Samples, how to be a standout?

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Joined Mar 6, 2001
I'm hoping to get a little feed back from all you creative thinkers. Sometimes others see things you miss.

I'm working on my samples and "kit" to drop off to prospective wedding cake customers. At this time I'm not talking about brides, I'm talking about party consultants, clubs and businesses that are the "big fish" the ones I'd most to attract.
This is what I'm planning right now:

For my cake samples I was thinking I'd make 4 'mini cakes' (more like ala carte portions). Then decorate each as mini cakes (the trend thats so popular now). It gives my a photo opt. to arrange them into small teired cakes before I send them out (to build my portfolio).

1. White cake with chunks of fresh SB mousse (because you have to give them white cake), my twist is mousse vs preserves. Buttercream frosting (leaf tip basketweave on top, no frosting on sides), sugared real flowers hopefully I can find a couple small berries too.

2. Chocolate mousse cake with a layer of praline feutine (sp?) on the bottom. Cylinder style, wrapped in a poka dot sheet of chocolate (not straight choc. thats too hard) or square into a box shape. Topped with a simple mini white chocolate bow (chocolate plastic, not tempered) or chocolate flower.

3. Lemon cheese cakes on a chocolate crumb base, thin layer of rasp. preserves (not sure, thinking I'd like something else with this instead of the preserves?). Drape fondant over it, then hand paint a flower on top and place a 3D marzipan bee next to it.

4. Carrot cake cupcake, frosted with white choc. cream cheese frosting to look like a flower, large royal icing gerbera daisy on top.

Thought I'd wrap my cake box in some ribbon...(because I don't have any stickers yet with my info. on it ) and tie a fork into (flea market real fork, not plastic) the ribbon. Then I'm printing out a full size photo sheet with 8 photos of my cakes and stapling my brocure to it. My brocure is something I've put together myself (to keep costs down) but it only fits 2 photos (hopefully, still learning how to import photos). Do I need a traditional cover sheet?

SO any thoughts? I know if I want the big guys, I need to look good.
I can't deside it I should do each sample totally different as I've stated above or make them each similar 'with-in a like theme' ...any thoughts?
I think my decorations have been done to death (wrapped box etc...), perhaps I should strive for something more unique? Then I think, well this is more like a real order and I should show them skill with-in whats typical...?


I even decided to go with popular flavors, since that's the reality of the job. Or would you think doing non-traditional flavors might attract more attention?


Can you tell I'm a Gemini with a streak of perfectionism? Ha......... Sorry I don't mean to drive anyone crazy, I've never seen what other decorators do in the way of samples...........I need to attract some attention here if I'm going to get my foot in the door (how unique is unique?)!
 
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I don't know what other decorators send either as samples. I think it must really depend on the designer. What you are proposing sounds very classy, and, were I to put myself in the position of the recipient, your beautiful work and time spent on the selection, would absolutely make me want to use your services.

I think that since you are offering 4 different items, you should make 2 trendy in style and flavor, and 2 of them more unique, t show off your artistic flair. I don't believe it would be a big deal whether you have custom labels on your boxes, but definitely throw in some business cards. It goes without saying that any photos you include should be as uncomplicated and well lit as possible, and I know you already know that. Perhaps you can do picture postcards instead of a brochure. It costs less, and doesn't have that 'homemade' look about it.
 
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Joined Jul 31, 2000
I agree with Momoreg on this one,

First I think that your own personal style should come through,
The important thing is that your samples should really set the tone of your services, From your wrapped box,to the unique compositions of flavors and texture, to your written and photografed hand out. I love your ideas for samples and I think you should keep them the same from one perspective to another unless you really know the client is looking for something other than your typical samples.
If I was to recieve a sample box like the one you describe, I would have no problem contracting you
Good luck
cc
 
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Joined Nov 27, 2001
Wow! I like that idea, hope you don't mind if I borrow it. I would agree with memoreg on this one, two traditional flavors (one definitely being white) and two untraditional flavors. The only one that I would worry about is the uniced sides. Most everyone I would know would think it was incomplete. (I only had one bride even consider this and the co-ordinator talked her out of it telling her it was sloppy and looked unfinished).
The other thing that I have found to work well for me is NOT to leave additional pictures. That way when you have a follow up you can spend sometime with the right person (who will refer you). You can do this as you bring in literature for them to hand out to clients. When I do leave literature it is a brochure with flavors, prices, and my experience and a photo postcard that also has my number on it. That way they have a pretty decent sized photo of a cake that you have done- works way better than a traditional business card. You can also use the postcards as thank you's or to send out to other prospective brides (I get a list monthly from the Wedding Pages).

