Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Tip #326: Show Your Customers Some Love with Inexpensive Customer Appreciation Ideas



Customers are essential to any business. Finding ways to make them feel valued is key to creating return customers and champions for your business. Below we’ve shared five easy and inexpensive customer appreciation ideas to show your customers some love today.

Choose a Customer of the Day
Use the element of surprise to delight your customers. Use your POS system or an old-school tally counter to identify your 10th customer and surprise them with one of your signature products for free or a discount on their purchase. Post a photo of the lucky winner on social media to drive in-store traffic. Let customers know they’re just as appreciated during busy holidays as they are on a random Tuesday.

Think of the kids
Being part of an industry that relies heavily on gifting holidays, consider ways to cater to shoppers with kids. By simply creating a space for kids to color and enjoy a snack, parents will be able to shop more privately for Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Easter gifts in peace. Share photos of the space on social media with details on what parents can expect and watch as grateful parents thank you with their business.

Bon Bon's Candy House created this space for kids to color and enjoy snacks
while grateful parents shopped for their Easter gifts in peace.
Send a handwritten thank you card
It may be old school, but a thoughtful handwritten note is one of the easiest and inexpensive ways to show you care. If you have access to your customers’ mailing addresses through a loyalty program or corporate accounts, consider making it a habit each week to mail a few handwritten notes to your customers. Try to make it personal or include a coupon to use on their next visit. You may be surprised how much of an impact this simple act of kindness will make.

Train your team to call customers by their first name
Calling customers by their first name makes their shopping experience personal. Train your staff to look for customers’ first names on their credit card and, then, call customers by name when thanking them for their purchase. Over time, staff are more likely to remember repeat customers and will be able to recall their names without even looking.

Say “thanks” with a video
A study by TD Banks revealed, more than 80% of customers like getting thanked in person. Since this isn’t always possible, a thank-you video from you may be the next best (and certainly memorable) option. If you request data, like customer birthdays, consider creating an email template with a video or GIF (create your own GIFs with the app, Giphy Cam) of you wishing customers a happy birthday and send it to a group of customers who all share the same birthday month. Even though it’s a template, the message will feel more personal and special with a video coming from you.

Buffer is a social media management business that used this fun GIF
to thank customers for their business.

You don't have to wait for Customer Appreciation Day on April 18 to celebrate your customers. That's why we've shared ideas easy enough to start incorporating into your business today or any day. How do you show your customers you care? Share in the comments below.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.
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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Throwback Tip #312: 4 Ways Distributors Can Help Your Business


Have you ever wondered if working with a distributor would benefit your candy business? In this week’s post, RCI member Chris Romocean, with Linnea’s Candy Supplies, sheds light on a distributor’s role, as well as some of the ways a good distributor can offer value to confectioners.

HOW DISTRIBUTORS ADD VALUE
Manufacturers are not always able to service every customer as well as they would like and that’s where distributors can help. Whether due to a manufacturer's geographic location in relation to their customers or their ability to help with the administration of sales, customer service, inventory and logistics, having distributors lets a manufacturer do what it does best. Make product. To be successful, a distributor needs to add value to the products it sells.

SPEED
Manufacturer’s lead times can be difficult for confectioners to contend with, especially during holiday seasons. Lead times can be anywhere from several days to several weeks. A distributor usually has product in inventory available for immediate order fulfillment.

PRODUCT BUNDLING
A distributor should have a wide range of products that complement each other and meet the needs of confectioners. Having the ability to combine products from various manufacturers all in one shipment can significantly reduce shipping costs. Product bundling also saves time. Placing one order is much faster than placing several.

LOWER MINIMUMS
For many confectioners having a lower minimum order means they can order the quantities they need, not the quantities they have to. Requirements for precious storage space are reduced and their cash is not tied up in excess inventory.

INVENTORY
The burden of keeping a large inventory is shifted to the distributor allowing confectioners to use just-in-time strategies and smaller orders on a more frequent basis.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS
There is a misconception that prices from a distributor will always be higher than buying direct from the manufacturer. Many distributors have prices that are comparable and sometimes lower than buying direct from a manufacturer. Distributors purchase products in large quantities from manufacturers and get discounts based on large volume orders or quantities committed to by contract. With this discount, a distributor can offer products at competitive prices.

Another misconception is that if a customer stops buying from a manufacturer and gets their products through a distributor; they are not as important to the manufacturer and will lose contact with them. While it is true the distributor will be assuming the customer service role, the manufacturer’s technical support, expertise and knowledge will always be available either through the distributor or directly. Manufacturers value their customers and want them to be successful whether they buy direct or through a distributor.

