From Global Cake Boutiques to Lifestyle Brand: How Lady M Scales with Flexible Talent

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Lady M, a bakery famous for its Mille Crêpe cakes, isn’t just another bakery. The company built a luxury lifestyle brand so popular that it quickly expanded to 38 cake boutiques located worldwide. Most of Lady M’s growth was organic, but the company knew that in the digital age, successful retailers must invest in an omnichannel marketing strategy. A strategy that, whether customers are shopping in boutiques or online, makes the Lady M experience feel similar. By joining the online and offline worlds, Lady M aimed to build brand loyalty and repeat purchases over time.

The company wanted to capitalize on social media by launching pop-up events in cities where they did not have a brick-and-mortar presence. Upwork sat down with Kaiyi Chu, Head of Growth at Lady M, to learn how his lean marketing team creates a consistent stream of social media content that is stirring up crowds of new customers worldwide.

Q: How is Lady M using social media to drive business to your boutiques?

A: We’re focused on the U.S. market right now and began doing pop-ups around the country to better serve customers without a boutique nearby. Before each event, we build up a lot of buzz on social media to draw a huge turnout. Once people taste our cakes, they usually ask where they can get more, which drives people to our boutiques, website, and social channels. The events help us connect with our audiences and local markets. We use that knowledge to build stronger relationships with customers and to test new potential markets.

We’re also using social media to build our brand with more high quality and creative content. Lady M is not just a cake brand, it’s a lifestyle brand. We want customers to associate the Lady M brand with fashion, beauty, and things like work-life balance.

Q: Creating that much content to support pop-ups and build your brand story takes a lot of work. How does your team manage it all?

A: First, it’s important to know that when I joined the company, our entire team only had two full-time marketers to work on a wide range of marketing tasks ranging from boutique menu design, social content creation, website updates, to offline events. The team was under a lot of pressure because we did everything in-house and by ourselves.

Creating social media content was just part of our challenge. We were managing an online and offline presence, figuring out how to expand acquisition through different channels, and supporting the marketing needs of 38 cake boutiques worldwide. Adding to the pressure, we have seasonal peaks such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. We lacked the resources to support all the business lines. We needed help, but a lot of our work had to be done on location at each of the stores. We needed the agility of having help wherever we need it, when we need it. So, we turned to freelancers.

 

With freelancers, we are not limited by location or internal resources. Without those limitations, we can scale, which helps us grow faster. For example, our social media posts used to be sporadic at best because we were all pulled in so many directions. Now that we have freelance help, we post daily on Facebook and Instagram. We also found a wonderful food stylist and photographer who works for us on a monthly basis to shoot photos of our new cake creations as well as our highly-anticipated seasonal favorites.

Additionally, the newfound creative bandwidth allowed us to try new things such as themed contests, which led to increased and more consistent engagement. This helped us add 12,000 new Instagram followers in three months, growth that used to take much longer.

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Q: What types of projects do you work on with freelancers?

A: Projects are all related to marketing and range from photo shoots and menu design to influencer outreach and Amazon seller program optimization. Such as when we wanted to promote each of the 11 U.S. cake boutiques. It was cost-prohibitive to send an internal photographer to all those locations. We contracted a photographer in each city we have boutiques to take exterior and interior photos of the boutique. We wanted to present the boutique in its neighborhood, so the photographers had to walk around local landmarks and take photos holding a slice of cake.

Having freelancers do it didn’t just save us a lot of time and money, it also allowed us to see our brands through fresh eyes and creative minds. The high-quality work, new ideas, and perspectives are what attract me the most. Like when we were coming up with ideas for April Fool’s Day, a team member suggested we do a post on a new pizza cake. We posted a project that said we needed a designer to photoshop a Pizza Mille Crêpe cake. Within a day, we found someone and got the photos we wanted. It is one of our best performing social posts so far this year and we now have a model for how to repeat this type of project efficiently and affordably with freelancers for the future.

 

Q: How do you find the flexible talent you need?

A: In the past, we mainly looked for freelancers through our personal networks, but it limited our talent pool. And it was near impossible to find help in a city where we didn’t know anyone. When we did find someone, we had to negotiate terms, draw up contracts, have everything reviewed by legal and HR, then chase down invoices to get the freelancer paid. It was all very time consuming and was not scalable.

Now, we use Upwork Business. It enables us to have multiple freelancers with different expertise helping us in different locations at any time we need. With Upwork, we usually find who we need within a few days, compared to the month it took before using our other process.

Q: How did your team adjust to using flexible talent?

A: Adopting anything new is a process because it takes time to change old habits. But once the team saw the type of help they could get through Upwork, they began experimenting.

I keep reminding team members that their biggest opportunity to grow and impact the business is by learning how to delegate and manage resources. There’s so much to do in a day, we all need to become better project managers instead of the person who gets everything done by themselves.

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Brenda Do

by - Copywriter

Brenda is a direct-response copywriter who loves sales. She is the president of BL Copywriting, LLC and enjoys helping companies increase revenue by communicating with… more