Photo courtesy of my favorite cupcake baker, Holly Wright.
Cupcakeries are a booming business and I’m a big fan of the tiny treats. In fact, I really can’t resist a good one. It’s my kryptonite. Inc Magazine recently featured Washington DC’s finest and you probably have one or two in your city.
On a recent trip to New York I decided to eat my way through the city, one cupcake at a time. The first cupcake I ate was literally purchased through a hole in a wall between two buildings that was serving a variety of flavors and sizes. One large sign on the front of the building illustrated the many flavors and options. I walked right up and placed an order through a window. I’m not even sure the cupcakes could be baked on site as the space was so small. I tried a mini chocolate cookie dough cupcake and paid $1. Through the window came a mini cupcake on a paper plate with a plain, white unbranded napkin. The staff wore t-shirts with solid colored aprons. I couldn’t tell you the name of the cupcakerie if my life depending on it. While the cupcake was yummy, it wasn’t anything to write home about.
The second cupcake experience was from a food cart selling these sweet yummies. The cupcakes were displayed through a window with a large sign again showcasing my options. This time I could see what I was buying, but the experience was pretty much the same as the first hole in the wall shop. The staff of one consisted of a man in street clothes inside the cart. There was no branding, no packaging, the prices were the same and you guessed it…not a memorable experience for me to share with friends.
My third and final experience was at the famous Magnolia Bakery. The line snaked out the door. After a 10 minute wait, I was greeted with the aroma of freshly baked sweets. The cupcakes of the day were beautifully displayed in a gleaming glass case with the names handwritten on tags displayed on top of one lucky cupcake. The staff wore branded aprons and engaged in conversation. After paying $3.25, my cupcake was handed to me in a branded Magnolia Bakery cupcake box that had a divided space for two cupcakes. Did I pay more? Yep. Did it taste better? Nope. But I remember the experience and I’ll go back next time I’m in town.
Here are a few marketing ideas for small business owners that I observed when devouring cupcakes:
1) If you want to command a higher price, pay attention to the details. It’s not just about having the best recipe or getting the perfect shot. There’s a lot more that goes into creating a product that people will pay more for.
2) How you package your products does matter. Do you want your products to be valued as much as a paper plate and napkin? Or valued like a custom box displayed beautifully? Anything you sell should be delivered on the equivalent of a silver platter if you want to charge more.
3) Regardless of the business you’re in, a strong brand will help you attract repeat buyers. Sadly, as my example illustrates, the experience isn’t enough nor was it enough to bake a mean cupcake. You need to have a strong enough brand that people remember their experience and want to tell others. If you haven’t branded each touch point your clients have with you, they’ll struggle to share their experience regardless of how great it was. And they certainly won’t be willing to pay more for it.
What are you doing in your brand to command a higher price? Or, if you’d prefer, share with me your favorite cupcakerie. I travel a bit and would love to check it out!