Who's your client?

Discussion in 'Professional Pastry Chefs' started by w.debord, Jan 14, 2002.

  1. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Panini brought up the question can you ignore 60% of the market and only market yourself to the high end cake buyers. I think that's a great question and a important point. Also on that note can you just do wedding cakes and make a profitable business?

    Personally I've struggled with these questions. I had orginially thought I would divide my business into two target audiences....I started thinking about a "couture line" and an "off the rack" line to selling cakes. But it didn't take long for someone to tell me how foolish that concept was. WHY? Because all brides want to be special, they don't want a second best cake.

    But how do you get everyone? I don't know, but from what I see and I did research my market the decorators seem to break down into these two seperate camps. Their pricing and how they present themselfs does it.

    Yes, I totally want any customer! But how do I market myself so both groups want me? If you don't look expensive the upscale buyer doesn't want you, if you look too upscale the lower end market excludes you from their inquires. Can you have two different businesses in one and call them two different names like I mentioned above?

    Can you survive on wedding cakes alone? Well there's a couple places that appear from the outside to be. But who knows what their doing out the back door. Which brings me to yet another topic and I'll start a seperate thread for that.
     
  2. marmalady

    marmalady

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    You may have answered your own question! "Every bride wants to feel special" - Use one name for your business, and scale your cakes and prices from 'low-end' to high end; when a bride comes in for a consult, you and she can discuss/decide what she wants and what she can afford, and you could 'guide' her to whatever suits her budget. If you do really pretty 'little' cakes, as well as the really glamorous ones, wouldn't that cover all the pricing spectrums , make the bride feel 'special', and meet your goal of serving as many people as you can?

    Here in NJ (and the NY area), there are lots of wedding cake only businesses; I think if you live in a large enough area, you could certainly support yourself doing wedding cakes only - but, are you including other 'occasion' cakes as well - anniversary, baby, birthday etc.?

    I'm by no means a pro in this area - have only done two wedding cakes, for friends, and swore I'd never do another one! One was a vegan cake -!!!
     
  3. momoreg

    momoreg

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    It's tough to find wedding cake business in the winter. What works for me is to also do other big ticket cakes and buffet items. This winter, I did quite a few croquembouches, marzipan nutcrackers, and truffle trees. It provided several thousand dollars of business, and I wasn't nitpicking with too many little birthday cakes, which generate very little profit, relatively speaking.

    I turned down a job because it was too small and simple. I just don't want to fill my calendar with that kind of work if I think something more interesting/profitable can take it's place.

    Ask any high end vendor (car, clothing, jewelry) if he's willing to lower his stadards to get more customers, and the good ones will usually say no. If you want to uphold an image, you have to market to a particular client. If that doesn't keep you busy year-round, then maybe you should re-think your plan: Either sell more than just wedding cakes, or reduce your image to expand your market.

    Mind you, I'm not saying I'd turn down all cakes under $5 a slice. If someone wants a pretty cake, but can't afford more than $5 a slice, it doesn't mean you have to turn them down, but you shouldn't send out sub-standard work either. Let the client know that they're getting a pretty- but simple- cake.
     
  4. foodnfoto

    foodnfoto

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    This thread leads to some interesting discussion of marketing strategy.Think of the total market for your product (everyone that might need a wedding cake) as a clock and each hour on the clock face as a segment. Try to define what these segments are--high end, low end, diet and nutrition based, vegan/vegetarian, etc. and how many segments of the clock each group encompasses (low end may be 5,6,7 and 8; high end might be 1 and 2). Next, research how many other wedding cake makers are servicing the market and which segment they are catering to. Find out where the holes in market service are.
    Next, decide which segment your work and particular style appeals to most and which is most comfortable for you to service. Initially, target that one segment and focus your menu and promotional materials to speak CLEARLY and distincively to it. If you find that you need to expand your market, focus on a segment that is near to your original group. Example: if your target market lies between 12 and 2 on the clock and you need to expand, target the segment at 11 or 3. That way, you only need to make small adjustments to your promotional strategy. If you try to expand to a segment opposite to, or significantly different from your original segment, you wind up spending too much time and money tailoring your promotions in opposing directions and style. Thus, you wind up confusing the entire market and no one really understands you.
    The other part of this you must consider, is your personal communication style and background. If you are familiar and comfortable blending with the country club set, market to them. If you cannot easily relate to them, go for another segment that your personality style and sensibilities will resonate more clearly with.
    With all this in mind, it boils down to your need to make youself the most understandable and distinctive provider of cakes to your target market segment. I know it takes a lot of time, energy and thought up front, but it pays off relatively quickly in business bookings. Good Luck!
     
