Who’s in your bakery’s tribe? Are they Gen Z, seeking baked goods which look stunning on social media? Or perhaps they’re more traditional and like their sweet treats with a friendly chat?

Regardless of who is in your bakery tribe, communicating with them regularly and effectively is critical to the success of your business.

It’s an area award-winning Cumbria-based Lovingly Artisan, run by Aidan Monks and Catherine Connor, excel in. Those who have met them in real life know that the personality flowing through the bakery’s social media, website, newsletters, and even in-store experience is authentic.

“All really good businesses have their own personality,” Connor told attendees at British Baker’s The Artisan Collective event in Birmingham last month. In an intimate workshop entitled ‘Building your community’, which took place in the plush below-ground cinema, the husband-and-wife team talked guests through their tactics for engaging with customers.

A Dark Chocloate Malt loaf being sliced

Source: Lovingly Artisan

Good visuals are essential to enticing consumers online

So, how did Lovingly Artisan find its personality? And how is the team using it to communicate with potential and existing customers?

The bakery’s clientele spans all age groups but, given the ethos of Lovingly Artisan and its focus on slow fermentation, quality ingredients, and nourishing food, there are interests which link them.

Mindset matters

To get in the mindset of their tribe and understand how they would be living their lives for the next year, every January Connor and Monks create a scrapbook – their guide for how to talk to their tribe.

First, they buy magazines which their tribe reads. The likes of Country Living, Good Housekeeping, and Delicious are among them, although Connor was keen to communicate that this would differ from bakery to bakery.

Next, they tear through them at speed, placing a post it next to any snippet of language, picture, colour palette, and then swap. From there, the ones that spark interest, joy or inspiration find their way into the scrapbook. “We want to know everything about our tribe because we’re about to go on a year with them, communicating with them,” Connor explained. 

The scrapbook also helps to “create a message, not noise”. Scrolling social media has become a mindless activity, so a bakery really needs something impressive to stand out from the crowd.

I’m in the selling loaves business, so everything we do on social media is done to sell a product

The first part to luring in a potential customer online is imagery, Connor said. “The thing that will entice your tribe is a picture,” she said. “When people are scrolling, you want them to either stay with you or go back to you. The second thing is your opening line – the ‘talk to me’ statement.”

A recent example of this was the naming of the bakery’s Bread Truck. Connor explained that they were frequently asked what the name of the truck was, or the name of the sourdough starter, so she capitalised on this opportunity to engage with the community by asking them to suggest names for the truck. “Within two days, we had 1,000 comments on the name,” she beamed. This activity was taken in store as well, allowing customers from all channels to have their say.

The hype culminated in a big reveal on social media in which they explained their choice – Florence, which means to blossom, flourish, and prosper.

Lovingly Artisan's Catherine Connor (back right) and Emily Tagg serve customers from its new Bread Truck   2100x1400

Source: Lovingly Artisan

Florence, the bread truck

Building relationships

Fun activity aside, Lovingly Artisan is clear about the purpose of its marketing activities.

“I’m in the selling loaves business, so everything we do on that platform is done to sell a product,” Connor explained. “We are not building numbers from our social platforms; we are building a customer base. I don’t do my insights on the number of likes and followers, what I am really interested in is how many loaves we have sold and who is engaging with our social platforms.”

After all, you don’t need to attract thousands upon thousands of followers if you only have a couple of hundred loaves to sell. But, like good old-fashioned hospitality, it’s important to build relationships with those who choose to spend their time with your business (online or in person).

“What we’re really about is building relationships. It is our most important thing,” said Monks. 

”When doing a video, it’s not about showing the structure of my sourdough or the lamination on my products, that’s for the bakers. What they want to hear is about us.”

If you find yourself in front of the camera, Monks advises to relax, and just talk about the topic you want to share – there’s no need to rehearse as this can come across as unnatural. But, given the visual nature of the format, make sure there is something beautiful, tasty, or inviting also in shot.

This will allow the audience to get to know the people behind the products – a vital part of the artisanal experience. Connor recalled a young woman coming up to her at a recent event and exclaiming “you’re just like the woman on Instagram” to which she replied that she ”was the woman on Instagram”.

“The best gift you can ever give yourself is that relationship,” Connor noted. “If we post something and get a message or a comment, we always reply, we always chat. If people share a picture, we will heart it, we will comment. We are genuinely interested because you work really hard to get a customer, so you must work hard to keep them.”

Once you’ve captured the customer online, the experience they expect must be delivered in the bakery. “We have to work really hard to make sure that the message follows through to the bakery, so we actually deliver the same values and same beliefs, and are what we say we are on Instagram,” Monks explained. “There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing something on Instagram and turning up in real life and being like ‘is that it?’”