By Bill Guyton, Executive Director
In March 2020, the FCIA Board developed a new strategy to assist members during the COVID-19 pandemic. Three months later, FCIA conducted an online membership survey to hear how you assess the usefulness of the new strategy and corresponding initiatives. We were also interested to learn how you prioritized FCIA’s strategic partner organizations.
Thanks to the 94 members who participated in the survey. Your insights will help us improve current activities and guide future programming and partnerships. Here are three important takeaways from the survey:
1. Make Mine Fine Website Has a Positive Start, But More Visibility Is Needed
In April 2020, FCIA launched this website to help promote our member companies who offer online chocolate and equipment sales. Over half the survey respondents are now participating in Make Mine Fine. Thus far, about 14 percent of you have seen direct increases in sales, attributed to Make Mine Fine over the past two months. Several reported increased traffic on your sites from Make Mine Fine, but not directly linked to sales. Survey respondents rated the site as moderately useful (45%), very useful (24%) or extremely useful (17%). The combined favorability score was 86 percent.
Future Actions: Based on the feedback from the survey and individual member discussions, we have seen the importance of increased media exposure to help promote the site. For example, there was a significant spike in MMF visitor traffic directly following the New York Times article by Florence Fabricant on May 11. We also noticed increased numbers of visitors following social media postings by Clay Gordon. Looking forward, FCIA plans to invest more in social media advertising and in new sections to the website such as fine cocoa producing country profiles. We also see the opportunity to include more listings of European and Asia company members.
2. FCIA Educational Webinars Themes and Frequency Are On Track
We received overwhelmingly positive feedback on FCIA-supported webinars. Over 63 percent of the member respondents have participated in at least one of these webinars with digital marketing and the Latin American Cocoa Summit receiving the highest ratings. Our first webinar on SBA loans was only attended by 30 percent of the respondents, but 40 percent of those who participated rated it “extremely useful.” Nearly 35 percent of the member respondents applied and received SBA PPP loan funding. The digital marketing webinar received the highest overall rating for content and presentation, although few have followed up with the speakers since then or taken advantage of the special discount offers. When asked why some respondents haven’t participated in the webinars, the most common response was that the timing was inconvenient, although all of the webinars are recorded and listed on the FCIA website.
Future Actions: Since the survey was completed, FCIA has already hosted five additional webinars (Online Shopping Carts, Shipping during Warm Weather, International Quality Standards, Cocoa Trading and Fruition Plant Tour). The international standards, shipping during warm weather and membership assembly were the most highly anticipated sessions with over 50 percent ratings. FCIA has been holding one to two webinars a week, and the overall majority, 77 percent, felt that this was the right frequency. FCIA will therefore to continue programming webinars targeted to different communities in our diverse membership base through the remainder of 2020. We welcome members to contact us and suggest topics or to co-host a webinar with us.
3. FCIA Can Build on Several Strategic Partnerships in 2020 and Beyond
The final section of the survey asked respondents to rate, who they believe, are the most strategic partners for FCIA among over 20 organizations. The highest rating was given to FCCI (63%) followed closely by the Specialty Food Association/SFA (56%), and then HCP and NW Chocolate (each with 44%). The National Confectioner’s Association/NCA also scored high (34%) probably as a result of our expanding partnership on regulatory updates and consumer surveys.
Future Actions: Leveraging the talents and resources of other organizations can benefit FCIA, particularly during difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic. We will prioritize the relationship with these organizations and reach out to others who share our values and commitment to helping support our company members and promote fine chocolate.