Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Throwback Tip #82: Add RCI’s Classifieds Page to Your Web Favorites


Looking to buy or sell used confectionery equipment, post a confectionery job or purchase or sell a confectionery business? Start by adding the Classified Ads page on the Retail Confectioners International website to your website browser favorites as a quick reference.

The Classified Ads page is consistently one of the most viewed pages on RCI’s website. Both RCI members and non-members are invited to post an ad, in any of the following categories:
  • For Sale
  • Wanted
  • Job Postings
Updates are made to the page on a regular basis and you’ll find a variety of used equipment and supplies available for purchase at any given time.

So, what are you waiting for? Take a moment to visit the Classified Ads page and add it to your web browser’s favorites. Then, when you have equipment to buy or sell or a job to post, be sure to post it with RCI.

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, November 26, 2019

Tip #321: Stand Out with Instagram-Worthy Holiday Treats


How Instagram-worthy are your holiday treats?

Sure, they taste delicious, but how would a potential new customer know if they’ve never tasted your confections? No surprise, social media, like Instagram and Facebook, can be an effective tool for reaching consumers, however if A.) you’re not sharing photos of your products on your social media sites daily or B.) they don’t stand out from other holiday gifts, you could be missing out on a massive opportunity to gain new customers this season.

A study by Forbes has shown that 78% of consumers’ purchases are impacted by companies’ social media posts. So, if you’re looking for a boost in sales, consider transforming these classic confectionery treats into holiday showstoppers to help your business standout this season.

Rice Cereal Treats
Cookie cutters aren't just for cookies. They also make a great tool for creating fun seasonal chocolate-covered rice cereal treats. Make the most out of your collection of cookie cutters, by repurposing common shapes to create new and unique designs. After realizing that their gingerbread man treats weren’t selling as well as other designs, Bomboy’s Home Made Candy gave the tired cookie cutter new life by turning it upside down and transforming it into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This little reindeer proved to be a hit!

Make fall and summer designs last into the holidays! If you have cookie cutters shaped like a ghost or even an ice cream cone, just flip them upside down to transform the shapes into cute elves. Did you know a pumpkin cookie cutter can be repurposed to make a jolly Mrs. Claus?
Rudolph by Fab Art DIY; Mrs. Claus and Elves, Food Network; Ice Cream Cone Elves, Baker Stock by Bearfoot Baker
Caramel Apples
Traditionally a fall treat, a little creativity can help transform caramel apples into a festive holiday gift. For inspiration, mimic Santa’s jolly belly by adding his signature black belt and big gold buckle around a red caramel apple coated in red sprinkles or luster dust. Bring Frosty the Snowman to life by adding a jumbo marshmallow to the top of a caramel apple before dipping them both in white chocolate. A few chocolate chip “buttons" and a red licorice scarf will help tie it all together. Lastly, add candy eyes, a red nose and antlers, of course, to create everyone’s favorite reindeer out of a classic chocolate-covered caramel apple. There’s lots of ideas online for creating Rudolph’s antlers—from the easiest to the most realistic, you may want to try pipe cleaners, pretzel twists or sugar cookies for your antlers.

Santa Apples, Baked with Love; Mrs. Prindables Reindeer and Snowman; Reindeer with Pipe Cleaner Antlers, Design Dazzle
Need help perfecting your caramel apples? Check out these past blog posts for tips on making caramel stick to apples or learn why you should flip your caramel apples upside down.

Marshmallows
Jumbo marshmallows make a quick and easy canvas for creating holiday magic. Put three jumbo marshmallows on a stick, coat them in white chocolate and decorate to make marshmallow snowmen pops that are too sweet to pass up. Click here to watch a tutorial by Two Sisters Crafting. All you need to make adorable gingerbread marshmallow pops are, your choice of caramel-coated marshmallows or marshmallows covered in peanut butter confectioner’s coating, some piped white chocolate and tiny sugar decorations.

Snowmen, Two Sisters Crafting; Gingerbread Men, Munchkin Munchies
Sandwich Cookies
If you don’t think of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer when looking at your favorite sandwich cookies, changing your perspective may increase your holiday sales. When RCI member Vande Walle’s Candies coated Nutter Butter sandwich cookies in chocolate and embellished them with a pair of candy eyes, pretzel twist antlers and a bright red nose, these cute reindeer treats reportedly “flew out the door,” they were so popular with their customers! For another spin on this idea, try substituting the Nutter Butter cookies with Oreo cookies on a stick.

