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Tip Sheet

Tip Sheet: May 2006

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Eight fresh ideas to better your business

Knock those customer surveys down; invite vendor reps; more.

[componentheading]SIGN ON[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Make It Memorable[/contentheading]

Remember how we’ve talked about creating store signage that clearly communicates policies to customers — but does it in a fun, friendly, and most importantly, memorable manner? This is exactly what we’re talking about.

[componentheading]LET’S GET AWAY[/componentheading]

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[contentheading]Invite A Vendor[/contentheading]

If you hold an annual company strategic retreat for your store, why not invite representatives of your key vendors? Share everything. Your vendors will understand you better, and can usually provide ideas to help you sell better. Jason Jennings, author of Think Big, Act Small cites this policy as a key strength at Sonic Drive-In, one of America’s hottest fast-food franchises.

[componentheading]DRESS ME UP[/componentheading]

[contentheading]A Web Idea to Try[/contentheading]

Here’s a website that’s making the viral rounds in a big way: www.dresskevin.com. Concept: a 20-something guy named Kevin has photographed his entire wardrobe, put it online, and lets visitors vote to decide exactly what he’ll wear each day. A simple, and seemingly unremarkable idea, but he gets thousands of visitors each day, and has been profiled on CNN, Good Morning America and the CBS Early Show. So here’s our brainstorm — how about having one of your cute, young sales associates doing a dress(me).com website — featuring loads and loads of your jewelry.

[componentheading]READY FOR THE PITCH[/componentheading]

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[contentheading]Have A Vendor Day[/contentheading]

If youconstantly have manufacturer’s reps dropping in when you least expect them, or are getting headaches trying to keep track of all your vendor appointments, here’s an approach from Jason Jennings, author of Think Big, Act Small that should help make your life simpler. Have one day a week (or even just a morning or afternoon) when vendors are free to visit you with no appointments needed. The rest of the time, you are off- limits — at least, if you want to be.

[componentheading]JUST TWO QUESTIONS[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Keep It Simple[/contentheading]

Many businesspeople like to show their acumen by commissioning elaborate customer-satisfaction surveys. Mark Hughes, author of Buzzmarketing, saves you time and money by suggesting you throw out all the questions except two. “All other questions are meaningless data dung,” says Hughes. The magic questions: 1.) “How did you hear about us?” (which tracks word-of-mouth and marketing effectiveness) and 2.) “Would you go out of your way to recommend our product to a friend?” (this measures customer evangelism, or buzz.) Getting answers to both of these questions will show you clearly whether you’re doing things right.

[componentheading]HATE, ACTUALLY[/componentheading]

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[contentheading]Some Bad Words[/contentheading]

Seth Godin presents a bunch of words that, when you use them in copywriting, make it easy for people to ignore you: “actually, totally, absolutely, completely, continually, constantly, literally, really, unfortunately, ironically, incredibly, hopefully, and finally.”

[componentheading]BEAR WITH US[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Return With A Roar[/contentheading]

If you’re one of those jewelers who closes shop during dead periods (for a few weeks or even a few months), Casey Gallant of Steven Gallant Jewelers in Orleans, MA has an idea for you to help you get business started off on the right foot when you re-open. Introducing: the “Coming Out of Hibernation Sale!”

[componentheading]THE BIG PAYOFF[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Pre-Pay Small Bills[/contentheading]

If you’re paying for a service that costs about $15 a month (e.g. an Internet service contract), and you have to pay bills monthly, Entrepreneur Magazine says you should request to pay six months in advance. Reasons: you’ll save time writing out checks and stuffing envelopes, almost $2 in stamps, and even better, won’t run the risk of incurring hefty late fees.

[span class=note]This story is from the May 2006 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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Tip Sheet

How to Sell More “Spa Treatments” for Jewelry, and More Tips for September

Millennial shoppers respond to education, privacy and transparency.

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TIME MANAGEMENTAim for Busy, Not Rushed

How should you strive to feel when working? Busy, but not rushed. Research undertaken by the University of Maryland found this is when people are happiest. And when you’re happiest — meaning engaged and in the flow as opposed to giddy with joy — you invariably do your best work. So, start creating realistic schedules, stop checking email every 15 minutes, take breaks to exercise, and stop letting other people set your deadlines (yes, you could finish the job by tomorrow, but Friday is best for everyone.)

MARKETINGA Time for Pampering

One of the key challenges at this time of the year is how to get customers in the door. The Gem Collection in Tallahassee, FL, does it with a “Spa Treatment” for rings. The treatment, which is recommended annually, includes inspection of stones by hand, ultrasonic cleaning, steaming of the stones to remove excess dirt, refinishing to remove scratches, polishing the ring, and for white gold jewelry, a rhodium finishing, all for one price. “The spa treatment name was used so that the customer feels as if their jewelry is being pampered instead of worked on,” explains co-owner Don Vodicka. “This has raised our repair sales and keeps our customers very happy.”

MARKETINgShout It in Brass

If you buy your diamonds from Antwerp, it’s always a good idea to let the world know about it. Molinelli’s Jewelers in Pocatello, ID, actually has it in brass letters on their wall.

SALESLaying on a Bridal FeasT

Showcases — who needs them? That’s the diamond-selling approach at Siegel’s Jewelry in Paso Robles, CA, where customers are encouraged to sit with staff at a custom-made, long community table to discuss jewelry. “I designed my store with a lot of seating space in order to show diamonds effectively, and to make my employees and customers more comfortable,” explains owner Ken Siegel.