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH A DISTRIBUTOR
Distributors are faced with many challenges. Being able to accurately forecast, not only levels of inventory for thousands of products, but also planning for lead times and the logistics involved in replenishment is critical for a distributor’s success and the success of its customers. Good communication with the manufacturer and the confectioner is vital.

Another challenge is being efficient at getting products to customers fast, especially during the busiest parts of the year. A distributor needs to have a great team working together from the time the order is placed until it reaches the customers door.

In today’s business environment, now more than ever, a distributor creates value for manufacturers and confectioners alike.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Tip #325: 52+ Hilarious Quotes for Chocolate Shops to Use on Letter Boards


Letterfolk, Quotesletterbox, Letterfolk
What was once a relic that could only be found in diners, church basements or outside school gymnasiums, letter boards can now be found all over social media. Some say the appeal is in the nostalgia and simplicity. If you passed on the chalkboard trend due to a lack of artistic ability or even time, you might say the appeal is in the fact that a letter board is not a chalkboard.

Contrary to the chalkboard trend, letter boards are all-inclusive, only requiring decent spelling and a fair amount of cleverness or the ability to search Google (to borrow ideas from someone more witty).

Letter boards are an inexpensive and easy tool for merchandising in-store and on social media. Simply inserting a letter board next to a cute retail display or scattering a few chocolates near a letter board with a fun saying and voila you’ve got a trendy and fun social media post.

Here we’re sharing 52 of our favorite chocolate-related quotes for your letter boards—enough to share one a week for the whole year, plus a few bonus quotes for the holidays!

SWEET & SNARKY
  1. “When life gives you lemons, give them back and demand chocolate.”
  2. “Chocolate is made from beans. Beans are vegetables. Have you had your veggies today?”
  3. “A day without chocolate is like…just kidding. I have no idea.”
  4. “You can always trust me. Not alone with chocolate, but other than that.”
  5. “Snaccident—Eating an entire pizza / box of chocolates / and a bag of chips—by mistake.” 
    Our Little Bees
  6. “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy chocolate and that’s close enough.”
  7. “Wake up. Eat chocolate. Be Kind. Repeat.”
  8. “When you decided to have a cheat day and all of a sudden it’s three years later…”
  9. “Sometimes I think I’m a full grown woman, then sometimes I lock myself in the bathroom with a piece of chocolate—I said my kid couldn’t have.” 
  10. “Whatever you do in life, make sure it makes you happy.”
  11. “On the chocolate package it says ‘resealable’…wha hahaha hahaha hahahahahahah”
  12. “Have you ever stopped to think maybe chocolate is addicted to me?”
  13. “Yesterday, I really wanted chocolate. Today, I am eating chocolate. Follow your dreams.”
  14. “Not all who wander are lost. Most of them are just looking for chocolate.”
  15. “Life happens. Chocolate helps.”
  16. “I’m not sure how many chocolates equals happiness, but so far it’s not 27.”
  17. “Being a mom means knowing how to unwrap candy without making a sound…”
  18. “Eat like no one is watching, or dance, whatever.” 
    The Writer Oak
  19. “Dip it in chocolate. It’ll be fine.”
  20. “Someday I will solve my problems with critical thinking, but today it will be with chocolate.”
  21. “Day 12 without chocolate…lost hearing in my left eye.”
  22. “I need chocolate because Monday.”
  23. “I don’t want to look back one day and think, ‘I could have eaten that.’”
  24. “I only need chocolate on days that end with y.”
  25. “Yeah, abs are great. But have you tried chocolate?”
  26. “Chocolate is my love language.”
  27. “Put chocolate at the top of your list of things to do today. That way at least you’ll get one thing done!”
  28. “A chocolate a day, keeps the crazy at bay.”
  29. “I’m just a girl standing in front of a salad, asking it to be chocolate.”
  30. “Tell me what ya want, what ya really really want. Chocolate. I want chocolate.”
  31. “Whoever said diamonds are a girl’s best friend, never had chocolate.”
  32. “Skinny people are easier to kidnap… Eat chocolate. Stay safe.”
  33. “The first five days after the weekend are the hardest. Eat chocolate.”
  34. “I’d give up chocolate, but I’m not a quitter.”
  35. “I almost choked on a carrot today—all I could think was chocolate would’ve never done this to me.”
  36. “Chocolate says ‘I’m sorry,’ so much better than words.”
  37. “Don’t wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty.”
  38. “People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child
  39. “You are what you eat, so eat something sweet.”
  40. “I don’t mean to brag, but I just finished my 14-day diet in 3 hours and 12 minutes.”
  41. “Kinda need to work out, kinda wanna eat chocolate.”
  42. “Chocolate is better than therapy and you don’t need an appointment.”
  43. "I'm a better person when I'm eating chocolate."
  44. “When the going gets tough, the tough make chocolate.”
  45. “A balanced diet is chocolate in both hands.”
  46. “Chocolate is to women what duct tape is to men. It fixes everything.”
  47. “I believe in chocolate for breakfast.”
  48. "Wanted: Chocolate with the nutritional value of kale, but that does not contain any traces of kale. Your move, science."
  49. “Things are getting worse, please send more chocolate.”
  50. “Life is short, eat dessert first.”
  51. “Coffee makes it possible to get out of bed. Chocolate makes it worthwhile.”
  52. “I don’t need an inspirational quote. I need chocolate.”


