Can’t compete with China? You just aren’t trying.

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Man, I just love the savory aroma of heavy metals with my seafood.

Last Sunday night, I bought some shrimp at our local market for my youngest son (aka the “Master Chef”, a play on his chef aspirations mixed with Halo’s Master Chief as seen above). He was planning a fondue for my wife’s birthday, and the shrimp was one of the things he wanted to serve for dipping.

In the cold case at the meat/fish counter, 4 different kinds of shrimp and shrimp like critters, described as follows:

“41-50 shrimp, farmed, China. $4.98/lb”

“41-50 shrimp, wild, USA. $7.98/lb”

“large (size forgotten) prawns, Wild, Vietnam, $7.98”

“large (size forgotten) fresh water prawns, Bangladesh, $7.98”

Farmed. I wonder what that means…

In your mind’s eye, visions appear full of happy made-for-TV cows, smiling free-range chickens and cute little shrimps all co-existing, well-fed, not having to hide from the critter who is the next rung up on the food chain (except for us), and so on.

Gee, farmed doesn’t sound that bad, and hey, it’s a lot cheaper.

  • Unless you’ve read about artificially colored “Atlantic” farmed salmon. Note: Wild Alaska salmon need no such artificial coloring, they bring a red that you can’t fake. Plus they’re actually good for you, unlike the farmed stuff.
  • Unless you’ve read about Chinese shrimp farming, such as this NY Times article.
  • Unless you’ve seen reports of slave labor coming out of China, India, Mexico and probably southern California.

You get the picture.

If you are the local vendor of wild USA seafood, or non-Botoxed meat (etc) and you are struggling to compete with Wal-Mart priced seafood and meat from places that are sending tainted food, toys and other goods onto the global market, isn’t it rather obvious what you need to do?

You might compare your clientele’s vision of farms (photo of smiling Green Acres-esque farmer, crops in hand) with the vision describe by the NY Times article above. And of course, a photo from the article, and from the farm that produces your food.

A quote or two from the articles never hurts, just in case shoppers don’t have time to read the whole article. Like this one from the NYT article:

In recent years, the European Union and Japan have imposed temporary bans on Chinese seafood because of illegal drug residues. The United States blocked imports of several types of fish this year after inspectors detected traces of illegal drugs linked to cancer (emphasis mine).

Fuqing (pronounced foo-CHING) is at the top of the list this year for refused shipments of seafood from China, with 43 rejections through November, according to records kept by the United States Food and Drug Administration. All of those rejections involved the use of illegal veterinary drugs (emphasis mine).

Of course, you might have to include an article or two about the efficiency of the USDA and FDA food inspection programs. They’re mind numbingly easy to find. If they found 43 problems, they may have missed 430. And 1 of them might be sitting on your plate.

Yes, I bought the wild USA shrimp, despite the roughly 60% higher price (3 bucks difference, was it really even a choice?). If I want to give my wife heavy metals for her birthday, jewelry is a better choice.

This isn’t limited to seafood, of course. Coffee, lawn mowers, toys, clothes, religious goods, dry cleaning, cell phones, steaks, golf clubs, you name it.

Remind your clients why your products and services are better and why the other vendor’s might even be dangerous.

Give me one good reason why you aren’t ruthless about exposing these issues to your clients. It *will* resonate with some of them, and they will respond by buying a higher quality product that doesn’t leave them wondering what they’re doing to themselves and their family.

If nothing else, take a look at how Ian does exactly what I’m speaking of in the blog that accompanies his Catholic goods store. If the concerns he blogs about coincide with his Catholic beliefs, they are also likely a concern to his Catholic clients, and thus it’s very smart positioning job for his business vs. his competition.

Before you go spouting “xenophobia“, it might help to know the definition of the word:

Xenophobia is a fear or contempt of foreigners or strangers and people. It comes from the Greek words ξένοÏ? (xenos), meaning “foreigner,” “stranger,” and Ï?Ï?βοÏ? (phobos), meaning “fear.” The term is typically used to describe fear or dislike of foreigners or in general of people different from one’s self.

I don’t care if your product source is North Carolina, China, Jupiter or Lower Manhattan. I’m simply suggesting that you ask your customer to consider whether or not a question about your goods / services is important to them: “Does your current vendor’s product source poison your food, mistreat their people?” (fill this in with the appropriate issue, they will vary widely)

If the answer is yes, then ask them to consider buying from you instead (assuming of course that your products and services don’t have those flaws). In fact, you don’t even have to ask. Just make the information available.

If your prospect doesn’t care about those kinds of things, they will likely pay the cheaper price and buy elsewhere. If they are that price sensitive, they aren’t going to be loyal anyhow. Let em go and focus on the good clients who appreciate the quality goods and services you offer.

2 thoughts on “Can’t compete with China? You just aren’t trying.”

  1. It’s funny, we have never had a customer give us grief about our no-China policy. The only ones who give us grief are the vendors who are upset that we don’t sell their stuff. I keep offering them a simple solution – have it made somewhere else.

    We actually had statue company do just that. Prices went up about 15% but now we carry his line.

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