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JEWELRY BY HAROLD, North Liberty, IA From a surefire promotion aimed at would-be grooms to an elaborate April Fools’ Day prank slyly hawking his goldsmithing and custom design skills, Harold van Beek is having the time of his life doing what he loves. A longtime jeweler in his native Netherlands, van Beek opened an Iowa store in 2011, and he’s been keeping himself — and his community — entertained ever since.

THE IDEA

Van Beek’s creative approach to marketing involves being attuned to what makes his business and community tick, and he says it’s something all store owners can do. “Thousands of jewelers say, ‘Buy her a diamond ring. She’ll love it,’” he says. “I want to be different.”

THE EXECUTION

Iowa has a rich Dutch heritage, and van Beek is just the guy to play that up. Every day, visitors to his store are treated to Dutch coffee from one of the world’s oldest roasters, and twice a year, van Beek and his wife Astrid cook for customer appreciation days … not just windmill cookies, but also Asian-inspired dishes from the era of Dutch colonialism.

But van Beek really upped the ante last spring after Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced she would abdicate the throne to her son. Van Beek, still a member of the Dutch Guild of Master Goldsmiths, announced he had been selected to adjust the royal crown for the king-to-be. A local radio station went along with the joke, urging people in a mid-morning interview on April 1 to visit Jewelry by Harold and meet the queen, who was flying in to pick up the crown. But later that day on his Facebook page, van Beek broke the news that it was all a joke, adding, “I hope you can forgive me and that you have a smile on your face!”
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Local broadcasters helped van Beek with another promotion. Last fall, Jewelry by Harold offered a voucher for a Remington shotgun to anyone who spent at least $1,999 on an engagement ring. Mark Carlson, a reporter for the local ABC affiliate, did a story about how the store was promoting “shotgun weddings.” As an emigrant from a nation with strict gun laws, van Beek was unfamiliar with the term, but Carlson’s report ricocheted around the world and van Beek wound up doing nearly three dozen interviews with national and global media, including Fox Business News.

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THE REWARDS

Van Beek reports that the fall 2012 shotgun promotion contributed to an overall sales boost of about 25 percent over the same period the previous year, but it especially helped build his custom work, which he says “went up 700 percent, or something like that. It was crazy.”

Sales got another bump from the Dutch royals promotion, van Beek says. A local businessman heard about van Beek’s project, and on the last day of March, sent van Beek an email asking about a custom-design job. “Since I did not want to make him think I was lying to him for his business, I told him it was a prank,” van Beek adds. “He loved it, came in and we designed a diamond pinkie ring for him.”

Do It Yourself

  • Think about your own heritage and pay attention to current events when you plan your promotions. You can’t pull a prank about Dutch royalty, but chances are there’s something happening in your community — or in your unique background — that would lend itself to a fun, traffic-generating promotion.
  • On the flip side, be sensitive. Van Beek says that he likely won’t do the gun promotion again, partly because “after Newtown, people suddenly looked (at guns) in a different way.” (Of other stores that did similar promotions, one in Texas told INSTORE that it was uncertain whether it would repeat the idea, partly over concerns over an adequate supply of rifles. Watchmakers Diamonds and Jewelry in Pennsylvania, which successfully tried it in 2012 and is featured on page 78, is still deciding in light of the gun debate.)
  • When in doubt, do something light-hearted. “We always try and do something crazy,” says van Beek. “Never rule out risky ideas. They can be the best ideas ever.””

Julie Fanselow is a writer, editor, coach, and dot-connector. She was the founding editor of SmartWork Media's magazine for eyecare professionals, INVISION.

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