Case Study
0 min read

Grove Cookie Co. Taps Zest To Grow Brand and Gift Sales With Unexpected Audience

May 3, 2024
Blog post hero image

Staking its claim as the second-most popular dessert in America, 95% of people in the country eat a cookie every month. Cookies are a proven crowd-pleaser, can be crafted in endless varieties, and need practically zero education around the vibe-boosting benefits of chowing down on these doughy discs.

It’s one of those products that you could sell to practically any person of any age and in any geographical area. Demographically, you could easily cast the widest net possible to grow your burgeoning cookie brand. You could market to every single person in the US to build up your cookie empire. You could do that, unless you’re Marie and Grayson Hogard, founders of Grove Cookie Company and big disruptors in the cookie business.

This husband-and-wife duo is doing things differently and dominating a niche audience with some ingenious thinking, smart strategies, and an innovative tech stack.

A simple conversation with a friend fired up an idea that has sent them on a mission to help revenue professionals stand out from the crowd, but they were just one piece of tech away from finding rocketship growth for their brand and customers. With the help of the Zest ecommerce gifting platform, they’ve been able to create a perpetual flywheel of gifting cookies to people who go on to gift cookies to people who go on to gift cookies to…you get the gist.

It’s a strategy that’s supercharged their business in a short span of time, and there’s no end in sight for how far they can take it.

See how this power couple has tapped into an overlooked niche and grew their brand beyond their wildest dreams with Zest on their side.

The Problem: Finding the Right Tools To Tap into a Niche Ecommerce Audience

The Vision

It all started in 2021 when a friend of the founders was talking about wanting a meaningful way to connect with prospects in the middle of the sales cycle through simple gestures. As a seasoned salesperson, this pal was painfully aware of how hard it is to keep leads engaged and momentum going in a deal.

He wanted an authentic way to stay top of mind, and he knew just another ho hum email wasn’t enough. Deploying a corporate gift seemed like a clear solution, but historically, the typical corporate gift options don't seem thoughtful or authentic.

Gifting tools aren’t necessarily a novel invention. The oldest ones have been around for a decade or longer — and it shows. They often require hefty usage fees, large order minimums, and long lead times, particularly when any part of the corporate gift is customized. Those hurdles just don’t jive with one-to-one on-the-fly sales gifting.  

In short, there wasn’t an easy and accessible way for the salesperson who wants to go the extra mile to send a small gift at a moment's notice.

Hearing this plight, Marie and Grayson saw an unmet need for a very large, yet very specific, audience. There are millions of salespeople in the US, and every single one of them is looking for ways to cut through noise, stay top of mind, and keep deals moving in the right direction. An opportunity was right in front of them, and what better way to approach it than with cookies? So, the couple refined their recipes, cranked up their oven, and got to baking.

Grove Cookie Company was borne from the mission to make a thoughtful product that sales and success teams could:

  • send instantly.
  • order in any quantity.
  • access immediately without a subscription fee.
  • personalize for each recipient.
  • leverage to stand out and bolster relationships.

With a network of eager salespeople waiting to gift cookies to prospects and warm leads, a fool-proof product, and an endless supply of enthusiasm and optimism, Grove Cookie Company hit the ground running.

Only one question remained: How could they maximize their lean team and scale with this niche audience?

Ramping Up

Like most startups, Grove Cookie Company found its origins in the couple’s own kitchen with production happening during the typical side-hustle working hours (erm, all hours of the night), but word spread fast about what they were cooking up. The pull from salespeople hungry to build relationships with the gift of tasty, buttery soft cookies quickly turned the business to full-throttle in no time flat.

“We found this really special customer,” said Grayson, “and we knew we were very unique in how we were positioning ourselves.” By going all in on sales and marketing professionals, Grove Cookie Co. soon had a goal to be the go-to corporate gift for this group of professionals.

“We kinda carved out a category of our own and put our own spin on gifting.”

Time to Grow

It didn’t take long for word to spread through the sales and marketing community on LinkedIn about the perfect relationship-building cookie that’s broken onto the scene. “We knew our cookies were a great fit for this need, and our goal has always been to give others the tools to success and grow their own ecosystem.” But in order to scale the company and truly turn everyone in this niche into a die-hard brand fan, Grayson knew they had to leverage technology.

But what technology was even available to help a hot, fresh cookie brand get in front of more corporate gifters and grow? What could check every box of Grove’s founding mission to give people a fast, easy, and accessible way to grow their own networks? What could help Grove Cookie Company innovate the gifting space and stand out in a sea of cookie companies?

The founders had been ramping up their reputation the old fashioned way — sending free samples to their target customers. Boxes of cookies were being shipped to sales teams at SaaS companies everywhere. As the outreach grew, though, so did the manual labor. The back-and-forth to find shipping addresses not only took a lot of time, but it also sapped the element of surprise from receiving cookies.

Scaling Grove Cookie Company was going to need tech that pushed the envelope all while aligning with the brand’s greater mission: Be the gift that helps people build better relationships.

The Solution: Redefine Relationship-building With Easy-to-gift Cookies

Grove Cookie Company cooked up a primo mid-cycle touchpoint, but the only thing left was to team with the right tools that would make these perfect gifts perfectly easy to send.

After connecting with Alex Ingram, co-founder of Zest, the Grove Cookie Co. squad knew they had found their partner for empowering their customers to send cookies as well as growing their own brand. Zest was able to give Grayson and Marie what they needed to start scaling:

  • Instant, flexible e-gifting via text, email, or link
  • Automatic e-gift address collection
  • No minimum orders or exclusive platform fees
  • Quick bulk CSV address upload for physical gift delivery
  • Customizable digital gift notes and card designs
  • Frictionless gift-sending experience

These features ensure a fast and seamless corporate gifting experience for Grove Cookie Co. customers and lend themselves to a self-service experience for the gifter.

