Hello and good day!
I studied accounting in college. And yet, over time, I have come to take charge of our company's marketing.
The shift happened by necessity.
There was a time in our company's history when we had literally our entire life savings tied up in chocolate inventory. This is something like 11 years ago. We were inventory rich and extremely cash poor.
To get the cash we needed to continue buying cacao, it was imperative that we learn to sell chocolate at a much faster pace. My dad anointed me a joint him as a salesman. Prior to that, my dad was the company's sole salesman.
He figured that by having two people working the phones calling on restaurants and chocolatiers, we'd be able to get out of our predicament.
He turned out to be right.
We got on a hot streak shortly after that and it led to five years of sustained growth. When we looked up, we were selling chocolate and cacao beans to wholesale clients in over 30 countries.
And it kept growing from there.
Part of my development as a sales and marketing professional was reading a ton of books on the topic. One book in particular has always stuck with me.
It was called Reality In Advertising and it was written by a fellow named Rosser Reeves. In that book, Reeves explains the importance of what he calls a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). To sum it up, a USP is a claim that a company can make about itself that no other company can make.
He said that the most effective sales pitches and advertising campaigns are built around a USP. Therefore, the most important thing a sales and marketing person can do is understand and develop the messaging around their USP.
Further on down the line, I read another business book called The Purple Cow by a fellow named Seth Godin. He takes this USP concept even further. He says that you shouldn't just think of your USP in terms of advertising.
Your whole business ethos, the very living essence of your company, should be built upon a meaningful USP.
The way you design your products.
The way you treat vendors and customers.
The look and feel of your stores.
It should all be done in a way that is special to your specific mode of perceiving the world. Doing that won't just give you an advantage in the marketplace. It will make your work life much more fulfilling.
I'd submit that a person can have something like a personal USP as well. Although in this case, it isn't a selling proposition.
It's a calling.
A writer I really like defines your calling as the thing you are best at, and at which you'd be the hardest to replace. It's the thing you were put on this earth to do.
A country can have a USP too. Here is what got me thinking about this whole line of thought.
I had a long conversation in our chocolate shop last night with a Turkish woman and her ten-year-old son. They are great people. They are regulars in the shop, and it is always so great to see them.
I asked her what Turkey is like and she explained to me that Turkey is a wonderful place. The people are humble and friendly and hospitable. The food is fresh and delicious. It is safe and the landscape is beautiful.
There is fascinating history there. It has always been the throughway between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
I happen to be reading Ben Hur right now and a large part of the book takes place in Antioch, the eastern capital of the Roman Empire in its later stages. Antioch was located in what is modern day Turkey. I already had Turkey on my mind a bit.
I noticed something about this woman that is a common practice with many immigrants to the United States. My wife is an immigrant, and we have many first-generation immigrants who are regular customers in our shop. Many of our employees are immigrants as well.
This is not surprising given that the United States is the great world historic example of a nation of immigrants.
Our wonderful customer was waxing poetic about the great qualities of her homeland. Many of the characteristics were similar to what I observe when I go to Peru. And yet, so many people choose to leave their homeland and come to the United States.
If their home country is superior in so many ways, why move away? I asked my customer this. "Would you go back and live in Turkey with your son?" I asked.
"No, not right now," she said. "Why?
It sounds like you prefer the lifestyle there. There are certain things that I prefer about the lifestyle in Peru too, so I can relate to you. But why wouldn't you want to live there?" I asked.
She saud "Because the President has been in power for 20 years and he has changed the consitution many times to stay in power, and that isn't right. It isn't free there. That is why," she said.
That is really what it boils down to. That is America's USP.
We're a free country.
I've been approached several times by wealthy investors over the last couple of years. They asked me if I wanted capital to scale our business.
We could do it. We have the model. We could by cacao from other origins and ramp up our production. We could open up thousands of little chocolate shops all over the country and go public.
But if we aren't making chocolate with pure Nacional cacao from the district of Huarango, we aren't us.
If I'm not over at the chocolate shop talking to our customers about life and culture and Turkey versus the United States, I'm not me.
And if we aren't living the USP, we're floating around without an identity, and where does that get us?
I'll tell you where it gets you, all confused and miserable.
On the other hand, with a calling, or a unique value proposition, things are much simpler.
We're Fortunato Chocolate.
We do things a certain way.
Anything that doesn't fit, we don't do.
It is a clarifying proposition.
Because of that, the world knows what they can expect from us, and we know what we should expect from ourselves. It is a beautiful, elegant, way to think about things.
As somebody born and raised in the USA, it has always been my understanding that we are supposed to be the freest place in the world. That is what makes the place great.
Other places might have better food and music. They might have more walkable cities. Their economy might be growing faster, or their military might be more advanced.
We're supposed to be the freest. Everything good flows from that. That is how I was raised, and I honestly believe that is why people from all over the world want to come here.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!