Living in what used to be a fairly small town, Maple Valley has grown. The growth is so huge that small businesses that for years, even generations that were able to depend on word of mouth are finding themselves a bit overwhelmed competition with some big name brands. Our local Johnson’s home and Garden found itself competing with a brand new Home Depot down the road. The local bakery is now not the only place to get great baked goods. Three grocery stores, a shiny new Costco all have great breads, donuts and pastries that are frosted with convenience. The small bakeries like Cj’s Bakery and the Black Diamond Bakery are sitting in what seems to be the shadows of these big brands.
News Break: Small businesses are the economies core! In small businesses you find creativity, talent and hard working passionate and knowledgeable people that truly understand how to build great relationships. Yet, when it comes to marketing, without even bringing in terms like SEO, social media or PCC these small businesses are all hands on busy helping customers, maintaining their stores and balancing checkbooks to keep the doors open, marketing often becomes a chore job or even buried under a hundred other tasks. Most of you know, however these small businesses need to understand that Val-Pak isn’t their only or best option.
In the case of CJ’s Bakery they depend on wedding cake session. They have an amazing pink lemonade cake that with Bavarian cream in the middle amazes, inspires and makes me drool just thinking about it. Even if you lived a mile away how are you going to know about that great cake? How are you personally going to make the decision to choose CJ’s Bakery as your wedding cake maker over places like Safeway, QFC or one of the hundreds of cake makers that you will meet at a wedding show?
Shaking Hands & Kissing Babies.
There has to be time to invest in building relationships. Last time I checked a wedding cake isn’t a product that will be routinely ordered from the same customer. However, it is a great gateway product into their great coconut donuts and fresh breads. From setting up a sampling booth at the local city celebration days, and at the farmers market to offering open house evenings where people can sample and network.
The investment of getting a website is often something that scares small businesses. Having a website built doesn’t require taking out a home equity line of credit it means, just like shoes you need to find a web designer/developer that understands the budget, needs and like a pair of shoes “fits, and wears well when you walk around” with the idea. In CJ’s case in less than a week a site could be up. Raising your eye brows? In a case like CJ’s I would recommend installing an easy CMS like WordPress that keeps costs low, creating just a couple of pages that has display photography of the cakes, store and owner and clearly post on the site the phone number, address and have a contact form. Keeping it simple keeps costs down, time to develop short and gets the message to potential customers to contact them.
The reason I haven’t thrown in some kind of curve ball about the importance of social media is that in this case CJ’s doesn’t have the time, talent or budget to maintain social media. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t consider social media, however I would recommend they start paying close attention to all of the online reviews about their bakery. Their online presence is being shaped by reviews on iKarma, Merchant Circle, Yelp, Wedding wire and many many other places.
Being a brick and mortar building it is important to reach out into the community, build relationships and make sure to create at least a basic web presence that clearly communicates to customers what services and or products you offer. Being online and paying attention to your business’s online reputation will only help shape your business to be competitive and stay stable even when the big brands move in.