So you’ve set up shop, whether from your home kitchen or commercial premises. You’ve got your business all up and running. You’re an absolute baking pro and you’re bakes are delicious… but who’s going to buy your products? How are you going to make your baking business stand out? Getting customers is probably one of the hardest tasks for any business. The great thing is that there is a large demand for homebaked goods for birthdays, anniversaries and not just for occasions, it’s just about connecting with the people who are going to be your customers.
The fundamentals of marketing are understanding who your customer is and what they want. You can tweak your bakes and offerings based on what people want and the feedback you get. You can understand your ‘market’ by asking people, locals, neighbours, friends, online connections what they would buy from you. Traditionally market research is done through surveys, focus groups and observation as well as research.
Look at other baking businesses in your local area, what are they selling, is there plenty of demand for the same or is there a need to differentiate yourself significantly? The great thing is, if you see someone selling lots of birthday cakes, you know there is demand. You can ask people or test different products. Marketing isn’t about telling you how to promote your business but asking the right questions so that you can make informed choices about the best way to promote your home-baking business.
This post though will take you through some of the options of promoting your baking business to help kickstart it and get customers. This is not a definitive list and as mentioned, your situation, what you enjoy and the target customer will dictate in part which promotion methods you choose, but these are some common ways people have found success and can boost sales as a baking business.
1. Word-of-mouth/Your network/Referrals
This is often the best and cheapest way to start. Beginning here will grow your network of possible customers as the word about your delicious bakes is spread for you. Tell your friends about your new baking venture, you could even offer cakes for free and give them to neighbours, and spread the word – make sure people understand the fact that you are starting a business and the prices you expect to charge if you do bake for free in order to gain traction among friends and connections.
Where do you want to build your community of customers? Locally perhaps? This is still a great method in 2021 to get the word out. According to a study there is 40% more trust in print advertising than seeing a digital advert. Many sites will say run Facebook Ads, do social media, which is all well and good but it takes time to build up an audience and can be expensive long-term. The people who live around you are your ideal customer – they are near, you can build relationships and incentivise pickups and repeat orders, and save on postage (both money and hassle)! There’s something in sending a tangible leaflet, business card, or flyer through someone’s door which might get more than a glance, that promotes the fact that you are local too. Print is definitely not dead as a form of advertising and though the initial cost can be higher (although it doesn’t have to be crippling), it can produce some very delicious results.
Although this can seem a little pricey, flyering has been proven to be very effective for many businesses, even response rates 5.3% higher than 0.6% in email (Mailchimp). Some businesses have seen high Return On Investment (ROI) from direct mail campaigns (flyering). Many local businesses actively do this and you don’t need to spend a huge amount to get started if you print the flyers and deliver them yourself. If you’re not able to do so then it will be a slightly bigger investment with printing and delivering costs but you could use a company such as Stannp or Postary especially if you’re going further afield than your town or borough.
Moreover, it can be used for ongoing campaigns and be used in conjunction with online methods whereby actions such as abandoned carts can produce a postcard that is posted to the prospect. There are Shopify integrations capable of doing this.
3. Local Paper/Magazine
Flyering will be cheaper to get the word out locally to start with but local magazines still see a great engagement rate. Local tradespersons often advertise with small classified ads and larger local businesses make use of page spreads. Look around and enquire with your local magazine or printers as to costs. People can build trust quickly in local publications; knowing that you are a local business and not just an online-only outlet.
4. Social Media
Social media does take time, and can also be quite distracting! So make sure you come up with a time management plan to ensure you have a set time for promoting your business on social media. Of course, you could incorporate it into your leisure time, but it’s good to take some time off and put your feet up! Platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram or even TikTok and YouTube can create high engagement if your content is a hit.
Remember your time and resources, you can’t really commit to all platforms and do them well. Try and build an audience on 1 or 2. Also remember, you are aiming to promote your business, so think about creative ways you can portray your brand to the world in the content you produce.
