Billie Phillips, vice president of marketing at Harbor Sweets, says that once most people sample the luxury chocolates, they’re hooked. “Sampling is a grass-roots process for us,” she says. “Once people taste the candy, they buy it.”
That’s why Harbor Sweets supplies samples to the more than 100 retail stores across the country that carry its products, in turn encouraging store personnel to offer those samples to consumers. Harbor Sweets also offers free samples to attendees of the trade shows at which it exhibits, including wholesale gift, gourmet and fancy food shows, as well as to consumers attending the annual Boston Flower Show where Harbor Sweets exhibits each year. Says Phillips, “Sampling continues to be our core marketing strategy. It opens the gates to other sales channels. Our challenge is to find additional ways to get more people to sample.”
Browsing the company’s catalog might not offer the same gratification as a free sample; nonetheless the book is a feast for the visual senses. The thick glossy paper, expert photography and beautifully rendered product styling showcase the gourmet chocolate selections. However, the copy in the recently mailed Easter catalog could have been more compelling had it included a description of the laborious handcrafting method used to make the candy. Indeed, the product packaging is given more descriptive copy than the confections themselves, although that’s a not a bad tactic for a company that caters to gift-givers. Still, a prospect who has never tasted a Harbor Sweets’ treat might like to know why it’s better than its competitors.
The company’s Web site, which is designed by an outside firm, unfortunately suffers from the same lack of marketing copy. It appears to be more of an ordering channel than a sales channel. Harbor Sweets executives are trying to remedy this situation and recently started buying ad words on Google. Online sales have grown since the company instituted the search engine marketing campaign, although Phillips wouldn’t reveal the exact sales increase.