SEASONS & HOLIDAYS
  • “Love is in the air. Nope, that’s chocolate.” (Valentine’s Day)
  • “Roses are red. Violets are blue. Diets are hard. Chocolate.” (Valentine’s Day)
  •  “Ways to my heart: Buy me chocolate. Make me chocolate. Be chocolate.” (Valentine’s Day)
  •  “And IIIIIII E-III will always love yoooooou.” (Valentine’s Day)
  •  “She gave you life. Give her chocolate.” (Mother’s Day)
  •  “Thanks, Mom. I’m awesome.” (Mother’s Day)
  •  “I was going to tell you a joke about an egg, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” (Easter) 

  • “You are egg-stra special.” (Easter) 
  • “You’re one of my favorite peeps.” (Easter) 
  • “Follow the bunny. He has chocolate.” (Easter) 
  • “Easter eggs prove that kids can find things, but only when they want to.” (Easter)
  • “We’d like s’more weekend, please.” (Summer)

  • “Cozy sweaters. Crisp air. Apple picking. Hot cocoa. Crunchy leaves. Fall.” (Fall)
  • “When someone says it’s too soon for pumpkin spice and you realize you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.” (Fall)
  • “When the clock strikes midnight…pumpkin everything.” (Fall)
  • “There’s nothing fun about fun-size candy bars.” (Halloween)
  • “Trick or treat yourself.” (Halloween) 
  • “We’re keeping it corny.” (Halloween) 
  • “Hocus pocus. I need chocolate to focus.” (Halloween)
  • “Don’t forget to buy your Halloween candy early, so you have time to buy more after you eat it all.” (Halloween)
  • “Tonight’s the night we eat the candy! -Parents” (Halloween)
  • “You’re never too old to beg for free candy.” (Halloween)
  • “Thankful for…stretchy waistbands.” (Thanksgiving)
  • “Happy Thanksgiving! Remember to set your scale back 10 pounds this week.” (Thanksgiving)
  • “When you buy from a small business and actual person does a happy dance.” (Small Business Saturday)
  • “Hot chocolate is like a hug from the inside.” (Winter)

  • “I try to shop for Christmas gifts…then I see something and I think, you know who would like that? Meee!” (Christmas)
  • “May all your regifting go undetected this year.” (Christmas)
  • “How to host an introvert holiday party: 1. Buy snacks 2. Invite no one.” (Christmas)
Ful Candles

If you’ve ever hesitated to use a letter board for fear you’re not clever enough…fear no more and go get yourself a letter board! Tag @retailconfectioners on Facebook and show us your most clever letter board posts.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tip #324: Make your Retail Display Pop this Valentine's Day with a Giant Heart-Shaped Chocolate Box


Pictured: Heart Balloon Mosaic™, The Creative Heart Studio
Looking to make your retail display pop this Valentine’s Day? There’s no doubt a giant heart-shaped box of chocolates, like the one pictured above, will turn heads and even inspire some shopper selfies. But the best part is, you can make it yourself!

With the following materials, you're sure to melt the hearts of all who enter your retail shop and follow you on social media (since you’ll definitely want to post this beauty on all your social media platforms).

MATERIALS
  • (2) 40” x 60” Foam boards
  • (13-15) 11” Brown balloons
  • 12” x 18” Sheets of craft foam for decorations
  • Balloon pump
  • X-ACTO knife
  • Scissors
  • Metal ruler
  • Cutting mat
  • Hot glue gun (low temperature setting for balloons)
  • Glue sticks
SAVE ON DIGITAL TEMPLATE FOR HEART-SHAPED CHOCOLATE BOX
Get crafty, no matter your skill level, with a free video tutorial and digital template for the "Heart Balloon Mosaic™" (pictured above) at thecreativeheartstudio.com. Lilly Jimenez is the founder of The Creative Heart Studio, creator of Balloon Mosaic™ and finalist on season two of NBC’s craft competition show, Making It.
RCI members and friends: Save 20% on digital template with the code “CONFECTION20” through March 31, 2020.

