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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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Editor's Note

Why Excuses Are The Enemy of Learning

To get better in business and life, you must first embrace failure.

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“If you continue to be defensive every time I give you constructive criticism, you’ll never learn anything.”

I was in my mid-20s when a mentor and former employer said those words to me, and I’ve never forgotten the lesson. When you make excuses, you lose the opportunity to learn from failure and improve yourself.

It’s more difficult than it sounds. Human nature is to look outside oneself for a source of blame. No one wants to be thought of as “a failure.”

And yet, if you’re willing to bow to the requirements of wisdom, your confidence can only rise as your quest for improvement moves forward.

Our magazine is all about education, and we figured there’s no better teacher than failure — thus, you hold in your hands, “The Failure Issue.” Inside, you’ll find stories from successful businesspeople who aren’t afraid to admit how they failed, and how that failure was transformative.

For example, check out columnist David Geller’s story of how he went from near-bankruptcy to profitable through a cash-flow crucible. And read about David Nygaard’s odyssey from multi-store owner to personal jeweler and city councilman through bankruptcy and divorce.

It all starts with a willingness to learn — and if you didn’t have that, you wouldn’t be reading INSTORE. So read on, and prepare to get the most from failure!

Trace Shelton

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

Five Smart Tips You’ll Find in This Issue

  • Have employees wear white cotton gloves when moving product around to keep skin oil off jewelry. (Manager’s To-Do List, p. 30)
  • Hold “failure reviews” when anything goes wrong in your business. (The Big Story, p. 40)
  • Keep a Failure Wall in a back room where you and your staff can share “growth lessons.” (The Big Story, p. 40)
  • In job postings, describe your company, your reputation and your goals. (Ask INSTORE, p. 62)
  • Reward your clients through a Brand Ambassador program that compensates them for sharing their enthusiasm for brands. (Cool Stores, p. 78
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Dave Richardson

Why Ignoring Young Customers Could Come Back to Haunt You

Sales trainer David Richardson says this is an opportunity to make a client for life.

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WHY IT IS TRUE: The 12-year-old spending $25 today might be back for an engagement ring in 10 years.
PLAN OF ACTION: Put him or her at ease and ask questions about the gift recipient. Treat them as though they were an adult, show them respect, and you just may have a customer for life.

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Commentary: The Business

How Failure Leads to Growth

If you don’t try, nothing will change, says growth expert Elle Hill.

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WHY ISN’T SHE breathing?” my mom asked the doctor, her eyes darting back and forth between the syringe and me. An injection and a few moments later, my breathing returned to normal, but my childhood never did. Instead, I began my carefully curated asthma life.

Everything I was allowed to do was designed to avoid the risk of failing. I was swaddled tight and never allowed to push beyond what we knew I could safely do.

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After university, I sat in my first apartment in New York City and made a decision that changed everything: I would run the New York City Marathon.

I’d go out every night after work, in the yellow light of the street lamps, armed with my inhaler and my steroid pills. And I would run. I would run until I heard the first wheeze. And continue until my breath became too shallow and I couldn’t run anymore.

That first night, I ran for four minutes. I stopped. I took my inhaler. I walked back home.

I had an ache in the pit of my chest, not from the wheezing, but from the fear of failure: I might do this night after night, and still not be able to run. I had never done anything I wasn’t sure I could do before. But if I didn’t try, nothing would change.

So, I repeated this for three weeks until I could run for 10 minutes. And five more weeks until I doubled that. In November of 1999, five months later, I ran the New York City Marathon in four hours and 35 minutes.

What I learned is how important failure is. It’s not a byproduct of success — it is the road to success. If you never fail, you’re playing it too safe. If you only act when you know you will succeed, you will never learn something new or reach your potential.

In the years after my marathon finish, I have had a new philosophy: I choose what I do next based on what intimidates me most. It’s why I started my own jewelry store, discovered it was a bad business model, and overhauled it. Each painful failure was a hard-won lesson that made me better, smarter, faster. And ultimately, I brought my company public in a $10 million IPO in less than five years.

Taking a leap when you can’t guarantee success is exactly what you must do to learn, to grow.

To succeed, you must first aim to fail.

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