Nutter Butter Reindeer, Vande Walle Candies; Oreo Reindeer, Oh Nuts!
More than ever, consumers are looking to social media for unique and memorable gift ideas this holiday season. Posting photos of your festive holiday treats on social media regularly will help your company capture the attention of consumers while they’re making their shopping list this season.

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, November 19, 2019

Throwback Tip #169: Share This Reading List with Young Chocolate Lovers

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.

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, November 12, 2019

Tip #320: Protect Your Business from Email Scams


Would you ignore an email from your boss or CEO?

A staff member at Dietsch Brothers Fine Chocolates & Ice Cream in Ohio recently received an email from who he thought was one of the owners of the company requesting he purchase five $200 Best Buy gift cards to reward some of the team. This particular co-owner had just celebrated their retirement, so the request didn’t seem unreasonable. However, after further communication, the Dietsch staffer realized the email was not coming from the owner at all and was actually a sophisticated email scam.

As it turns out this is a real-life example of a growing financial fraud known as Business Email Compromise (BEC) or “CEO Fraud.” BEC is an email phishing scam using fake email addresses that look like they’re coming from the CEO or leadership of the organization. As stated by the FBI, BEC scams are “more sophisticated than any similar scam the FBI has seen before and one—in its various forms—that has resulted in actual and attempted losses of more than a billion dollars to businesses worldwide.”

CEO fraud specifically resulted in $2.3 billion in losses to U.S. businesses between October 2013 and February 2016, according to a 2016 report from the FBI. This type of fraud has tripled in the last three years and jumped another 50% in the first three months of 2019.

Common tactics may involve a scammer impersonating the CEO or someone in another leadership role requesting a wire transfer, gift cards or employee tax information. These types of email scams are effective because they rely on “fear the boss” thinking; all employees want to do their job and what is asked of them. Therefore, a request from their CEO or highest leader in the company is something they likely won’t decline. “[Scammers] know how to perpetuate the scam without raising suspicions,” FBI Special Agent Maxwell Marker said. “They have excellent tradecraft, and they do their homework. They use language specific to the company they are targeting, along with dollar amounts that lend legitimacy to the fraud. The days of these emails having horrible grammar and being easily identified are largely behind us.” 

How to Spot a CEO Email Scam
Thankfully, for Dietsch Brothers, the target of this scam recognized a red flag that ultimately saved the family-owned business $2,000. Protect your business by educating your staff on how to identify this type of email fraud. Below are common trademarks of a CEO fraud email scam, identified by Fraud Watch International:
  • Spoofing legitimate email addresses, using a domain similar to that of the targeted business.
  • Using an urgent tone, commanding request is done “ASAP”.
  • Stating the CEO or CFO cannot be disturbed during a meeting or may be busy and unable to respond during the email exchange.
  • Implying the sender is using a mobile device to write the email, by including the phrase “Sent from my iPad”, in lieu of the corporate email signature.
    • Note: This trick is particularly effective, because implying that the email is sent from a mobile device excuses poor English, misspelling, or lack of a legitimate email signature, which are usually triggers to recognize phishing emails. It also helps strengthen the sense of urgency: if it wasn’t pressing, the sender would have waited until they were back at their desk. Hackers might also do their homework to find out when the executives are travelling for business, making their scam even more credible to their victim.
  • Cyber criminals do the research to know what type of request is most legitimate-looking to avoid raising suspicion.
Train Your Team
Create awareness of potential scams that may pose a threat to your business. Share the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Studies with your team. Click here to download.
  • Create a clear policy for your team regarding how money and sensitive information is shared. Always require a check-in with leadership before steps are taken.
  • Train staff to double-check email addresses, not just the sender’s name. Look for email addresses that are close, but not exact — For instance, a phishing address may come from an email with @gmail.com at the end or ".co" rather than the expected ".com" or ".ca"
  • Encourage staff to always question emails requesting fast actions, whether they seem unusual or not. The Better Business Bureau suggests most fraud cases could have been avoided with a phone call to the individual believed to be sending the email.
  • Keep computers updated with antivirus software and consider investing in anti-phishing software to help protect your network and email systems. 