STRATEGY“How” is the Enemy

Something all true entrepreneurs know: “How” is the enemy. “We always want to know how things will happen,” says Claudia Azula, a popular podcaster and co-author of the Power Of No. “But how is the enemy because it blocks the possibilities that open up when we are willing to not know. When you don’t know about tomorrow, all you can do is focus on doing your best today.” Stop thinking, Just go do it.

SALESKeep Me Safe and Prosperous

Buy an engagement ring at Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur, IN, and you also get a “Keep Me” — an original document that travels with the piece of jewelry. The paper “encourages customers to spend dollars by emphasizing the legacy aspect of their purchase,” explains owner Eileen Eichhorn.

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Tip Sheet

Saving the Boring Jobs for the Office, Watching TV with Purpose and More Tips for July

Plus, how to use questions to make yourself a better listener.

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personalDo Down Time With Purpose

Approach this summer with more purpose, recommends Greg McKeown, writing in the Harvard Business Review. “That means if you decide to watch TV, really watch it. If you are having a meal, take the time to enjoy the meal.” Of course it also means making a choice: do you want to spend your summer downtime in front of the tube? We’re going to hazard a guess the answer is no. Go schedule some activities that ensure you fully recuperate this summer.

EVENTSMake It Light-Hearted

Orin Jewelers in Northville, MI, understands that at its heart, shopping for jewelry should be a joyful experience. To support that message, it tries to add a lighthearted touch to city events by doing something fun in the store, say owners Orin and Tina Mazzoni. “Example: when a citywide ban was put on serving wine/drinks to women at the annual Girls’ Night Out, we all dressed as if it were the Prohibition and served root beer and sparkling wine.” How does your fun game compare?

LEARNINGUp Your Reading Game

Want to read more? Try what serial entrepreneur and business author James Altucher does and read about 30 pages of five books each day. Given the average American reads about 250 words a minute, or about a page a minute, that’s two-and-a-half hours. Don’t have that much time? How about 25 pages of three books? That’s little more time than it takes to watch an episode of The Real Housewives Of New Jersey.

PRODUCTIVITYHome Is Where The Creativity Is

Here’s a neat rule to get the most out of your work day (for people in a position to pull it off, meaning business owners): Do creative work at home and boring work, where you may need some compulsion, at the office. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, researchers found that when it came to creative tasks, people were 11 percent to 20 percent more productive outside the lab. For rote and repetitive tasks, however, they were 6 to 10 percent less productive when not in a formal work environment.

SALESIs That So?

In The Patterson Principles Of Selling, Jeffrey Gitomer suggests training yourself to be a better listener by asking a question at the end of your customers’ statements. If you make your own statement, it’s possible you are interrupting. But if you ask a question, you almost have to wait until they’re finished speaking.

SERVICEDon’t Band-Aid A Gunshot Wound

When it comes to repairs, it often pays to look beyond the customer’s specific request, says Bruce Goodheart of Goodheart’s Jewelry in Overland, KS. “Don’t fix one prong when there are 20 other prongs you need to re-tip. You don’t need the headache, and it will show how professional you are. You have a reputation to uphold, and you can’t put a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.”

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Learning to Love PITA Customers and More Tips for June

When starting out, go bold and quirky (just not weird), and the secret to a perfect break.

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CUSTOMER SERVICEEmbrace the Pain

In his most recent letter to Amazon’s shareholders, CEO Jeff Bezos said one thing he loved about customers is that they are “divinely discontent”. Their expectations only ever “go up,” he said. Eileen Eichhorn, owner of Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur, IN, said decades working in her family store has taught her something similar about demanding customers: they make excellent references. “Pain-in-the-ass customers send us the best customers.”

STRATEGYBegin With Bold

When trying a new business venture (or even prototyping a new jewelry line), always try the wackier, quirkier stuff first, says Jason Fried, founder and CEO of Basecamp and author of the business bestseller Getting Real. “The deeper you get into a project, the more conservative it tends to get. Stranger ideas are more at home earlier in the process,” he recently wrote on his Twitter feed.

EVENTSBirthday Gifts Welcome

What month was your company born? Throw a birthday party and ask your customers to bring “gifts” of testimonials that you can use in your marketing. Including such third-party recommendations on your website and in your ads is one of the best ways around to convince others that your store is, indeed, the best place to shop, says Entrepreneur magazine’s Idea Site For Business.

HUMAN RESOURCESDivine Your Own Dress

Siegel’s Jewelry in Paso Robles, CA has solved its dress code issues by simply leaving it up to the staff. It’s part of a bigger strategy to emphasize the employees’ individual talents and unique tastes. “We think it is better for them to be different from one another and create a balanced set of skills and talents, than to all offer the same things,” says owner Ken Siegel. “Employees are happiest when they can be themselves and are encouraged to develop their own self in a safe and happy environment.”

STORE EXTERIORThe Big Picture

First thing to do before slapping a mural on the side of your building? See if the government will pick up part of the bill. Joe Declet of Fins and Skins in Pinellas Park, FL, got tired of telling new customers to look for the “ugly orange building,” so when his lease came up for renewal, he negotiated the right to add the mural. Working with a local artist, he now has a 30- by 50-foot mural depicting a coral reef — and the city offset his expense with a $1,500 grant as part of a beautification program.

MANAGEMENTBreaking Breaks

The most important thing to understand about breaks is that they are not a deviation from performance; they are part of performance, says Dan Pink in his latest business best seller, When: The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing. “And the most restorative breaks are social rather than solo, outside not inside, moving instead of stationary, and fully detached rather than semi-detached.”

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