I love the bow and fork idea, though, THANKS!
 
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Joined Mar 6, 2001
Thanks for the help so far. More opinions, please...

I'm still going with my brocure provided it prints nice. I tend to think from what I've seen of other (um hum professional ones) that mine looks just as good or better (I've got alot of art skills that make up for my lack of computor abilities). I just have to use the computor to print, but I'll buy nice paper (photo quality probably) that I can print on both sides. Because my brocure has pricing and my flavors. Or do I leave this off and let them call for this info.?

BUT here's the question....dropping this off to professionals only....I'm stuck with wholesale vs retail pricing. I really don't want there to be a difference unless someone wants to give me enough business regularly for me to give them a better rate. I've really come in as low as I can to compete and make a profit (plus I don't want the penny jobs, I'd rather aim to be a top decorator if you know what I mean) Is this o.k.???? Aren't party consultants going to be pissed off, they always want a cut?

Wholesale prices, yes or no?
 
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Unless they can guarantee you a certain amount of business, you may be selling yourself short for a client that may not give you much business. I think it's not such a good idea to put prices in the brochure, because really, everyone wants something different from the bride before. Even if it's the same design, guest count may be substantailly lower, logistics may be different, etc. I think it's a good idea to customize a price for each cake. If you have a party planner who gives you a lot of business, you can cut her a deal every 10 cakes or so.
 
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The only prices I put in my brochure are my starting prices with the clarification that premium flavors and complexity of design will add to the price of the cake. I have one set price because it is illegal in my state for someone to resell my cake. I have to sell directly to the end user. I have caterers and banquet halls that recommend me (no planners) and they eventually get thier cut with a "cutting fee" which is sometimes as much as $1/slice. If I were to sell to them directly I would keep my price the same and let them up it. Your time is worth your time regardless of who you sell it to. You are not doing an assembly line product that is exactly the same for every single cake. You are doing an individual production each time. Just MHO.
 
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use double sided tape to tape your business card on top of the box, to look like a sticker.
use stationary quality paper to print up your brochure, do not add the page of pictures, you can bring them to the next meeting.
great ideas w!
btw, do what YOU like and are BEST at because you will be doing some high production soon and you have to love your designs and flavors!
i do most of my business by word of mouth and i have a day job plus my hubby is employed so i don't need to bombard the market with my work.
the idea of sample boxes is a great one, my best advice is to bring them to the MOST EXCLUSIVE, HIGH PROFILE, SUPER HIGH QUALITY businesses! don't waste your time on many when the few are your market.
Give them your retail prices, no penny pinching, and negociate where aplicable! you are worth the price!!!!
If the price is high, the market will thin out BUT you will get the best customers who want high quality unique cakes. Offer shipping, offer custom design, offer the things no one else does and with each paid cake, offer a petit four in a box with your logo...........
prices, simple cake minimal decoration 2.50 per slice. custom cake with sugar flowers, cheese cake and ganach 9.00 per slice!
flowers for the center of a table cost 125.00 and up and you can't eat them!
delivery outside of 10 mile radius, 25.00 + up for farther (people will pay 30 for a ham and 65 for the shipping!!!)
PS Money up front, COD never bill if you can help it!
:bounce:
 
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Joined Jul 28, 2001
Well, of course I disagree with most that has been posted. Sometimes I wonder If I even belong in the business.
I won't reply as not to cause a stir.
All I can tell you is that most properties that do high volume and quality receptions are more interested in what your normal products are like, based on what they already have. Your main objective is to alieviate any problems that may be associated with the cakes. Quality, dependability, cost, ins., flexibility, etc.
Having been FOH,BOH,F&B, I think I can say I look past the frills when sampling, give me the guts and I'll look at the portfolio next.
This business is full of sizzle but few have the steak. That is what will seperate you from the norm. You product is 50% of the pitch,the reliability from you is the rest. Tell them how you will make their job easier.
DISCLAIMER!!! This is just my opinion, what the h--l do I know:D
 
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Joined Mar 6, 2001
On the front side of my brocure I describe flavors and combinations. I've stayed with what I know sells (that's how I've always focused my baking), but I put my spin on the combinations/fillings and mentioned if they don't see their favorite favors....don't hesitate to inquire about availablity, etc...

I start at 2.50 p.p for white, yellow and chocolate cakes with butter cream filling and frosting. More $ for other cakes. Per person additional $ for fillings, and fondants etc... Pricing for elaborate decorations will be qouted per over all design, etc... Unless they go with plain cake and butter cream through-out I would be customizing the qoute for each wedding. But I think you have to 'qualify' yourself by giving people some sort of pricing, then I'll talk detail when they want detail. If I walk into a store with-out clear prices I walk out (even though I know I can afford the items).


