Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tip #172: Give thanks to your customers and staff year around!

 RCI members Peterbrooke Chocolatier (top) and Madelaine Chocolate Company (bottom)
showcase their turkey-time treats on social media.

Thanksgiving is the time of year when we all take pause to give thanks to the people and things that bless and enrich our lives. For businesses, this often takes form in a variety of thinly veiled ploys to lure shoppers in the doors for a sale or an open house. Not that there is anything wrong with this, because it is also the one of time of the year when shoppers are most willing to spend money. However, unless you are practically giving away flat-screen TVs or have pyramid display of this year’s Tickle-Me Elmo crowding the aisles, chances are you’ve got a lot of competition just to get shoppers in the door on Black Friday.

The point is, although Thanksgiving is a nice reminder to thank the people who make an impact in our lives, it shouldn’t be the only time we recognize loyal patrons for their business or celebrate a winning staff before they run the marathon of holidays. Plus, consider what kind of lasting impression a sincere gesture of gratitude makes when the reason for the gesture is just because.

Before planning a New Year’s Eve gala for your staff or customer appreciation event next March, keep in mind even small gestures can make a big impact when they are sincere.

Help Scout, a web-based help desk that empowers businesses to deliver exceptional customer service, compiled 25 ways to show your appreciation to customers and your team. Some of their ideas ooze with creativity and others are fail-proof but often forgotten. Click here to see what they've come up with. Chances are you will find at least one idea (or a dozen) that you could apply to your business.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tip #171: Protect Your Business Against Cyber Attacks

Source: Veracode
In a day and age when most businesses rely on the internet for daily operations, many do not have a formal cyber security plan in place. Businesses that don’t protect themselves against cyber attacks risk paying a price that could ultimately cost them their business. According to research by Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), the average cyber attack cost small and mid-size businesses $188,242. Leading two-thirds of companies victimized by hackers to close their doors within six months of the attack.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “as larger companies take steps to secure their systems, less secure small businesses are easier targets for cyber criminals.” If your business doesn’t have a formal cyber security plan in place, the FCC offers a free, comprehensive cyber security planning guide for small businesses with actionable items and helpful references to put a cyber security plan in place.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tip #170: Don’t Feed Dogs Chocolate

Everyone knows you aren’t supposed to feed your pets chocolate, but do you know what amounts and types of chocolate are more dangerous to our furry friends?
Chocolate contains a chemical compound called theobromine. This mild stimulant shares similarities with caffeine. Although harmless to humans, theobromine has a far more potent effect on cats and dogs. The average human would have to consume over 70 pounds of chocolate to experience the same lethal effects theobromine has on dogs and cats.

The effects of theobromine by cats and dogs can vary based on the amount and type of chocolate consumed. White and milk chocolate contain lower levels of theobromine, than darker chocolate. Unsweetened cocoa powder contains the highest percentage of theobromine. According to petmd.com, “8 ounces of milk chocolate may sicken a 50-pound dog, whereas a dog of the same size can be poisoned by as little as 1 ounce of baker’s chocolate.”
If you’ve heard that chocolate is harmful to dogs, most likely you’ve also heard tales of pets who got their paws on a pan of chocolate cookies or polished off a box of chocolates and “hey, they were fine!” Petmd.com offers an interactive chocolate toxicity meter for dog owners to enter in their dog’s weight as well as the type and amount of chocolate their pet consumed to determine toxicity levels. Even if a pet is not showing symptoms directly after consuming chocolate, it is important to keep a close watch on the animal and make an emergency veterinary visit if toxicity levels are considered moderate to severe.

During the holidays, when pet owners are likely to have chocolate within paws reach (e.g., chocolate chip cookies cooling on the counter or a box of chocolates under the Christmas tree), it may be a good time to remind customers to take precautions around their pets and offer safe, chocolate-free holiday treats for pet lovers shopping your store.

RCI member, Boehm’s Candies & Chocolates of Issaquah, WA offers 1.5-ounce dog treats dipped in peanut butter or white confectionery coating. These treats are safe for dogs and do not contain actual chocolate. 

RCI member, Bomboy’s Home Made Candy of Havre De Grace, MD sells Vanilla-Dipped Dog Bones for man’s best friend.

Give pet lovers a reason to shop in your store this holiday season by posting photos of your animal-friendly treats on social media. Even a small holiday-inspired display in your store will encourage visitors to include Fido in the holiday festivities.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tip #169: Foster Appreciation for the Art of Chocolate Making

Just as it’s never too early to start reading to children, it’s never too early to teach them to appreciate the art of chocolate making. Giving your customers access to books that teach children about how chocolate and candy is made - in a language they can understand - is just the start to creating the next generation of consumers that know the difference between what’s on your shelf and the shelf at the convenience store down the street.
Here’s some recommended books to add to your shelves.
Candy Making for Kids is a creative and fun book full of easy-to-follow candy recipes for kids. From traditional favorites such as toffee and fudge to whimsical creations such as candy caterpillars and candy play-dough, kids of all ages will absolutely love these delicious and cute treats. Perfect for children’s parties, holiday parties, packaging up for friends, or simply enjoying at home, these recipe ideas are sure to become a family favorite!

When George and the man with the yellow hat stop to shop at a chocolate factory store, George becomes curious about how chocolates are made. Though he begins to follow the factory tour, George is soon off on his own to investigate.
How does a cocoa bean turn into tasty chocolate? Follow each step in the food production cycle—from planting cocoa trees to eating a sweet treat.

Bean to bar... to book! Join a charming little girl named Coco as she goes on a magical journey to discover how chocolate is made. Guided by the gentle, loving hand of her favorite chocolate maker, Coco learns the sweet secrets to confection perfection.