With a business that's literally on the move, Lev Ekster finds real utility in social networking websites like Twitter. The recent law school graduate-turned-entrepenuer opened New York's first mobile cupcake shop, CupcakeStop, in early June. The business consists of a leased Brooklyn production kitchen and a decorated delivery truck.
Ekster got the idea for his business after a disappointing trip to a renowned New York City cupcake bakery. He thought he could make a better product and decided to make it mobile. With startup money secured and a pastry chef enlisted to develop the product, Ekster turned to the Internet to begin marketing.
One downside to a mobile business is that consumers might not always know where to find you, so a regular customer base can be hard to establish. In order to always be easy to find and easy to reach, Ekster turned to social networking sites.
“Now, every morning, I'll tweet where I am, where I'll be, and what we'll have to offer. Since starting a Twitter account in early June, I've already amassed 3,200 followers,” he says. “Twitter is an invaluable tool for any mobile business. If people expect you to be somewhere and you aren't, you lose good will with your clients. Twitter allows me to immediately update customers with where I am and where I'm going.”
Ekster also uses Twitter as a marketing tool. When there's a lull, or if it's raining and the streets are emptier than usual, he'll tweet a special offer and his current location. For instance, he'll tweet “First five people here get a free cupcake.” It brings out people that otherwise may have passed on the cupcakes. After the first five cupcakes are given away, a crowd of cupcake-seeking people remain to purchase their own.
“If I have an exciting new flavor that I want people to try, I'll tweet about it and get people excited,” he says. “Right now, once we pack up the truck, we don't have the ability to restock, so Twittering helps us manage our inventory for the day, and direct people to what we might be offering.”
While Twitter addresses the immediate, CupcakeStop's Facebook page capitalizes on the uniqueness and novelty of his business. The page serves as a community builder, providing open forums for customers to discuss their experiences with the bakery, find out in advance about future flavor varieties and view galleries of the cupcakes. The two social networking sites combine to provide immediacy and substance, and create a sense of community and membership, even without a bricks and mortar location.
Everyday, the bakery department of the SuperFresh supermarket at 10th and South Street in Philadelphia does a steady business selling filled-to-order, regular and chocolate-enrobed cannoli. But on most weekends, staffers pack up their demo table and pastry bags to take their “Cannoli Road Show” to other SuperFresh stores in the area.
Balloons and Italian music create a party atmosphere around the table, which is set up in the store’s bakery department. Members of the traveling team pipe the company’s exclusive cannoli cream into crisp shells for three days of sampling and sales. Tasting portions of other products, such as pies, are offered as well, but the cannoli are the main attraction.
In addition to allowing customers to taste for themselves that SuperFresh is more than just a name, the Road Show goes beyond the usual product sampling. Jim Saufl, director of bakery/ deli for SuperFresh parent company A&P, notes that during one Road Show event, cannoli sales soared as high as $800 a day.
Twitter guidelines from Advertising Age® that may apply to your bakery:
• Track Tweets: You can’t manage what you can’t count, so use indicative product names (i.e. Tweety Pie) to track Twitter promotions with your POS system.
• Sell before staling: Immediacy is Twitter’s major strength. Use it to spark a sale at the end of day or before product gets stale.
• Tweet when on the go: Alert your customers to your current and future whereabouts, especially for any off-site promotions or events.
• Create conversation: Don’t incessantly blast promotions, intersperse topical comments, pearls of wisdom and personalizing thoughts.