How to promote your cupcake bakery

I've been meaning to write this post for over a year, and will expand upon it soon (my original draft was over 1,000 words with notes and examples, but I can't find the file). I'll be expanding in future posts with examples of places I think are doing these things well. I've been cupcake blogging since December 2004 and think in an age of so many cupcake bakeries, promotion is especially important. Vital, even.

These suggestions are thus somewhat off the top of my head, but also based on the last 4+ years of observing various cupcake bakeries online and off, and being a customer. My biggest pet peeve is not being able to get the cupcake bakery information I need online. That information shouldn't ever be hidden. No one should have to work to figure out where you're located. You should come up first in a Google search. Little things, but they matter.

Bakery owners/customers, what do you think? What would you add? Bakers, what have you found that works? Customers, what would like to see from your cupcake bakeries?

1. Come up with a name that means something to you, that has a story behind it, is catchy. Do not name your bakery Babycakes or something else that every other bakery is called. Or if you do, have an excellent story to back it up. Make it something people will remember and talk about, and something you can tell the press about.

2. Have a website and only use your own photos. Your website should at the very minimum have your bakery name and address, phone number, email address, hours, menu and photos. Make sure you come up at least in the first page, ideally, first, in a Google search for your bakery. Ask yourself what you like to see on the company websites you visit and offer that on your site. Give customers something interesting to see. Don't assume your customers are only local and thus know what town you're in or where you're located. Never forget the Internet is global and that someone may be wanting to order your cupcakes for a local friend or family member, or may be traveling to your town. Update often. Make it a must-read, cultivate die-hard fans (see: Blake Lively).

3. Offer a newsletter with mouth-watering photos (especially of your new/seasonal/limited edition/specialty cupcakes), coupons and specials. Give customer something extra. Tell them about your upcoming events, give them a reason to come back in, whether they were just there yesterday or haven't been in months.

4. Get on Flickr. Flickr isn't about advertising, but community. Share and learn from other bakers and cupcake fans. Offer visuals of your cupcakes as they are actually sold, not just pretty promo photos. Tag your photos in as many ways as applicable (not just "cupcake," but flavor, city, bakery name, anything else that fits). Join groups, dozens of them, that are about cupcakes, baking, dessert, food, your city, and add your photos to them. The more people who see your photos, the better. You never know when someone looking for just the flavor you're offering may stumble upon it, or a media source, or a potential customer.

Customize your Flickr name immediately. Nobody will remember to visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/37505733720428990 but they will remember http://www.flickr.com/photos/myawesomesupercoolcupcakebakery

5. Get on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites. Don't just join and say, "Okay, I'm on there," but seek out your customers, make it worthwhile for them to join you there. Offer them web-only discounts, engage with them not just about your business practices, but what you're up to. Give them a behind-the-scenes look at what you're doing. Have fun with it.

6. Update your cupcake offerings. Do a flavor of the month or week. Use seasonal flavors. Do something that will make people both want to get your newsletter and return to your bakery. Create holiday-themed cupcakes, celebrity-themed cupcakes, pop culture cupcakes, locally-sourced cupcakes. Create a signature cupcake with a story behind it, one only you could make. Have a must-try cupcake that is your favorite. Experiment.

7. Take the time to create a personal, cool bakery logo. Plaster it all over, on your site(s), on your storefront, on your merchandise, on your cupcake wrappers if applicable.

8. Get to know your customers. Ask for their suggestions. Crowdsource, both in the store with a suggestion box, talking to customers, and online. Hold a contest asking for new flavors or suggestions. Make your customers feel a part of your bakery.

9. Blog. Yes, I'm biased because I love both reading bakery blogs and using them as sources for this blog. But still, blogging is an excellent way to give more information than you'd have room for elsewhere, to build a following, pay tribute to the other bakeries and chefs you like, share information about the kinds of products or even the brands you use, share last-minute news and sales, profile your customers, talk about pet causes, whatever. A blog is whatever you want to make it. There are bakery blogs that give the scoop on everything from the literal building of the bakery through its opening to those that share daily flavors to ones with news links and beyond. Blogs help brand your bakery and personalize it. They give fans something to check out when they're not eating your cupcakes.

10. Innovate. Try new things, online and off. See what works and what doesn't. Be a leader.

Comments

jipseeme said…
You are so great to offer this information! I have only recently joined the cupcake craze and LOVE the things I see online blogs!! I only dream of having a cake/cupcake biz someday, but this post makes it seem more possible!! Thanks so much, from someone who is only starting out with cake decorating classes and trying new recipes! You give me hope!!
Katis Kupcakes said…
What a great article-just what I needed to read today! I'm going to use alot of these great suggestions-thanks for sharing them!
Haley said…
great post! i am just launching my private catering biz and these tips are really helpful!
les muffins said…
Thank You!!
this post explain "per se" Why I´m a Cupakes Take the Cake´s Fan!!!

