Many small businesses face the frustration of having owners, relatives and whoever else they can get to help with marketing efforts. (Side note to all those small business owners out there: marketing is a real asset that can make or break your business. Anyone can’t just “do” marketing, you need to educate yourself.) But as a small business, your livelihood depends upon your daily, weekly and monthly sales and profitability. Many struggle just to cover costs.
So what happens when you have a product that people need to order online, you launch your website, and then you realize your ecommerce is a flop and doesn’t work? Oh, and you need to redesign it, which will take six weeks? You get creative or you shut down.
After investing time, savings, sweat and tears, that is exactly Mari Luangrath, CEO of Foiled Cupcakes in Chicago, did. Instead of hanging up the towel – or oven mitts in this case – she got her hands dirty and took to Twitter. She started with zero followers and now has more than 9,000. But she didn’t start by saying, “I have a new cupcake business and I’m giving away an extra dozen cupcakes to my first 10 customers…when I have a website and you can order them.” Instead she found people in her target demographic and started conversations with them. What they liked, what events they were planning.
Word of mouth spread through Twitter creating a niche community. People were having real conversations, all the while biding their time until they could place their cupcake orders online. By the time the new site launched, Foiled Cupcakes had more than 2,200 engaged followers, and the business surpassed their original sales target by six times as much.
Yes, there was an #epicfail by the business in not doing their research and testing of site development to make sure their ecommerce system would work (again people…educate yourself if you’re a small business owner and know what you’re getting in to). But instead of twiddling thumbs and waiting, Mari and her partners created demand for their brand. They formed loyal relationships with followers by being completely involved with their audience.
Once they had a steady following, they also capitalized with content marketing on their blog, posting about what they had done for events such as weddings and birthdays, defining lesser known cupcake terms (What’s a Quippie? was my favorite), interviewing employees and customers, and relating seasonal events every day trends back to their cupcakes. Challenges they sponsored included a weekly quippie challenge, Words with Friends challenges, a NCAA Bracket contest and more. Basically they got involved with their customers and learned what motivated them.
They also have more than 20 boards on Pinterest that range from what to do with the kids to a to do someday. Again, they chose to make their brand personal and engage with customers on a small scale instead of pushing cupcakes down your throat. Cupcakes are great, but even if there are 1,000 different flavors, it gets old after a while. If you look at the About Us page for Foiled Cupcakes, you’ll see they want to be friends with their customers. While I’m sure they’d love 100,000 follower and customers, they pride themselves on being available and able to converse with customers. A small business model allows them to take care of their customers.
So what can we learn from the content marketing of Foiled Cupcakes?
- Engage with customers about what they are interested in. Hard sell promotions don’t work.
- Be personable. While your company is a brand, real people buy your product or service. They don’t want to deal with boring or stiff people.
- Stay true to your company ideal.
- Do your homework. Make sure you know how to set up your ecommerce website properly.