How many bakeries do you pass on your way to work in the morning? If you’re craving a doughnut, how many options do you have to get your fix? The bakery world is a crowded market. There are the major chains, of course, and then there are local options. So how do you make your business stand out? How do you become a destination that loyal customers will return to again and again?
According to Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, Seattle’s best doughnuts can be found at FROST’s three locations. But as any small business owner knows, a superior product is no guarantee of financial success. Here are five things FROST does to stand out in a crowded market:
- Be different. FROST produces not only a high-quality product, but also a unique one. Unusual flavor combinations and fresh ingredients have been part of the value proposition from day one—think guava-coconut doughnuts and limoncello macaroons. “People’s palates have become more sophisticated, with the Food Network and foodie culture,” says Daniel Sterling, FROST’s CEO and creative director. And yet when FROST first opened, in 2009, nobody in the area was doing anything “interesting” with doughnuts, Sterling says. The company’s unique flavors are “the number one reason people come to FROST,” he continues.
- Keep the experience fresh. FROST’s other signature attribute is its constantly changing menu. At first, when they had only one small store, continually rotating flavors was partly a necessity—they couldn’t display a lot of product at once, so they switched up the menu a couple of times a week. Now that changing menu is baked into the brand. FROST releases new flavors about 10 times a year, changing the menu to suit the season. “We find that people get really excited about new items that come out,” Sterling says. If there’s always something new to try, then there’s always a new reason to come back.
- Reward repeat visits—literally. FROST uses the Clover Rewards app that’s integrated into their Clover POS system. “Before we moved over to Clover, we had a POS and a separate loyalty system, and there were just too many steps in the process,” Sterling says. Guests would come in not knowing how many rewards points they had, and staff would have to make other customers wait while looking up their account. With Clover Rewards, it’s all integrated, and customers can access their accounts on their phones, so they come in to the store knowing how many points they have and what they can get. FROST can also use the same system to push out offers to its loyal customers. Sometimes, if a particular flavor isn’t selling, they’ll do a one-day flash sale, and all their best customers will get the alert instantly on their phones.
- Get the customer involved. FROST holds a Design Your Dream Doughnut every year for National Doughnut Day. Because FROST is known for its creative flavor combinations, Sterling says, customers have always suggested new ideas. So FROST has created an annual tradition that gives people a chance to actually see and taste their creations. Three finalists are chosen, and on National Doughnut Day, customers can taste the nominees and vote for their favorite. This year’s winner, a bismarck filled with salted caramel cream and topped with potato chips, will be back on the menu in the fall. The festive, participatory atmosphere created by the contest helps make National Doughnut Day FROST’s busiest day of the year, and the crowds just keep growing, Sterling says.
- Build a brand and stick to it. Two of FROST’s three locations have recently added luncheonettes. Even as they expand their offerings, they’re sticking to their core brand proposition: freshly made food and unique flavor combinations. “People are used to getting interesting products at FROST, not your typical things,” Sterling says. So their lunch menu includes unusual offerings like a Thai chicken curry soup and a turkey and curried apricot sandwich. The lunch menu, like the sweets, will also change regularly, so it’s always fresh and seasonal. Everything about every store reinforces the idea that FROST is the place to go for a fresh, fun treat—the stores have an upscale, boutique feel, and customer service is paramount. “We try to make coming to FROST a fun experience for everyone that comes in,” Sterling says.
Any small business needs to figure out how to create a strong, memorable brand. Take a tip from FROST and build a brand that rewards loyal customers for visiting again and again.