7 Ways to Improve Your Cupcake Bakery Business

Your cupcake bakery business is essentially an extension of who you are. Unlike traditional bakeries with their yeast rolls and rye breads, cupcake bakeries are fun, flippant, and fabulous—you can really let your personality shine through. But every business, even the most trendy, needs to constantly up their game in order to stay on top.

Below you’ll find 7 ways to improve your cupcake business for little or no cost.

1. Hold a Flavor Contest

Fun and potentially funky flavors are part of the appeal of cupcakes.  From bacon maple to mango mojito, these aren’t your mom’s boring old yellow cupcakes.  One fun way to kick the flavor up a notch is to hold a contest (or even monthly ones) in order to get your customers involved.  You can either ask your customers for flavor submission, or ask them to vote on creative submissions from your staff (which is probably the easier of the two options). Incorporate the contest and winners into your social media promotions and other traditional marketing collateral.

2. Offer Custom Recipes and Designs

Another way to get your customers involved with the cupcake creation process is to offer custom recipes and designs.  These might be one-offs or variations on a favorite.  These custom cupcakes are perfect for parties, weddings, bridal and baby showers, and football games.  A good place to start is by creating a cupcake portfolio with bright and beautiful photographs featured prominently.  This will give customers an “off-the-rack” list to choose from, but it will also jog loose some of the creativity hiding in their own heads.  And once you’re customer is satisfied with their custom creation, you’ve got another example (and perhaps even testimonial) to show future cupcake connoisseurs.

3. Offer Delivery

I know, you don’t run a pizzeria, and you shouldn’t be expected to run a little doggy bag down the street with two of your strawberry shortcupcakes for a whopping $5 sale.  However, if you have a customer that’s shelling out some serious dough (say a 50 cupcake order for a wedding or office party), offer to throw in delivery for free or the price of gas within a certain radius.  People are busy—you know it because you are too—and anything you can do to make your customer’s day a little less hectic is good for business.

4. Keep Track of Customers’ Special Events

You get those bulk “Happy Birthday” cards in the mail from your car dealer, your dentist, maybe even your former boss, but you can take the idea behind those lame marketing mailers and jazz it up a bit.  Of course you should always be collecting your customer’s contact info (especially email) whenever you can—it’s called building a list.  But you should also be keeping track of their special events (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.).  These events recur every year and if they’ve bought your cupcakes one year, why not the next?  All they need is a little personalized reminder.  Instead of sending out a general “happy birthday” card, why not send out a handwritten note thanking them for their purchase? You can also ask them how they liked their triple chocolate decadence cupcakes, and if they might be interested in another batch this year.  You can even offer small discounts as enticements—the old baker’s dozen:  one cupcake free when you buy 12.

5. Get to know Customers by Name and by Preferences

Personal attention to detail is a trait that customers like. How does it feel when you walk into the barber or the hair dresser and they say “Hello, Jane.  How are the kids?”  It makes you feel like you’re spending time with a friend, not getting your hair done by some cardboard cutout.  Your customers want to feel that way too.  You and your staff should get to know your regulars by name and by preference.  Doing so will make them happy, but it will also open up upselling opportunities for you.  “Hey Bill, I know you like the bacon maple cupcakes, but have you tried our new Kahlua Mudslides?”

6. Keep Your Staff Smiling

Your staff is the public face of your business and if your employees aren’t happy in their jobs, your customers will know.  It’s up to you as the manager to keep them smiling.  One of the most important components of keeping an employee happy is fair and accurate scheduling.  Your employees value their downtime as much as you do.  Isn’t it worth investing in a restaurant software solution that allows you to keep track of time off requests and respond to emergency outages with the touch of a button?  No more misread schedules, no more disgruntled grumbling, nor more hectic days because you’ve either over or under scheduled.  When your staff is happy, you’re happy.

7. Go Bold

History rewards the bold, or so they say.  You’re not going to be able to make an impression within your community by offering the same old stuff every other bakery in town does.  You have to do something to set yourself apart.  Whether that’s unique flavors, a spectacular atmosphere, community involvement, or even an adorable gimmick, it’s up to you.  However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have at least some of the same old—it’s old because people like it enough to keep buying it.

Failing Affordably

An important lesson every small business owner should learn is how to fail affordably.  You don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak, and sink everything you have into a marketing gimmick that falls flat (Jalapeno frosting on guacamole flavored cakes probably isn’t going to fly).  Instead, test, experiment, be bold but limit yourself so you can recover if you make a misstep.  You want to burn brightly but you don’t want to fade away.

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