Case Study: Bakery Takes Digital Approach to Local Marketing

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Merchant: Trailercakes
Location: Dallas, Texas
Platforms: Yelp, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Scoutmob, Repeat Returns,
Bottom Line: Even many tech-savvy business owners struggle to effectively measure ROI from their digital marketing efforts.

During the two hours each week that Heather Zidell spends handling basic marketing tasks for her Dallas-based bakery, Trailercakes, she manages to fit a lot in. In addition to running paid campaigns on Yelp, Facebook, Google, and Instagram, Zidell has used Scoutmob, a loyalty program called Repeat Returns, and direct mail to promote her business to potential customers in the area.

“One hundred percent [of our marketing budget is spent] online via Facebook, Google Adwords, and Yelp,” she says. “Yelp ads are the lion’s share of our budget.”

Like many local merchants, Zidell has seen the number of customers finding her business through Yelp climb over the years. She ultimately decided to take the leap into paid advertising on the platform as a way to ensure that her bakery was being listed ahead of competitors. In addition to buying advertising on Yelp, Zidell also offers discounts for customers who “check-in” using Yelp’s mobile app.

Zidell tracks the number of customers who take advantage of her check-in offer through her point-of-sale system, and says 62 people have checked-in to her business with Yelp in the past 12 months. But Zidell says that figure reflects just a small portion of the total number of customers who visit Trailercakes after reading about the bakery on Yelp, because most customers don’t check-in each time they make a purchase.

“I really don’t know my conversion rate, so it’s extremely hard to tell you the exact conversion, but I know anecdotally that a lot of our customers find us on Yelp,” she says. “I get a lot of information from the Yelp dashboard, in terms of who called or got directions from Yelp, as well. If I didn’t see results, I wouldn’t spend the money on Yelp.”

Zidell isn’t alone in taking a more anecdotal approach to marketing attribution. Twenty-one percent of small and mid-size business owners in Street Fight’s Local Merchant Survey say they don’t have strategies in place to monitor where their business is coming from, and 58% say they just ask customers directly where or how they found out about them.

“I can think of one customer off the top of my head that found us through Yelp and has since been in at minimum once a month … and spends roughly $300 per year. If I measured just that customer, then I would say my ROI is pretty darn good off of a $3 ad,” Zidell says.

Measuring ROI is the single most challenging part of marketing for Zidell, and although she plans to hire someone to assist with digital marketing tasks later this year, she’s flying solo for the time being.

“Yelp makes it pretty easy with their estimator, but I don’t know our conversion metric based on traffic into store,” she says. “I can say that in four years, I’ve had maybe four customers walk in and not buy something. They are usually there for a specific reason, [so] I can comfortably assume that our conversion rate is high.”

Trailercakes also has an impressive social media following for a local business, with 9,677 ‘likes’ on Facebook and a combined 7,024 followers on Twitter and Instagram. Zidell credits her bakery’s following to her willingness to truly engage with customers online, rather than just promoting products.

“It’s about getting to know your customer and maintaining the ‘personality’ of the business,” she says. “It’s also a great way to build a relationship with regular followers. If a customer can’t wait for a certain flavor to come out, we will tag them in a post when it does come out.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.