Saturday, November 22, 2008

Chocolate Show NYC 2008 - Here We Go!

I got up on the morning of November 8th (the second day of the Chocolate Show) well before dawn. I had a speaking engagement on Friday, so this was as soon as I could get to NY. I got in to Laguardia at 9:00 a.m., took a cab to my hotel, dumped my bag and hit the pavement - walking less than a mile down to Pier 94. Woohoo - I was excited and couldn't get there fast enough.

I don't know why I was surprised to see a REALLY long line snaking around the building - the OUTSIDE of the building. Note - if you decide to go, don't be cheap like me. I didn't want to pay a $6.95 service charge on a $28 ticket. If you had approached me in that line and told me you could get me to the front, I would have given you a $20. Buy your ticket in advance, pay Ticketmaster's service charge.

But, hey, who can be grumpy when waiting in line for a chocolate show? We were all bonding and speculating about what might be inside. Some people from the Chocolat Mathez booth came out and had mercy on us (this was brilliant marketing). They came out with a giant tray of delicious french Truffles and a postcard for their booth and their website. Now the website only offers a CASE of these truffles for $99, so they are obviously not targeting you and me! But they were damn good truffles and we were all pretty fired up about getting some chocolate as we waited.

The line moved slowly and the only other thing that happened of excitement was a monkey appeared. Not a real monkey, the mascot for Peanut Butter & Co. (I LOVE their stuff, by the way.) I also like monkeys.

I finally got inside, paid my $28 dollars (cash or check only! Take lots of cash if you go - a lot of the vendors aren't set up to take credit cards.) and hit the floor! Now I was planning to spend two days at the show. But you don't really need two days - one is plenty. But get there early. I LOVED the first part of the day - you could actually talk to people. As it got more crowded, it was just mobs of people trying to get everything they could for free. Ugh.

There were 56 booths, a chocolate fashion exhibit (some of the costumes from the fashion show held the night before), and some kid area (whatever - I have no kids and people who bring strollers to events like these should be slapped). I don't know what was happening in the kid area and I hope I never find out.

There were also two theaters where some awesome demos were held.

I'm not even going to pretend to go in order or to review every booth, but I'm going to give you a lot of intel because I think it's fascinating! The word on the street is that chocolate is the hot new gourmet food group! That tastings and appreciation of chocolate are becoming more and more popular. We are sooo on the cutting edge!

Green & Black's Organic had a booth - and they were giving samples - just little chunks - which was fine. I love their Almond Bar - it is jam-packed with almonds. I need to try more of their stuff - and get this - they gave out a coupon for up to $4.99 on any of their products. SWEET! They weren't selling - just giving out samples of all their bars (or almost all) and handing out coupons. Great idea!! No muss, no fuss and drives consumers to find their chocolate so they can buy it again and again. Brilliant!! Oh - they also have ice cream - can you imagine? I bet it is delicious!!

Lily O'Brien's - a chocolate cafe - was giving a bite-sized, individually wrapped (which was nice - everything else was unwrapped and you had to eat it immediately, usually just a tiny chunk of a bar).

This sample was very good - a very smooth toffee (nothing like Enstrom's crunchy toffee which I greatly prefer). Lily O'Brien's was really trying to get people to go to their Bryant Park Cafe - they offered a buy a beverage, get a beverage free card AND a spend $50 get a gift of chocolate worth $15 free flyer. If I lived in NY, I would definitely go check them out.

What I like about both of these approaches from a marketing perspective is that they know exactly what they want people who visit their booth to do. Redeem those coupons and complete the activities that would require. Well done! Good value immediately given to attendees with the potential for more value, and they can track results.

What I found at the show were some very friendly chocolatiers, some who seemed to be very arrogant, some who seemed furious that people weren't buying more, and many booths manned not by chocolatiers, but by sales reps. (Which I think may be the best way to go.) I have to say, that while it was really awesome to see the chocolatiers, most of them are horrible sales people. They don't interact well and are terrible at selling (and I was trying to buy!). Not all of them, but several. Maybe they are too close to the product. And there were hordes of wild-eyed people looking for freebies. It takes a seasoned sales rep to handle all that and not get crabby! But I also think it's the E-Myth (title of a book by Michael Gerber about being an entrepreneur) - just because you are fabulous at making chocolate, doesn't mean you're great at all aspects of running a business. And there's no shame in that!!!

It's what I've said before - do what you're good at, do what you love! Some people love chocolate more than people and that's okay!! That's why they're so awesome at making chocolate!! We're going to talk about the impact of others on us more in the next entry...

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