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.

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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Throwback Tip #205: 3 Ways to Hire Smart for the Holidays

The confectionery industry has the special privilege/task of enduring holiday bursts. Hiring a temporary workforce can help your business maintain consistent production levels and product quality. In this excerpt from a Kettle Talk article written by Jan Douglass with Esther Price Candies, Corp., we built upon three practical tips to help you hire smart for the holidays.

#1: Build Relationships with Staffing Agencies

Staffing agencies can be a great resource for filling temporary positions. Building relationships with reputable staffing agencies and other local organizations (e.g., county or state job centers, developmentally disabled adult centers, etc.) can help to source reliable individuals for seasonal work and unforeseen sales bursts. When working with staffing agencies it is important to practice open and honest communication. Start by taking the time to discuss open positions rather than simply providing a job description. If a recommended candidate isn’t a good fit, providing concise feedback on why that was the case will help staffing agencies identify better candidates in the future. These simple steps will ensure the staffing agency feels well equipped to find the right fit, right away.

#2: Training is Key

They may only be with you for a brief time, but a temporary workforce can be vital to keeping with the ebbs and flows of seasonal business and make it less painful when you must reduce your staff at the close of a season. Be aware, however, there can be downsides to a temporary workforce, such as high turnover rates. Increased turnover can result in more training hours, risk of production and packing errors and additional work for human resources. Minimize those risks by having sourcing organizations pre-screen individuals and clearly communicate the job expectations to candidates through digital recordings of the candy making process. Successful training can also lead to the return of seasonal staff year after year.

#3: Stay Current on Labor Laws

Make sure to brush up on federal and state labor laws before hiring for the holidays, as many regulations that apply to full-time employment also apply to part-time and seasonal employment. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Employment and Labor Law Guide is a useful resource when hiring. Be aware of your state’s legal requirements for benefits such as unemployment, social security/medicare and workers’ compensation. Check with your state’s department of labor for exemptions for employers who require temporary staff for periods of 10 weeks or less. You will also want to familiarize yourself on your tax reporting responsibilities according to IRS regulations and state tax laws.

Take advantage of these tips and have a holly jolly hiring 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.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Tip #314: Master 3-D Moulded Chocolates with this Expert Advice

Impress your customers during the holidays and year around with 3D moulded chocolates. Brian Donaghy of Tomric Systems shares step-by-step instructions for working with both solid and hollow moulds, plus important considerations when it comes to tempering and cooling.

Start with Good Temper
It seems fairly basic, but before we dive into moulding chocolate, I feel compelled to note that proper moulding techniques all start with chocolate in good temper. Good temper leads to appropriate viscosity (90 or below for 3D moulding), which ultimately leads to better finished pieces, whether that be your three-foot hollow bunny, your solid chocolate Santa pop or the shell to that beautifully decorated artisan-style praline. We are always looking for bubble-free chocolate, of even thickness throughout the moulded piece with the beautiful shine and snap that will delight our customer. How can we get there?

Solid Moulds
Many 3D moulds are designed as an open or closed format. The open format allows the mould to be made hollow or solid, while the closed format only allows for hollow manufacturing. Solid forming is fairly straight forward; clip the two (or more pieces) together, fill with chocolate, (bubble-free is easier to achieve, if you vibrate the mould while filling) and set filled mould in a cool space with air flow—I prefer 50˚F for my refrigeration temperature. Leave the mould there until you can see the chocolate pulling away from the inside of the plastic. If the chocolate piece experiences breakage during this time, I will often remove some of the clips and turn the mould onto its base to finish the crystallization process. Once the piece is ready to be unmoulded, I remove it from the cool space and allow it to return to room temperature before I unmould.  Waiting this little bit, helps to prevent sugar bloom or condensation on the piece. If the mould has flash (chocolate on the seam that slipped between the plastic sides), cut it off with a utility knife or sharp paring knife and then use compressed air or a badger-style brush to remove the excess chocolate.

Hollow Moulds
The process for creating hollow moulded chocolates is similar to the solid, but after filling it while vibrating the mould, set the mould aside at room temperature for a couple minutes. Next, pour the chocolate from the mould back into the temperer. Repeat this process until the piece is the appropriate weight or thickness. Create the bottom of the piece, by pouring tempered chocolate onto a lined sheet pan, slightly bigger than the base of the mould. Stand the mould into that pool of chocolate and place the mould and sheet pan in a cool space. Like the solid piece, remove clips early if there is breakage, and bring the piece back to room temperature before unmoulding. The extra chocolate around the base of the mould can be easily removed prior to opening the mould by placing a knife between the mould and the chocolate, it should just break away if the chocolate is finished crystallizing.

