All posts by Phil McCutchen

Marketing Passion: Gourmet Settings

Just how passionate are you about the product or service you sell?

If you’re the owner or a senior manager of a business, passion is nearly a pre-requisite for success. If you’re not intensely involved in practically every aspect of your business, how can you create and deliver a truly well-differentiated product or service to the marketplace?

Gourmet Settings - Studio Series, Polished

Here’s a little story about simple flatware and passion.

A few years back I was in the market for new flatware. The range of choices is astounding — you can choose from major brands, such as Oneida, Gorham, Reed Barton, or Lenox as well as lesser-known and house brands.

Knowing that good flatware can easily last a lifetime, and being the creative yet analytical type, I did my research and determined that my flatware had to be 18/10 quality. The best stainless steel you can buy for the purpose.

But what manufacturer and what kind of design? The design had to be modern, tasteful, clean and simple — yet just a little out of the ordinary. Imagine my surprise to find something I immediately took a liking to at a big-box retailer. A pattern by Gourmet Settings called “Studio“. The pieces had a quality look and feel to them that reminded me of the clean lines of modern architecture or the best product designs from Apple. It was only later that I found out that GS has won numerous awards for their designs.

So I bought them and was very happy. End of story, no?

Not quite. I realized about a year later that I needed to expand the set. Going online I did not find the style I had purchased, so I contacted their customer service department by email. I was directed to the right product, but was told that it may no longer be available in the 18/10 stainless. You see, I was told, the price of nickle, which adds lustre to the stainless, had jumped dramatically, increasing their manufacturing costs beyond the price points needed to compete effectively. To keep the cost in line with consumer expectations, they had to go to 18/0 stainless.

Understandable, of course. In any business, you are sometimes at the mercy of forces beyond your control. Just like today’s economy. It doesn’t matter if your selling spoons or staffing services or software. You have to adapt.

You also have to persevere with passion.

Here’s a quick excerpt from the email exchange I had with the folks of Gourmet Settings following my first message expressing disappointment with the dropping of the 18/10 stainless.

GS:

I agree with you on the 18/10 vs 18/0 – and you are correct  –  it is because of the high worldwide cost of nickel.

Having said that – we do continue to stand behind our flatware patterns- regardless of the steel components – so if you have any problems or concerns – just let us know. I am going to pass on your comments to the company owner – she is always happy to hear feedback from our customers.

Jane
Customer Service

GS (next day):

Hi Phil,

Jane forwarded your note to me, appreciate your feedback.

When the price of nickel went from $24,000 a ton to $56,000, working in 18/10 was no longer feasible.

We contacted Roger Hamby, director of CATRA (www.catra.org) to assist us in making the transition to 18/0. We needed assurance that our flatware would not be compromised because of the absence of nickel.

Turns out with the proper production process, we can offer the same quality promise with 18/0 as with 18/10.

You may know that the price of nickel has dropped to approx $10K/ton, making it feasible to bring back 18/10.

In the meantime, hope your gourmet settings flatware adds a dash of joy to your meals.

Warm regards,

Hildy Abrams
President
Gourmet Settings

Whoa! The president of the firm responds! In fact, when my order arrived soon after, it was accompanied by a personal note of thanks for my feedback from Hildy.

Think about that for a moment. We’re talking about knives, forks and spoons sold at big box retailers nationwide for less than $50 for a setting for four. Yet Hildy took the time to personally respond to my comment, assuring me that they were, indeed, aware of the issue and had taken appropriate measures to address it.

I was blown away by her response, and can see clearly that Hildy is passionate about flatware. Simple, everyday flatware.

Again I ask: Are you passionate enough about the quality of your products or services to respond — personally — to an individual consumer?

Passion gives you a winning edge in any competition. It can be the difference between so-so and exceptional sales. What do you think?

fini