An Interview With Bake Me A Wish
Last week I had the opportunity to talk with Joseph Dornoff, Vice President of Marketing and Operations at Bake Me A Wish. Bake Me A Wish provides gift delivery service to anywhere in the United States, their primary product being delicious gourmet cakes that make even the most strong-willed person salivate in anticipation. It specializes, however in deliveries to soldiers serving overseas in an effort to bring a little comfort food to those young men and women serving their country.
Joseph is a dynamic individual, eager to tell the story of Bake Me A Wish and share it with as many people as possible. Though he can easily be described as a marketing expert, he exudes a personality that welcomes you as you sit to have a conversation. It’s easily communicated throughout this conversation, and I welcome you to read on — he provides a great deal of information on his successful approach that can be applied anywhere.
Avelient: What do you do?
Dornoff: I’m the VP of Marketing & Operations for Bake Me A Wish, LLC… basically in charge of making sure the company runs smoothly soup to nuts, whether that be packaging, shipping, advertising.. you name it.
Avelient: How long has your company been around?
Dornoff: BMAW, LLC originally started as a corporate gifting company for Loyalty and Appreciation programs in early 2005. Since then, our reach has expanded to the online consumer (bakemeawish.com launched in april 2006), and has made great strides in elevating its brand awareness as an online shopping portal and the National Gift Cake provider.
Avelient: What about your business makes you unique in your space?
Dornoff: There are not a lot of companies out there that will not take on the burden of shipping a perishable item. We saw a strong need for a birthday gift, particularly a cake, that could be shipped anywhere in the United States. Ultimately, we’re in the gifting business not the cake business, with birthday gifts being over 70% of our volume. But no one else does gourmet cakes like we do, packaged the way we do, with the amenities we have… that’s a major value proposition.
Avelient: What’s your advertising budget? How much of it is devoted to internet sales?
Dornoff: We spend about 20% of our annual revenue on advertising; practically ALL of that is devoted to the individual consumer online. I’d estimate about 75-80% of our total marketing budget.
Avelient: How has your sales strategy changed in the recession?
Dornoff: As the old adage goes, “You have to spend money to make money”. We’ve actually begun loosening our belts a bit on online spend and in efforts to drive more traffic (read: qualified traffic) to our site – we’re not always expecting a conversion or ROI for that, but are segmenting our traffic into direct return and brand building. We’ve realized at this time in our business, and with this economy, we need to do more to get our name out there, as well as educate the general public on the value that Bake Me A Wish! can provide from it’s gourmet cake selection. We’ve always seen our major competition as the flower market.
We’ve also had a much stronger emphasis in our Cause Marketing, which is the locus of our brand’s awareness and sensitivity development. We perform this through our PR relationships and media coverage of Operation: Birthday Cake, a charitable organization started by the team at Bake Me A Wish! with our partner Soldiers’ Angels, a military moms support group. This program donates birthday cakes for soldiers overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan – where ever the solider is stationed. This program has been running for about 2 years now – we were just awarded with an official commendation from the US Army for our work. We’re also having a Mother’s Day event in Times Square with our partner on May 5th – we’ll be handing out free cakes and giving recipients the opportunity to Mother a soldier by writing a support letter to them.
Avelient: Would you say you’ve spent more or less time/money on your online presence?
Dornoff: MUCH MORE. Not only have we softened our stance on direct return for our online marketing, but we’re constantly reworking our keyword strategies and placing stronger emphasis on social and viral marketing. See below.
Avelient: Would you say your strategy has worked thus far?
Dornoff: YES – as far as cause marketing goes, a new, small business online simply cannot afford to run the kind of traditional advertising to compete with other online gifting giants such as Proflowers, 1800-Flowers, etc. These types of companies run consistent radio, print and television campaigns that we simply do not have the budget for. By staying on the forefront of our ONLINE marketing (you’ll always see us on page one of Ad words for popular cake keywords), and continuing to push our public relations through traditional media channels, we can partially circumvent this roadblock. What we can’t do in repetition, which advertisers will tell you is key to the success of a message, we do in editorials – which can be far more valuable, especially when one considers recent consumer behaviors and technology in the marketplace.
Avelient: What kind of social media do you use to promote your business?
Dornoff: Currently we use Facebook and just launched a YouTube page (we’ll have content up there soon). We also run a blog on our site that allows user comments.
Avelient: Has it been helpful in attracting customers to your site?
