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Tip Sheet

Tip Sheet: September 2007

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Seven fresh ideas to better your business

Broken eyeglasses could be quick cash; check your postal times; more.

[componentheading]MENTIONABLES[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Make ‘Em Talk[/contentheading]

For the last few years, every business-advice book and consultant has touted word-of-mouth advertising. But apart from typically inane advice like “do it through a relentless focus on excellence,” few have suggested how you can really generate it. Made to Stick authors Chip and Dan Heath come closer with their “105 percent rule.” The 5 percent refers to the little things that will make you stand out from the crowd and which should be part of any product or service design process. In a Fast Company column, they cite several examples, including: Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, OR, whose voodoo-doll-shaped doughnuts bleed jelly when stuck with a pretzel pin; and Innocent Drinks, a British smoothie maker that hires grannies to knit little woolly hats for its winter drinks (so the bottles don’t catch a cold). Now that’s giving ’em something to talk about.

[componentheading]PERSUASIVE BREW[/componentheading]

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[contentheading]Gain Influence[/contentheading]

Your brilliant new marketing strategy for the holidays is a sure winner but your staff just can’t see the big picture. What to do? Drug them … with caffeine. A moderate dose of caffeine (about two cups of coffee) might make them see your side, according to research published in The European Journal of Social Psychology. The study found that in addition to boosting alertness, caffeine increases the ability to be influenced. “It’s most effective in the morning, so for the sake of argument, deliver that java early,” advised Working Mother, citing the survey.

[componentheading]SPEEDY DELIVERY[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Best Time To Go Postal[/contentheading]

The best way to avoid those long lines at the post office is to find out when your local branch opens (generally between 7-9 a.m.) and get there about 30 minutes later. USPS spokes-person Monica Suraci told Real Simple there’s often a crowd at the door when post offices open, which usually fades by mid-morning. Avoid lunch time and the end of the workday.

[componentheading]THE VISION THING[/componentheading]

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[contentheading]Offer A Fix[/contentheading]

Got a fancy laser welder that’s not getting as much use as it could? How about offering to fix customers’ broken eyeglasses? “It’s a great customer service for someone who is in an emergency situation,” says the Tidwell family, which owns Bell Jewelers, in Murfreesboro, TN.

[componentheading]VIRTUAL REPUTATION[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Build Your Image[/contentheading]

Believe it or not, Google Maps does have a more important function than allowing you to gaze at rooftops — it serves as the search giant’s local directory. Recently it started showing user reviews in its business listings, so recruit some of your best customers to sing your praises. It’s a simple process: Just surf to your store’s listing, click on the “write a review” link that appears in the bubble and you’re in business. If you haven’t already listed your store in Google Maps, do it now at www.google.com/local/add.

[componentheading]TOUCHDOWN[/componentheading]

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[contentheading]Make It A Game[/contentheading]

While doing research for Tip Sheet, we inadvertantly strayed into the Philadelphia Inquirer’s sports archives, where a story about Terrell Owens’s acrimonious move from the Eagles to the Dallas Cowboys caught our attention. Asked before the start of last season how he’d handle Owens — widely viewed as a non-team player — Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said the key to dealing with high-performing but high-maintenance individuals is to appeal to their competitive side. “Show them the carrot. Make everything a game. And don’t sweat the small stuff,” he said. Parcells has since left the team, and the Cowboys had a mediocre season, but Owens did top the league in touchdown receptions and delayed potentially season-ending surgery on a finger to help his team-mates. Got a superstar on your sales team who needs some direction? Show them the carrot.

[componentheading]EXPERT TESTIMONY[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Solicit Stories[/contentheading]

For a creative format for a testimonial web page, check out www.zippostories.com from famed lighter company Zippo. Click on any lighter on the page and you read a different customer’s Zippo tale. You could, as Zippo does, let website visitors fill in their own stories about their experience with your products. Or take it a step further and use the actual piece one of your customers bought. Then take it another step further, and include story, pictures, and even video with each testimonial. Get your webmaster to work! (You may want to reserve the right to edit the stories though.)

