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Tip Sheet

How to Avoid Bugging Your Best Clients, What to Do If A Competitor Is Trying to Poach A Staffer, and More Tips for This Month

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How can I ensure a prospective custom client doesn’t steal my ideas?

For many jewelers, CAD has changed the game and they don’t release any designs or sketches until the customer has paid a deposit or a sitting fee that can be put toward the final purchase price. Still, if there were a consensus view when we put this question to our 700-strong Brain Squad, it is that successful custom necessitates a free exchange of ideas and developing a close relationship with the customer. And that requires trust. “I give away all my ideas. On our note paper. With a quote. If they choose us (because we’re awesome), more power to them. If not, they probably aren’t our ideal client! If you win them over with fresh ideas and honesty, you will have a customer for life,” says Jennifer Farnes, the owner of Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO.

How do I not bug my best customers with follow up?

We applaud your thinking. Existing customers are your best prospects and likely to be your greatest source of additional sales, but too few jewelers have a follow-up system in place. The secret is to make them feel special. Let your best customers know when new merchandise will be coming in, and especially, if you decide to put it on sale. Second, offer them special services such as a free regular cleaning service, free appraisals, and keep notes about the little things in their lives that you can bring up in conversation later. Final point: Don’t worry so much. Most times customer will be happy to hear from you. Effective follow-up doesn’t have to be more than a customized handwritten note, postcard or phone call once every six months with some personal detail.

I suspect a rival is trying to poach one of my best sales associates. Should I try to pre-empt them with a pay raise?

Happy employees don’t leave for a small amount of additional money, so the first thing to do is sit down with your associate and see if there are things you can do to remove any frustrations from her current work life or if there are perks (more flex time?) or professional challenges (responsibility for a big marketing campaign?) that could tempt her to stay. Throwing money at them is unlikely to help if you don’t remove what’s unsettled them in the first place. Staff churn is a natural part of business life, especially in a strong economy like today’s, and non-compete agreements are a blunt tool that workers resent. A better approach is to foster a great culture. Check in with your team periodically to make sure employees feel challenged, engaged and appreciated.

Lately, my father seems to be working less and taking more cash out. There has always been an understanding that I’d eventually buy the store. I want to grow it, but I can’t unless we start reinvesting our profits.

Well, it is your father’s store. He built it. He’s at a different stage of life and wants something different than you do. That’s the joy of being the founder, and the curse of being the successor. Still, you don’t necessarily have to buy it. In fact, you may decide your future lies elsewhere (spend some time with something like David Brown’s gap analysis to see if the store can deliver the lifestyle you want). If separate paths looks like the best option, you obviously want to leave on good terms. Bring in a mediator. Sit down with your father (and mother) and lay out your plans. Reassure him you want to come up with a plan that allows both of you to achieve your goals. And do it soon. Otherwise, you’ll be 10 years older; your father will still be alive, hopefully; and you’ll be in the same position you’re in today.

What are some good innocuous questions to determine someone’s budget?

We asked this question in our 2015 Big Survey and a not-insignificant proportion of jewelers — more than 20 percent — said it’s simply wasting people’s time if you’re less than direct. Their approach: just straight up ask how much they want to spend with an inquiry such as “Did you have a budget in mind?” There were also some lighter-hearted variations of this that we liked, such as:

  • Did you want to be closer to $10 or $100,000?
  • Are you looking for something that will make your friends wonder if you won the lottery, or just if you got a promotion?
  • Is this a big bling event or a little bling event?
  • Or ask about their jewelry buying history:
  • Tell me about some of the other jewelry you have bought.
  • Or the reason for the purchase:
  • Are you shopping for a special occasion? 
  • What are you celebrating?
  • Who are you celebrating?
  • Finally, there’s the “goods first” approach:
  • What do you think about this? (And then watch their reaction.) 
  • How do you like this one? Is it too big, too small?

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 edition of INSTORE.

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New York Jeweler Picks Wilkerson for Their GOB Sale

Jan Rose of Rose Jewelers, located in Long Island's famous Hamptons beach district, explains how she chose Wilkerson for her closing sale. Jan's suggestions: reach out to jewelers who have been in similar situations to find out what worked for them, and look for a company with experience in going-out-of-business sales. Once you've done that, the final step is to move ahead and trust the process.

