Best Kept Secret In Town

Every few weeks I get an email which goes something like this:

‘Hi Michelle. I run a cake/cookie/macaron/cake pop business in XYZ town. I’ve done it for about 2 years now.  I get some orders but it’s really not enough. I know my work is pretty good. I’ve checked around, and my prices are reasonable (okay maybe even a bit cheap) for my area. What am I doing wrong?! If you get a second, you can check out my work: (facebook link).”

Then, because I’m nosy and hey, they invited me to – I’ll check out their Facebook page and more often than not find that their work is really great. No reason for them NOT to be taking more orders except… NOBODY KNOWS THEY EXIST. A few years ago, having just a FB page was enough to make a business happen. These days, it’s nowhere near enough. Those pesky algorithms changed, more people got into the business of food, and FB got a lot more crowded – so it’s harder to get seen.  So can you still get orders that way? Sure, but if we’re wanting more orders, more consistency, and to get to the next level, you’re going to have to do some marketing OFF of FB. Hell, let’s be honest, you’re going to have to actually DO SOME MARKETING.

I know, I know, the idea of marketing makes your swiss meringue curdle and your fondant get elephant skin, but hear me out. Even if you’re running a side gig, even if it’s a small home based business, even if you only want a couple of orders a week… there’s no point in doing ANY of it if you’re not telling people about it! It is NOT a case of, “if you build it they will come,” especially because there are so many of us out there now. It’s also not a case of, “God will provide,” or “Word of mouth is the best marketing plan,” or “Customers only care about money.” Your job isn’t just to MAKE STUFF, it’s also to SELL STUFF. As the saying goes, if they’re not buying, you’re not selling.

So how do you get started with shining a light on your business? The answer is – simply, and imperfectly.

  1. Figure out who you want to buy your stuff. Moms? Brides? Military families? People in Alaska?
  2. Brainstorm every idea you can think of to get the attention of those people. Wear a cupcake costume on main street? Put flyers up all over town? Sponsor a local baseball team? Get a float in the July 4 parade? Take cupcakes to work? Give cookies to your kids’ teachers? Literally NO IDEA IS A BAD ONE at this stage. We’re just throwing up anything we can think of but the result of these ideas needs to be – it’s going to be seen by the people you want. I mean no point in having the “jump naked out of a cake” idea if a) perverts are not your target market and b) you haven’t been seen naked since 2004.
  3. Pick 3-5 of those ideas, and try them out. They won’t work (or bomb) immediately, but what they will do is get the ball rolling. Don’t just pick ONE. You need MANY different outlets here. (Proof only one doesn’t work: how’s that FB page doing for ya?!)
  4. And then – and THEN – don’t just sit back and hang out, waiting for the orders to roll on in. Take active action. Respond to emails or comments on social media, FIND opportunities to tell people in person about your business, start looking at other small local businesses and see what they’re doing. EVERY DAY, take an active, curious interest in showing your business the light of day.

Your business will not succeed or fail based on product alone – so obsessing over that is pretty pointless.  Your lack of orders isn’t about your pricing, your product, or your cheap ass neighbours. It’s that while you’re hiding behind your mixer, other people are jumping naked out of cakes.

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