[span class=note]This story is from the September 2007 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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Gene the Jeweler

When Gene the Jeweler Speaks, His Employees Listen

In this episode of Jimmy DeGroot’s Gene the Jeweler series, Gene has a simple request for his employees. The good news is that they follow his instructions. The bad news is that they follow a bit too literally.

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Tip Sheet

Make Sure You’re Part of Your Charitable Giving, And More Tips for May

You’ll get to meet more people and feel better about your involvement.

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CUSTOMER SERVICEIn the Kid’s Corner

Adults needn’t be the only ones who view jewelry stores as houses of goodies. In addition to its well-appointed kids’ corner, Renaissance Fine Jewelry in Brattleboro, VT, provides customers’ children with gift-wrapped presents to make them feel special, too. “They will remember the stuffed animal or the funky handbag they got at Renaissance Fine Jewelry,” says owner Caitlyn Wilkinson.

PERSONAL Go Gray

Worried your relationship with your phone is less than healthy? Switch your display from color to grayscale, recommends Catherine Price in her book How To Break Up With Your Phone. (This is apparently so threatening to phone makers’ addiction business model, it’s hidden five levels deep on the iPhone: go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters.) Instantly, your phone is vastly duller. Try it for a day.

CHARITY Sell On Site

When you’re asked to donate to local charities, make sure to choose only events that allow you to personally participate, says Dianna Rae High of Dianna Rae Jewelry in Lafayette, LA. This way, you’re building relationships, rather than just donating an item to sit on a silent auction table. For example, when the local ballet asked High to sponsor their annual event, she paid the sponsorship fee and asked if she could set up a small table of jewelry for sale with a percentage of sales going to the ballet. “The women loved it, we sold a lot of jewelry, I met new people, and the ballet received more than if I had just paid the sponsorship,” High says.

STRATEGY Good Citizens

If you refer to potential customers as “prospects” or “targets,” Seth Godin urges you to stop and instead call them “citizens.” His argument is based on the view that the conventional marketing terms don’t reflect the way power has shifted in the marketplace. “Citizens are no longer the weak, isolated pre-consumers in front of a TV set in 1971, with few options. Now, they appear to be holding all the cards. It sounds a bit pretentious, but then, so do most terms marketers use.” You can’t help but become a little more humble and respectful, Godin says, when you use this term.

TIME MANAGEMENTLeave the Mess for Now

If you typically feel the urge to straighten your desk before you can start on meaningful work, The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman suggests a simple rule: reschedule. “If your job permits it, schedule a daily deck-clearing hour — but at 4.30 p.m., not 9 a.m.,” he says. “It’s time to abandon the secret pride we procrastinators feel in having completed 25 small tasks by 10 a.m.; if they’re not the right tasks, that’s not really something to be proud of.” Instead, Burkeman recommends the timeworn advice to work on your most important project for the first hour of each workday.

MANAGEMENTMore Donuts

Want to add some fun to your store? Take a tip from Sherrie’s Jewelry Box in Tigard, OR, where “you’re never late to work if you bring donuts,” owner Sherrie Devaney says.

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How to Become an Idea Machine, and More Tips for April

One tip involves a jeweler who allowed a client to pour his own gold.

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Strategy Be an Idea Machine

Write down 10 ideas a day. “Do it for six straight months and see what happens. It actually turns into a super power,” says serial entrepreneur and author James Altucher. To collect his ideas, Altucher buys 1,000 waiter’s pads at a time from restaurant supplies websites (10 cents a pad). “They’re great for meetings because I have to keep concise lists, and they’re always good conversation starters.”

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Podcast: When Is It Time to Let an Underperforming Employee Go?

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Podcast: Millennial Gem Trader Dave Bindra Steps Into ‘The Barb Wire’
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Management We Are Family

Leitzels’ Jewelry in Myerstown and Hershey, PA, has a cool rule to reinforce the store’s culture: Every day, each team at both its stores must include a Leitzel family member. “We take pride in every aspect of the business and build relationships. It is easy to overlook how cool it is to be a family-owned and operated business,” says third-generation co-owner Allison Leitzel-Williams.

