Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What Happens When You're Featured In A Magazine?

Last year I got a call from a wedding planner who needed a groom's cake last-minute (3-D of course). I told her that I couldn't do it, and after she whined and begged for a while (It's nothing complicated, the bride really wants it, etc. etc.) she pulled the "but this wedding is going to be in The Knot" card.

I replied "I don't give a ****." I really did, it just slipped out, oops. But I've been published in so many "real wedding" magazine articles it's not a big deal anymore, and I know that it really means nothing for me as far as actually selling cakes goes.

There are basically three different formats that you can be published in. First, there's the article that includes a photo of a cake that you did for a real event or a photo shoot. Honestly, that generally never gets me much business, if any. It might for other people, but I suspect that it doesn't end up in as many sales as people think it does.

If you're dealing with brides and wedding cakes a magazine feature might get you some initial inquiries, but it won't sell the cake. Brides are very happy to take the photo of your cake in that magazine and shop it around to every other baker in town, no big deal. Pretty pictures are one thing, but taste and price factor into it too. These days with all the undercutters, mostly price.

Another type of feature is when someone writes an article showing a specific unique product that you make. If it's a specific item people might buy it because they saw it in the article. That's worthwhile for a short-term burst in business, and if you play it right it can lead to a bunch of repeat customers. But that doesn't really fit a custom cake business unless you're making something that can be replicated and replicated quickly.

The third type is when you personally write an article, or do an interview about your business. I consider this to be contributing to a magazine, which is different than having a photo published.  I enjoy contributing to magazine articles because they usually give you a specific request and you have the leeway to be creative within the parameters they give you. I think it's fun to make up new recipes or designs, but I don't expect to get a lot of business from it. Especially since the magazines I usually contribute to are read by other cake decorators, not customers. 

Publicity lasts exactly as long as you make it last. If you don't have a "press" page on your website you might want to create one, since that's a good way to corral it all and gives you some credibility with customers. On the other hand, a lot of press these days is purchased, so it's not always credible, and I think that customers are starting to figure that out. Even the "best of" lists are highly suspect, since they basically choose people who are willing to campaign online harder than the other people in town. (A couple of years ago a bakery that doesn't even make groom's cakes won the "best groom's cakes" category in a local poll, which says a lot.)

So just relax about the publicity and examine your goals. If it's your goal to sell cakes, don't worry about the national magazines so much, go network locally and you'll get more business from doing that. Offer to write some articles for local wedding guides because that will be more effective in the long run for getting your name out to your actual customer base.

If it's your goal to be famous and have people know who you are even if you're not selling cakes, go for it and promote the heck out of yourself. But then your product is you, not your cakes, so that's a different business model.

One good way to get started contributing to magazines, if you really, really want to, is to sign up with Help A Reporter Out. They send you notices once or twice a day with requests that they get from reporters, and if you answer their requests they might follow up and get more info from you. I've been included in a few articles, both cake and non-cake related, through them. Just make sure to answer exactly what they ask and to not leave anything out or add more info than they need. 

Regardless, don't worry if you see people you know featured in magazines and you're not being included. Chances are they aren't selling any more cakes than you are because while they're making dummies for photoshoots you're making cakes that someone paid you to make. Which means that you win. :)


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC,  online cake supplies at  www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

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