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A Small Business Adapting to the New Normal

Business tips and account of reopening and getting back to a new normal post lockdown

Handmade broenies and flapjacks at Honeybuns commercial bakery

Hi There,

Hopefully you’re keeping safe & well? I thought you might like a round up of what’s going on from our niche business perspective at the moment.

It’s a tale of two halves, so I’ll get the gloomy stuff out of the way first…..

 

The challenges facing foodservice

Our wholesale customers are sadly bearing the brutal brunt of the economic Covid fall out.

In recent news, SSP have announced up to 5000 jobcuts. Although we don’t deal with SSP directly ourselves, we do supply similar companies in the travel/leisure/aviation sectors and I fear the job losses are going to continue to come. It’s akin to watching a knitted jumper unravelling.

If the jumper is an airline, then the rows of stitches are all the associated supporting businesses from the taxi firms to the airport B&B's to the sandwich providers. The stitches being all of the employees working in the airline’s orbit and now fearing for their jobs. There are so many brilliant, innovative food businesses in this sector…it’s hard to comprehend how quickly things have indeed unravelled.

Signs of recovery post lockdown

Despite being significantly down on our wholesale orders, we have benefitted from the recent adaptation to the furlough scheme. We can now meet any incoming wholesale bakery orders by bringing people back off furlough part time, as and when we need. I think this change will be helping lots of businesses like ours to start getting team members back to some kind of work routine.

Recently we’ve had orders in for garden centres, hospitals and theme parks so there are encouraging signs. Despite us wanting to be proactive and to help our wholesale customers, there is little we can do in reality to get this side of the business working. Admittedly we can (and have) offered our wholesalers promotions/discounts but it all depends on if and when their customers come back and in what numbers. It’s not a situation businesses like ours can easily innovate or advertise ourselves out of this time.

What can we do to meet these challenges?

handmade cakes in our artisan bakery

Happily there are things we can influence and improve, namely, reaching out directly to our customers online.

It’s an area we did not specialise in and we’re now learning as we go by gleaning everything we can from sites like Skillshare and Fiverr. It’s a brave new digital marketing world and it’s been uncomfortable at points to acknowledge just how set in my “pen, paper and phone” repertoire I’d become. By learning from Skillshare tips on how to deliver valuable video content we’ve now started doing our own Honeybuns gluten free bake along videos. It’s been therapeutic and motivating to get stuck into something practical and the feedback has been positive. The premise is pretty simple - to demystify gluten free baking and show people how interchangeable some ingredients can be. Hopefully viewers feel welcome and enjoy having a look at our somewhat eclectic kitchen complete with parrot and Bruno the sleepy lurcher!

From a business perspective we aim to raise brand awareness for our small commercial bakery and improve our rankings. We also hope to tempt people to buy our gluten free cakes and cook books online as an added bonus.

I’m surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed the process and would encourage other small businesses who haven’t tried it to give it a go….apparently our customers want to see behind the scenes so we’re planning a tour of the bakery once production properly starts up again

If you want a chuckle and some light entertainment you can head over to our videos featured on Em's Blogs. They don’t deliver perfection but they are made with love and the best of intentions!

Top tips to marketing post lockdown

- Do as much DIY PR as possible including blogs, social media posts and latterly live weekly videos. It’s all free or costs very little.

- Sign up to journolink to access a large database of journalists and distribute your press releases in a targeted way.

- Send speculative notes (with cakes obvs!) to main stream media. We managed to secure slots on Talk Radio and LBC this way.

- Review your performance across all social media platforms. We have formerly been mainly focused on our wholesale customers and we needed to reboot our messaging to our online consumers.

- Get sound advice from trusted experts and if possible, invest some £ into this. For instance Nettle here in Dorset have been super helpful in promoting us for free in the first instance and providing an SEO report of our website.

We’ve got so much more to do and we’re very much learning on the job. The upside is that we have time to look objectively and with a fresh perspective at things that we’d either not considered before or that we’d not recently audited. For instance, I’d write the odd blog before lockdown happened but I’d gotten lazy about applying SEO techniques. By going online to refresh my memory I discovered plenty of free advice on how to improve content and its visibility.

 

I hope this blog has not been too gloomy, and might have been of some use.

Please do get in touch if you want to link up in any way. We’re on the look out for gorgeous food brands to partner with for competitions and the like.

Also any bloggers out there who like to team up, we’d love to hear from you!

 

Keep safe, start baking and please send us your pics and stories which we’ll share

Emx

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