In general, it’s tough to thrive as a small, local bakery. The competition is both multi-faceted and fierce.
Not only do you compete with other retail bakeries, but you also compete with large grocery chains who’ve increased their focus on providing fresh baked goods in the store. This is in addition to the commercial bakeries with huge distribution networks that pull in most of the profits for this industry.
According to Chron, “A bakery industry snapshot from 2011 by the Center for Economic Vitality indicates that the U.S. baking industry was comprised of commercial and retail baking operations that combined to generate $33 billion in annual revenues. While there were fewer commercial bakeries, or 2,800, compared to 6,000 retail stores, the former produced 91 percent of the industry’s profits.”
Later in their report, they say “Small bakeries, unless they automate or provide some other distinct value to their customers, may find that they cannot compete with larger bakeries and their economies of scale. In some cases, the latter buy out the former, as when Flowers Foods acquired Lepage Bakeries in 2012. Through 2016, the number of companies in the U.S. bread sector is predicted to shrink by 2.3 percent.”
So if you are one of those “small” bakeries, how can you compete?
How can you stand out from your competition?
While I don’t have any top secret muffin recipes to share with you… I can share some practical marketing ideas that will help your business be more visible in your local community.
1. Stake Your Claim Online
Let’s tackle an essential first – your online presence.
I’m not saying you have to be cutting edge and put out Tweets every 5 minutes and new Vine videos on the half hour!
Having a well done social media strategy can certainly help – but if you feel like that is beyond what you can handle at this point, you should at least do the essentials.
The First Step
First off – you absolutely should have a website that looks professional so when people are looking for you online, they can find you and you make a strong first impression. We’ll talk about taking your website’s marketing to another level in a moment…
Assuming you have a website that exists, then the first step is to make sure that at the very least you’ve claimed your spot as a Google Business.
It’s free, and can be done in a few minutes.
The result is that when people look for your business on Google, or when they are searching more generic things like “bakeries in YOUR CITY” you’ll have a better looking, more complete profile in Google like you see below:
In addition to having accurate and complete information about your bakery, you can also do things like:
- Respond on behalf of your business to reviews left on Google.
- Add nice looking photos of your business that will show up in Google’s listing
- Add accurate hours and location information
- Put your phone number and other contact info that people need to know.
Obviously Google is the top dog in the search industry, but there are at least a dozen large directories, search engines, review sites, etc. that you should be completing your profile on – mostly for the same reasons I mentioned about Google.
Most let you claim a business for free, but may also offer some paid services which you aren’t obligated to buy.
Here is an excellent list of the 20 places your business should be online.
If you take an hour or two and complete all these profiles, you’ll be a step ahead of most of your competition who won’t take the time to do it.
Simple, free, and impactful.
Start staking your claim online today for free.
2. Host A Benefit
Judy Crockett is a retail management consultant and owner of Manistee, Michigan based Interactive Marketing & Communication.
She shared one of her favorite marketing tactics for local businesses with us a few months ago, and it’s something bakeries could absolutely take advantage of:
Host a benefit for a local non-profit organization.
In Judy’s words, “Host a week-long pet food drive in your store to benefit your local animal shelter.
Be sure to enlist the support of the shelter to get them to help you spread the word – free – through their sources… Offer a small discount or incentive to your customers who shop that week and drop off a donation at your store.
Be sure to write a short (under one page) press release to submit to your media….they will run the story for free. Include a photo if possible. Send the story one week prior to the event.
Follow up with a second press release sharing the results…and be sure to include a photo of you giving the donation to the shelter. Capture names and emails of those new customers coming into your store and continue to market to them.
I have used this several times with my clients….and it works well every time.
A variation that is fun…if time and staff in the store permits…is to give added incentive to customers who bring in a photo of their pet. If you have room, display the photos throughout the week. Then ask customers to come back in the following week to pick up photo…maybe have customers vote on the cutest pet picture. This engages customers…they will relate you and your store to a good, warm fuzzy feeling…people love their pets! It builds traffic in your store…and you will see new faces.”
It costs you very little to do, and it helps you get new people in the door and make solid relationships with other organizations in your community because you are doing them a real favor.
Judy used an animal shelter as an example, but of course this could be anything that makes sense for you. Maybe there is a food related charity in your area that would be a better fit – or just something you feel strongly about personally.
Hosting a benefit in your bakery is a true win-win situation for both you and the non-profit organization.
3. Draw People To Your Website
Perhaps you’ve heard the term “inbound marketing” which refers to pulling people into your business, typically by providing content or some kind of value that they find first, which begins the relationship with your business. Here is a graphic from HubSpot that demonstrates an inbound marketing funnel:
Don’t let this overwhelm you.
I want to focus on the first part – “Attract” – and talk about how you can use that to pull people into your bakery for the first time.
Then, hopefully your sweet treats can convert, close, and delight!
Answering Questions on Your Website
If you don’t have a blog or an active website today, here is a free set of videos to get you started. If you do have a site, you know that actually creating blog posts isn’t difficult to do.
But what should a bakery blog about?
The simplest answer is that you should blog about all the questions you receive from customers.
Perhaps you do special events like weddings, birthdays, or other types of catering. I’d imagine that those kinds of customers have TONS of questions when they are thinking about purchasing:
- How big of a cake do I need for X?
- How much does it cost to buy 300 cupcakes?
- Creative cupcake ideas for boys birthday.
The idea here is that since people ask you these questions (and probably many, many others) that they’ll also be asking those questions on Google. So by answering questions on your website in the form of blog posts, you can start pulling in other traffic and leads by giving them the answers they want.
Think of it this way:
If I lived in your area and was in the market for a custom cake and started searching online to learn more about how much it costs, how far in advance you need to order, etc. before contacting bakeries – wouldn’t you like me to find YOUR website when I’m searching for information?
The best chance for that to happen is by you addressing these types of things on your website.
If you don’t, I’ll probably end up on some other site and may never know that your bakery exists.
On the flip side, if you provide honest, helpful answers to your customers and potential customers online – they’ll appreciate it and begin trusting your bakery.
Here are a few other benefits to doing this on your website:
- The traffic is easier to get. By focusing on these long, specific questions with your content – you naturally have less competition. While your little bakery may never be #1 in Google when somebody searches “cupcake,” you might well be #1 when someone searches “What size cake for 30 people?” We call these specific search terms long tail keywords, and suggest that you focus on them early and often with your content.
- It doesn’t cost you money – just time. Assuming you have a website already, we’re just talking about adding helpful content that is going to attract new customers to your site and introduce them to you.
- You build trust and authority with your customers. By delivering well thought out and knowledgeable answers, you are proving that you are an expert in the field. This helps put people at ease if they are about to place a large bakery order for the first time.
Whether your bakery is well established or brand new and trying to make a name for itself – these strategies can help.
It’s never too late to do the essentials online like filling out the most popular business profiles, and then taking the next step by actually having a website/blog that helps attract new customers. In addition, doing fun and creative things like hosting a benefit in your store can endear you to the community and further ingrain your business in the eyes of your local community.
So my suggestion is to stop thinking about it and just get started!
Best of luck in your business.