I believe in a total presentation, here's what I do, what it tastes like and what it costs. If I don't pass those steps imediately, they won't call.
I totally agree with you Panini about the product, and reliability. I know all to well about being professional and prepared, I hate relieing on people and businesses that aren't (so I cover MY bases to the MAX)! I actually day dreamed about using my prior manager as a reference. I have a glowing letter of recomendation from her. Wondered if that meant anything to a new client? Because it does to me (as a business person). Professionalism is everything, who cares if you have a great product if your late and unprepared!

As far as flowers, if I was able to get in with a volume client, I'd follow your lead Panini and drop off, let them set up and decorate. I'd have to obviously!

I've back tracked on how I was making my mini cakes (I'm making all look similar with different accents and streamlined my assembly) I've actually found a better concept, I think. If all goes well I'll post my pictures when I finish. I've finally borrowed a dig. camera, yeah! Now I just have to figure out how you post them and move them around in different applications.........

Thanks everyone, it's nice to have a 'sounding board' (that's what my Mom calls it).
 
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Here are some parallels:

I was in a furniture store the other day, looking at dining tables. There's this one company that only does custom, so the price couldn't be marked. I sat down with the saleswoman, and told her what I wanted, then she gave me a price.

I need some contracing work done on my house, so I have had severalcarpenters look at the job. If they can give me a quote within a few days, I will consider them.

In my opinion, this is how custom work is. I don't quote prices until I know all the details of the event.
 
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I must have not explained right. What I mean Momoreg is 'to qualify'.... I'd rather qualify with people my base price. Then they either eliminate me (I'm too expensive) and don't waste my time calling or they know I might be in their range and only then do I want to talk details with them.

Gets rid of the bargin hunters. Some people are clueless as to average cost of a custom product. But of course with wedding cakes every cake is different from the next, I couldn't literally write all my prices. But a beginning point to qualify is what I mean.

Many companies don't put their prices down into their catalog. Sometimes it angers me, I understand WHY they do it, but I HATE calling on every single item, waiting for the rep. to look up the price. Personally I like a company that can set their prices and print them. Yes, they will change and they write disclaimers to that effect too.

Or like when you walk into a nice store you qualify whether your going to buy there. When something looks good like walking into Neiman Marcus you check out a price tag or two before you ask the sales lady to help you pick out a dress, right? At least I do (I look for a price range), then I know whether I'm wasting my time or theirs and I've qualified the situation that this is or isn't where I should shop.
 
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Man Momo,
I go looking for those clear out places.;)

Wendy, I know you probably already have your brochure together but just a thought. We price by the cake and size.
We got away from the pp thing a long time ago. You will find that most smaller bakeries and the homebakers charge this way. The problem being is one bakery says a three layer 18" cake serves 120 x 2.50 = 300. We have found that realalisticly that cake serves 90. We give a price for the cake and tell our customers to take the bid and price the competition according to the size of the tiers.
more 2 cents, don't count those bargin hunters out. Most people are programed to do this naturally. Our highest end customers are the worst. We had a couple stop in for lunch today. He, dressed is painted sweats, she in the same ,their friend, a hispanic fellow ,who looked like he was homeless. They split a panini and a soup and two chocolate chip cookies. Thay were laughing and speaking spanish. When paying, they told us they had had our cakes at a friends wedding, yea right! They wanted to take samples home to taste, for they were planning a wedding in April. I said no to my wife in the back but she like usual, overroad my des. Well, 2 hr. later the had confirmed and left a large deposit for a 1200 person wedding. They were redoing and old mansion here in town to live in after the wedding and their friend was from Sante Fee and supposed to be some world renowned authority on adobe plaster. Long winded I know!!! but you never know. Thats why my wife like me in the back:D
 
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Joined Mar 6, 2001
Good point Panini. I had thought pretty hard about pricing by the cake size (I've seen some people doing that). How do you add on $ for decorations and fillings? I couldn't figure out how to do that.

Just give a black price for each tier size, then list it's for butter cream filling only? I like doing (hope it sells) my cakes like reg. upscale tortes ...layered with ganche, mousse meringues, etc... I couldn't figure out how to break down the pricing so it wouldn't be confusing. So I went with per person to keep things really basic.