With businesses of all sizes being targeted, and this type of fraud activity continuing to grow, your business can never be too prepared. Educate your staff today by sharing this blog post. For more information read our sources:
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, November 5, 2019

Tip #319: Grow Your Email List


Even the best email campaign will fall flat if it is sent to an email list consisting of contacts that don’t have any interest in your brand or don’t generally buy candy—this can happen if you purchase an email list. Although purchasing an email list is certainly a quick way to gain volume, don’t expect quality leads. Building an email list of individuals who opt-in, or voluntarily give their email address, is always the best approach because it will ensure your list consists of consumers who have a genuine interest in your brand and value what you have to say. Keep reading as RCI members, Melissa Wedman with Mollycoddled Hashslinger and Jayni Wunderlich with Graham's Chocolates, share four tactics they use to build a quality email list.

POP-UPS
When used correctly pop-ups can be both effective and well-received by customers. Despite the bad rap these little attention-grabbing boxes have developed since Google started policing pop-ups deemed disruptive to its users, Sumo.com says “well-designed pop-ups have the potential to convert 9% of visitors that encounter them.”

When creating pop-ups for your website, messaging must be brief, relevant and add value to visitors of your website. If you use a pop-up to encourage customers to subscribe to your email newsletter, consider adding bulleted details about what they’ll receive such as special offers, new product notices, updates on special events you’re attending (like a farmers’ market or charity event) or maybe even holiday gift guides.

Melissa: A pop-up request appears after five seconds of opening any page on our website (the use of cookies, ensure it doesn't keep reappearing while navigating multiple pages of our website) that says, "Join Our Email List! Stay connected with us for promotions, recipes & more!" and includes a close-up of our signature caramels.

GIVEAWAYS
Everyone loves getting free stuff, right? That's what makes giveaways a great way to build your email list quickly. However, choosing the wrong giveaway can leave you with a large list of unqualified leads. Sure, giving away a new car is guaranteed to get you a massive list, but focusing on prizes that appeal to your customers will help ensure you gain contacts that are interested in your products and not just free stuff.

Jayni: We build our email list by having contests to win a free box of chocolates during the holidays and then collect their emails to use for future email blasts. Once gathered, we send email blasts out on occasion to promote holiday products. We use MailChimp and really like their service.

Melissa: We give away prizes at special events and pop-up shops we participate in. As an added opportunity to build our email list, our giveaway slips include a box for customers to check if they’re interested in receiving our monthly newsletter. We have found that the people who join our email list from these slips more actively read our newsletters and become strong followers through social media as we've had the opportunity to build a rapport with them in person. Comparatively those who subscribe directly through a social media platform or as a result of an online purchase or through one of our wholesale accounts do not seem to have the same level of brand loyalty.

SIGNUP FOOTER
Adding a signup footer to the bottom of your website is a simple and less-intrusive option to build your email list. Many of your loyal customers may already be scrolling to the bottom of your website looking to easily subscribe to your email list.

Melissa: The footer of each page of our website includes a "Stay in the Loop" section with our social media icons/links as well as a place to input your email address. If someone is new to our website and declines the entry pop-up request to be added to our newsletter, the footer is always visible as they're spending more time on our website.

EVENT OPT-INS
If you’re already hosting events like tours, parties, classes or tasting events that require attendees to register in advance or purchase tickets, simply adding an opt-in box to the registration or checkout process will help you capture contact information for consumers interested in your brand. Offering the option to subscribe to your email list (or not) will help to more accurately reflect the success of your email messaging.

Jayni: We sell tickets to our special events online and collect email addresses along with those purchases. For instance, we host a wine and chocolate tasting every year during a wine festival in our town. By selling our tickets through our website, this allows potential event goers to visit our website, and sign up for our newsletter during check out.

Your email marketing campaign is only as good as your email list. Communicating with the right audience will help your business increase sales, generate new customers and retain loyal customers.

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, October 22, 2019

Throwback Tip #166: Never Make Caramel Corn Again…without this ingredient!

Photo: Land O'Lakes
There's something warm and comforting about caramel corn in the fall--but sticky, clumpy caramel corn is no fun at all! After reading this week's quick tip, you will never want to make caramel corn without this ingredient!

If your caramel corn sticks together and becomes difficult to separate, adding lecithin will help. Randy Hofberger of R&D Consultants advises mixing lecithin with a little oil and adding this mixture at the end of your caramel corn recipe. This will help the caramel spread apart easier and save you the hassle of manually pulling it apart. 

