The Cake Professionals: handling cake business bookings
Who wants to lose a booking, forget to deliver a cake, or turn up on entirely the wrong day? Not us!
If you sell 5 cakes a year, 50 cakes, or 250 cakes, you’ll need various coping strategies so you don’t end up on your knees or out of your head!
I (Christine) lost a lot of orders in the first months of starting out. Not down the back of the sofa! What I mean is, there were patches of complete overwhelm and disorganisation where I literally forgot to call back, or lost a client’s details. Then in the flat-out busyness during that first summer season I hardly even tried.
That sort of chaos is really stressful to live with and so we had to put some systems in place to help. Here are a few valuable lessons we’ve learnt along the way keep our orders on track and us sane!
Cake business enquiries: start with a simple system
Piles of paper, scattered notes, multiple diaries and trying to keep everything in our heads is a recipe for disaster – unless you have a photographic memory… which we don’t, at all… especially as we’ve got busier & older!
Don’t panic though. There’s no need to spend a fortune on a personal assistant, virtual assistant, or a customer relationship management system to get organised. Step one is just start with a simple system and organise, organise, organise!
There are many ways to create order, and they all make life simpler and less stressful. We came up with a really simple but effective way to manage it all. Wait for it… drumroll… 4 files & a box. Those files can be clipboards like we use, jotters, binders, whatever you want. What they are is less important than what they do, and that is bring order.
How to handle cake business enquiries
File 1: new cake enquiries with newest on top
This is for every call, voicemail, message, email, or WhatsApp that comes through. It means you have to hand all the live requests that need dealing with in one place. We find it helps to have a list of essential questions to capture the guts of each enquiry: date, expected numbers, occasion, flavour thoughts, style, etc.
File 2: confirmed cake orders in date order
This file is for those who have paid their deposit and confirmed their booking. This is a great place to also attach drawings, designs, swatches or any details on upcoming tastings or delivery information. When it is time for those orders to be made you simply pull them out and there are all those important details.
File 3: consultation and tasting list
This is a summary calendar view of all your tastings. You could use a wall planner like we do, or hold a cheat sheet. Either way, it means we can easily organise our baking diary, our consultation space, and buy in the right boxes and packaging if we’re sending samples by post.
File 4: cake enquiries on hold
Sometimes people are interested but circumstances change and weddings are postponed or dates are not confirmed. This is the hold file, where every month or so details are checked and followed up on as needed.
The box: cake enquiries that didn’t place an order
Our box is not in view, but it’s super important for business growth. This is the ‘NOT MY PEOPLE’ box – these are the enquiries that decided for whatever reason, not to order. We keep their details and why they did not order for further along the path, to look at once the sting has gone! ;)
The point is to look them over every 6 months or so. This helps to analyse our conversion rate and identify if there’s anything to learn from how we handle potential customers, or potential venues. It may give an idea about how our business is being viewed and how it is not. It’ll also give an overall notion of what these potential customers expected, understood about our business, and importantly, where the enquiries came from (this helps to decide on how we will advertise and market – but more on that another day).
Remember - not everyone will be your customer, and that’s perfectly ok. The NOT MY PEOPLE box will always have a pile at the bottom of it. However, there’s value to be found even in enquiries that don’t convert.
Handling cake business bookings - use technology where it helps
When it comes to order, for those who are happier with tech, alarms and notifications, getting familiar with Google calendar (or something like it) is a really useful tool for business. It can be your virtual wall planner with all your orders, tastings and important dates.
It can be particularly useful when it comes to handling brides who you’ve connected with, but who’ve not yet set their wedding date. Because a fabulous follow-up has been scheduled in the diary, a bride gets to experience great customer service in a couple of months, when we get in touch to ask how she’s doing in her planning. On average, we win about 20% of our total wedding bookings for the year with scheduled follow-ups.
As our team grew we eventually started using a customer relationship management system called Pipedrive. The funny thing is that it is pretty much an electronic version of our original clipboard system but one that people can access wherever they are.
“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!”
The baking and caking diary – a visual planning tool
When it comes to getting control of the baking and caking diary, there’s one visual we find very helpful (along with a year-long wall planner). It’s our Cake Run. This run of our clipboards (as described above) is simply a line that holds the upcoming orders. They are hung individually in upcoming date order with all the client’s details, flavours, specialist requirements, designs and delivery information. Being rather visual people, it helps to have these files to view and with easy access as the date draws nearer.
This means we can contact venues, order stock, and have a calm sense of control in knowing that we’ve done everything we can to make customers' wishes come true in a way that for us is properly organised and entirely non-stressful. We’ll take a slice of that any day!
The moral of the story when it comes to cake business bookings? Keep it simple! Find out more about The Cake Professionals and what they’ve been up to. For more cake business advice, take a look at our blogs on starting a cake business, how to price your cakes and bridal show tips.