Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tip #177: Meet Up with RCI in 2016!

Visit RCI website for event updates.

With each new year, Retail Confectioners International (RCI) strives to offer exciting new events designed to help candy makers and chocolatiers build sweet businesses. We’re excited for the coming year and hope that you will plan to join us at one (or more) of the following events.

  • February 22-25 – Chocolate Boot Camp® – This popular education course moves to the east coast in 2016, providing a great foundation for working with chocolates. We accept a maximum of 25 students and, with five instructors; it provides a great student-to-teacher ratio and plenty of hands-on learning opportunities. Although the course is currently sold out, we will be accepting names for a waiting list.
  • April 20-22 –Merchandising Essentials- Designed with the retail candy maker in mind, this course is aimed at equipping students with the tools needed to remain relevant in a competitive industry. Students will learn how to build a consistent brand image, create an effective promotion, assemble attractive gift baskets, manage engaging social media content and more.
  • June 20-24 – Annual Convention & Industry Expo – We’re excited to be in Indianapolis, Indiana for our biggest event of the year. From a confectionery industry expo to quality education sessions and networking to behind-the-scenes tours, it’s an event you won’t want to miss!
  • August 10-12 – Caramels, Toffees & Brittles – Dive into the science behind making coveted caramels, toffees and brittles. Topics covered include ingredients, processes, formulas and troubleshooting. Attendees will take home the knowledge and experience needed to add these products to their lineup or improve existing recipes.
  • September 21-23 - Fall Regional Conference - Join RCI in the bustling coastal city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Attendees will take in the sights of this beautiful city while connecting with fellow candy makers and industry suppliers. Attendees can expect relevant education sessions, idea sharing through Candy Clinic and behind-the-scenes tours from some of the best candy makers in Canada.

Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date on RCI happenings. We’ll see you in 2016! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tip #176: Take time to smell the hot chocolate!

For many companies, this is the busiest time of the year. Likely you’ve been preparing (in one way or another) for the holiday season all year long and, at this point, you’re just holding your breath and bracing yourself for Valentine’s Day. In the midst of all the bustle, remind yourself why this is the greatest time of the year.

Here’s wishing you an abundance of peace, joy and love this holiday season! May you take time to enjoy all the little things that make the holidays so special!

Merry Christmas, sweet friends!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tip #175: Share Customer Success Stories

Thanks to the evolution of technology and social media, advertising is everywhere. Aggressive advertisers have created an over-saturated world of ads in print, on television, the radio and especially online. We, as consumers, have also evolved to become more turned off by advertising, making it nearly impossible to get our attention.

That’s where content marketing comes into the picture. Although it has recently become a popular buzzword, the concept of content marketing has been around for over 100 years. The trouble with content marketing can be simply coming up with topics that aren’t perceived as “salesy,” but are relatable and interesting. Here’s one for your toolbox… customer success stories.

Not to be confused with testimonials, which can feel generic and contrived, customer success stories are weaved around a customer solving a problem using your product (e.g., finding the perfect corporate gift for clients) or an outstanding customer service experience. In some cases, customer success stories may require a little more leg work to find, but are more believable when sourced from individuals who shared their positive experience organically. By keeping a pulse on what people are saying about you online, or what's happening in your store, you can identify people who are doing interesting things with your products – a company that thanks clients with your chocolate bars emblazoned with their company logo, a bride who made a dessert tower with your truffles or a teenager who raises money to purchase a dozen boxes of chocolates to give senior citizens who live in the local nursing home. Seek these people out and ask them if they would be interested in filling out a questionnaire about your company. Their stories could prove to be a valuable asset to your brand.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tip # 174: Stand Out through Social Media

For candy makers and chocolatiers who produce fresh morsels of deliciousness every day, social media makes for a great, visual platform to communicate what makes your brand stand out. Interesting posts not only inform followers of that fresh batch of toffee now ready for purchase, but when used correctly can effectively drive home your point of difference (how your goods or services differ from the competition).

To identify your points of difference, first evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your business, followed by those of your competition. According to AmericanExpress’s Open Forum, small businesses should assess the consumer’s perception of the following points: price, variety, features, benefits, quality, availability, convenience, customer service and your story (how, why or where you do business). This can be an activity practiced on your own, but would be best to include a group of trusted team members – as long as you can keep an open mind in the process.

After identifying the strengths and weaknesses of both your company and the competition, note areas of similarity. After crossing out the strengths you share with competitions, the strengths that stand apart become your points of difference. Your points of difference should be leveraged to create a consistent brand message which inspires brand loyalty by giving consumers a reason to purchase your product. A point of difference doesn’t always have to be spelled out, in fact, it shouldn’t be – that would get old quick. Everyone knows a picture speaks a thousand words, before posting a photo on Instagram or Facebook think about your points of difference and the message you want to communicate to your followers. If one of your points of difference is that you hand-dip chocolates, post photos of your staff in the act (always make sure they are following good manufacturing practices).

You don't need to read their company history to know Birnn Chocolates
of Vermont uses fresh, heavy cream from local dairy cows in their truffles.

As a wholesale supplier, you will not find RCI member, Birnn Chocolates of Vermont on Facebook. However, they do a great job of communicating one of their points of difference to their B2B clients, which is the fact that they use only fresh, heavy cream from Vermont cows for the ganache centers in their famous truffles. They even have a photo of brothers Jeff and Bill Birnn posed with those very Vermont cows on their website. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tip # 173: Subscribe to List Serve

The science of candy making can be complicated, making it difficult to get answers to your questions online that are both relevant and accurate.
Did you know RCI offers an online forum for members, called List Serve, which is designed to connect with fellow candy makers and even suppliers who have the knowledge and experience to answer your questions? List Serve is also a great way to support fellow colleagues in the industry by responding to their questions.

If you’re considering purchasing a new piece of equipment or looking to do business with a new vendor, get recommendations from fellow members by creating a post on List Serve.

Stay up-to-date on posts, by subscribing to conversations covering topics such as chocolate production, marketing and merchandising and owning a business. RCI members can click hereto subscribe now.

Not a member of RCI? Visit
RetailConfectioners.org for more information on how to join.