Dornoff: I don’t participate in social media for the sales to be honest. It’s more about telling your brands story and the distribution of information on what your brand is doing – relationship building. Communicating with friends, customers and associates to share knowledge, and not hard sell – this is the philosophical divide of push and pull marketing. I suppose this is also the overall ambition of Web 2.0 – that we all become a little more involved with our fellow web surfers and, more succinctly to the online marketplace, that we can create personal relationships with the brands we choose to buy from.
Has social media helped win over some advocates for our brand? Absolutely – and that will pay off in the long run.
Dornoff: With Facebook: We have a Bake Me A Wish group page, An Operation: Birthday Cake group page and you can become a fan of Bake Me A Wish Cakes… we’re starting small, but most of our primary demographic are not into social networking online (women above 40), at least not yet. I hear that Oprah’s changing that with features on Facebook and Twitter for her show.
YouTube: Coming Soon
Blog: As above; tell in the Bake Me A Wish story, informing readers and customers of the good things we do, and info about our products and promotions.
Avelient: How do you measure its success?
Dornoff: By the number of people who become involved.
Avelient: Describe the kinds of steps you’ve used to build your page ranking on the search engines.
Dornoff: To be honest, SEO is on our radar, but it hasn’t been given seriously consideration until the last few months. The items we’re posting on our blog, on our site, etc, as well as a recent web re-design by Avelient, Inc. are certainly helping us develop page ranking, but most of our sales come from Adwords and our Affiliate marketing provider LinkShare. We’re just NOW starting to look at this more closely, which will certainly help us develop as a company in the long term. But when you’re starting out as a small business, you cannot rely on SEO to bring in sales and page ranking, while important, takes a lower priority.
Avelient: What platform do you use for your blog? How do you like it?
Dornoff: We use WordPress. While it took some getting used to, I liked the mix of “WORD” style editing and HTML. It’s always nice to jump in and fix some code. We’re still getting use to how to use it effectively as the new blog has only been up for about 5 weeks, but I love what it can do and the amount of customization available.
Avelient: How often do you update the blog?
Avelient: Do you get a lot of traffic to it?
Dornoff: Not yet -but again, only 5 weeks up! We don’t promote the blog, necessarily, but have it there as a marketing tool and outlet for social media.
Avelient: In the next 6 months, what do you plan to do for your online strategy that you aren’t doing now?
Dornoff: The next 6 months are tricky – this is the gifting lull for the year. We’re more likely to spend time developing our newest endeavor with University Fundraising, having just signed University of California and Florida International university. Even with our B2B endeavors, we’re looking to make revenue, while benefiting a worthy cause.
Avelient: What’s your advice to small business just starting to delve into internet marketing and advertising? What about to businesses who are looking to do more?
Dornoff: For new business, be ready to make some mistakes! You can get the #1 expert in Search Marketing, but still lose your shirt on spend. There’s a lot of A-B testing and investigation that needs to happen in order for you to find the proper budget, so plan on a majority of your capital to NOT bring a return in the initial months of your startup. Adwords with Google and Yahoo are key to driving initial traffic to your site in volume – but make sure your landing pages are clear and relevant – otherwise you won’t convert sales and your money is going out the door!
Avelient: Please add any thoughts or comments that you don’t think we’ve covered here.
Dornoff: We’re done with Web 2.0. We came, we saw, we shopped. (1.0) We generated our own content and starting interacting in ways that we didn’t think were possible (2.0). We’ve really cut through the objectives that originators of that term made, so if I have to make a “state of the internet” address, I’d start out by saying welcome to web 3.0. I think the largest factor at play is scalability – and gadgets like the iPhone, Instinct, Blackberry et al SOLVE this problem. Now, I can use the web IN MY LIFE, every second of the day, if I choose. I can shop, find restaurants, play games, chat with friends, email, read excel files, update my Facebook status, all from a park bench in Union Square, all from a cell phone – that’s amazing. Web 3.0 integrates user generated content, shopping and mobility all in one – it comes to life out of the laptop & desktop and becomes your personal assistant. As more and more take the internet into the palm of their hands, and as technology improves upon the foundation laid by the aforementioned brands (speed and processing power of the MOBILE internet increases) the sooner the social circle will come back around. There’s no reason to fear that the internet will cut ties to our physical/social connections… in fact, it’s going to improve them.
Tags: cake marketing birthdays