Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Throwback Tip #103: Remind Employees of the Value of Customer Service

No matter what time of year it is, it’s imperative that every guest has a great experience each time they enter your store. Creating a welcoming and pleasant guest experience will increase the likelihood that customers will return and tell their friends about their great experience. That’s why this week’s tip is to remind your associates of the importance and value of great customer service. Below are a few items from a 2012 blog tip about customer service  to consider reviewing with your employees:

  • Don’t just greet customers – greet them with a smile.
  • Thank customers for their business and invite them to come back again.
  • Be proactive – go to the customer in the store to offer assistance.
  • Ask customers who call the store if they may be placed on hold rather than assuming and saying, “hold, please.”
By providing exceptional customer service, you just may turn that customer who walked in by chance into a new regular who visits your store for treats throughout the year.

Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tip # 203:Create Eye-Catching Graphics Without Hiring A Graphic Designer

So, you’ve got a Facebook page. You may even keep pretty active at posting photos, but you don’t have a graphic designer on staff to design interesting and engaging graphics to make your social space really pop. Don’t break the piggy bank to hire a designer just yet!

There are plenty of FREE tools available that allow you to create the very images you’ve been dreaming of, and with no graphic design degree required. All you need to get started is a stock image or a photo shot from your smart phone and a little creativity. Read on for reviews of three recommended design tools and a graphic for National Lollipop Day - each graphic was created in less than five minutes.
Graphic created using Canva

#1: Canva

This free tool helps non-designers create social media graphics in minutes by adding text, filters and your own color scheme. Their library of over 100 professionally designed layouts for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and more makes it quick and easy to design elaborate graphics in just a few clicks. Upload your own photos or choose from over 1 million stock images (most only $1 each).

In addition to templates for social media graphics, Canva also has design templates for flyers, infographics, photo collages, letterheads, gift certificates, business cards and more.

#2: Adobe Spark

Graphic created using Adobe Spark
Adobe Spark is a free tool for creating beautiful graphics for social media as well as various printed materials. Like Canva, Adobe Spark Post has many professional design themes making design quick and easy, however, it also has a fun, time-saving feature which allows you to use a cursor to preview multiple pre-designed text, design and color themes all at once. Stuck on creating the perfect color scheme? Adobe Spark also offers a feature where you can browse hundreds of suggested color palettes to polish off your look.

What really stands out about Adobe Spark is the ability to animate your graphic from the iPhone or iPad app version, Adobe Spark Post, (Click here  to view a tutorial from Beth Ziesenis of YourNerdyBestFriend.com).

#3: PicMonkey

Graphic created using PicMonkey
If you like to share photos of your products and the day-to-day operations of your business, PicMonkey is a great option for you! Another free option to create attractive social media graphics, its capabilities are more focused on the photos and, currently, doesn't offer design templates. The free version equips you with basic photo editing tools and a large selection of frames, collage templates and other special effects, including fonts and overlays. Or for just $3.33/month annually, you can take advantage of some pretty impressive upgrades, like advanced photo editing tools (say goodbye to unwanted wrinkles or blemishes), over 1,000 graphics, double the effects and filters and premium fonts through PicMonkey Royale.

In summary, each of these tools will save you the cost of hiring another employee or taking up design courses yourself just to create graphics for your social media posts. Depending on your time and skill level, it is recommended that you test each one to determine which best fits your needs. You may even discover that you like to use more than one tool for different purposes. 

Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tip # 202: 5 Tips for Creating a Memorable Promotional Event

Hosting a promotional event is a great way to develop new customers and increase traffic from existing customers. RCI member, Randy Good of Good’s Candy Shop, instructed attendees at RCI’s Merchandising Essentials course on how to execute a successful promotional experience. Here you will find five tips for building your business through effective promotional events.

Abbott's Candies demonstrates hand tempering for tour guests.
#1: Design an Event Around What You Do Best

For candy makers, this is the perfect opportunity to illustrate the care and attention that goes into your confections through candy-making demonstrations. Open your production facility for tours and allow guests to watch and sample your products.

We recommend complying with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), by requiring guests entering your production space to wear hair/beard nets and closed-toe shoes, to remove jewelry and abide by any other regulations made by Federal and State government. With clear communication of your guidelines, your guests will understand and appreciate the steps you’ve taken to ensure for the quality of your products and for their individual safety – plus, who doesn’t love taking a selfie in a hairnet?!

