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7 Marketing Lessons from a Strip Mall Candy Store

November 18, 2013


There’s a little chocolate store in Bowling Green, KY. It’s in a old strip mall, behind a “Steak ’n Shake” and next to an athletic club.

If you were to see it from the street, you might not think much of it.

And you might wonder, “How does a place like this stay in business?”

And that’s what I’m going to tell you…

7 Marketing Secrets of a Chocolate Shop

1. Don’t Throw It Away – Take a look at the photo to the right. It’s “broken pieces” from other products packaged together as its own product. Brilliant.

Every business has “broken pieces” — the things that weren’t good or complete enough to release as they were originally intended. In my business, music, we often call these “outtakes” or “alternative versions” when referring to sound recordings that didn’t make the album. And these are very prized to collectors and true fans.

Are you a speaker? Perhaps your “broken pieces” are the good clips from a speech that, over all, wasn’t complete. Or if you’re a writer, it’s the chapters that didn’t quite work out or the blog post that didn’t quite come together.

We see this all the time in the film and TV business when “deleted scenes” and “outtakes” are repackaged as bonus material.

2. What Are People Really Buying? – Mary Jane sells chocolates, but there is also a secondary, unspoken reason people buy from her. The husband who pissed off his wife doesn’t go to see Mary Jane because he needs chocolates — he needs forgiveness!

And “forgiveness” is just one of the things Mary Jane sells…each filled with caramel, packed with nuts, or sprinkled with coconut.

What are you really selling? Probably not what you think.

3. Sell to a High-End Market – Mary Jane sells real chocolate. There is no imitation flavoring added and the work it takes to roast and process the cacao tree beans takes a lot of time.

What she makes isn’t for everybody — it’s for people who appreciate the best chocolate there is and are willing to pay for it.

It’s not much harder to sell a $1000 product than it is a $10 product…especially if you’ve chosen your market wisely.

4. Know Your Numbers – You can’t see it in the photo, but the back of the package pictured above has a sticker with the weight of the chocolate and the price. Each package is a different price, based on weight.

This makes total sense when you’re selling something like chocolate, right? But does it make sense for your business!


Do you know your numbers? How much does it cost for you to acquire a new customer? Where is the majority of your profit coming from? What is the lifetime value of a customer?

Not knowing your numbers is like Mary Jane dumping different amounts of chocolate into bags and selling each of them for the same price… You could be losing money on each sale and not even know it!

5. Have an Add-on – I didn’t go to Mary Jane’s looking for broken chocolate pieces — I wanted peanut butter cups! Still, it’s hard to resist discounted product, even if it is a little damaged.

Having add-on products like this will change your bottom line…

If you’re doing a two-day seminar, add a third day for advanced people. Or a “VIP Area” where attendees can get extra food and relax with other high-end people.

Add an opportunity for your fans to meet you.

The “add-on” is the hot wax at a car wash, the towel service at a gym, or the seat with legroom on a plane. They are everywhere, in every business, and they will make you money.

6. Sell the Story / Personality – Mary Jane is a real person. She’s in the back of the store making chocolates. She started her career as a surgical nurse, but it was her dream to do this.

How do you set your business (or blog) apart from everything else? Tell your story!

Questions to think about (which you may take for granted)…

  • How did you first get involved in the business?
  • How is your product made?
  • What makes your product different from everybody else’s?
  • What do you bring to the table that nobody else does?

When I do a seminar, if I see somebody who attended a few months later, they rarely remember the “nuts and bolts” of what I talked about, but they almost always remember the stories I told…

7. Something Worth Sharing –  Mary Jane’s chocolate is good. And her little store is so unassuming on the outside, it makes what she does stand out even more. Then you add her story to the mix and there is something that people can’t help but sharing.

And speaking of sharing, the fact that she works in a business selling a product that is great to give as a gift doesn’t hurt.

But aren’t all good products worth sharing? An idea, such as one within a book or blog post you write, can get the same result.

Give people something worth sharing by developing a great product (or idea), then make it easy to share through great marketing.

Mary Jane doesn’t have a great website and she doesn’t update her Facebook page often. Sometimes you don’t need these things. But if you’re ever in Bowling Green, KY, you can drop by 1640 Scottsville Rd, next to the athletic club, to get in touch.

If you’ve got a great marketing example from a small business like Mary Jane’s Chocolates, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to post it below or contact me via Twitter.

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Every Monday, I analyze the good, bad, and ugly about the marketing behind a common business or famous personality. See other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for something (or someone) you’d like me to analyze for this series, contact me via Twitter.

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