  5. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Wow footnfoto I'd swear you took that right out of a book! You make alot of sense. But unforunately I can't get a clear view of reality until I'm more seasoned with-in this smaller market of wedding cakes. I can only make assumptions ...50/50 % accuracy or less.

    I won't know what part of the market is most open until I make several steps somewhere to feel things out. I might think someone is doing high end and supporting a staff year round but you just can't tell what's happening behind someones doors. It's not like I can fake that kind of phone inquiry. Unless you have an idea of how?????
     
  6. foodnfoto

    foodnfoto

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    Of course you can!!! Inquiring about your competition is the first part of market research that anyone should do when starting a small business. It's absolutely essential!! All you have to do is look in the phone book, call some wedding cake bakeries, and ask for their brochures, ask where they deliver to most often, etc. (after all, you might be planning a wedding yourself someday.) You can also call reception halls, caterers, hotels and wedding planners. Most urban areas have a bride's publication that lists providers of wedding services.
    Ask wedding cake makers what their most popular cake is and how much it costs. Ask the same of wedding planners. You can get a lot of valuable information from your library and local business journals. Go to the department of records and find out how many weddings took place in your county last year. Check the society column in your newspaper and read every wedding announcement. Also go to a bunch of wedding shows. They always happen in January and February. Go as a prospective bride. No one will know you are doing market research unless you tell them. Take you findings and chart them out making comparisons between the businesses you interviewed; then you can draw some conclusions about which market segment to target.
    These are the types of things that market research firms are paid to do. Hire one if you can afford it, but otherwise do it yourself. Maybe there is a market researcher who will help you direct and define your questions and interviews at a small charge. Call them up, what's the worst they can say? "No we can't help you?" Maybe someone can and will. If you don't do this kind of research, you'll be working yourself blindly into a rut of scrambling for business without a clear plan. It's hard, I know, and it takes a lot of critical thinking, but it will pay off in the long run.
     
  7. anna w.

    anna w.

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    Great ideas!!! I really wish people would be more open to sharing info. Everyone is so afraid you are going to take business from them. I find the best place to inquire regarding other decorators businesses are at events like bridal shows. Most relax a little because they are checking you out at the same time. But you will always get the paranoid ones that think you are out to get 'em.

    When I talk about upscale I am looking for people who want a really good tasting product, very well put together, and excellent service. This could be a very plain cake that they put real flowers on later, or it can be a really elaborate one with sugar flowers and fondant. They are paying different prices, getting a quality product regardless of the cost, and they get excellent personal service which is what makes them feel special.

    Every bride gets a personalized consultation (sometimes more than one), the delivery is included, and if budget is an issue I help them try to create "the look" they were going for without breaking the bank. The service will put you over the edge. I will not undersell my work. EX: A bride calls me for a consultation- she loves a picture she has seen of my work. It is very elaborate. Exactly what she has been looking for. I meet with her and she decides on a simple design. Later she decides she is only inviting 20 people (yeah, you read right). I nicely tell her that since I have already met with her I would be happy to do it but she had to pay wedding cake prices. She paid $70 for an 8" square cake but gushed about my service and was happy to pay that. Word of mouth travels fast. More referals :).

    The flip side is that if they can't afford my minimum than there are other people who can fill the bill. They will have a staggering array of 10 cake styles for her to choose from, they will have to pay an extra delivery fee or have someone pick it up for them, she will stand at a counter like she is picking out a donut, and the product will be mediocre. She will have not have felt special but I will not have wasted my time with someone who wasn't all that concerned about a cake and filled their time slot with someone who does.

    I guess what I am trying to say(in a very long wind) is that "upscale" doesn't have to be synonymous with "designer".

    I haven't found that many "upscale" decorators around here. In fact we have a lot of the other kind charging $1.10-$1.25 slice. That is just giving away my work. I couldn't do it. Mine start at $2.50 for bc and $4.00 for fondant and go up from there. I now that is pennies to what some of you on the coasts get but it is fair here.
     
  8. w.debord

    w.debord

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    oops, perhaps I should have been more specific. I assumed you knew info. that was written on another thread, when I mentioned the research I did. Yes, I made the calls and some visits. But my point below was that there's some detail personal info. about businesses that you can't find out from them. They told me x but I didn't ask how much business they have and who they really sell to (is it the same as who I see them target?). Hope that makes any sense.........

    Yes, here's some of the info I discovered about my competition. First impression is phone conversations. Many rambled and got off track from my questions. Didn't seem very prepared. Others wouldn't say a thing that wasn't a part of their prepared 'speach' and the top dogs, gave out the least info.!