    SHOW US YOUR VALENTINE'S DAY DISPLAY
    Make it POP in 2020! We want to see your Valentine’s Day displays in your retail shop. Share photos on RCI’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/RetailConfectioners.

    Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

    Tuesday, January 14, 2020

    Throwback Tip #289: Make Chocolate-Covered Strawberries Last Longer



    If you sell chocolate-covered strawberries for the holidays, more specifically Valentine’s Day, and have found yourself working from sunrise to sunset to keep up with demand, this tip is for you. 
    RCI member, Luisa Chocolatiere shares her pro tips for extending the shelf-life of these delicate fruit confections to best avoid working yourself ragged while preparing for one of the biggest candy holidays of the year.

    1.) Clear communication
    Although this first step will not affect the longevity of your strawberries, it will help you better prepare for the holiday. Requiring advanced orders for chocolate-covered strawberries helps create expectations for your production needs. Clear communication to your customer base is key to ensure their expectations are met too. The beginning of January is a great time to start to taking orders for Valentine's Day.

    2.) Gently clean and air dry
    The way you clean your berries could be contributing to unwanted mold. Follow these step-by-step instructions to minimize moisture and bacteria.
    • Start by wiping away any dirt with a clean towel and discard unwanted mushy or moldy berries.
    • Gently submerge berries in a solution of cold water and non-pasteurized apple cider vinegar (use approximately 3 tablespoons for every one gallon of water) for five minutes. The acidity of the vinegar will kill spores and bacteria on the fresh berries.
    • Next, place the strawberries in a colander to drain excess water before air drying berries in a single layer on top of a dry towel.
    • Once the strawberries are dry, they can be placed in their original containers, which have since been cleaned and dried as well, until they are ready to dip.

    3.) Chilled storage
    To keep chocolate-covered strawberries overnight without the harmful effects of refrigeration, place dipped strawberries on containers, which are on top of gel ice packs and they can store for up to 48 hours.
    These tips may seem simple, but they have the potential to completely transform the way you operate your business leading up to Valentine’s Day—for the better. Now with all that extra time saved up, you may be able to devote more of it to other areas of your business or spend it with family and, hopefully, get more sleep on the morning of Valentine’s Day! Let us know in the comments below what you plan to do with the time you’ll save with this tip!

    Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

    Tuesday, January 7, 2020

    Tip #323: Assess Your Social Media Presence


    Does your New Year’s resolution include improving your brand’s social media presence? If not, maybe it should. Did you know that 78% of consumers’ purchases are impacted by companies’ social media posts, according to a study conducted by customer intelligence company, Market Force.

    A great first step towards improvement is to rate your social media presence as a consumer, right now.

    Wait. Before you start tallying the number of followers on your Facebook page, I’m not referring to your numbers. I’m referring more to the aesthetics and the content provided on your social pages. Sure, these things are important to assess the overall performance of your social media efforts, but for now, just focus on the overall look and feel of your social media pages.

    For example, how do your posts and product photos look? Are they visually appealing? Bright and colorful? Do they make you want to buy what you see? Are your followers engaged (liking or sharing your posts)? Are comments being replied to within 24-48 hours? How often are you posting? If you’re on Facebook or Instagram, you should make it a goal to post at least once a day. Do your posts always include images or videos? Did you know your posts will see more than two times more engagement if images or videos are included? Do your posts only include sales or do you offer inspiration for celebrating various holidays (from Valentine’s Day to National Potato Chip Day)? Beware: If you’re only posting when your products are on sale, you will attract followers who do not want to pay full price or are conditioned to expect reduced prices. Instead, focus on other areas of your business that make you stand out…like the fact that you make your own confections! “Behind the scenes” photos and video from the candy kitchen are as good as gold.

    While assessing your social media page(s), the goal is to be as neutral as possible. If this difficult for you, ask a trusted friend, staff or family member who matches your ideal target market and will give you honest and constructive feedback. Note: If teenagers aren’t your target market, don’t ask your 16-year-old niece/neighbor/employee for feedback.

