Creative promotions
Beaverton Bakery in Beaverton, Oregon promotes picnic week on a marquee.

Social media has turned traditional marketing campaigns upside down, and for good reason. It is a cheap, extremely effective way to reach tens of thousands of potential customers. However, a healthy promotional strategy is one with many arms and legs, and to achieve marketing happiness and success it is best to spend your marketing time and money in a variety of different ways. Below are eight promotional options aside from social media that have proven themselves successful for retail bakeries across the country:

1. Billboards

Billboards are large outdoor advertisements that hundreds to thousands of people see every day, depending on the area’s population.

Cost: Approximately $3,000 to $23,000 for four weeks (based on market size)

Pros: Billboards are great for building brand awareness, have a fairly large reach, and can be targeted toward a specific community through messaging and location.

Cons: Billboards can be expensive, are often impersonalized, and are only temporary.

Retail bakery example: Rao’s Bakery in Texas used billboard advertising.

2. Branded Vehicles

All about promotions Van
Natalie Bakery and Pastry branded its delivery van for more exposure.  

Vehicles can be branded to act as mobile advertisements that work while driving and parked.

Cost: Approximately $2,000 to wrap an already-owned vehicle; less than $50 to purchase a branded magnet

Pros: Branding a vehicle is relatively inexpensive, is sure to draw attention, and is a great way to advertise little-known services your bakery offers, such as catering. If your bakery has a delivery service, a branded vehicle is a great addition.

Cons: Retail bakers often work long hours, so your vehicle might not get much mileage or exposure. And if the vehicle breaks down, your marketing grinds to a halt.

Retail bakery example: Brazilian Bakery Café in Georgia boasts a branded vehicle.

3. Flyers and Brochures

Flyers and brochures can be printed to pass out and/or mail.

Cost: Varies; design can be done in-house, by a hired designer, or through an online company, and printing can be done in-house, at a local print shop, or through an online retailer

Pros: Flyers and brochures can be mailed to reach people who may have never passed your shop, left at other local businesses to encourage area shoppers to visit your bakery, or left on the counter of your store for customers to take and distribute to their friends.

Cons: Flyers and brochures can easily get thrown away, and procuring quality mailing addresses can be difficult and time consuming.

Retail bakery example: Benjamin’s Bakery in South Carolina created a brochure.

4. Community Involvement

Jem's Confections at a wedding expo in 2015.

Community involvement can involve showcasing your bakery at local food shows and events; networking with related local businesses (event planners, florists, caterers, etc.); donating your products to local schools, civic organizations, and charities; inviting the press for a free tasting; and more.

Cost: Varies based on event

Pros: Your bakery will look great in the community spotlight, will almost be guaranteed free press, and will create strong, positive relationships within your community, which will lead to word-of-mouth promotions.

Cons: You’ll give away a lot of free merchandise with no guarantee that it will pay off, and it will suck up a lot of your time.

Retail bakery example: Jem’s Confections in Minnesota attended a wedding expo.

5. Online Advertisements

Online advertisements can be done on your bakery’s own website or blog, or purchased and placed on relevant external websites.

Cost: Free if done through your bakery’s existing online outlets, to hundreds or thousands of dollars if done externally

Pros: Online advertisements will be seen by thousands, as many customers spend the majority of their days at a computer or on their smartphones, and people often begin their search for a bakery online.

Cons: Online advertisements require a lot of time between design, implementation, and rotation to keep your message fresh and new. They can also get expensive if done through external sites.

Retail bakery example: Miller’s Bakery in New Jersey experienced success using Google AdWords.

6. Press Releases

Press releases are official statements issued to newspapers and other media outlets giving information on a timely event related to your bakery.

Cost: Free when sent to local outlets yourself, but sending services will cost you

Pros: Press releases have the opportunity to get picked up by numerous media outlets, resulting in widespread exposure. They can also generate quite a bit of buzz around upcoming events and new products.

Cons: Press releases only work when your bakery has a newsworthy event to share, and they can sometimes get lost in the newsroom shuffle.

7. Local Ads and Coupons

Local ads and coupons can be run in your local newspaper, through your newspaper’s website, through coupon distribution companies, and through discount websites like Groupon.

Cost: Varies based on circulation and other factors

Pros: Online ads and coupons appear immediately and can reach a large audience, and printed ads and coupons are delivered directly to your customers’ front doors.

Cons: Coupons don’t always lead to repeat business and may lead to an overload of customers that could cripple your business.

Retail bakery example: Joseph’s Bakery in Massachusetts offers coupons and online promotional codes.

8. Radio Commercials

Radio commercials are generally 15 to 30 second advertisements that must grab the attention of listeners using audio only.

Cost: Ballpark cost based on an ad with a top-performing radio station using a schedule that includes 15 weekday spots and four weekend spots ranges from $500 to $8,000, depending on market size

Pros: You can effectively target your advertising based on the radio station you choose, and you can reach a vast majority of people. According to the Nielsen Report, about 77 percent of adults tune into the radio, and the average listener spends almost 2 hours per day listening.

Cons: People are almost always multitasking while listening to the radio, and many customers simply change the station when advertisements play.

Retail bakery example: Fritz’s Bakery in Pennsylvania ran a comedic radio spot.