The folks at the Cheese Boutique, here in Toronto’s west end, are master marketers. They do a whole bunch of small and big things to promote their business…and there are important lessons here for all of us.
Tip #1: Create customer “experiences” that clearly differentiate you. First off, the Cheese Boutique is beautifully designed, welcoming, bright, and uplifting. All cheese is cut and wrapped as you order it. They offer a huge variety of every imaginable cheese…some milder, some stronger, some strong enough to walk home on their own…so you get to try a sample before you buy. Sampling educates the customer, reduces confusion, ensures that you’re happy with your purchase, gives you a little “something for nothing” and clearly differentiates them from the cheese section of the supermarket down the street.
What could you do to create a more extraordinary customer experience? How could you be more welcoming, more personal, more uplifting? How could you educate your customers in way that reduces confusion, increases satisfaction and delivers a memorable experience?
Tip #2: Tell your story in a way that educates, engages and delights your customers. Here’s one of the small but very neat things they do at the Cheese Boutique. They tell you a little story about the cheese you buy. Their computerized price label machine is programmed to automatically print an interesting story about each specific cheese on the label to further educate and delight customers. They’re not just selling cheese …they’re creating knowledgeable and loyal cheese fans. For example, I recently bought a splendid Italian gorgonzola from them and the label informed me that, “Gorgonzola is the world’s oldest named cheese. It’s first recorded mention dates back to 879 AD.” How could you tell stories that will educate and delight your customers…and turn them into more knowledgeable fans? People love and remember stories.
Tip #3: Be the first…lead, don’t follow. The Cheese Boutique was the first to bring Brie to Toronto 30 years ago. Now, Brie is one of the biggest sellers in all cheese shops…but they were first. What could you be the first to do in your market? What has never been done before that would clearly differentiate you and make it not all about price?
Tip #4: Make something extraordinary happen in your business. Every Spring, over five weekends, they run their “Festival of Chefs” featuring famous Toronto chefs doing “cooking with cheese” demonstrations at the Cheese Boutique. They promote these events directly to their customer database and the “food media” jumps all over this. What special events could you create to delight, thank and educate your customers?
A few years ago, Fatos Pristine, the Cheese Boutique founder, personally flew to Italy to rush back to Canada with a small package of mozzarella di buffalo cheese for a special gourmet dinner event at the fabled Four Season’s Hotel. This special cheese is produced in one small town in Italy, from fresh water buffalo milk and is at its flavor peak for only 24 hours.
Now here’s the even more extraordinary part. Because of Canadian Government regulations on the importation of dairy products. Fatos had to obtain a special Diplomatic Passport for the cheese from the Canadian Government so that he could rush it through Customs in the Toronto airport to make to The Four Seasons just as the dinner was being served.
The only way this makes any business sense at all is if you’re going to get at least $50,000 worth of media exposure for jumping through these kinds of hoops…and he did. What could you do that’s so extraordinary that you get $50,000 of “free” publicity?
Last November they sent out a Press Release and email News Bulletin to customers announcing the arrival of a very special 10 foot long, 868 pound Italian Auricchio Provolone cheese that will age in their vault for 5 years before being opened and sold at a special in-store ceremony that will also attract much attention and media coverage. Only four of these giant, top quality cheeses were produced, so no other cheese shop in Canada has it. What could you do in your business that’s rare or special or interesting for your customers…and for the media?
Tip #5: Add your own special value to what you sell to clearly differentiate you from your competitors. By building their own climate-controlled aging vaults, the Cheese Boutique adds further value to many of their cheeses. Being experts, they know the perfect “age” for each kind of cheese and they’re prepared to make the investment and do the work required to age cheese to perfection, thereby differentiating themselves from their competitors who simply “buy and sell” cheese. The Cheese Boutique adds value and gets a premium price. What would that look like in your business?
Tip #6: Partner with others to create extraordinary events and services. For years the Cheese Boutique has partnered with local chefs to create cooking events at their shop. But their latest extraordinary marketing adventure takes “partnering to a whole new level. They have joined forces with celebrity chef Massimo Capra and a top travel agent to promote a 10 day gourmet Mediterranean Cruise in Fall 2009. All three “partners” will promote the event to their databases and the cruise will get a big play in the media because the Cheese Boutique has done the work over the years to become a food media darling.
Tip #7: Become a “media darling”. Get your local or industry media to help you create “celebrity status”. When you’ve done the work to be extraordinary, brag a little. Tell the media what you’ve done. Create a Media Database of those who write or broadcast about what you do and send them news updates. Or, you can write articles that deliver important information and offer them to local or industry magazines. Contact your local radio or TV stations and offer your services as an expert guest. But, of course, you must actually be an expert.
Tip #8: Be a passionate expert. The Pristine family has been selling cheese in Toronto for over 30 years. They’re into the third generation, they’re true experts and they’re still passionate, innovative and working hard to be even better.
For their expert knowledge of and commitment to excellence in the promotion of cheese, both Fatos and his son Afrim have been “Knighted” by the Paris-based Confrérie des Chevaliers du taste Fromage de France. To celebrate this honour they created an incredible customer and media event at their store featuring two knights on horseback, a falconer with a Peregrine falcon, trumpeters and other medieval folk from the Medieval Times Restaurant. Did all of that take some innovative thinking, some extra work and a lot of guts? Absolutely…but remember, “mediocrity is no longer an option”.
And therein lies the final lesson. Love what you do, be “the expert” that people can trust and respect, do the extra work that’s required to be extraordinary…and then passionately commit to doing it even better tomorrow.
About the Author:
Donald Cooper, MBA, has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. He speaks and coaches internationally on marketing, management and business excellence. Donald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org in Toronto, Canada. To read more of his articles, go to www.donaldcooper.com and click on “Free Articles”.
Innovative Food Merchandising Ideas