    The top places wouldn't say anything more then "lets set up an appointment". I got the least info from them and I had a hard time even getting them to answer my call after REPEATED
     
  9. w.debord

    w.debord

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    ....time even getting them to answer my call after REPEATED attempts.

    Prices looked like this: Top places shot a range, lower places gave a blanket 'we start at price'. I got info from ten places worth keeping. There were some places not worth mentioning.

    1. $4.25 to 15.
    2. 3.50 to 7.00
    3. 3.50 to 4.25
    4. 3.75
    5. 6.00 to 8.00
    6. 2.20
    7. 3.75
    8. 5.00 to 15.00
    9. 2.50
    10. 2.00 to 2.75

    That's not including the top person (who I think is top), I couldn't get anything out of them! Just, "make an appointment".

    50% of them start at or above 3.75 per person.

    Now I know where I fit in, where I've been and what I can do...but then you question is this where do I head from a money making perspective not a comfort zone.


    "upscale" to me means a bit more then Annas' description. It means FABULOUS tasting! Service. And being able to provide any look the person wants from the top books and magazines!

    Many of the businesses I called said they'd "try' to repeat a look I wanted from a magazine but "it won't look exactly like the photo".

    I want to (intent to) and (for the most part) can land "exactly like" with no excuses....I think that puts me in the big dog league? Plus I know the baking end and have only worked with high end clients. But that's who I'm familar with, it might not be who I'd be wisest seeking business from, right?

    What's selling for each decorator varies. Top dogs didn't say flavors, didn't have brocures...

    As far as going to bridal shows....I'm thinking heavily of entering 1 or 2 and finding out what it has to hold. Some ladies swear by them. The high end buyer I'm familar with I don't beleive attend these (they don't seem to 'shop around'). This is more middle dollars since they charge 10.00 to get in the door per person.
     
  10. panini

    panini

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    Ok DeBord,
    I'm getting the feeling you are trying to get rid of me. New threads, I can't keep up. Some of us just survive on the e-mail returns.:D :D

    We start at $300. dollars. That is our minimum. This will serve 100 pp.
    We actually steer our brides away from fondant. Mainly because I hate the taste and the servicability s--ks.
    Our best tool for sales is a consultation with prices and sizes, we encourage them to shop our proposal. We guide them to our top person$$$ in the area.
    We book most of our business as a result of just being service orientated,pleasant,nice and fair. (Family Business) This also includes talking with brides at midnight because of their internship at the hospital(last night)
     
  11. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Just had to be a rebel......Good service is important, or is it? I have to admit there's a part of me that really wonders (more based on experience than what I think is right).

    When I look at all sucessful businesses they seem to be about the opposite. All big businesses have cut service out of their over head costs. And we the consumers have adjusted. We now have to do our home work ourselfs and help ourselfs.
    Similarly, the sucessful small busineses seem to follow. If they have the product you want, you jump thru their hoops too.

    You can set yourself apart by providing a great service, but I tend to think the American consumer doesn't purchase based on service anymore. I think price and quality are more important to Americans then service.?????

    (Not that I personally want to NOT provide service with my business. Just mentioning what I see.)
     
  12. momoreg

    momoreg

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    That is what I see too. The people who run their businesses that way seem to think there's something wrong with wanting to be treated like a paying customer. It never ceases to amaze...
     
  13. panini

    panini

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    Oh man! I have to disagree again.:mad: :D

    Service is a large part of our concept. We don't offer a product that people can't get somewhere else. Quality is measured by an educated palate. A lot of people don't know quality.
    Our service and genuineness is whats sets us apart from the others.
    Our consultations are 1 hr. vs 1/2We will reschedule. Sitting down in our bakery is equivelent to sitting in our kitchen at home.
     
  14. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Well I certainly don't think selling wedding cakes can be a drive thru purchase. Time up front with the client could add alot more dollars to the ticket or even save time in the long run with some cakes.

    I'm just talking about what I've seen. Sometimes things defy logic. I remember doing art shows or large conventions (whole sale) and you all know once you have a line up of people the rush continues. Business propagates business, totally. Everyone waits in line to place their order and be apart of the excitement. You see this at all trade shows. Everyone wants to know whats so interesting in their booth.

    I just think there's a little bit of aluffness (sp?) that the top places have.... When your too quick, too hungry they run everytime. "Wendys Art of making the sale" info mercial.....online here.

    My old country club manager was a great people handler (I'm sure you'll disagree once you read my following sentences) with the members (not the employees). Once we had a discussion about this topic. She always made the members sit and wait for her even if she's was available imediately, it gave her the power (so she said). Although she seemed to play that game with the women far more then with the men. Weird huh?
     
  15. anna w.

    anna w.

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    I think Wendy is right. I think Panini is right.