But portion size is a real issue! I figured I'd cover it verbally where I can show them this is my size or this is standard portioning...and let them choose what size they want (do I need to mention this in my brocure?). But now that I'm thinking about it, it would be hard to explain my way too. $2.50 for standard slice 2.75 for dessert size portion? But then we all know what happens at the place when they carve it up....they usually get chicken and cut little pieces regardless of what our instructions are.

Advice?
 
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Wendy, I won't have time for a lenghty post, your welcome!
We have sample cakes ,both dummies and pictures. We state, that cake will run around 700. and that one will run around 500. We actually ballpark 3. pp according to our sizing. We don't do dessert size, be careful there. I recommend keeping those two sererate. Someone will catch you and wonder why that 16" B'day is 103. and the 16'' layer of wedding is 240.
GTG just one more thing, are you pricing less for buttercream?
Do you're costing, I think you'll find BC just as expensive as mousse. butter is running me 2.45 and my cream is running 2.35.
We price across the board for all fillings, but we don't go outside the box. I'll have Sophie drop you our package, we have just revamped but I think they are done. Do you have you'recontract done? A must! for all cakes. This will protect you and the client.
jeff
 
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Joined Mar 6, 2001
Finally got thru to several decorators that have been vacationing first weeks of Jan.. I realized my price was too low. No one I respect is starting under 3.75 and most start over 4.00. The shops starting in the 2.00 range aren't my equals.
So I'm rethinking my pricing completely....I'm just going to give 1 base price (to qualify), and do the rest verbal per wedding qoutes.


I got a couple contracts from decorators on line. I haven't studied them throughly yet Panini. I know the basic points. Are their some issues that aren't obvious I should be cautious of?

Supprised that the better places charge for tastings. From 5. to 15. for a 6" one flavor cake, then deduct off bill if you buy from them. But I hardly call 1 flavor much of a tasting.....? Although I'm rather happy to see this. Even if you have a couple flavors on hand your still going thru some effort to present it. Also has to weed out some of people we used to deal with at the country club who wanted to 'taste' your whole menu for free.


Also supprised by how loose many places are about deposits. The upscale ones! One place holds dates with-out any! No one mentioned on the phone their billing structure, ie paid in full before delivery...
Another place doesn't need to talk details until 1 week before your wedding (they must not do any elborate decorations?).....
 
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In this area, even $4 a slice is unheard of for the higher end cakes. I'm glad you re-thought your prices. This is a great thread, BTW.
 
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Wendy- there is an issue of In Style Weddings that just came out. Lots of pictures with prices listed. Now these are "famous" decorators and most are east or west coast. It is hard for most people in the mid-west to compete with these prices but there is one mid-west decorator in there from Columbus, OH (Jan Kish). It might be something you want to check out.

As far as samples go- I feel that free samples are about the cheapest advertisement you can get. I offer them (usually 2 or 3 but up to 4) and I have found that 80% of the people that taste will buy. This is a great return on your money. If they choose a flavor that they originally did not taste and want to confirm that it is exactly what they want then I sell them a 6" or 9" cake at a slightly discounted price. Out of the 80% that choose me, 75% of them offer me a deposit and sign a contract on the spot. Also, I find that the people with money (who can afford the high end cakes) like the "pamper" of it all. Just My Humble Opinion.

Just a comment regarding not needing the deposit a week before hand- they can not possibly be doing much custom work. Either that or they are able to hire so much help that they are just waiting for something to do...?
 
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Momo, Anna, M Brown, DeBord
I just wanted to let you all know that I find your post very interesting. I was just re-reading my posts and I come off like an authority.
I take the time to read all of your post and I usually find something to think about. This thread is very important for all of us in the business, so I think in the future I will just address specific points.
I think that if you are offering an upscale product you should offer a limited tasting for free. To us a tasting is to get people aquainted with the quality of our product, not necessarely the exact product. We build the cost of tasting along with all the other costs of doing business into the price. We are also fortunate that we have a selection of most of our cakes in napolean size on a daily basis.
Wendy, I post a lot of minutia so that it may trigger something for you in your planning. I'm certainly not trying to tell you how to run your business. Fact is, you will, as we did, probably change things up numerous times as different things come up. I'm very impressed in the time and energy you are giving this, I'm sure you'll be very sucessful. Lets talk liabilities,supply deposits, etc. another time.
jeff
 
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Hey Panini- I love the exchange of information. Everybody has different ways of doing things and I like to see what I can 'tweek'. I am seriously considering the charging per tier instead of per slice. It makes a lot of sense. I appreciate all of you willing to share. And sometimes things that work in one part of the country don't necessarily work in another part (it is a BIG country). Thank you to everyone who is willing to share. This is a great forum- I have just discovered it recently and am much obliged.
 
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