Allergy Alert! It is advised that individuals with soy allergies do not consume products that contain lecithin. Although lecithin is a byproduct of soy, there is always a chance soy protein will find its way into lecithin. Lecithin derived from sunflower or canola are more allergy-friendly alternatives to soy. 

Don’t cry over spilled lecithin.
Resist the urge to clean spilled lecithin with a damp cloth or spray cleaner, which will cause it to gum-up and make it worse. Instead, cover the spill with sugar and it will clean right up.

Make It Festive
With the quick addition of ingredients like pretzels, roasted nuts, candy corn and colorful candy-coated chocolates this sweet and salty treat is easily be transformed into a festive trail mix for fall parties, trips to the pumpkin patch and tail gate parties.

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, October 15, 2019

Tip #318: Enhance Your Confections with Gourmet Sea Salt



In recent years, the application of sea salt in confections has evolved from strictly artisanal to mainstream in the candy industry. According to Synergy Consultants, sea salt was introduced to nearly 1,350 food products in 2010 alone. If you have not yet jumped on this bandwagon, you may be missing an opportunity to engage consumers and increase sales.

RCI member, Boehm’s Candies of Issaquah, Washington first introduced gourmet sea salt to their confections in 1999. At the time they wondered if it would be a quickly passing fad. Today, the candy maker carries a variety of confections featuring distinctively different gourmet sea salts, contributing to at least 100 pounds of finished product every week to satisfy customer demand.

Pulled from an article in RCI’s Kettle Talk magazine, Bernard Garbusjuk attributes the trendiness of sea salt to our love of the sweet and salty combination. “In our production, we have tested different salt profiles for various confections, but we believe that the most complementing marriage is between caramel and salt. If you are very careful balancing a recipe, then it can also work well for solid chocolate pieces.”

With the growing popularity of sea salt in a variety of applications, featuring a gourmet sea salt with a unique color, flavor, coarseness and even origin will help you create a more signature product. Keep reading for three of Boehm’s favorite gourmet sea salt varieties, as well as recommended applications for each.

Hawaiian Sea Salt Blend
Natural sea salt blended with the rare alaea sea salt from Hawaii. The alaea salt can be identified by its distinct red color achieved by mixing with volcanic clay.

Boehm’s standard sea salt caramels are topped with a blend of two different salts from the Hawaiian Islands. The alaea salt is from the island of Kauai and has a distinct red color from the volcanic clay, and the white salt is from the island of Oahu. The finer grain of the salt from Oahu will disperse in your mouth somewhat faster than the coarser alaea salt and the blend of size and color give the caramel an elegant, upscale finish.

Ilocano Asin
A mild, mineral rich sea salt from the pure seawaters of Pangasinan, Phillippines. Bright, crisp flavors powered by underlying minerals combine in this complex and well-balanced salt.

At Boehm’s they created a thin wand of twisted caramel (about the length of a licorice stick), covered it in chocolate and finished it with the Ilocano Asin salt. This caramel and sea salt “stick” satisfies customers who want a more robust salt profile. Simply because of how you eat it, it can taste remarkably different than the square sea salt caramel.

Smoked Alder Wood Sea Salt
A Pacific sea salt is slightly smoked over red alderwood.

As part of their boxed chocolates, Boehm’s adds a caramel with smoked alderwood sea salt to represent the Pacific Northwest. Consider sourcing a sea salt that reflects the flavors and ingredients representative of your area.

If you can brand a unique sea salt product with a distinctive flavor or coarseness, or from a special region (Himalayan, Mediterranean, etc.), you may be surprised how it effects your sales compared to if you use a non-descript sea salt.

If you’re wondering where to get your hands on gourmet sea salt, Boehm’s Candies recommends SaltWorks® and xroads Phillippe Sea Salts®. SaltWorks offers a variety of salts in fine to coarse grain and in many flavor profiles. Xroads Phillippine Sea Salts® delivers unique culinary sea salts that enhance a broad range of flavors while empowering small communities.

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, October 8, 2019

Throwback Tip #165: Celebrate Sweetest Day



Do you celebrate Sweetest Day? A favorite candy holiday in the Great Lakes region (more specifically Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit), it originated in 1922 when Herbert Birch Kingston, a Cleveland candy maker, decided to give candy and small gifts to the city’s orphans and shut-ins, all who are often forgotten and neglected. With the help of friends and neighbors, he distributed these small remembrances on a Saturday in October. For years to follow, other Clevelanders began to participate in the tradition, which came to be known as "Sweetest Day.”