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Tip Sheet

A Low-Tech Loyalty Program and More Tips for February

From bench training to personal expectations, this advice provides holistic assistance.

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Training
Take Your Bench Live

Live feeds from the bench have been used by jewelers to build showroom ambience and by sales associates to close sales for more than a decade. But there’s a second benefit that’s often overlooked — as a training tool, says Jude Dutille, owner of Dutilles Jewelry Design Studio in Lebanon, NH. Dutille has a camera at his work bench to “provide micro-visuals of what he is demonstrating,” be it stone-setting, fabrication, or hand-engraving to his staff of goldsmiths (all of whom are trained in-house “from scratch”).

Podcast: Holiday Sales These Jewelers Will Never Forget
Over the Counter

Podcast: Holiday Sales These Jewelers Will Never Forget

Podcast: Get Your Employees to Act Like They Own the Damn Place
JimmyCast

Podcast: Get Your Employees to Act Like They Own the Damn Place

Podcast: A Classic Holiday Poem is Reimagined in a Jewelry Store
Over the Counter

Podcast: A Classic Holiday Poem is Reimagined in a Jewelry Store

Service
Pass The Buck

A neat — and cheeky — way of dealing with overly demanding customers from a fellow independent retailer in the vision business: BJ Chambers of Carrera Optical in McQueeney, TX, told INVISION Magazine she keeps business cards of other optical shops on hand and gives them to problem patients and suggests they “go visit.”

Experience
Protect The Window View

Yes, the job market is tight and you might be short of staff, but hang those flyers on a local bulletin board or near your counter, not on your storefront window as some retailers are doing. “Your front window is your customers’ first impression of your store,” says merchandising expert Tom Crossman. “Don’t make it a messy one.”

Personal
Expect Less

The problem with high expectations is they often result in future disappointment. Meanwhile, low ones tend to make you glum in the present, given there’s not much to look forward to. The answer? Stop expecting, says Jason Fried, who has written several books on work. “I used to set up expectations in my head all day long. But constantly measuring reality against an imagined reality is taxing and tiring, [and] often wrings the joy out of experiencing something for what it is.” Expectations also keep you mentally living in the future and deflated when events don’t measure up — even if what does happen is actually pretty good. In 2019, don’t expect … so much.

Incentives
Low-Tech Loyalty Program

Two-thirds of consumers shop more frequently and spend more at retailers with loyalty programs. But if all the recordkeeping seems like too much of a headache, you could do what Maxwell & Molly’s Closet, a pet-grooming business not far from our office in New Jersey, does: Spend $200 and earn 5 percent off all purchases for life. People appreciate simplicity.

Marketing
Find Your CPP

When plotting a mass medium campaign, be sure to speak with the TV or radio channel’s consultants on how to best utilize your budget and determine what the “cost per person” you reach is, advises J. Dennis Petimezas, owner of Watchmakers Diamonds & Jewelry in Johnstown, PA. “What may be the most expensive on a cursory review may be the smartest choice if you do your homework,” he says, adding that any consultation should be at the station’s expense. “They can afford it, so don’t take no for an answer.”

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Tip Sheet

The Negativity Board, Clients in Advertising and More Tips for January

Why don’t you hold your opinions first and ask theirs?

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management

Hold Your Peace

According to Simon Sinek, author of the business best-seller Start With Why, the typical business meeting follows this pattern: the manager outlines the problem, says what he thinks, and then asks staff for their opinions. But by then it’s too late, says Sinek. The direction of the discussion has already been set. The ability to hold your opinions has two benefits, he says: “One, it gives everyone else the feeling that they have been heard. And two, you get the benefit of getting to hear what everybody has to think before you render your opinion.” Yes, you can ask questions, but otherwise just sit back and take it in.

marketing

A Path Less Traveled

It’s not just shopping review sites that will drive traffic in your direction; travel websites can help too, especially if you’re in a holiday or gemologically significant destination. “I am so excited,” Stephenie Bjorkman recently posted on her Facebook page after TripAdvisor added her store, Sami Fine Jewelry in Forest Hills, AZ. “This is huge for our Arizona amethyst and American Gem Collection,” she noted.
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personal

