Leading SMEs: putting quality back into focus

Imagine you’re starting up a new business. You want to reach as many customers as you possibly can, so how do you do that? Presumably by getting your product to as many outlets as possible? Not necessarily.

 

When the Noosa Chocolate Factory started its business they made a somewhat daring but ultimately very clever decision to only sell from their own store, and to open their first store in a central, high-cost location in the Brisbane CBD. It all relates to quality control and ensuring that the products they sell are not just fresh, but reasonably priced considering the effort that goes into making them by hand.

 

Chocolate might seem like the kind of thing you want to sell in as many places as possible, and often rather cheaply, but that is not how this company made its name. Their decision to sell from their own store in the Brisbane CBD rather than online or through third parties could have ended in disaster, or at least a company that vanished very shortly after making it’s entrance. Instead, it enabled them to sell high quality chocolate at reasonable prices, rather than having to hike them up to cover costs. It was also also a well-timed entry into a flourishing market. Chocolate is already the major market in Australia, beating out other times of confectionery and further, artisanal chocolate is increasing its market share as well. It’s a good time to make products that are free of unnecessary chemicals and of a quality that make those extra calories just a bit more worthwhile.

 

Quality over quantity

By being selective about where they sell their products, there’s a lot more they can actually control. The product itself goes without saying but there is also the added bonus of controlling the environment in which it’s sold, enabling them to take advantage of buyer impressions and promoting their product in the same place it’s sold. The Noosa Chocolate Factory avoids selling online and does not have a set product list. Products change according to seasonality and other conditions, so customers come for the quality rather than a specific item. What they have managed to do is establish a level of trust that might have otherwise been very difficult to build and to manage. If their products were sold through third parties it would mean significant compromises to freshness and pricing.

 

Starting from scratch - literally

Although the founders have history in chocolate making, this company is an entirely new beast. Their chocolate is handmade and where they don’t make their own ingredients – as they do with the the rocky road marshmallow for instance – they try to source Australian ingredients. Kingaroy peanuts and young ginger from Queensland get covered in chocolate and brought to the store to be sold as quickly as possible. It’s a great thing to do but it’s also great business; Australians love buying Australian made or grown products. Roy Morgan research note that shoppers overwhelmingly prefer Australian made products in all categories, and the numbers are still rising. You could certainly  argue that this is out of an interest in quality; that consumer awareness of concepts like ‘freshness’ and ‘local’ is a great benefit to anyone selling Aussie made goods. It’s not quite that easy of course, customers have to come back rather than just try it once to make your business a success.

 

Noosa Chocolate Factory are doing both, they attract customers by advertising local, hand-made products and keep their followers loyal by maintaining the quality. High-quality goods that are in-tune with what consumers want almost market themselves, and are a great illustration to the point that your product itself is the thing that matters the most. There’s only so much you can do to “artificially” improve your popularity if what you are selling isn’t really all that great.

So while it may be risky - there is no better way to start a business than by selling a product you know you can be proud of. 

 

 

 

 

 


Lina Barfoot

Lina Barfoot

Editor at SavvySME

All things marketing and advertising interest me greatly.


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Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt , Owner at Startup Chucktown

I really think companies that can strategically buck current business trends will be on the front of the next wave of business trends. I personally am very aligned to the above method because I like to have creative and quality control. Also by wildly exceeding the expectations of customers you generate a ton of free marketing both via word-of-mouth in person and what they share with others online. I truly think that quality, trust and empowerment go a long way for making your business dynamic. One thing that you must keep in mind though is that you need to let your customers promote your brand through their eyes. Many large brands including IKEA and Jack Daniel's were prompt to drop legal notes of "Cease And Desist" to many customers that were just trying to spread their love of the company. Clamping down to "control" in this fashion almost always backfires. I don't recall how Jack Daniel's dealt with the repercussions, but IKEA basically made amends with "IKEA HACKS". Give your customers the latitude to promote you. If they are getting more media attention than your own advertisements perhaps it is time you change your approach based on your customers or you offer that person a job.