Saludos desde Buenos Aires!!
Silvia
Jenn said…
I appreciated this post a lot. I want to open a cupcakery when I am out of college. I think pictures of menu items are really important. I hate going into a bakery with no idea what to expect from the cupcakes. I really like how Sprinkles cupcakes of LA offers a free cupcake with a secret saying of the day that is posted on Twitter. I can't wait to visit in August for a covert cupcake.
Just Cupcakes! said…
Your point about your business name is so true - as the original "Just Cupcakes", I'm amazed on a regular basis by how many other "original" cupcakers there are out there promoting under the same name... people, if someone is already using the name, think of something else!

Juli Stertern-Gill
Just Cupcakes!
Melb, Aus.
sarah said…
So true - thanks for posting this! Hopefully certain new businesses out there are reading this and taking heed. For some, I'm wondering what they are thinking...looks like they aren't even trying.

I think it's important to have some interesting flavor combinations in addition to the classics...something you can't get anywhere else.
Jenniffer said…
Thanks for the great info. It's always good to make sure you are on the right track! One tidbit we learned the hard way is to name or number all your gallery pictures. It was a nightmare before since everyone has different size screens and web layouts. Thanks again!
Cupcake said…
Great tips - and not just for cupcakeries - but any small business owner. I don't make cupcakes but I do make signs and have a Etsy shop (www.glitterme.etsy.com) and your tips were very helpful. I hope to increase my business by incorporating these tactics. THANKS!
cupcakes.gr said…
I've been following your site for a while but I somehow missed this post before! (Could have been because of moving house)

We are planning on opening and cupcake bakery here in Greece in a few months time. I'm happy to say we have already been working on most of the things you suggest! Including a blog describing our journey!

Thanks again for the tips. I'll be watching out for updates!

Liz
KC said…
Thank you for good advice! I am currently working on expanding my hobby and love for cupcakes into a F/T business. The information about creating a user friendly website I found very true, Thanks again. I look forward to sharing more with you as I progress with my cupcakes.
Have a sweet day-Cupcake style!
K.Crawford
Icing on the top Cupcakes
Henderson, CO
Instyle said…
Great article....very well comprised. I invite your to visit our site at www.instylecupcakes.com and also visit us when you are in the Miami Area!!! We would love to have you and your feedback as well...

Keep em coming!
MARGARITA said…
Thanks for those advises, very interesting at all!!!
Claudia said…
Excellent article and information. I invite you to visit our website at cupcakesbysweetspot.com. We are located north of Houston, Tx, in The Woodlands, TX. Would love to have you critique our scrumptious cupcakes!

We entered a Cupcake Smackdown sponsored by The Houston Press and we came in second in overall appearance for our Red Velvet and got "high ranks" from the judges. We were up against high end Houston cupcake stores.

Please give us a holler! ANd, by the way, we absolutely love your blog!!!!!!!
le petit said…
hi liz i just started on this site..where can i read about your blog?? im planning to open up a bakery but i need all the help i can get right now..please help!!
Michelle said…
Thanks for the information. I'm thinking about opening a small cupcake business in my community and this will surely help me get started.
seodofollow@gmail.com said…
It's easy, fast, and fun to create an online presence for your bakery or cupcake boutique.
Graceland Cupcakes said…
Great information input! Thank you!
Londoners please follow my blog :) currently taking orders... http://gracelandcupcakes.blogspot.com/
Amy Givens said…
Is there really room for another cupcake bakery? I have busted my hump in 100 degree weather baking off cookies, cupcakes, pies and the like just to crawl to break and collapse. I dream of baking on a smaller scale (which I do for freinds and family) but jeesh it it crowded out there!

Taking a break to dream....Dizzy
Rosemary Mcqueen said…
I love this site! The advice is great. Thanks! Our site is http://www.granniesgourmetgoodies.com...
Couture Cakes said…
Thanks for the info. I created http://www.facebook.com/UtahCupcakes
I'll have to add specials.
Cupcake Boss said…
Thanks for this helpful site, I love all of the cupcake chronicles. Please visit www.thecupcakeboss.com
Sandra Butler said…
Great advice! Just trying to get my home based business off the ground and this is very helpful. Vist us on Flickr and Facebook...Cake n' A Cup.

Thanks.
Wytse Schuken said…
Please take a second to check out the delicious product at www.Popsycakes.com or follow us on twitter. We will be the next national sensation!!!