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Jewelry Shows Missing the Boat When it Comes to Education, Says Marketing Coach Jim Ackerman

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Jewelry shows are no longer an indispensable way to purchase merchandise, even though one can make the case they still provide the best hands-on and comparative way to check out products. But where else can you go for the kind of education that jewelers need in today’s marketplace?

In this area, both jewelers and show organizers are missing the boat.

Jewelers are missing the boat because they do not make education the primary reason for their attendance.

Show organizers are missing the boat because they see education as a necessary annoyance. I get it. Education isn’t a profit center for them; it’s an expense. And consequently, show organizers give education as little time, effort and budget as they can get by with. As a result, speakers are often inexperienced and dull. They often simply pitch products and services, rather than providing meaningful, practical content.

Sessions are too short. How much useful information can be presented in 40 minutes or an hour? Attendees walk away thinking, “Sounds like a good idea, but I have no idea how to implement it.” Then they go home and do nothing.

Some shows are now charging amateurs instead of paying professionals to speak, so companies “buy up” education slots and turn them into commercials. And again, the presenters are often, well, boring, because they’re not speakers, they’re salespeople. 

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Presenters often are prohibited from selling anything from the platform. This may seem like a contradiction to what I just said, but it’s not. If the session is only an overview, and the audience can’t learn how the presenter can help with implementation, the jeweler and the presenter both leave frustrated.

I suggest the following: Jewelers should insist on better programs and should make education their prime reason for attendance. Show organizers should consider fewer yet longer sessions, and should use professional presenters exclusively.

Show organizers can and should seek appropriate sponsors for speakers and topics. This will enable them to pay for those speakers and increase the speaking budget. Attendees will get more compelling, useful sessions, and therefore will be more inclined to return.

Show organizers can help education sponsors sell their products by providing time within each session for a brief and fair “pitch” by the sponsor. This can include a special show offer.

Show organizers are likely to balk at these suggestions, as will the vendors who pay for trade-show floor space and want attendees on the floor buying their stuff. But they’re not getting people on the floor anyway. The glut of shows and the declining attendance across the board prove that. 

It’s time for the industry to think outside of the box, shake up the shows and do it differently.

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Jim Ackerman, “Marketing Coach to the Jewelry Industry,” is president of Ascend Marketing. Reach him at jimack@ascendmarketing.com.

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VIDEO HIGHLIGHT

Wilkerson Testimonials

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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Dave Richardson

Why Flip Charts Are Superior to Whiteboards

This could be extremely important to your sales performance.

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WHY IT IS TRUE: Many powerful ideas are shared in brief meetings with your sales staff prior to opening the store. Traditionally, these ideas are recorded on an erasable whiteboard in the training room or office. Once erased, the ideas may be lost forever.

PLAN OF ACTION: Invest in a flipchart and marking pens, and use them generously to record sales training conversations, discussions and commitments during your staff meetings. At the conclusion of the meeting, post the valuable information recorded on the chart to prominent locations in your office or training room. Refer to these in future daily meetings, focusing upon ongoing value to your store and your customers.

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Editor's Note

We’re All Quitters Someday

A successful ending to your retail career requires planning.

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ALL GOOD THINGS must end. Yet every ending is a new beginning. I could keep going with the clichés, but you get the point: everyone eventually has to move on from jewelry retail. When the time comes, you want to go out on your own terms.

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With that in mind, our lead story takes you inside the transitions of six different jewelry retailers and explains why business expert Seth Godin says that one of the secrets of successful organizations is “strategic quitting.” Everyone reading this issue will leave the industry one day; now is the time to begin planning for it.

That said, many of you aren’t ready to retire, you’ve just lost your inspiration. You’re down and out, dejected, or maybe just bored. We’ve got just the thing for you to help you get your mojo back: our second lead story, “Mojo to Go.” It includes 12 different action items guaranteed to bring the excitement back to your business life.

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If that weren’t enough, we’ve also got what group managing editor Chris Burslem calls “lots of fun and interesting side bits” throughout, including why you shouldn’t discount shop labor, how to sell more safely, what your inventory management strategy can learn from dieting, and of course much, much more.

So remember, it’s not the quitting that matters — it’s how you plan to quit!

Trace Shelton

Editor-in-Chief, INSTORE
trace@smartworkmedia.com

Five Smart Tips You’ll Find in This Issue

  • Have your kids or your employees’ kids make Valentine’s Day cards and use them as props in your displays. (Manager’s To-Do, page 26)
  • Hold office hours for an hour or two a week for staff to talk to you. (Mojo To Go, page 44)
  • When role-playing sales with your staff, always take the role of salesperson first. (Ask INSTORE, page 58)
  • Renegotiate everything from your lease to Internet, cable, phone and even garbage pickup to save money. (Evan Deutsch, page 52)
  • Use an open-to-buy calculation to balance what you’re buying with what you’re selling. (David Brown, page 53)
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Commentary: The Business

Want to Survive? Go Custom

Tapping into jewelry customers’ desire for individuality is the key to retail success.

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YOU OFTEN HEAR THE words “it’s custom made” when referring to jewelry, but is it really? We all know there is a difference between “off-the-rack” and “custom-made” when it comes to clothing — jewelry isn’t any different.

The magic starts when the customer meets the maker. Each custom piece of art (which is what jewelry really is) should start with a conversation. Then the information provided — including style ideas, desired gemstones, personality traits and tastes, hobbies, work and social environments, favorite colors, you name it — should be incorporated into hand-drawn or 3D CAD rendered images for the client to choose from. Once a favorite design has been chosen, the creation and fabrication processes can begin.

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This specific value-add and brand differentiation is where clients realize the importance of knowing your jeweler. You have to trust the individual making the piece for you — that is paramount.

People are tired of sameness. From rampant copying to boring, uninspired designs, jewelry clients are becoming wise to seeing the same thing over and over again. The jewelry they are seeing does not speak to their individuality because these products are made for the masses on a gigantic scale. The anonymity behind fast fashion and easily consumed products that break or lose stones in a short amount of time after purchase don’t help the cause. Customer service only goes so far; the product has to have its own legs to stand on.

If you are creating one-of-a-kind pieces, you do not have the carrying costs associated with pre-fabricated designs and styles. You do not have to have liquidation sales of old, tired merchandise. You are creating exactly what the client is looking for. Being a specialty shop does not limit you to only creating custom pieces. It empowers you to design out-of-the-box and far-out jewelry that pushes the boundaries of style and uniqueness.

Seth Godin said that “survival is not the goal, transformative success is.” It is not always the strongest that survive, but those most responsive to change. Change is an opportunity that many see as a threat. It all boils down to our individual creativity. There is no competition when you create.

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