Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tip #164: Spark Customer Interest with Fall Merchandising

Pictured clockwise from the top: MidwestLiving, Faribault Woolen Mill Co., Free People
DIY Flameless Fire Pit by Free People
Strategic merchandising is an important to component to increasing sales. Thoughtful merchandising can grab attention, stimulate emotions and give buyers a reason to make a purchase and feel good about doing so. Fall is the perfect time to create a warm and cozy environment in your store. A fun, bonfire themed display could be seen as a welcome shelter from the cold.

Spark buyers’ interest with a bundle of fire wood, cozy flannel fabrics and an old tin thermos overflowing with goodies. This makes for a great space to sell DIY s’more kits, luscious caramel apples, various barks featuring cozy fall flavors and chocolate-covered pretzel rods. Candy House Gourmet of Joplin, Missouri makes “Walking Sticks” out of large pretzel rods dipped in caramel and pecans, then drizzled with milk, dark and white chocolate for a decadent snack on-the-go.

Interested in creating a darling flameless fire pit? Click here to view a step-by-step tutorial by Free People.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Rewind to Tip #141: Celebrate World Teacher's Day

World Teacher’s Day is Sunday, October 5 and you can bet many parents in your community will be scouring social media (especially Pinterest) for the perfect gift to thank the special teachers in their life…or sweeten them up a bit before they have to spend the week with a classroom of children that just seem like they’re on a sugar high! Don’t miss out on the opportunity to get your business on the radar with goodies worthy of an A+.
Apple Box by Charlie's Chocolate Factory of Vancouver
Charlie’s Chocolate Factory shared their Apple Box (pictured above) during Candy Clinic at the 2015 Annual Convention, with a cleverly added hole for a gummy worm to pop out. RCI members can view videos from Candy Clinic on our website at www.retailconfectioners.org/candyclinic.
Photo: Amanda's Parties To Go 
Click here for an easy-to-follow tutorial (with lots of photos) on how to create these cute Oreo Apple Pops.

In addition to offering great gift ideas, help your customers celebrate teachers by holding a favorite teacher contest. It’s a fun avenue to recognize the great teachers in your area and also create some awareness for your company.

First, create a beautiful gift basket that will go to the winning teacher and have it on display in your store. For the contest, invite your customers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, etc. to nominate their favorite teacher and include the reason they have nominated him or her. To increase excitement for the contest, you could also give a box of your chocolates or “mini” gift basket to the nominator of the winning teacher.

Add excitement to the contest by spreading the word through press releases, radio spots, school newsletters, etc. Everyone will also want to know who wins so be sure to get a photo of the winner with his or her nominator and post it on social media and in your store.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tip #162: Give Buyers a Reason to Spend on Game Day!

Photos (clockwise from top):Catch My Party, Oh!Nuts, Hostess with the Mostess Blog
Take advantage of football season by giving buyers a reason to spend on game day. Build a football-themed display by incorporating your local team’s colors (or black and white stripes will work too), artificial wheat grass and a chalkboard with spatterings of X’s, O’s and arrows…leading them straight to their next purchase!

Moulded footballs, non-pareils and flavored popcorn, all in your local team’s colors, are a must! Create an atmosphere of team spirit by encouraging staff to sport their favorite team merchandise.Touch-down!

Don’t forget to tell your patrons you’re ready for football season on Facebook, Twitter and your blog. Click here to see how RCI member Wockenfuss Candies of Baltimore let’s Raven’s fans know they’re a destination for both football gear and game-day goodies.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tip #161: Heat Things Up This Fall!

As the temperature outside starts to cool, heat things up by adding sweet and spicy treats to your product lineup. Not only are spicy flavors incredibly trendy right now, a little heat from red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper can produce a more dynamic flavor in any confection. As a general rule, spice balances sweet and vice versa. If you have a product that has been described as “too sweet,” try adding a hint of spice to the recipe to better balance the sweetness.

Javier Sanchez, with Savage Bros. Co., took a traditional confection to the next level during his demonstration at last week’s Philadelphia Candy Show. Red Pepper Peanut Brittle is perfect for chilly tailgate parties and bonfires, or as a gift for the heat-seekers among us.

Red Pepper Peanut Brittle
Recipe by Savage Bros. Co.

4.5 lbs sugar
3 lbs corn syrup
1.5 lbs water
4.5 lbs raw peanuts
1 lb butter
.38 oz vanilla
1.13 oz baking soda
.5 oz salt
2.5 tsp red pepper flakes

Prepare cooling table with warm water flow. Set kettle temperature to 400 degrees. Place sugar, corn syrup and water in kettle and bring to a boil. At 250 degrees, slowly add peanuts so not to decrease temperature. At 280 degrees, add butter.

At 290 degrees, turn off heat and start the water flush for 45 seconds. Add red pepper flakes and mix. Add salt, baking soda and vanilla. This will allow brittle temperature to reach 300 degrees by the time it’s finished mixing.

When ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, pour onto warm table or tray and either shake pan or use a spatula to spread brittle to desired thickness. Slowly start to cool table down.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tip #160: Become the Talk of Town/State/Region/Country/Globe/Galaxy

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) published findings in 2014 indicating 13percent of commercial sales are driven by word of mouth both online or offline. Statistics, like this and others, point to word of mouth as the strongest form of recommendation. Thanks to social media, word of mouth recommendations spread like wildfire. “Being the talk of the town” can easily morph into “the talk of the state/region/country/globe/galaxy,” and if that talk is about your business and its positive (heck, it doesn’t even have to be positive…ever heard of cicada ice cream? Google it.), you can pretty much bank on a significant spike in sales from new customers.  According to a study done by AdAge word of mouth can increase marketing effectiveness by 54%.
Source: Word of Mouth Marketing Association
So how do you get people to talk about you? Besides the obvious, offer exception customer service and quality products, Suzanne Fanning, president of WOMMA, suggests identifying your influencers. Good news for your marketing budget, Fanning says “The most sought-after influencers used to be celebrities, before the days of social media. Now just about anyone can be an influencer, but the best may be the ones who find you, or your star supporters who actively engage [with your brand].”

Zach Fagan, with StoreYa.com, recommends converting customers into brand advocates by making them feel like insiders, “let them be the first to know about and try new products and services,” writes Fagan. “By making the insiders feel special, you will make them feel more connected on a personal level to your company, so that they will be not only willing, but excited to test out your product and write reviews.”

Knowing your influencers and creating a group of brand advocates is great, but don’t expect to see fireworks if you’re not putting yourself out there. There are plenty of avenues for sharing information, photos and videos about your product and services (many of them free, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest). Even if you’ve got an arsenal of social media accounts, make sure you understand what topics are of interest to your followers. If you don’t know, gauging your audience can be as easy as tracking responses to targeted questions, such as “Who’s got kids going back to school?” “Do you celebrate your pet’s birthday?” If you get a lot of responses from parents/grandparents with kids going back to school or followers who really love their pets, try posting messages that tailor to your audience. Here's some examples, “Make your child the teacher’s pet with a gift of chocolates from…” or “Did you know we handcraft pet-safe treats for your furry family members? The first person to share a photo of their pet will receive a gift certificate for a free doggie/kitty treat.” 

Has your business been “the talk of the state/region/country/globe/galaxy?” If so, tell us about your experience and what triggered the conversation.