Bakers Journal

Cultivating a retail database

September 17, 2009
By Diane Chiasson

We have spent the past year reading, writing and talking about the poor
economy. By now, your business has already seen the effects of the
recession, and you are trying to come up with new ways and ideas to
drum up business.

Make sure your employees know about special offers you send to your customer database.


We have spent the past year reading, writing and talking about the poor economy. By now, your business has already seen the effects of the recession, and you are trying to come up with new ways and ideas to drum up business. I always stress the importance of never cutting back on your advertising and marketing budget – even during a recession. But we should now focus on how and where you should be spending that money.

Instead of taking out ads in your local newspapers and magazines, or radio and TV stations, where you target the general public, or sending out flyers to your neighbourhood, you need to narrow your market and concentrate on your customers. This relatively new style of marketing, known as customer relationship management (CRM) – or database marketing – combines marketing and great customer service into one stream.


As competition grows, there are more and more retailers and restaurants opening that target specific groups of buyers. Factor in the high cost of mass media marketing, and you can see how the need for CRM has grown over the past few years.

The key to a great CRM campaign is to know who your customers are, and learn from them to make your bakery successful. You can increase your market share by building databases of your customers, and then communicating with them and treating them as your best customers. You need to make your customers feel good about your place, and make them want to bring their family and friends.

The idea of CRM is not to spend advertising and marketing money on getting new customers, but to spend less money on getting your current customers to keep coming back for more.

Below are a few things to keep in mind in delivering a successful CRM campaign:

1. Send it to the right person!
Sending your promotional offer to the right person is crucial. You must send it to the person who is most likely to respond. Make sure you have the right person at the right address, and if possible, make it personal. This person is mostly likely someone who has visited your bakery already, and voluntarily signed up to be in your customer database.

2. What’s in your offer?
What you put in your promotional offer is what will motivate your reader to respond. A promotion will be more successful if you offer something your customer wants or needs, rather than what you want to sell.

For example, your response will be very limited if you offer a half-price sale on items that you weren’t able to get rid of at full price. If your customers wanted or needed that item, they would have bought it.

Instead, make promotional offers on your most popular items, and offer added value or incentives. Throw in a free sample of your latest bread or pastry. The goal of your campaign is to try to get as much response as possible. Allow your customers to be able to redeem their offer within a reasonable time frame – usually two to three weeks.

3. Create events and occasions for celebrations
There are countless opportunities – especially for bakeries – to create events that give your customers a reason to celebrate, whether it’s Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or their birthday. Always contact your customers on their birthdays and anniversaries to make them feel special. Invite them to your bakery for a free piece of cake or a special treat on their birthday. Inevitably, they will probably end up buying the birthday cake for their party from you.

4. The more you contact, the more response you’ll get
Never think that you are harassing your customers by sending them multiple mailings. Research has shown that the more you contact your customers, the more your customers will respond. They come to appreciate the fact that you recognize them as a valued customer, and that you are specifically inviting them back for special promotions and events. Try to contact your customers at least once a month.

5. Use colours and graphics to attract attention
People are more likely to pick up a full-colour piece of mail first, so use fun colours and graphics to attract the attention of your customer. The graphics should be clear and to the point, while the text should be kept simple, brief and easy to read.

In your offer, always make it clear what’s in it for your customer. How will your customer benefit from your offer? Try to personally address each offer using your customer’s first name, and if possible, sign the letter yourself.

6. Make sure all your staff are onboard
Each time you send your customer database an offer, make sure every employee in your operation knows about the offer. There is nothing more embarrassing than having your customer come into your bakery with an offer in hand, and being denied such an offer, or setting off confusion among your staff. Make sure your cash registers are programmed to accept your offer so that your customers do not have to wait while your staff tries to figure out how to ring up their order.

The more your employees know about your promotions, the more they are willing to participate, and the more successful they will be. In return, your customers will feel this sense of pride and enthusiasm, and feel good about their experience in your bakery. More than that, they will most likely return, bring their friends, and spread good word of mouth about your operation. 

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping food service, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for more than 25 years. She provides innovative food and retail merchandising programs, interior design, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655, e-mail , or visit

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