Finale Desserterie knows its customer
Knowing your customers helps refine marketing strategies. “We have a good understanding of who our target customer is. It's a young woman in her 20s or 30s with above average education and above average income,” says Paul Conforti, co-founder and president of the 3-unit Finale Desserterie in Boston. “They're coming to us as a place to socialize with friends or on a date. We're a place they can go to extend their evening, where they can get a light meal and a dessert. We're an alternative to a bar or coffee shop, so from that perspective we try to think about that person when we look at our marketing programs.”
For example, when the Sex and the City movie was released last year, Finale ran a Girls Night Out special featuring aptly named desserts and cocktails to attract customers after they went out to see the movie. Mother's Day also is big for the bakery's customers, so it hosted a Mother-Daughter Look-Alike contest. “We wanted to give them a reason to think about Finale as a way to celebrate that holiday, so we came up the contest,” Conforti says. Customers submitted photos to the bakery's web site or came into Finale to have their photo taken. Then, the public voted on the web site for the pair that looked the most alike. The winner received a weekend getaway in Vermont.
Many of the contest ideas are the brainchild of the public relations firm the bakery hired after its other co-founder, Kim Moore, retired from daily participation in the bakery. In the bakery's infancy, marketing was restricted to fielding incoming requests from food writers — making sure photos were always available, accommodating their deadlines and understanding the angle they wanted the story to go.
“Our experience with Finale in the early years was if you do something unique enough, the press will come to you,” Conforti says. “We feel very fortunate that we got the amount of press that we did in the early years. This gave a great foundation to build our marketing and public relations program.”
No matter who has been in charge of the marketing decisions, one strategy has proven very successful — e-mail. “We have more than 15,000 on our e-mail list, and we communicate with them every couple of weeks, sending them an offer or just informing them about things that are going on with us,” Conforti says.
Finale also uses e-mail to interact with its customers. Last year, it sent out an e-mail asking for ideas about what products people wanted to see on the bakery's holiday menu. It received more than 300 responses. To get the e-mail addresses, Finale conducts quarterly surveys asking for feedback and customers' e-mail addresses. Customers also can sign up for Sweet Rewards on the bakery's web site to begin receiving communications from Finale.
The best marketing strategy, however, is having great product in a wonderful environment, Conforti says. “Marketing is about having a happy customer that wants to come back and wants to tell other people about us. They become almost an evangelist for the concept, the experience and the product.”
Zehnder's garners big results at low cost
Some of the best marketing strategies can cost a bakery nothing. “Marketing has a lot to do with having a good solid network of people within the media that can help and assist you in promoting whatever you want to promote,” says John Zehnder, food and beverage director/executive chef for Zehnder's Bakery in Frankenmuth, Mich. While Frankenmuth only has 4,000 residents, it is located near several larger cities, and the food writers for the area papers are always looking for a story, Zehnder adds. “Zehnder's in some form or another is very well represented in the food columns.”
He also lets the writers know when the bakery is participating in any kind of event. For example, he is a judge at the American Pie Council/Crisco National Pie Championships held annually in Florida, and the Michigan press uses him to put a local spin on the story. “They'll pick up a story off the national wire service, like the pie competition, and they'll always work in that I'm a pie judge or that our pastry chefs are competing there. That's all free stuff,” Zehnder says.
E-mail is another strategy that works well for the bakery, which is only one component of a Zehnder enterprise that also includes a restaurant, hotel and golf course. “This is the time to jump on the e-mail bandwagon,” Zehnder adds. “For bakeries who do flyers or coupons, use e-mail to send them out. It's absolutely the way to go, and it costs you basically nothing.” The company did incur an initial start-up fee, but once the e-mail system is set, it is a minimal cost to send out blast e-mails to its entire customer list.
To gather addresses, Zehnder's uses promotions where customers have to fill out cards asking for their e-mail addresses. It also uses its ZehnderPlus program to gather addresses. Customers can sign up for ZehnderPlus and after any 10 purchases within the organization, they receive 10 percent of what they spent in the form of a gift certificate, redeemable at any Zehnder property. “Some people say that's a lot of money, but the return is it gives us an e-mail list to which we can shoot e-mail blasts whenever we want,” Zehnder says.
Zehnder's also offers how-to classes where customers can learn how to make the traditional, German products the bakery is known for. Within two days of advertising a new class, it is usually sold out. “The classes are adding to sales because they give people an identity with their bakery,” he says. “It makes them even more loyal customers because they identify not only with Zehnder's Bakery, but also with the bakers and pastry chefs. Suddenly, they know them personally.”
With its location in Michigan, the bakery also hosts a contest for the best apple pie in the state during the local Snow Fest at the end of January. The event attracts 200,000 people, and the pie contest draws about 40 home baker competitors. The winning recipe is then sold in the bakery. “That's extra publicity that's picked up by the local newspapers and TV stations,” Zehnder says.
This all leads to more people coming to the bakery, restaurant or Zehnder's other properties. “We're firm believers that if we have a million people coming into our operation every year, the easiest way to make a million dollars extra is to sell each one of them just $1 more worth of product,” he says.
Return to the 2009 Leadership Awards here.