Case Study: Bake Shop Owner Finds Customers in Local Facebook Groups

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Merchant: The Bug & The Bear Bakeshoppe
Location: “Chicagoland”, Illinois
Platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Thumbtack, Vistaprint Digital
Bottom Line: Local Facebook groups can be a valuable resource for businesses looking to target consumers in specific neighborhoods or communities.

What does it mean to run a local business without a local storefront? For Melissa Brogan, owner of The Bug & The Bear Bakeshoppe, it means having to use highly-targeted online marketing strategies to let people know she’s open for business, without getting the marketing benefits that come from having signage on the front of a physical storefront.

“Between my website, social media, email, and messengers this is how I contact and deal with almost all of my clients. I rent space from local restaurants in their kitchens in their off hours, which means a lot of working around other people’s schedules and a lot of lugging my product, equipment, and ingredients around. But it has allowed me to create the dream I have always wanted, just in a very non-traditional way,” Brogan says.

Social media marketing has been incredibly important for Brogan, as she relies primarily on Facebook and Instagram to draw people’s attention to her business.

“I like to explain my marketing tactics as kind of an ‘old school meets new school’ approach,” she says. “New school being all the social media marketing I do. Having a Facebook page, Instagram account, a small amount of paid reach on Facebook, sharing posts, and posting in local groups. Old school is definitely the face-to-face approach. Handing out business cards, friends, family and clients passing out cards and good word of mouth.”

In particular, Brogan has found success by reaching out to local groups on Facebook. Just by looking at the title and the description of a group, Brogan can quickly determine whether the members in that group live in her delivery area and what demographics they’re likely to fall into.

“Pretty much each town in my area has some sort of town Facebook page. I belong to all these groups and the posts are mostly people selling things, searching for products and services, and discussion on local events. If someone posts into these groups that they are looking for a Trolls birthday cake, I typically will respond with a link to my website and Facebook,” she says. “Occasionally, a client themselves will post into their local group a picture and review of how much they enjoyed their order. This is a great way to get non personal referrals from people in similar areas.”

Brogan also relies on a number of self-serve marketing platforms to promote her business, including Vistaprint Digital, which she used to design her website, and Thumbtack, which she uses to acquire new customers. Thumbtack users who are interested in purchasing custom cakes can contact Brogan through the platform, and she can send a quote with a ballpark price of what the cake will cost.

“I haven’t currently had any actual orders formulate through Thumbtack yet, but I do like belonging to new apps that people are using. And by the number of requests so far, it seems to be something gaining in popularity,” Brogan says. “My continued use of it though will depend on if orders actually start coming from the site.”

Cost is a major factor that Brogan looks at when deciding which marketing platforms to try. Just as important is targeting capability, since Brogan is only interested in reaching people who live nearby and have the ability to pay for high quality baked goods.

“This isn’t a grocery store bakery cake, where they print an image on edible paper and use shortening and sugar based frosting. I need consumers that appreciate the art behind it, the attention to detail, the higher quality product, and aren’t just looking for the cheapest product. So in order to reach these clients I need to be where they are,” she says.

Although Brogan hasn’t tried email marketing just yet, she does keep an eye on the customer reviews posted on sites like Yelp and Facebook. She says reviews are one of the primary ways that new clients find out about her business.

“I don’t like to mess with Yelp much though, to be honest. I have worked in the service industry my entire life and, well, I wont get started on the stigma that is attached to non-audited review sites and the people that use them,” she says.

While Brogan is fully invested in self-service marketing platforms currently, she envisions a time in the near future when she’ll be able to hire a local marketing firm to manage some of the heavy lifting and come up with new creative concepts for promoting her growing business.

“I will forever have my hands in every aspect of my business, but lightening my load by hiring a team to work with and trust will be amazing,” she says. “Within the next two years, I have plans to expand my street marketing with trade and bridal shows, working hand in hand with venues, and simple farmers market stalls where products can be bought in place of a store front.”

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.