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Eileen McClelland

Tips on Implementing Your Own Client Advisory Board

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Philip Bosen, director of Von Bargen’s Jewelry, used to wonder just what his customers wanted, especially when it came to merchandise.

Now, with the help of five different client advisory boards, one for each of Von Bargen’s five stores in New Hampshire and Vermont, the business has significantly changed how it shops for inventory. After two years of implementing advisory boards, inventory turn was so improved that store managers could locate just nine pieces from all of the stores for the annual sale.

At Von Bargen’s, each group is made up of 30 women and meets quarterly for about two hours. The first meeting is more of a social gathering; the other three have preplanned agendas, such as “How can we reach more people on Facebook?” or “How can we improve the store’s appearance?” or “How can we reach young bridal shoppers?”

Bosen spoke about client advisory boards at the American Gem Society Conclave recently in New Orleans.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re contemplating your own client advisory board:

POINTS TO CONSIDER
  • Women are actively involved in most shopping decisions and are usually the “end users,” of jewelry, whether they buy it or not, so it makes sense to limit membership to women, Bosen has found.

  • The ideal advisory board member needn’t be a top spender at the store, but she should be bright, connected, articulate, and have some degree of affluence or disposable income.

  • Recruit a blogger for best social-media results.

  • Stay in touch with trusted board members while you’re at a trade show; seek their advice (maybe using Face Time) about new lines you find or new pieces in established lines.

  • If you want to reach a wide customer base, make sure the advisory board reflects that. Include a wide range of ages, and diverse locations throughout the area you serve.

  • Offer an incentive. Von Bargen’s, for instance, offers their board members gift bags that include $100 gift certificates. Be sure to provide refreshments.

  • Schedule meetings in advance, and don’t expect or require perfect attendance. Fifty percent attendance is still an effective and useful turnout for Von Bargen’s.

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