Instagram has many opportunities now for sellers to get more out of their time. The new(ish) shopping features for Instagram Business Profiles is great to link up to your website and get your bakes featured in the product search. Use location, tags to reach the most relevant buyers and connect with people in your area.
Giveaways on social media present an ideal opportunity to promote your bakes and build engagement. It creates a desire amongst your followers to be in with a chance of getting your goods and therefore both winners and participants could become loyal customers. The buzz also helps boost your awareness.
6. Facebook Page and Groups
You can connect your Instagram Shopping, Facebook Pages and Facebook Shop all up so you get the maximum visibility across platforms and manage it without having to duplicate everything. You can even build up a Facebook Group to engage your audience and run exclusive giveaways (see how you can combine ideas together). Facebook Groups content appears higher up people’s feeds.
7. Join Marketplaces
This is all about distribution of your goods, selling in markets which give you greater exposure and build trust. There are many marketplaces springing up, particularly for niche industries, homemakers, crafters and bakers. Why not sign up to tap into a supply of new potential customers. You could join Etsy which is easy and the most popular or some smaller marketplaces such as Folksy, Yumbles, Bakedbyme, Notonthehighstreet and eBay/Amazon handmade. Once you’ve joined up on a marketplace there are more opportunities than just waiting to get a sale. You can optimise your listings to get natural clicks or pay for Etsy Ads to get even more exposure. There are also integrations to easily post your shop listings to social media.
There have been many successes from marketplaces like Etsy. Although, as part of a marketplace and can be hard to gain visibility and recognition of your own brand, it is a great way to begin and you can simultaneously work on your own website and branding.
8. Deliveroo/JustEat/Uber Eats/Delivery Marketplaces
The growth of delivery marketplaces is substantial and although others may argue that they take much of the profit away from restaurants and suppliers, they can certainly also bring in many customers. Businesses must adapt to be flexible and keep up with the tough demand that the takeaway food model brings – which is still growing rapidly. A new segment of the industry, namely, dark kitchens has arisen whereby businesses rent kitchens to create food solely sold through delivery apps such as Deliveroo. This also presents a great opportunity for baking businesses to take a slice of the action happening on these apps – this creates awareness locally and quickly due to the vast amounts of people who have downloaded the app and actively use it.
Email can be one of the most effective channels if used wisely. Industry figures show dropping open rates as people’s inboxes get flooded with offers and newsletters daily. However, if you can be a little bit creative and provide great value through your emails, you can achieve higher open rates and engagement.
Building your list from scratch will take time, however here are some ideas. Firstly make it simple for your existing customers to sign up, get your visitors who aren’t yet customers to sign up (give something). Use giveaways, social media campaigns to get people’s emails. Be aware of GDPR, you can check out Mailchimp’s guide here.
10. Your own website/blogging
Having your own website is a great way to stand out and show your unique positioning and individuality. However, you will need to use tools such as social media, blogging about baking, and listing your site on Google to help drive traffic to your website.
11. Other local businesses
Other businesses provide a wealth of untapped opportunities, not only can you sell to businesses your products at retail or wholesale, but you can ask them to refer you to their customers or put an advert in their shop. Businesses can work together to tap into each other’s customer base and strengthen credibility.
12. Local markets and events
Christmas is an obvious time to book a stall, you can use websites like Stallfinder, or look for Farmer’s Markets and local events to find opportunities. Many events offer cheap or free pitches, whilst bigger events can be more expensive especially if you need to bring your own gazebo and table.
13. Google Business Profile and Google Maps Listing
Being listed on Google maps using Google Business is a simple step to creating awareness online to locals and people visiting your local area. You can do it simply by going here and setting up a profile. Keep it up-to-date, reply to feedback but other than that this won’t require much maintenance.
In conclusion, there are many diverse ways to sell yourself, market your business and sell your bakes – it’s important to remember you have limited time. Prioritise and be consistent. Come up with a time management plan and decide how you will market your bakes to potential customers – you don’t want to spread yourself too thin and you need time to actually bake! The beauty of marketing is that so many of these methods feed into each other and help create awareness and presence across different platforms which builds trust, awareness and engagement.