Building Your Business on a Budget

 

You can have the best tasting, most beautifully decorated cakes in the area, but you still need to get the word out to potential customers. If they don’t know about your business, then they can’t order from you. Word of mouth is still a reliable and viable way to expand your customer base, but that takes time and is dependent on people actually sharing your information.

To grow your business, you need to reach new people. This requires getting your name out in the community and networking. But building an online presence is also a good idea because so many people now use internet searches to find what they need. Luckily, social media and many internet based business building tools are free. All you need to spend is the time to set up online profiles and learn how to use the platforms.

Make it easy for the customer to find and contact you. In today’s tech-savvy world, people are used to finding what they need quickly and easily. With a Facebook page, blog, website, listing in online search engines, etc, you’ll only be a click away. Whenever you participate in or join an online community, ALWAYS have a live link (not just a plain-text URL) to your website, Facebook page, YouTube channel, or at the very least provide an email address in your profile and signature.

Send out press releases. Prepare a press release and email it to all the local newspapers, magazines, and print media. The absolute worst thing that will happen is they ignore it. Or, somebody from their advertising sales/accounts department will reply asking if you’re interested in running an ad.

Advertise. This will depend on your budget, as you’ll most likely have to pay to run ads in newspapers and magazines. But look into other places that might offer free advertising opportunities, like church bulletins, newsletters for local organizations and mom groups, etc.

Leave your business cards everywhere you possibly can. There’s no point in having business cards if you don’t distribute them. Make a goal to hand out 10+ business cards a day, whether you leave them on the counter at the dry cleaners or other local business (ask first) or give them away to real people. The point is to get rid of them! Whenever anyone asks for a phone number or email, they get a business card. That way they have correct contact information and know about your business.

Seek out your target market. An efficient way to promote your business is to figure out your target market, and then be present at events/activities that appeal to them.This is where you’ll have a high concentration of potential customers. Some ideas: set up a vendor table at the next bridal show, craft fair, farmers market, or other local event. If you’re not allowed to sell food, make displays out of styrofoam dummies and make signs to display. Make a point of talking to people as they pass by, and distribute flyers/business cards.

Create opportunities for exposure. For example, moms need birthday cakes (at least once a year), and they recommend things they like to their peers, so it’s worth promoting your business to them. Some of the larger children’s clothing consignment sales have vendor booths, so ask the organizers about it. Many stay-at-home moms participate in MOMS Club and MOPS, so see if there’s a local chapter in your area and contact them about doing a class/demonstration, speaking at their next meeting, or advertising in their newsletter.

Compete. The Tennessee State Fair and some of the county fairs have cake and culinary arts competitions. Come up with something you’re proud of and enter it. Your work will be on display, and that will get your name out there to potential customers as well as other area cake decorators.

Volunteer. Promote your business while serving the greater good! Participate in bake sales and other fundraisers, attaching a business card to the bottom of the boxes whenever possible. This is also a great way to clear out the freezer. Offer to do a demonstration/provide cupcakes for nonprofit groups.

Keep in touch with past customers. You need them to tell their friends about your business, so don’t let them forget where their last cake came from! Compiling an email distribution list and sending out a newsletter once a month costs nothing. It reminds your past customers that you’re still around and taking orders, and it’s also a great way to offer “email subscriber only” exclusive deals/sales.

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