Cooling Time 
What amount of time is best to store chocolates in a cool space before removing the mould? This will depend on a few factors; the size of the mould, how much chocolate the mould uses and the actual temperature of the space. Regardless of these variables, remember that no matter the size, amount of chocolate or room temperature, you will get more consistent results if that space has moving air, because moulding chocolate that has been properly tempered requires heat exchange created by airflow.

Follow this expert advice to achieve bubble-free moulded chocolates with a beautiful shine and snap.

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 3, 2019

Tip #313: Optimize Your Website for Mobile in 3 Steps

When it comes to your website, you don't want to get left behind! Blake Ellis, with CommerceV3, shares three steps to make your website mobile friendly and turn mobile shoppers into buyers in the process.

There are almost five billion mobile phones in the world. That’s an amazing number given there are only about seven and a half billion people in the world. Not all of these phones are smartphones, but the trends are clear: there are way more phones than computers, and that gap is just getting wider.

What does this mean for your online store? It means every year more of your customers will be using their phones to shop and order. You may have already seen the majority of your traffic move to mobile devices. So, what can you do to convert all these mobile shoppers to buyers?

Quite a lot actually, and it all starts with developing a “mobile-first” mindset. The next time someone asks you to review a design, a new home page promotion or the next email blast, just pull out your phone and check it out. It’s fast, easy and will get you and your team into a mobile-first mindset. If a team member tells you “that’s not really meant for mobile, we don’t get a lot of orders on mobile yet,” just tell them that’s what you’re trying to fix! Pretty soon you’ll start to see a lift as more efforts start with an eye toward mobile.

Reviewing and optimizing everything at once is a lot.
Let’s break this down into three simple steps:

Step #1: Start with Email
Most people read their emails on their phones first, so this tactic makes sense. Enter your own email into your site and open the welcome message on your phone. Test all your other transactional emails, from order confirmations to abandon cart emails to requests for product reviews. Make sure they all look great, are easy to read and perform correctly.

Then move to marketing emails. Have your team test new designs on their phones, and make it a priority to increase opens and click-throughs from mobile devices. Increasing email opens will confirm that your subject lines and preview texts are effective with customers on the go, and increasing click-throughs will confirm the layout and messaging is also working.

Step #2: Optimize Shopping
Once your inbound email metrics are rising, it’s time to get mobile users adding more product to their carts. During this stage you’re testing all your site designs and layouts on your own phone, and asking others to do the same. Designers need to wow you with beautiful, yet tiny layouts, hero images have to load fast and display well, and product detail pages have to present a lot of info in an easy-to-swipe manner.

Keep a close eye on metrics to guide you through this process. How many mobile visitors tap down through categories versus use the product search box? Can you set up filters and sorting to reduce taps and typing? Do products appear with default options so add-to-cart buttons work without any additional selections?

When in doubt, do some secret shopping at large retailers. They have the budgets to do extensive user testing and accommodate all kinds of neat features. Take a look at what they do and get your team to implement features that make sense for your customers.

Step #3: Streamline Checkout
Now that mobile users are tapping on your emails and adding product to their cart, it’s time to get them through the checkout. The key to securing more checkouts is to minimize the need to type.

Set up payment options that your customers already have stored in their phone like Paypal, ApplePay and Google Wallet. Most of these are easy to configure in most online stores, and mobile users love them because they don’t have to re-enter their credit card details.

If you’re already doing address verification, you can use this service to speed up shipping address entry on mobile. As users start to type their street address, your site starts autocompleting the entire address for them.

Finally, make sure every field in your checkout is absolutely required to fulfill the order, and that it pops up the correct style of keyboard for mobile users (alphanumeric, numeric, etc). An easy way to keep up with this is to place a test order on your own site once a week from your phone, and keep tweaking until the process is as efficient as possible.

There’s a lot you can do to improve revenue from mobile, but it all starts with a mobile-first mindset. When it comes to reviewing your own efforts, turn off your computer and pull out your phone. The more you do this, the faster the transition will occur, and the sooner your order volume on mobile will really start to explode.

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.