Delivering Awesome Virtual Buyer Presentations: How Total Cluster Fudge Does It 6/2/2020
Total Cluster Fudge has been crushing it on ECRM’s digital and virtual platforms. The supplier received more than 1,000 views from buyers on RangeMe within two weeks of building its Premium Verified profile. It’s close to closing a deal with a major retailer from a recent Efficient Supplier Introduction (ESI). And if that wasn’t enough, the supplier had six buyers reach out to it within a day after completing its Healthy Living Virtual Session meetings.
This outstanding buyer engagement, however, would not come as a surprise to anyone who has met the company’s Founder and President Alisa Shakespeare who, along with her team, puts as much effort, energy and passion behind their virtual presence as they would for any session or trade expo they would attend in person. Indeed, one participating buyer even noted that Alisa's presentation was the most memorable one she had seen.
“We personally just treat it like it was a trade show,” says Shakespeare. “We just pretend that the camera is the person standing in the room and set up our booth and display our products no differently than if we were standing in a booth at the Jacob Javits Center, so that all of the buyers can really kind of see what our products would look like in their store.” (See the image of her virtual setup below.)
Total Cluster Fudge specializes in making shelf-stable bakery goods ranging from the unapologetically indulgent to the healthy and nutraceutical-enhanced. There are three brands under its umbrella: the eponymous Total Cluster Fudge, which are the indulgent baked goods, chocolates and fudges; Not Naughty includes products that are heart-healthy, high in fiber, low sugar, low carb and low glycemic; and Skinny Minis have extra nutrients added.
“Everybody wants permission to indulge,” says Shakespeare. “If you're younger and can indulge, we have Total Cluster Fudge for you. If you are looking to cut sugars, we have Not Naughty, and if you really want to make sure that every calorie counts from a nutritional standpoint, we've got Skinny Minis. And that includes some awesome chocolate gummy or chocolate vitamins as well to kind of offset the gummy vitamin markets.”
Listen to the full interview here:
When Covid-19 led to travel restrictions, Shakespeare had to find other means of engaging buyers. Having been a previous ECRM session participant, she reached out to the team to get involved in our digital offerings, including RangeMe, the ESIs and Virtual Sessions. “It's been nothing but professional for us,” she says. “My salesperson, Heather [Ellertson], has been phenomenal – she's very responsive and keeps everything on task. I loved the ESIs because they are quick – 20 buyers on one side, 10 suppliers on the other, limited interaction, just a ‘How do you like me now?’ kind of thing. Sometimes that's all they need. We all know that buyers walk these tradeshow floors and get attacked, and it's a lot for them to absorb. With the ESIs they are kind of sitting in the comfort of their own home with a cup of coffee and can focus.”
When ECRM launched its Virtual Sessions, she was all in. “The Virtual Session was flawless, right down to the digital countdown timers,” she says. “The other thing I loved is that it lists each buyer's objectives, so we were able to prepare some things that we knew that the buyers were looking for and have those teed up as well. There's no replacing human interaction, but as far as staying on pace during the day, it was easier. I would recommend them to everybody.”
Meeting Set Up & Presentation Delivery
Shakespeare’s goal for the ESIs and Virtual Sessions was to create an environment that would give the buyers an idea of what their products would look like in a real retail setting, just as they do with their trade show booths. She and her team built some racks on wheels that would enable them to move products in and out based on the particular buyers they were meeting with. Products were then set up within arm’s reach out of view of the camera so she could bring them into view if needed for a close up.
For the presentation itself, Shakespeare does an 8-minute pitch, to walk buyers through the company and it’s products (in the case of ECRM’s Healthy Living session – her nutraceutical-enhanced products), leaving plenty of time for Q&A. “People put a lot of effort in their trade show booths, down to the napkins and the spoons and all that kind of stuff, and we feel like these virtual sessions have to be done the exact same way,” she says. “It's basically television, and you need to be a little lively, you need to have a little something to look at. I'm extremely passionate about my product and what we're doing and how we're doing it.”
Not only was Shakespeare’s virtual meeting space set up as if it were at an in-person session, but she also dressed the part. “I had my tie and my apron just like I was at a show,” she says. “The buyer has to get excited, and if you're not going to put forth the effort to make a bit of a display for them, it's pretty hard to convince them you’re the next great thing.”
Even the follow up details were planned in advance. Shakespeare developed sample packs with a miniature version of each product that she presented to buyers virtually. “They will get one of each – little bite sized pieces of everything in a sample pack we are shipping out so they can taste it as if they were standing in the booth,” she says. “We don't need to send 50 big bags to their home. I would recommend having these kind of samples prepared, since you can't taste anything virtually.”
To complement and support her virtual programs, Shakespeare created a Premium RangeMe profile for each of her brands and got each verified, so the buyers knew that she was ready to do business with retail. Having her profile set up enabled her to direct buyers from the ESIs and Virtual Sessions to the platform to further review the products as well as request samples for items of interest.
“We make sure to work one with the other,” says Shakespeare. “I don't think that we would even have the same success from ECRM had we not been on RangeMe. I think that if these buyers had to go to our sites and try to sift through everything, it would be a lot more difficult, which is why we are on RangeMe as three separate brands. We worked three weeks day and night to get everything up into that site perfectly. But we as a company are better for it because all the details that RangeMe requires, such as nutritional panels, ensures that the buyers have all the information they need.”
The proof of Shakespeare’s efforts is in the pudding – or in Shakespeare’s case, the fudge. Of her 32 virtual session meetings, 17 buyers indicated follow up timelines for Total Cluster Fudge through the ECRM Connect Platform, and (as we mentioned above) six of them didn’t even wait for Shakespeare to follow up; they reached out to her right away directly.
And those buyers who didn’t get the opportunity to see Shakespeare in action will have plenty of opportunities to do so – based on her success with her first Virtual Session, she has already registered for five additional sessions this year!