes.
Enter competitions Showing your cakes in local agricultural shows or baking competitions is a very good way of getting your name and abilities known, and also gives you a chance to compare your skills and product with others in the field. If you win prizes, this gives added impact when mentioned in your advertising material, and can even get a mention in the local paper. Don’t underestimate this avenue of promotion – there is a lot of opportunity here.
Do a few “freebies” It doesn’t hurt to make and decorate the odd cake for free – perhaps family functions, or maybe the anniversary of a society or club you are a member of – this is another good promotional opportunity, especially if you are just starting out. Make sure everyone knows who made the cake – you are likely to be attending these functions as a guest, so don’t be shy of doing a bit of self-promotion.
Use a follow up letter to secure repeat business A few weeks after you have decorated a cake for a client, send them a follow up letter thanking them for their custom and enquiring as to their satisfaction with your service. A brief questionnaire may be useful here. Include a business card and a brochure, and invite them to contact you with any future requirements they may have. Repeat business is the lifeblood of any commercial enterprise, and the cake decorating business is in a unique position to take full advantage of this.
Monitor engagement announcements in your local newspaper If you are working in the wedding niche, this is a great source of clients for your cake decorating business. Most people announce their engagement a considerable time before the wedding, so they may not have started their planning yet. Now is the time to strike – find contact details by using the telephone directory and get your name and your business details to them.