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Best of Best: The Great Montana Sapphire Giveaway

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Jim Adair presents Montana sapphire jewelry to one of the approximately 500 high-school girls who responded to the promotion.

With 40 years of experience in the retail jewelry industry, Jim Adair, owner of Adair Jewelers in Missoula, MT, understands the value of building long-standing customer relationships. He also knows costly advertising is not always the most effective way of establishing the personal connection that keeps customers coming back. With this in mind, Adair developed a unique promotion to “plant seeds” that he expects will blossom into repeat sales over time.

THE IDEA

The market for Adair Jewelers is as broad as the wide-open highways connecting western Montana’s cities and towns. Attempting to reach this market through conventional advertising is highly expensive, with little assurance that the message will reach its target audience.

So when store owner Jim Adair was developing new marketing strategies, he was inspired by the advice of jewelry sales guru Shane Decker: “You have to plant seeds.” Adair decided to “seed” the market with a large inventory of Montana sapphires he had recently purchased.

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THE EXECUTION

In 2013, Adair’s strategy was to offer free sapphire pendants to all of the girls graduating from the 17 high schools in the store’s market area, which measured 100 miles east to west and 60 miles north to south. “All we did was contact each school and ask for a list of graduating girls,” explains Adair. “The schools then announced the promotion during morning news.”

The announcements created immediate excitement among the girls and were followed within minutes by posts on Facebook and Twitter. The social media activity helped spread the news even farther and faster than Adair had hoped.

“All the girls had to do was come to the store and show their IDs,” explains Adair. Out of a possible 750 graduating girls, approximately 500 visited the store to claim their pendants. They came in groups ranging from two or three to 30 or more girls at a time.

“We had a lot of fun with them,” says Adair. Noting that Montana sapphires have a wide variety of colors, he said, “We tried to match them to the girls’ eyes.” For many of the girls, this was the first piece of fine jewelry they owned.

REWARD

The cost of the pendants, including the sapphires, ranged from $150 to $195 apiece, for a total of $75,000 to $97,500. Adair admits it was costly; however, compared with the store’s advertising budget, he considers that the promotion was worth every dollar.

“We connected on a personal level with hundreds of girls who will someday be looking at bridal rings,” Adair says, adding that the girls who scatter across the country following graduation will be taking a little piece of Montana—and Adair Jewelers—with them.

As for ongoing returns on the cost, Adair immediately began receiving calls asking if the promotion would continue in 2014. Given the results, Adair was happy to make it an annual event.

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DO IT YOURSELF

Determine your budget. Jim Adair already had an inventory of Montana sapphires, so his up-front costs were limited to mounting the gems and purchasing the chains.

Define your market.  Adair’s market included multiple school districts spread over a wide, thinly populated area. If your store is located in a more densely populated area, you may wish to restrict your promotion to a few school districts in your immediate market.

Get the word out.  Enlist the schools’ help in spreading the word. Along with morning announcements, school newspapers and posters may be used. Also consider using social media.

Be prepared. Depending on the response you anticipate, you may want to designate specific dates for the girls to visit your store. Make sure you have plenty of sales staff on hand.

Alert the media.  Distribute advance news releases. Prepare a media fact sheet and designate an employee to greet the media and answer questions.

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