Al Herz, RCI Board President, treats local orphans with
chocolates and entertainment from
the Little Rascals on Sweetest Day in 1928.
In time, the idea of spreading cheer to the underprivileged broadened to include everyone from family and significant others to coworkers and acquaintances with a kind act or a small remembrance. With a little help from movie stars in the 1930s, the idea quickly spread to other cities all over the country.

For many people, remembering takes the form of gift giving. For this reason, Sweetest Day offers a unique opportunity to offer all kinds of gift items. Falling midway between Father's Day in June and Christmas in December, Sweetest Day provides an occasion for the opening of fall merchandising programs and the promotion of various products, not the least of which is candy and boxed chocolate.


Although Sweetest Day does present commercial opportunity, it is also a great opportunity to set aside time to show members of your community that you care. Consider organizing a group volunteer opportunity for your team, such as serving meals at a local shelter or visiting with the elderly at a senior living facility. Not only are these great opportunities to serve your community, they can help to foster a positive company culture.


Other Ideas to Promote Sweetest Day
  • Remind your customers of Sweetest Day through social media, email and in-store signage. Click here to download our free graphic.
  • Send press releases about Sweetest Day to your local media and let them know of ways your business can help customers celebrate. Click here for more information about the holiday on RCI’s website.
  • Be prepared to explain Sweetest Day and to make suggestions regarding appropriate gifts, keeping in mind that the possibilities are limitless. 
  • Create a prominent display of merchandise for Sweetest Day.

Gaining in popularity throughout the country every year, some RCI members have reported sales from Sweetest Day exceeding Mother’s Day. This year, Sweetest Day will take place October 19, the third Saturday in October.

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, October 1, 2019

Save Brittle Blunders with Troubleshooting Guide


Brittles are a popular confection, with formulations that can be adjust to feature any variety of nuts, seeds and even dried fruit. In an excerpt from RCI’s Kettle Talk magazine, Randy Hofberger of R&D Candy Consultants shares how to achieve great tasting product with consistency.

This hard, glassy candy is not typically coated with chocolate, which makes it great for consumers to enjoy year around! There is no standard of identity for brittles (also known as butter crunch, nut crisps, etc.), but they generally contain sugar, corn syrup, butter, nuts, salt, flavorings and often bicarbonate of soda (baking soda).

While there are many formulas to make brittles, some typical values are:
  • Sugar/corn syrup ratio of 2:1
  • Milk fat: 1-15%
  • Nuts: 20-30%
  • Salt: 0.2-1.0%
  • Emulsifiers: lecithin 0.25%, mono and diglycerides 0.5-1.5%
  • Bicarbonate of soda: 0.5-1.0% (if used)
  • Sufficient water to dissolve the sugars

The basic procedure to make brittles is to combine the sugar, corn syrup, emulsifier and water and bring to a boil, washing down the sides of the kettle to prevent premature graining. If your formula has a high percentage of fat/butter (such as with a butter crunch), you will want to add this at the beginning of the cook to ensure it is well incorporated. At approximately 240ºF, raw nuts are added to be roasted in the boiling syrup. Adding the nuts at this time will provide the necessary amino acids to start the Maillard reaction, which will contribute to the color and flavor of the brittle.

As the temperature approaches 280ºF, the flame is lowered if there is evidence of scorching. When the final cook temperature (usually 295–310ºF) is reached, flavoring, low levels of butter, salt and baking soda may be added. The cooked candy is taken to a warm cooling table to be stretched and cooled. Thin pieces of brittle will give a bite that is more tender. When cooled, the product must be properly packaged to maintain the crunchy texture, since brittles will absorb moisture.

Brittles can be a popular and profitable part of your candy portfolio due to their flavor, texture and resistance to heat. Like all confections, consistency is key. Consistent product requires consistent ingredients added in a consistent manner, cooked to the same temperature and for the same amount of time. Processes for cooling, transferring, packaging and storage should also be consistent.


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, September 24, 2019

Tip #315: Sell More Product By Leverage Your Company Story




You do it every day. When you see your co-workers on Monday morning, at dinner on Friday night, even when you're trying to convince your kids that green beans are good for them.