Getting Better Every Day

If you’re still scratching around for a guiding principle for 2019, consider this one from Gretchin Ruhin, author of the best-seller The Happiness Project: “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” That applies not only to the life’s work you build on a daily basis, but also the things you spend your money on. Do you really need that huge SUV if you only ever drive to work and home?

management

Wipe It Clean

New year, new slate. That’s also the thinking behind the negativity board at Di’Amore Fine Jewelers in Waco, TX. “This board is designed to prevent any negative mindset throughout the day,” explains store president Monali Pandya. When one of life’s curveballs causes a nosebleed, “we encourage staff members to feverishly write any negativity on the board.” Much like an Etch-a-Sketch, once the negative thought has been written, it is “shaken off” with the victorious push of a button.

marketing

Locators, Locators, Locators

Reaching new customers is a constant struggle, and marketing is expensive. In response to this, EyeStyles Optical and Boutique, an independent eyewear retailer in Oakdale, MN, targets vendors that drive traffic through store locators. “The more store locators you can be found on, the better your ability to reach your customer,” owner Nikki Griffin told INVISION Magazine.

advertising

Go Real

Figuring young, 20-something models didn’t represent their brand and demographic, Onyx II Fine Jewelers in Watertown, CT, opted for real customers in its ad campaigns. “It’s a chance we took, approaching clients with this idea, not sure they would be interested in partaking,” says brand manager James Michael Murphy. But the outcome has been “wildly popular” he says. “They love it and everyone wants their chance to be in a campaign.”

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Tip Sheet

How to Make Icy Steps Safe, Bring In Competitors’ Clients and More Tips for December

The trick that worked in New Mexico.

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The flatter the world becomes in terms of product experience, the more important it becomes to add local flourishes to the retail experience. In keeping with New Mexico tradition, the sales team at Lilly Barrack Jewelry in Albuquerque regularly smudges the store with sage. “This is a Native American tradition that clears a space of negative energy, “ explains manager Phaedra Charles Rayner. “This practice may seem quirky to outsiders, but people from all over the country come to the Southwest to experience this lifestyle, especially Lilly’s millennial customers.”

PRODUCTIVITY

On Time, Ready to Work

Stephen Ware, owner of Ware Designs in Lafayette, CA, is a big believer in the notion that a productive day starts with a productive first minute. “Get the work on the desks and benches of employees before they come to work,” he advises, adding this is about being efficient, not squeezing labor costs. “If you have good employees, then make sure without a doubt that you show you care. They are not chattel.”

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Pet Friendly Steps

If more than a few customers are still bringing their dogs to your store even as winter approaches, a tip from the One Good Thing blog: De-ice with Dawn. Why? Salt and other chemicals can hurt pets’ paws. Slipping customers and the ensuing lawsuits can hurt your wallet! A solution of one teaspoon of Dawn, one tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and a half-gallon of hot water poured on the sidewalk and doorstep will ensure it doesn’t refreeze in a hurry.
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MARKETING

Stand Out from the Robots

Our tech discovery of the month: Bonjoro, a tool that allows businesses to easily record and send individual video greetings to new customers. Medium.com quotes the CEO of tech startup Highrise as saying she uses the app to send about 30 customized welcome videos a day (time spent: 90 minutes), adding “the payoff is completely worth it.” See instr.us/10181 for more.

GIFTS

Wedding Survival Kit

Wander into Brax Jewelers in Newport Beach, CA, with a proposal on your mind and you’ll be buried under an avalanche of goodwill. “We give each person a proposal kit with a book with 101 proposal ideas, a diamond loupe to help them with their diamond search, a pamphlet with our ‘Brax Rules of Engagement,’ and catalogs from our best-selling bridal pieces,” explains owner Amy Astaraee. “We also give away a bridal box to every recently engaged bride-to-be that includes gifts like chocolates, nail polish, pearl earrings, and many other bridal survival tools.”

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Attract Competitors’ Clients

As the auto industry has discovered, after-sales services can be a lucrative field. But why limit yourself to servicing the jewelry bought only from your own store? Designs Unlimited in Rapid City, SD, offers ring-sizing and general after-the-sale support to products sold at all other stores in the local community. “Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and how better to showcase our service?” says owner Michael Goin.

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