Most importantly, though, Zest gave Grove Cookie Co. total control over its direct corporate gifting channel. On top of being a completely branded gifting storefront accessible directly from Grove’s website, the team also has 100% control over pricing, discounts, gift catalog, and more.

Corporate gift marketplaces are also a part of Grove’s strategy to grow the brand as the go-to sales and marketing gift, but what those tools offer in terms of exposure comes at the sacrifice of branding, customer experience, and control.

“The beauty of Zest is that we own the whole experience.” Grayson mapped out an entire internal marketing strategy that would be impossible to do with other gifting platforms. “We control the entire marketing and sales flow. With other tools, we’re basically a dropshipper, which is nice but doesn’t give us the flexibility we need to do some of the cool stuff we’re doing.”

With Zest, Grove Cookie Co. can go into its own branded storefront and add limited-edition flavors in seconds. They can also add volume and shipping discounts in just a couple clicks, and they’re able to lend a hand to those who might not have been able to build relationships in this way otherwise.

“On this journey, we realized some companies can’t afford a traditional corporate gifting platform, especially if they only want to send cookies a few times a year. So, we carved out a niche offering that helps those people out.”

Grayson can also launch marketing campaigns that build broad awareness throughout the brand’s niche audience.

“One thing we’ve been doing is creating custom cookie bundles that highlight influencers with our customers. For example, we’ve been promoting big influencers in the sales space with cookie flavors made just for them. So while we promote them, their cookies, and what they’re doing, they in turn promote us and send their own flavor as a gift.”

Grove Cookie Co. is able to launch creative marketing tactics that grow awareness with its niche customer base.

This cycle of promotion ultimately puts these cookies in front of more influencers and target customers who all end up in the delightful flow of the Zest-powered gifting storefront.

“Our biggest marketing channel is organic growth through LinkedIn, word of mouth, and people who receive gifts turning around and sending gifts of their own,” says Grayson. “Zest makes it really easy for us to get Grove Cookie Co. out into the world. We could not operate in this arena without it.”

The Results: Zest Drives 20% of Grove Cookie Co.'s Revenue in 2023

It wasn’t long before Grove’s strategic cookie-giving flywheel started reaping some huge results. Empowered by Zest’s easy-to-use gifting storefront and a rampant reputation as *the* gift to send for salespeople, Grayson and Marie knew the 2023 holiday season was going to be their biggest test.

“Q4 is our megaquarter. The velocity we saw in November and December would have been too much for one person, me, to manage,” recalls Grayson. “But because people can go in and order their own gifts without waiting or talking to a sales rep, and Zest processes those orders automatically, I could handle it as a team of one.”

The foundation and fandom that Grove Cookie Co. had been building on all year long was coming to a big, lucrative head. In a short time, it became the brand synonymous with sales gifting across its niche audience. Customers were well-acquainted with the seamless experience they got when gifting these cookies — so much so that in its first 11 months of use, this Zest-fueled channel accounted for 20% of Grove’s total revenue all on its own.

Even in the first 60 days of leveraging modern gifting tech, the brand saw its growth take off with hundreds of orders rolling in. As word continued to spread throughout the sales world, more and more professionals started coming to Grove to build better relationships by way of cookie. As a result, Grove has seen its cookie orders grow 236% YoY, with average order values increasing a huge 77% YoY, through its Zest-powered gifting storefront. This has shaped up to be one sweet partnership.

Grove Cookie Co.'s brand resonates and grows with a niche audience.

“We’ve connected with a really unique audience. Our goal has always been to help our customers build their own relationships, and we’ve been able to give them a way to do that.”

Zest‘s customer experience is akin to DTC shopping — picking out gifts, adding the details, and payment all feel like shopping for oneself. This familiarity builds trust with customers who might not be used to self-service in the corporate gifting world, and it helps them convert despite their order size.

“We thought we were out of the holiday rush when we got this massive order on December 29,” says Grayson. “It was an order for more than 500 gifts, which is huge for us. I had never had an interaction with this customer, they just came in, understood the platform, and placed a huge order in minutes.”

Before Zest, such a large order would’ve taken a minimum of five back-and-forth emails, countless days and spreadsheets to coordinate, invoice, and track, and all of Grayson’s time and attention. But with Zest on his site, a first-time customer can “place a huge order on their own time, upload their own spreadsheets, and track their gifts without needing to talk to me.” He says, “It’s an experience our customers love.”

This baked-in ease of gifting gives Grove Cookie Co. a clear competitive advantage among cookie brands and has thrusted the ecommerce company to the top as the premier cookie to gift for those hoping to enhance their professional relationships.

Innovative Ecommerce Growth Calls for Innovative Tools

Now that the hustle of holiday gifting has calmed a bit, the Grove Cookie Company team is excited for the year ahead and what’s to come.

Grove Cookie Company has pulled off what few brands are able to. Grayson and Marie have built a brand to meet a specific need with a specific audience, and it’s a play that’s paying off. This deep devotion to helping their customers succeed in growing their own relationships has helped build countless relationships of its own.

The smart strategies coupled with modern technology has created a bustling ecosystem of cookie gifting, firmly establishing Grove Cookie Company as the epicenter of it all. If you were thinking about starting a business but weren’t quite sure what industry to dabble in, cookies are a rock-solid bet.

Author headshot
Liz Lorge
Swooping background

Ready to Give Zest a Go?