You tell stories to make your case and to make connections. That's what we do as human beings. In fact, we're hardwired for it.

If storytelling comes naturally to us, then it seems natural that we would use this skill in business—to attract customers, persuade partners and rally employees.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind as you build your storytelling skills. To be persuasive and productive, the stories we tell at work need to be built with attention paid to: emotion, craft and action.

Emotion
No one needs to tell you that most of our decisions—whether in business or in life—are pushed along by our emotions. They also help us feel engaged in a story or a transaction. But how do you find and engage the right emotions?

Entrepreneurs can learn from fiction writers who have long known that the success of a story rests in finding "the significant details,” as Eudora Welty once wrote. In good stories, it's the details that captivate us, that allow us to "see" the story, and that invite the reader to get involved in the conversation.

If I tell you my first bicycle was pink with training wheels, that's not much to go on. But if I tell you my first bike was built by the boy down the street who added training wheels and ribbons, and then jogged down the sidewalk with me, holding the banana seat with one hand while I learned how to pedal...now I've given you enough details to "see" the image. I've gotten you involved in my story. You're probably already starting to think about when you learned to ride a bike.

In business, the same is true. Just as you focus on the details of your ingredients and processes, attending to the details in your marketing—even if you're just greeting someone who has walked into your store—can mean the difference between a customer who feels unwanted and one who feels like he is now a participant in the “conversation.”

Even if you're not in full story mode, using clear details in your conversations will guarantee you a better relationship.

Craft
I like to tell my students that masterpieces are not written; they are rewritten.

Even though we are all able to toss off a great story in the middle of a cocktail party, the stories you use at work should be crafted. Just like a house is built with bricks or wooden beams, stories are built on details and images and rhythm and voice, and so much more. Key among these craft elements is the idea of tension and conflict.

I know. You may be running from the room when you see these two words. While most of us don't like conflict in our lives, we must have it in our stories. Think about it this way: in a story, tension and conflict can be either a threat or an opportunity.

In business we usually refer to this as creating a sense of urgency. "If you pay now you can save five percent." That's the opportunity. The threat: "If you don't pay now, you'll be charged an additional five percent."

In stories, this concept works in a slightly different way. We create tension by sharing obstacles that may have been in our path. For instance, your signature chocolate relies on cocoa nibs from Ghana. But your sources have dried up and now you have to find the right quality beans somewhere else. And, you had to beat your competitors to them.

We like our stories to have heroes. Overcoming obstacles, big or small, makes you a hero.

Action
In my opinion, every story is persuasive in some way. Opinion pieces in the newspaper try to convince you to see the news the way the writer does. Novels and movies persuade us that this fictional world is real. Advertisers know they are not selling soap; they are selling us the idea that if we use this soap, we will be beautiful.

To be persuasive, stories need to have a solid structure and a clear call to action. We must want our audience to do something.

Imagine this: you spend 15 minutes explaining the process of developing this unique flavor profile and tell me the story of how you stumbled on to it after you thought you were creating something else. Then you say, "let me know if I can help you find something,” and you walk back behind the counter.

As your customer, I probably found the story intriguing and would like to taste this new flavor, but you didn't ask me if I'd like to try a sample or buy some for dessert this evening. So I say, “that's interesting,” and move on.

Now, imagine this: you stand in front of me with two trays and ask me to choose which one I think is the enhanced flavor. Right away you have gotten me involved in this story.

After I point to the tray in your left hand, you say, “Right! Take a taste and let me tell you how we stumbled upon this extraordinary new flavor. We were in the back room on a cold and snowy Saturday morning…”

Now you have made me a part of your story and because you asked me a question, I am immediately involved in this conversation. In fact, when I serve this candy at my next dinner party, I will tell my guests my story of hearing your story, and then these new people will become a part of that story. And on and on and on.

You can see how powerful this can be.

What Stories Should You Tell?
There's a good chance you are not at a loss for personal stories, but in business we want to make sure the stories we craft will support a sales or relationship building goal. Here are just a few ideas for where to find good stories:
  • Why you got started in this business.
  • Why you stay in this business.
  • How you source your ingredients and materials.
  • What makes you different.
  • What suppliers you work with and why.

The next time you start telling a story, stop for a moment and realize you are building a chain of connections that have the potential to reach far and wide.

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.