    Service has gone out the window totally in a lot of places. However much people have adjusted to this, though, most will still appreciate this and it will breed loyalty and trust and your business will stand out because of this. This is especially true in luxury items. All pastry is a luxury item. In the wedding industry, this is even doubly so. If people get service, and the product that they were promised there will be an on going stream of referals that will have been generated by loyalty and trust. I once had to have three seperate one hour consultations with the same bride which would at first glance would seem to sap your profitability but she has sent me 4 new clients in less than a year. None of her friends have required the same level of attention. My time was well spent. This all goes back to a previous thread about making bride's feel special.
    P.S. If anybody makes me wait- they are just telling me that they really don't care about me or what I need. On top of it, it is just plain rude. Sounds like that manager was on a power trip
     
  16. marmalady

    marmalady

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    I agree with Anna - I think service is an important part of a business, and clients will remember the person who did take the time with them. I've found it's the small things that folks remember, the attention to detail, and maybe the little 'extra' you throw in as a 'lagniappe', that boost referrals and make folks feel x-tra special. (Again, I'm not a baker in the business, but felt the same way about my catering jobs).
     
  17. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Who to market to?


    I just discovered yesterday that the biggest bridal show organizer sells their booths to cake decorators at a major discount vs everyone else. Great luck for me, not very fair for other busiesses. I can get into a bridal show for just under $300.00. SOOOO Panini, have you ever done these? If not, why?

    I think I should take the gamble on that and see what happens. In addition to knocking on established doors looking for cleints.


    So now I need to think about which cake designs I'll make up as dummys. Anyone have opinions? This show has ALOT of cake decorators per show. Around 10! So I'd love your in put on what kinds of cakes I should make???? Would you just ignore that others will be there ORrrr attempt to up stage anyway possible (lighting, cakes styles, pillars, silver, even hire a florist to decorate my booth etc...) to get noticed?

    Any input would be GREAT! Oh, and I have time to shop at a couple of their other shows first to check things out.
     
  18. anna w.

    anna w.

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    Wendy- the $300 is a good deal. Go for it- if it doesn't work out you really haven't lost a big investment.

    As far as the type's of cakes to display- One thing I don't think you should do is have too many. I have seen this but it is cluttered and doesn't impress anyone. You might want to have cakes in different styles- one classic and traditional, one a little bit fun with color, one for a garden type wedding, etc. Vary the techniques you use so they can see different ways of doing it. You may also want to vary the size and shape. I don't think you will need a lot of flowers, more greens maybe, but you want the cakes to be the decoration, not the flowers.

    I have gone to several to check out the competition but am participating for the first time in a couple of weeks. I have an 8' table. I am going to have four cakes- A traditional done in fondant with a sugar topper full of gumpaste calla lillies, a non-traditional stained glass, a smaller buttercream "garden" type cake (square), and a fondant centerpiece cake with crimping and gumpaste flowers. I figure that this gives me variety, leaves room on the table for samples, and it gives me the chance to showcase my designs vs. a knock off of a designer cake.

    I wanted to try the least messiest way of handing out samples so I have decided to wrap the slices ahead of time in wax paper sandwich bags with my sticker on them. The customer won't have to try to juggle, I won't have crumbs all over my table, and the presentation will be unique (I hope).

    That's my bird's eye view....
     
  19. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    As a show goer booth presentation is the key....a portfolio is important also. Some give out show discounts 10% if you decide within a week or so....sounds like a deal to me.
     
  20. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Well, see this is why I spend so much time online, what helpful answers! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the idea of the show coupons, (think I'll put a time limit on those)!!!!! Your brilliant Shroomgirl! So many details happening right now, I forgot about that totally.

    Anna, I've done tons of trade shows and art shows. I have a great portable booth with walls that are in 3' wide panels that I can put entending legs on so they rise as high as 10' or low as 6'. I thought I'd enclose my booth that way (so they can't miss me) and place large framed photos on my walls (you can get special permission from the show to do this). I have black, white or grey fabrics I can use to cover the walls. I noticed a great ad in a brides magazine where they wrapped/draped everything in white sheets. I'm thinking maybe I'll carry that theme over my black fabric for drama. I hate cutezy things, it's not natural for me. How out of place will I be with-out cute?

    I had been thinking about mini cupcakes. But now I think abou it I like your idea BEST. It really makes great sense to let them take it home. Perhaps I should do both???? What do you think? See part of my sale is I'm baking from scratch and boy can you taste the difference. I'd love for people to be able to do a side by side tasting. Thoughts????

    P.S. First place I talked to about sub leasing from them said great, come on in, YEEK! Too unbelievable easy, what's wrong here?