Customer service Pour It On

The trend of customers wanting to be intimately involved in the creation of a piece of jewelry can be considered either an annoyance or an opportunity. Collins Jewelers in Dallas, GA, opts for the latter view, starting with taking the customer out to lunch to go over their renderings and then involving them in every step of production. “One customer wanted to pour his own gold, so we made that possible and he was ecstatic,” says owner Marty Collins.

Productivity Take an Unwanted Break

According to a recent Columbia University study, the key to getting the most out of work breaks is to stop even when you don’t feel like it. “Participants who didn’t step away from a task at regular intervals were more likely to write ‘new’ ideas that were very similar to the last one they had written,” the authors explained in Harvard Business Review. So, “if you’re hesitant to break away because you feel that you’re on a roll, be mindful that it might be a false impression.” It’s notable, too, that the “break” in each case merely involved switching tasks. A change, it seems, really is as good as a rest.

Community Show Your Spirit

Communion season, which often takes place after Easter to around Mother’s Day, can be a nice opportunity for a jewelry retailer that is involved deeply in its community. Orin Jewelers in Northville, MI, is one such business, sponsoring a host of activities in support of groups from USA Hockey to the local hospital. They also sponsor, as well as make custom jewelry for, the Catholic high schools in their area.

Management Bad News First

When you’re delivering good and bad news to employees, always give the bad news first, says Daniel Pink, bestselling author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Pink acknowledges this often feels counterintuitive, as many bosses hope that by starting out positively, they will cushion the bad stuff. “The reason has to do with endings. Given the choice, human beings prefer endings that elevate, that have a rising sequence rather than a declining sequence,” he says.

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The Best Question to Ask Job Candidates and More Tips for March

Don’t miss “the right-hand close.”

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SecurityBeware Social Thieves

Going to Basel? Beware of who you tell, what you post, and how you move. “Skilled gangs of robbers monitor social networks, and, based on information that the exhibitors post, the robbers have attacked, robbed and even burglarized hotel rooms that the exhibitors were staying at,” Itay Hendel, CEO of Israel-based ISPS, which specializes in theft prevention for the jewelry industry, says in a statement.

ManagementWill Do, Not to Do

When making your daily to-do list, don’t pick 20 things you hope to do and that you think will add up to one day’s work: you’ll overestimate your capacities. Instead, pick the three or four most important things and really commit to doing them, even if you think they’ll take you only a couple of hours, suggests Luciano Passuello at litemind.com.

ShowroomSign Language

When you go to a jewelry show, you ask your vendors what’s new, right? Of course you do. Consultant Larry B. Johnson, author of The Complete Guide to Effective Jewelry Display, says the best way to draw customer interest from regular clients is to put a whiteboard on an easel (total cost: $79) just inside your door with all of your new products written on it.

SalesThe Right-Hand Close

Owners are uniquely placed to provide a blessing to close a sale, but knowing when to intervene can be tricky. The sales associates at Linnea Jewelers in La Grange, IL, signal such situations by shifting the piece to their right hand (a technique recommended by sales trainer Shane Decker). Owner Denise Oros will then step in to provide the reassurance that’s often needed with a line such as “Great choice! I got that stone, pearl, etc. in Tucson, it is a one-of-a-kind, she will love it! You really have an eye for the finer things.”

PersonalKeep Vacations Short

There seems to be a belief that a “proper” vacation requires at least a week off. But as the American psychologist Thomas Gilovich told the Boston Globe recently, “If you have to sacrifice how long your vacation is versus how intense it is, you want shorter and more intense.” That’s because we remember and judge our experiences, whether good or bad, not in their entirety, but according to how they felt at their emotional peak and at the end.

HiringAsk How They Prepared

Anand Sanwal, the CEO and co-founder of fast-growing tech company CB Insights, has an interesting take on the best question to ask a job candidate: “Tell me how you prepared for this interview.” Not only does the reply likely reveal a lot about how the person’s commitment to the position — do they care? — but it will hint at their work ethic and their analytical capabilities, he says.

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