The trip to Pack Expo last week was amazing! I walked over 10 miles during my time there, and said hello at at least 200 booths. I came back with over 20 new potential vendors, a brand new vacuum sealer, and a huge amount of knowledge. (Even if the knowledge is something simple like knowing better how to find an answer to a question) It is sometimes daunting, especially when we think we know something well, to admit that we don’t know what we don’t know. That is a little how I felt when presented with 25,000 exhibitors, thousands of vendors, and hundreds of pieces of equipment I’ve never seen before.
The food storage/preparedness niche is a very small subset of the packaging industry, and I may well have been one of the 10 smallest business owners there. While I have always tried to be educated about the products we offer and unlike many we do regular testing of our products in-house, (as well as regularly use the products ourselves), it is now very obvious that many of the sellers in the niche are under-informed about what they are selling. For example, a new eBay seller who has shown up recently has a great listing presence. Meaning, his listings look great and ‘professional’. However, upon further examination and Googling, I noticed that he also has great listing presence for a multi-level marketing scheme, a cure-all liquid remedy, a no-money down real estate course, among other products and services. I’ll admit it’s a little frustrating knowing that he really has very little understanding of the food storage process, but has set up shop with some information from the LDS website and tries to portray himself as the most knowledgeable seller in the niche.
I always remind myself that this is the day-to-day of running a business, so instead of worrying about what someone else is doing, I will focus on what I need to do.
So what is that?
1. I will continue to make Advice and Beans/Discount Mylar Bags the go-to source for accurate information on food storage products and processes. This means that like teachers and CPA’s and other industry professionals, we will adopt a policy of ongoing education. There are several industry groups and trade associations I found at Pack Expo whose only focus is to provide non-biased, factual information about packaging, packaging best practices, manufacturing processes and dozens of other related topics. I will work with the goal of gaining whatever industry certifications are appropriate for our business. I don’t want to just know more than our competitors, I want to know as much or more than the experts in the industry, and I commit to my customers that I will achieve that.
2. We will begin industry-standard testing of our products, and eventually will purchase our own testing equipment. While we have the results of our our manufacturers’ MOCON testing for all our Mylar Bags, and we test our oxygen absorbers in-house, we are committed to random-sample testing of our entire product line, with proper record-keeping of the results. This will ensure that whenever we provide an answer to a customer question, we have the best information available.
3. We will begin to collate a database of all public-record studies of long-term food storage results and to have that information available for our customers. While there is a lot of information available on the Internet and elsewhere, sometimes these studies are a little hard to find. As I often get questions about ‘how long will this or that item store’, I would like to be able to offer referable information (assuming it is available) instead of generalizations.
4. We will begin to add more questions and answers to our FAQ. While I have done my best to answer the most common questions, it needs to be more in-depth and answer some of the questions customers might not even know to ask (including some I found myself at the show). For example, why is LLDPE a better barrier layer than OPP? What is the real difference between a 4 mil bag and a 7mil bag (you might be surprised at the answer)? And many others.
Maybe it’s a little overkill, but as they say about small businesses, if you are not moving forward you are falling behind. Our customers deserve to have as much information at their fingertips as I can possibly give.
As always, if there is something you think we need to do, a product line we need to carry, or general comments, good or bad, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to our next milestone, our 2nd year anniversary in April 2012!