The Chocolate Life

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Hi Folks,


I am in the process of developing a marketing plan for my chocolate shop business, especially as we open new stores.  I am interested in any ideas/methods/events people here have used or seen used in the chocolate industry to create a buzz, connect with the community, and grow revenue.


I am happy to reciprocate with a few of our own marketing tools:


- We operate a loyalty club which is growing fast - one point = $1.00, and after 200 points, customer gets $10 voucher.  We also have exclusive deals for our loyalty card holders.  This is all run through the CRM module in our POS system.


- We offer free tastings to every customer (as do most chocolate shops!)


- We run regular promotions, and have a tasting station set up outside our store most Fridays to tie in with the relevant promotion


- We market on Facebook (ads, fanpage), tourist magazines, but not much other advertising


Any ideas you have will be gratefully accepted.  Happy for these to be sent to me privately.


Happy trading,



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Some additional ideas:


-email newsletters that are courteous (allow unsubscription from a link in the email)

-contests that get people involved and coming back

- tours & classes


Nat Bletter, PhD
Chocolate R&D
Madre Chocolate

Several months ago I told Clay I wasn't going to contribute to this forum anymore, but many people have contacted me privately and asked me to continue, so here I am.


My advice is as follows:


1.  Don't spend a single dime on print, radio, or television media.  They're dead ducks.  You want to create buzz?  Take the $3k you would have spent on a single foodie magazine ad, spend it on chocolate, and hold a big party! CREATE THE BUZZ!!  Use Twitter and other social media platforms to carry the buzz and get people down there!


Word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising.  Period.  End of story.  People WILL visit you based on a friend telling them about you.  $3k wholesale worth of product at the very least is $9k worth of retail product, and good for a party of at least 1,000 people.  That's a heck of a lot more exposure and BUZZ than you'll get from a foodie magazine!


2.  Unless you have buffet written on your sign outside, or "dot org" at the end of your website domain don't sample your products.  Go into a fine wine store and ask them to start cracking $50 bottles for you to "try", and see how far you get.  Does your grocery store let you start tearing chocolate bars open until you find one you like?  NO! Be smarter than the idiots down the street giving product away.  You're in business to make money.  Your customer knows what they like.  Give them the option to purchase a small amount and try what they think they like.


You may disagree with what I just wrote.  That's fine.  If you insist on sampling your products, then have your competitor's products handy to compare to.  After all, your customer won't know whether it's better or worse unless they can taste it side by side.  To them, it's chocolate, and it's all good.


3.  Focus on educating the consumer.  Host classes and other fun events for couples.  I've been hosting events on Monday evenings for 2 years now.  They are sold out 2 months in advance, create tremendous word of mouth, and every evening, people PAY to become my cusotmers!


4.  Give back to the community.  Sponsor events for women's and childrens shelters, where 100% of the admission proceeds go back to the shelter.  Philanthropists with deep pockets LOVE frequenting businesses they know are out there helping the community.  They will send a lot of business your way.


5. Social Media is HUGE.  On January 14th we ran an ad through and sold 1145 boxes of 10 truffles in 24 hours.  January is supposed to be one of the slowest, if not THE slowest month of the year in the chocolate industry.  It's now one of our busiest.


6.  Look at what your peers are doing, and DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE.  The bottom line for any marketing campaign is to differentiate yourself from your competition.


7.  Every week we get requests from charitable organizations for product for "silent auctions" and giveaways to attendees, with the promise for exposure at their event.  DON'T DO IT!!! It's a total waste of money.  People are at the event to socialize, and most won't remember where the chocolate came from or the wine, or whatever else is comp'd.  Remember: CREATE BUZZ!  As a silent auction item, offer the gift of "Chocolatier for a Day", where the winning bidder gets to come into your shop and help out for the day.  The organization gets some money from the auction, you get an extra set of hands for the day (yes they will do REAL work), and the purchaser gets an experience of a lifetime.  Everybody wins and you have created the buzz.  Imagine how many people they are going to tell about their experience!


How much do any of these ideas cost you up front?  Zilch, Zippo, Nada, Nothing.


Hope you can put them to work for you in any city but the one my shop is in!  HaHa!






Hi Brad


I really appreciate the time & effort you put into this reply. 


I am most excited about the advice around 'creating a buzz' - at wholesale, the cost of various ways of creating that buzz is not really that expensive, and is something I should be doing more of.  We tried a free chocolate giveaway last year and emailed our database: 2 hours only (unless we ran out first).  People were surprised by how much we gave each person, and we did run out after 1.5 hours.  And the great thing was, not only did we have a queue snaking for miles (people are still talking about it), we also had our best trading day that month - more than enough to pay for the free product.


I think having read your post, I will really focus on ways to create that buzz, as I have had terrible responses from traditional forms of media and can't see me going back down that road.


Your comments on the free tastings is very thought provoking, and I think have a lot of merit, so I will give this some serious consideration.


I also like the idea of education - if you are sold out two months in advance, that is quite amazing.  And it is something that would be easy to implement.  I will start working on the best way to get this up and running ASAP.


To get advice like this on a free forum is really exceptional, I hope one day I can make it to Canada and come see your operation and talk chocolate. 


Thank you!



Thank you Brad for the great advice



Thank You Brad for continuing to contribute,  I've really learned a lot from reading all of your posts as you always have incredibly helpful ideas coming from the perspective of not only an artisan but a strong businessman.

Hi Brad,

Keep writing, and keep the great ideas coming...!


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