Your marketing strategy isn't the problem.

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TELL ME IF THIS SENTIMENT SOUNDS FAMILIAR...

"I’m exhausted frustrated and finished with my cupcake store. I have owned this business for six years and of course I have the most incredible cupcakes EVER, but the problem is I have no idea how to market my local business. I am the only Cupcakery in my whole area but marketing who and what we are, I suck at."

This is an actual letter written to marketing guru, Marie Forleo, by a follower of hers, Beth Baxter of Taste Selects in Lynchburg, Virginia. At the time, I followed Marie as well (her videos were hilarious). I heard that letter, looked Beth's store up, and knew immediately that marketing wasn't the issue.

Beth's brand sucked.

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Taste Selects? (Yes, she actually paid an agency to come up with that), sounded like it could be anything. Instant coffee? Flavored water? Dog food? Literally anything edible by anyone. The logo looked like clip art at best and there was zero—and I mean zero—personality to the brand overall. 

I reached out to Beth immediately and suggested that we could help her turn things around. We tackled renaming, identity redesign, signage, website, merchandise, packaging...the works. And did it work!

 
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As soon as the signage was changed on the door, Beth began being contacted by local blogs and radio wanting to profile her. She started selling out EVERY DAY. And locals were coming back again and again. 

There was no marketing plan. No marketing budget. No campaign. 

Now, in Beth's favor, her location was pretty visible so we didn't need to advertise the change. You could consider her visibility to be "marketing" on its own. But that form of "marketing" wasn't doing her any favors with a sucky brand. Marketing wasn't what was holding her back, it was branding.

 

AND THEN...THIS HAPPENED.

This story—this success—is one of the greatest joys in my career. Here it was! The actual proof that good branding can make or break a business. It's not this "nice-to-have" thing that should be prioritized below food, service, pricing, marketing, and so on. It can be the thing that brings money into the business—and way more of it! I was ready to conquer the world! And then...

Fast-forward six months later. Beth closed her doors. 

She calls me up one day and says, "I have something to tell you. I'm closing up shop. I know things have turned around, but I just spent too many years struggling with it that—even now that it's doing well—I've just lost my passion for it."

I was heartbroken. I was ready for Beth to become another Menchie's (another success story for another time). And now it was over.

 

SO...WHAT IS IT ALL FOR?

Fast-forward another 7 years later. I've worked with global brands and Fortune 500 companies, etc...but that cupcake shop stays on my mind. And so, here I am. Starting a new company—Hotcakes Brand—that focuses exclusively on independent foodservice businesses. I'm trying to help a few more Beths achieve success before they hit that point of no return with the struggle.

Because there's no point marketing a brand that doesn't interest people. Having the best food and customer service is meaningless if no one even considers walking through your door. I'm not suggesting it's more important than any of those things, I'm suggesting it's AS important and shouldn't be tabled for "one day." Today's the day, my friend. Are you ready?