#2: Create a “Sticky” Event Name

When creating a name for your event, think of names that will “stick” or stand out in peoples’ minds. A memorable event name will help with the promotion of your event by capturing the attention of possible attendees, as well as the local media. If you host the event on an annual basis, this will also increase the chances of attendees to remember the previous events and the great time they had!
Goodstock is just one of many events Good's Candy Shop hosts to draw traffic to their retail store.
Staff at Good's Candy Shop take pride in representing their brand.
 #3: Represent Your Brand at its Best

Before you welcome new visitors into your business, keep in mind you only have one chance to make a first impression. Make sure all aspects of your business represent what your brand is or hopes to be. Not only should your store sparkle from front to back (even the area behind the counter that “no one” sees), your staff’s appearance should also reflect your brand. If your associates have a uniform or dress code, before an event is a good time to evaluate whether or not they need new aprons, name tags, branded apparel, etc. and to remind all staff of any guidelines pertaining to their attire. If you don’t have a dress code, consider creating an event t-shirt for your staff to wear – this will not only create a more cohesive look for your team, but help customers better identify staff if they have questions.

#4: Train Your Staff to Give

Successful events are about giving to the community. Train your staff on how to give information, courtesy, smiles and samples. Providing basic talking points or key phrases can help staff feel confident and better prepared to offer exception customer service to guests.

Samples are served with a smile at Rebecca-Ruth Candies.
Donaldson's Finer Chocolates is prepared to handle a crowd.

#5: Plan the Logistical Flow of Guests

Creating a plan for the flow of traffic through your facility can make a significant impact on the guest experience. Determine a plan to gently guide guests within your space by assigning specific staff to various touch points. Starting (most importantly) with a welcome greeting at the entrance, plan for three to four touch points (or more depending on the size of your store). At each touch point, station staff to offer product samples and even the chance to win a prize for signing up to receive promotional emails or joining your birthday club.  By planning ahead, you can prevent potential bottle necks and ensure your guests get the most out of their experience.

Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Tip # 201: Take Merchandising to New Heights with a Truffle Tree

Photos courtesy of Annedore's Fine Chocolates
A tower of truffles or “truffle tree” is a stylish way for your customers to serve truffles to a large group. The Truffle Tree also makes for an eye-catching merchandising display for your retail shop. It is a big ticket item that can add nice revenue to your store’s sales. With a little advance planning, building the tree can be relatively easy to execute.

Here you will find a list of materials needed and step-by-step instructions for creating this showpiece as provided by RCI member, Annedore's Fine Chocolates.
RCI members: Click here to log on to RCI’s member site and view three variations of ganache recipes on page 9 of 2014’s 3rd quarter issue of Kettle Talk.

For ease of construction, un-dipped ganache balls may be stored in the freezer. Simply follow the instructions below for thawing and dipping the ganache balls and you are ready to build a tree on demand.

Materials Needed:

  • Truffles (see recipes below)
  • Silicone mats
  • Plastic wrap
  • Foam block
  • Parchment paper or aluminum foil (optional)
  • Round toothpicks
  • Tempered chocolate
  • Foam cone
  • Wrapping paper or fabric (preferably coordinating with the color of your truffles)
  • Flathead pins
  • Scissors
  • Ribbon or tree topper (optional)
Step-By-Step Instructions

  1. Prepare truffle centers using your own ganache recipe or see recipes below. Pipe ganache onto silicone mats. Cover the mats with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours. Transfer mats to the freezer for 12 hours. Remove mats from the freezer and pop out ganache balls (Note: Balls may be returned to the freezer for future use). Cover balls with plastic wrap and allow them to come to room temperature.
  2. Cover a foam block with parchment paper or aluminum foil, so it can be reused. Glue a toothpick into each ganache ball by, first, dipping one end of the toothpick into tempered chocolate and then inserting that end into the center of the flat side of the ganache ball. Allow toothpick to set up firmly in the ganache ball.

  3. Once the toothpick is firmly set in the ganache ball you are ready to dip each ganache ball in tempered chocolate. Dip each ball carefully and then insert tooth-picked end of the ball into the block of foam. This will allow for perfect-looking, uniform truffles to create your truffle tree. Allow chocolate to set up. Truffles may be decorated while standing in the block of foam.

  4. Before you begin to build your tree, first, wrap the foam cone completely with wrapping paper or fabric – secure with flathead pins, as needed.

  5. Beginning at the bottom of the cone, push the tooth-picked truffles into the cone working your way around the cone to create the first row. On the second row, stagger the truffles by placing them in the open spaces created by the first row. Carefully work your way up the cone row by row until the entire cone is covered in truffles. Toothpicks may need to be cut as you reach the top of the cone.

  6. Crown the top of your tree by inserting a tooth-picked truffle vertically on the top of the cone. Experiment with different tree toppers, such as a large bow or a chocolate initial or number (birthday idea). Use your imagination. 

Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.