What’s happening? That’s the question you should periodically stop and ask yourself as a cake business owner. While you may have a great product, you should keep your eye on the trends that might impact your business. While you shouldn’t always be looking outward or second guessing your product-line, you don’t want to miss out on a profitable phenomenon that your clients want. Here are some suggestions on how to find out about new opportunities and the most effective way to use that information.
Network with other shop owners. Whether you do this in person as business colleagues (perhaps, a monthly group meeting) or online in industry chat rooms and forums (this may be the easiest for your time-crunched schedule, as well as the safest since you aren’t chatting with direct competition), having discussions with like-minded individuals will keep you abreast of what’s happening in other communities. I recently got back into the MeetUp community for small business in my area. It’s a great way to network and keep up with local business concerns. There are meetups for marketing, WordPress and web design, baking, entrepreneurship, business plan writing and more.
Subscribe to magazines. Sometimes, the best way to know what’s happening with trends is to read about it. You should make time to peruse industry magazines. There are a plethora of magazines marketed to cake business owners, but I suggest you don’t forget about magazines like Martha Stewart Living, Cooks Illustrated, and even, the occasional, Ladies’ Home Journal or Good Housekeeping.
The reason these last two are important is that they’re the ones your customers are reading. If your customers are looking at ice cream cone cupcakes in Good Housekeeping, you need to know about it.
Watch Food Network and other T.V. cooking shows. The popularity of food related shows on T.V. has risen astronomically. Nowadays, people credit food shows like Cupcake Wars, Cake Boss, and Ace of Cakes as their ‘must watch’ shows. Therefore, the influence is huge. Your customers know what is available in other markets. You need to be aware too.
Offer samples. Once you learn what’s available, you need to figure out how to use that information. If cake pops are the trend, try one common flavor and create samples for customers for a limited time. You can offer the sample to everyone that orders from you or comes in to your store complimentary, or just to those that make a purchase, even putting a pricing minimum if you want. Later, you can begin selling these on their own and those samples are sure to be in customers’ minds when you do. They’ll be happy with your generosity and already know what to expect from your flavor and quality.
Act quickly. Trends are called trends for a reason; they occur suddenly and for a limited time. Trendy items may one day move to standard, but not always, so it is critical that you act when they’re hot, so to speak. Once you know of a trend that you want to offer, make your plan and start it quickly, taking no longer than a week or two from inception. Customers can be fickle so you don’t want to miss your chance here.
Know your client. When you decide upon which trend to implement, keep your customer base in mind. If your customers are college students or young, business professionals, you probably shouldn’t try cartoon character lollipop cakes just because you saw these on the Food Network channel. No matter how trendy an item is in one area, if it doesn’t fit your demographics, you will be wasting your time.