Here are some tips to help you successfully launch your latest innovations. According to Melinda Foster, owner of Sugar Fix Bakery in Ashland, Virginia, the ingredients for a successful product lunch are timing, marketing, and taste. Foster comments on each:
Timing: “Timing is so important. It’s always best to be the first but definitely not the last. Trying to jump in on a market that is already oversaturated is hard to beat.”
Marketing: “Getting the word out is how your customers know what you are launching. Taking professional photos is one of marketing's biggest tools. We always eat with our eyes first, and sometimes that quick snap shot from our cell phone cameras will not make our gooey cinnamon rolls look as delicious as they really are. We always take that extra time to make sure our images showcase our products at their best! Then we take those beautiful images and plug them straight onto social media. Free advertising is music to any small business owner’s ears. It is a great tool to get the word out fast without a huge investment.”
Taste: “Lastly, you can always make a cupcake look great, but when it comes down to the consumer, they want it to taste as great as it looks—plain and simple!”
Listening to Demand
Another important factor to consider before launching a new product is customer demand.
“If you want to catch their attention and keep them coming back, you need to give them what they want,” Foster says. “Our customers love that we feature our decorated sugar cookies to match what is happening in our world today. On Wednesdays, we have camel cookies for hump day. In the winter season, our cases are flooded with snowflakes, snowmen, and cups of hot chocolate decorated cookies. During the holidays, we like to have our cases full of treats that are for that theme—Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, etc. This makes it easy for our customers to stop in the bakery and stock up for parties or a special treat for someone.”
Dolce and Biscotti Fine Italian Bakery near Saratoga, New York, provides another great example of a bakery launching a product to meet consumer demand. They recently launched cookie decorating kits called “Cookies To Decorate,” which was developed out of their customers’ love for their frosted sour cream cutout cookies.
Owner and executive chef Mary Baldi-Fron explains, “Customers were asking to purchase the cutouts unfrosted. We were concerned until we realized why! They wanted to purchase the frosting separately and frost their own cookies at home with their children, family, and friends. When the repeated requests for unfrosted cookies kept pouring in, we decided to act.”
Baldi-Fron posted the first kits – developed a month before Easter 2015 – to the bakery’s Facebook site and set up a display in the bakery.
“It was an instant success,” she said. “We sold dozens of kits in the first week alone as we promoted it as a family fun and tastier version to decorating hard boiled eggs. The tagline ‘No Time to Bake but still Want to Decorate’ became our theme, gearing our kits to families who are too busy to do it all but can't wait to do the best part—decorate the cookies!”
After the initial success, the bakery created a website to sell the kits and across the country. During the two weeks leading up to the website’s launch, Baldi-Fron and team aired radio ads and hosted a free cookie decorating party, at which it collected donations for various charitable causes. Dolce and Biscotti also went to several local businesses to set up display tables and distribute cookie samples to increase the product’s exposure.
“This format of hooking up with charitable entities, holding free cookie decorating demonstrations, and handing out samples around town increased our recognition and sales of the kits,” Baldi-Fron said. “This is our favorite way to advertise.”
Going the Extra Mile
In addition to listening to consumers’ direct requests, it can be beneficial to anticipate their wants and give them more than they know they need. For example, Sugar Fix Bakery recently launched its decorated sugar cookies into the wedding industry. But Foster and her team had an idea to offer more than what people were asking for.
Using Local Inspiration
Lastly, use your surroundings to inspire and successfully launch new products. Good L’Oven Cookie Shop in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania provides a great example. The storefront next door to the bakery is occupied by The Muddy Cup coffee shop, and the two businesses have long referred customers to each other. After all, who can resist cookies and coffee?
Soon, however, Good L’Oven plans to take the partnership up a notch by introducing beverage-themed flavors, such as Earl Grey, into its cookies. The product will almost launch itself to the existing dual-customer base.