Costeaux strengthens its roots
Despite being around for 85 years, Costeaux French Bakery, Healdsburg, Calif., isn't taking its customers for granted. In order to continue to position itself as a pillar of the community, Will Seppi, general manager, hired a specialist to manage marketing and communication.
“The big thing was to continue to leverage our history and our position here in wine country, our products and services,” Seppi says. “We wanted to confirm our heritage here, then expand upon that. Abby is helping us do so.”
As a new hire, Abby Whitenack looked for something to take advantage of from a marketing perspective. With 2008 marking Costeaux's 85th year in business, she zeroed in on the anniversary as a vehicle to strengthen the bakery's community roots while also initiating a makeover.
Publicity for the 85th birthday year started in August 2007 with a presence at the community's Celebrate Healdsburg's 150th anniversary party, Whitenack says. “As we were donating cake for over 3,000 people, we mentioned a few times that in 2008 we would have a big birthday celebration of our own.”
A calendar of special events make up the celebration. The bakery opened festivities by a showing off new logos, emblazoned on delivery trucks and a float in the town parade. A Bastille Day celebration, complete with mimes and a “Tour de Costeaux” on stationary bikes, pointed to Costeaux's legacy as a French bakery. Future events include cookie classes for children, an exclusively sponsored concert in the town square, a wine and dessert pairing night, and a sale featuring 1923 prices.
These events serve to keep the community interested and coming back to the store while it goes through a remodel. The bakery isn't rebranding per se; too much tradition is at stake. Instead, it is updating its space, logos and brand identifiers, all the while staying open and taking care of business as usual.
Whitenack is using the renovation as a tool to further engage people with the store. Every morning at 10 a.m., she gathers willing customers for a tour of the progress. Signage throughout thanks customers for continued patronage and shows off the new logos. People don't seem to mind the cacophony of band saws and hammers, as long as their coffee and croissant are still up to snuff, Whitenack says.
“We've worked hard on marketing. Our customers that come in and dine in our café all get comment cards. They comment on anything that relates to our business,” Seppi says. “We've gathered and continue to gather a tremendous amount of feedback, simple things like asking us to warm our plates to asking for entirely new products.”
Costeaux follows up on all of these comments through a verbal exchange, a handwritten note or an e-mail when an address is provided. All e-mail addresses are kept for occasional e-mail blasts featuring new products or events. Seppi says focus groups have been successful in the past, as well.
“We brought in six or eight customers at a time. It's amazing the amount of critical feedback customers are willing to provide. It gives us direction on where to go next, as it's too easy to get caught up in the day to day routine and forget to ask yourself where you are going.”
Being in wine country, Costeaux works closely with the bed and breakfasts, inns and wine tasting events. Seppi gives hotel managers cards for free bread or croissants; the managers then hand the cards out to guests.
“One thing we do with the cards, from a business standpoint, is we check to see if there's an add-on sale. We've found that the majority of the time, they've bought something else. It helps us with our relationship with the local inns and bed and breakfasts and helps us with new customers.”
Seppi's best tool for enticing tourists is the recommendation of a local. Staying active in the community is the best way to ensure such a vote of confidence.
Baker's Loaf becomes community participant
For almost a quarter of a century, Duane Christ didn't need to think much about marketing. His Detroit area retail bakery had been a visible part of the community, prominently located on a busy street.
“We didn't need to do marketing because people knew who we were and where we were,” Christ says.
In 2001, though, the business model changed. Christ took on a full partner, former attorney Susanne Pryce, and together they took aim at a wedding and specialty cake business they could also sell wholesale to local supermarkets. To cut overhead, they moved to a production-oriented, industrial space. “The problem was, all of the sudden, nobody knew we were here,” Christ says.
“How can we best communicate ourselves to our potential audience?” Pryce remembers asking herself. “We tried to figure out what was unique about us. Part of the reason cake decorating has been so successful on places like the Food Network has been because of the personalities. We bring our personalities out and market them,” she adds.
Pryce and Christ let potential customers take a tour, meet the employees, and issue a challenge to try and find that kind of service anywhere else. “I'm actually the person who will put the icing on their cake, and one of us will deliver it by hand,” Pryce says. “We are selling our personality, saying we'll be the ones to take care of the cake and ensure it's done perfectly.”
They also use media to get the word out. “When publications used to call to sell us advertising, we used to say ‘no thanks’ and that was the end of the call,” Pryce says. “Now, we look at it as an opportunity to present ourselves in a positive light through the publications, not necessarily in advertising, which costs money, but as media stories. After doing an interesting cake, we ask ourselves ‘How can we make this into a noteworthy event, and who should we tell?’”
They took a lot of time to solicit local banquet halls, jewelry stores and bridal shops, always sampling and always leaving a professional, personal impression. Bakers can't wait around and expect people to come to them.
“You have to form relationships with your local media,” Pryce says. “Donate a cake to an event for the Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau; just be active within the community and proactive in getting your product, name and personality out there.”
When a local church group held a large mother-daughter event, for instance, Baker's Loaf donated pastries in exchange for the opportunity to leave its cards out in front of the group of young women and their mothers — an ideal clientele. The donation eventually yielded four wedding cake orders.
“Cake is something that you'll eat on the happiest days of your life, so we look for those special events taking place in and around us, and ask ourselves, ‘how can we be a participant?’” Pryce says.
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