    Next, focus on your company information. Imagine you’re a consumer interested in purchasing your products. What could a consumer learn about your business from your social media page? Are your physical and web addresses present? Are your store hours listed and up-to-date? How can they contact you? Is a phone number and email address listed? Next, your social media pages are, yet, another opportunity to tell your story. Make sure there is at least a short blurb about your company story, which may include when and how your business was started, what makes your products special? Do you hand-dip your chocolates or use state-of-the-art machinery? Do you like to experiment with unique flavors or use centuries-old, family recipes?

    Once the questions above have been answered, assess what your business is doing well and what areas could be improved. This will help you determine your next steps. If done well, managing your social media page(s) will require an investment of time—especially if you post one day at a time. Improve efficiency by creating and scheduling social media in batches—such as a week or month at a time.

    Careful consideration of the details reviewed in this week’s post will help you to improve your social media presence and create a strong brand for your business in the coming year! Let us know in the comments below if you assess your social media presence on a regular basis and what tactics you have found successful.

    Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

    Not a member? 
    Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

    Tuesday, December 24, 2019

    Throwback Tip #249: How To Make The Inspector’s Nice List (Part 3 of 3): Equip Your Staff


    This week marks part three and the final addition to our series on how to make the health inspector’s “nice list” this holiday season, inspired by a past article published in RCI’s Kettle Talk magazine by Patrick Huffman, former president of The Warrell Corporation. reading the new federal and local regulations and keeping your staff updated on new requirements is critical. Consider conducting brief meetings to cover a specific topic or provide updates on a regular basis.

    IN-HOUSE INSPECTIONS
    Get ahead of the inspector by designating a manager to perform weekly inspections. Contact your local health department to request the form they use to during inspections as a reference.

    GET ORGANIZED
    Every time we have to search for the right tool to do a job, we lose time and money. By keeping tools clean and stored properly, they are ready for use and keep us productive. More important, a neat manufacturing area immediately tells inspectors that we know what we are doing.

    LEAD BY EXAMPLE
    Getting the buy-in from your employees can be a constant struggle. It’s important to recognize that a commitment to food safety begins with an organization’s managers and owners. Every time we walk by a dripping faucet or step over a scrap of paper or a chocolate spill, we fail to teach our employees. By witnessing management who are as dedicated to keeping equipment clean as they are making quality candy, they teach their team by example.

    FRIENDLY REMINDERS
    Signs, reminders, and brief, yet, oft-repeated videos, keep the message in the forefront of every employee’s mind, but nothing works better than setting an example personally.

    One of the best ways to ensure your business makes it on the inspector’s coveted “nice list” is to assemble a team of trained and confident staff, who understand the big picture of why maintaining clean stores and manufacturing facilities is so important. After gaining this understanding, it is critical that your team be given proper guidance and tools to efficiently and effectively manage your business’s food safety initiatives.

    Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

    Tuesday, December 17, 2019

    Throwback Tip #248: How To Make The Inspector’s Nice List (Part 2 of 3): Take Control of Pests

    In continuation of a three-part series on how to make the health inspector’s “nice list” this holiday season, we’re sharing tips on how to take control of potential pest infestations.

    Food manufacturing and retail facilities are a haven for certain unwanted guests. Can you blame them? Who wouldn’t want to live in a candy factory? However, when pest control can account for up to 20% of your score during a health inspection, a poorly managed pest control program could land your business on the inspector’s naughty list, or even worse, the recall list!

    According to foodqualityandsafety.com, “Up-to-date pest control documentation is one of the first signs to an auditor that your facility takes pest control seriously.” They recommend making the following important documents readily available should an inspector come a-knocking:
    • Scope of service
    • Pest activity reports
    • Service reports
    • Corrective action reports
    • Trap layout maps
    • List of approved pesticides
    • Pesticide usage reports
    • Applicator licenses
    RCI member, Patrick Huffman, former president of The Warrell Corporation, offered the following advice in a past article published in Kettle Talk magazine:

    GO PRO
    In today’s world of ever-changing regulations, hiring a pest control service may be your best option. When looking to outsource this service, look for a reputable company with food processing experience. A residential pest control service may not have the necessary experience or training to handle food establishments.

    KEEP IT REGULAR
     At a very close second, the next most important element of pest control is regularity. Whether you perform this task yourself or hire a service, checking traps and applying pesticides in a safe and proper manner and on a regular basis is critical to success. Making sure that pesticides are stored away from food preparation areas and keeping good records of how they are handled are elements of an effective program.

    These simple preparations can be your best defense against pests. Showing your inspector that you are in control of your pest control program will certainly help your business earn its spot on the nice list.

    Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.