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David Squires

Feeling Brave? Try These 10 Brainstorms

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This story was originally published online in September 2013.

THIS WEEK, we share with you a few choice Brainstorms from the ultra-secret Brainstorms link on INSTOREMAG.COM

Build a mobile jewelry store in an ice-cream truck. Have people in your market who won’t drive across town to your store? Take your store to them instead! Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have driven their ice-cream-truck-turned-boutique to high-traffic locations in New York City with spectacular success. Can you imagine customers running to greet you as they hear your musical van coming down their street?

Consider a temporary staff-exchange with a non-competing store. (You could also “lend” an employee to a store in a resort area for its high season). Shakings things up nearly always yields benefits, as you and your staff are exposed to new ideas and new ways of doing business.

Host a “testimonial party”. Invite your best customers for a social happy hour. Promote it as a chance to network, swap stories and star in the creation of new marketing materials for your store. Hire a videographer and photographer and let your customers cycle through the video seat to tell their stories of success at your store. Most people enjoy being on camera once they do it, and the whole group will be entertained by the event and feed off of each other’s energy. Keep it light and fun — participation in the testimonial part is completely voluntary. (Wine helps.) Once you capture the video, audio and still photos from the event, you’ve got a testimonial and success story library that could infuse your marketing materials, broadcast and print ads for years. And, you’ve created a customer loyalty and community-building event that just may become next year’s hottest party to crash!

Co-promote with a clothes designer. Select an independent store with a fashionable clientele and promote. How? Create little tags that you can attach to different items of clothing, with pictures of the jewelry that goes best with that outfit. Don’t try to accessorize every item in the store. Pick your spots — the power of suggestion will work wonders in getting new customers to visit you.

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Have very specific exclusive parking spaces. As part of an advertising deal between the Wachovia Center and Lexus, owners of the luxury-car make are allowed to park in two priority-parking areas at the home of the Philadelphia 76ers. Perhaps you could try something similar, only offer “Priority parking for Nervous Engagement-Ring Buyers,” “Time-challenged working mothers of two” or even “Drivers of trusty farm utility vehicles” if you live in the country. Highlight the areas with notices painted on the asphalt and nearby power poles. It will send a warmhearted signal that you care about your customers.

Call a friend to identify your dogs. It can be tough getting rid of aged inventory. Sometimes there’s professional pride at stake in its selection, sometimes there’s an emotional connection — you like the piece but no one else does. Most often, though, it’s just the dread of taking a markdown. To force yourself to get rid of non-performing merchandise, bring in a neutral observer. Invite a non-competing jeweler friend to come into your store and do a Grand Clean Sweep. Any piece you’re undecided on, let your friend have the final say. And then when he does his big annual stock taking, you return the favor.

How would you like an advertising message that can move? One that you could actually put in different locations and test where it does best?

Turn a van into a rolling advertisement.

Paint it beautifully (feature your gorgeous jewelry). Show a toll-free number and a URL. Park your rolling advertisement at busy intersections, in the parking lots of expensive restaurants, and other choice locations.



Do color rings for a local sports teams. What are the colors of the big local high school or university? Why not make up some jewelry (rings, earrings, pendants) using the school’s colors in gemstones for fans to wear? If your school’s colors are green and yellow, then you could use peridot and citrine. Better yet, make a donation to one of the school’s groups — sports, academic or civic — for every item purchased.

Create some retailing folklore. “And Nordstrom refunded the cost of a set of tires …” Yawn. OK, so you know the story. What’s important here is not whether it’s a fresh tale or that it’s even true (Nordstrom insists it is). What matters is that it’s now part of American retail folklore, a tireless generator of goodwill capital. This year, create your own legend with one outlandish, cost-be-damned act of customer service — trudge through the snow on Christmas Day to hand-deliver a hard-to-find necklace at the 11th hour, hire a helicopter to deliver a down-on-his luck, legless suitor looking to make his engagement pitch, don fins and a snorkle to find a young yachting heir’s lost engagement ring. It doesn’t have to become standard operating procedure. Be sure the press finds out — second hand, of course.

Develop a series of tongue-in-cheek TV ads filmed in a tense, serious style. You could feature a couple talking to divorce lawyers about how the wife’s new jewels made her so beautiful, she had an affair with the gardener. Or another commercial could be about how she loved your jewelry so much that she emptied the bank account. Hey, we’d laugh!

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