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Trollbeads Fest Attracts Avid Tribe of Collectors to Massachusetts Store

“I plan the event as if it were a wedding, not just another store event.”

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Trollbeads fans show off their treasures at Rogers Gallery in Mattapoisett, MA.

LOUISE ROGERS owns a gallery in a small town on the south coast of Massachusetts that specializes in fine jewelry. She’d been following the buzz about beads and when she decided to bring in the Trollbeads line, her business life changed dramatically. Now, Trollbeads account for 35 percent of all of her business — at Rogers Gallery and Surroundings, a home furnishings store she also owns. Most remarkable of all, she says, is that she’s built a global community of fans — a Trollbeads tribe all centered on her gallery in Mattapoisett that makes a pilgrimage each year for her Trollbeads Festival.

THE IDEA

Building a Tribe

TROLLBEADS appealed to Rogers because the pieces are designed and created by artists; she sold them and marketed them as individual works of art, an attitude that instantly appealed to customers, who quickly became die-hard collectors. “I wasn’t going to take something just because it was the thing to do,” she says. “I felt the beads were beautiful and we sell a lot of art glass at the gallery so it was a good fit.” By the second year of her relationship with Trollbeads, sales were so high that she became one of the top 10 dealers in the United States and was given the opportunity by the parent company to launch an e-commerce website — www.trollbeadsgallery.com. “It was an interesting road for me to take, because I hadn’t had an e-commerce website before,” she says. Now she is the No. 1 retail source of Trollbeads in the U.S.

To get there, she gave it her all — 12 hours a day, seven days a week spent on Twitter, Facebook, the website and then, finally, a forum she started for fans of the brand who wanted to communicate about Trollbeads — trollbeadsgalleryforum.ning.com.

“I found a forum platform on a Sunday morning and by Sunday night, I had 15 people.” Now there are 2,500 people from all over the world. Her Trollbeads tribe has uploaded more than 16,000 photographs of their collections, comparing slight differences in handcrafted beads, offering design ideas, and showing off rare or retired beads to one another.

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But like many a virtual romance, it didn’t stop there.

“In 2010 one of the forum members said we should have a reunion somewhere so we can actually get to meet,” she recalls. “I began to notice that people from the forum were getting together, crossing state lines to go to stores to meet. It’s amazing how far these people are traveling.”

So Rogers decided to have a family reunion of her own.

THE EXECUTION

Plan Like a Wedding

“I plan the event as if it were a wedding, not just another store event,” Rogers says. “A whole year is needed to accomplish all the tasks needed for a successful major event like a wedding.” In 2010 Trollbead fans from five countries and 19 states paid $50 each to attend her first Trollbeads Fest. Due to the venue, she’s had to limit attendance to 150. The second fest took place in September 2011 with the same, high-decibel level of enthusiasm of the first Fest: “People were coming in and screaming at each other,” she says. “It felt like a family reunion. Trollbeads has some spirit about it that I’ve never seen. I’ve never seen a line have this kind of following.”

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She gives attendees gift bags that include a bead specially designed for the event, a leather box she designed for the collections and a license plate cover that says “I brake for Troll Beads” among the swag. She also has special offers: $100 off any gold bead and $50 off any gold and silver combination bead; buy three Trollbeads and get the fourth free.

Events are divided between her store and a local civic center. Festivities begin on Friday at the gallery with lunch and socializing, followed by a cocktail party, and a silent auction of special beads for charity. There’s even education — including a glass bead making demonstration and sessions on how to photograph beads, build a better bracelet, use new products. The mayor speaks about the history of the town; there’s a boat cruise and a dinner.

The two-day event also allowed loyal Trollbeads collectors to meet CEO Peter Aagaard and some of the designers in the Trollbeads family including Eske Storm and Kim Buck from Denmark. Trollbeads also provides four staff members to assist with the Fest.

THE RESULT

Experience Pays

Her site is the place to look for rare or retired beads and she plans to keep hosting her Fest. In addition, fans know they can look to her for knowledge about the product and for the stories behind the individual designs.

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“It’s remarkable how this brand has brought all of these people together. It seems to be my Trollbeads time.” She’s delegated most of the rest of her business to her six staff members.

She has four bracelets of her own. When she is tempted to grow her own collection to rival some of her fans, she just reminds herself that “I have to sell the beads to earn a living, so I can’t keep all of them.” As for the Fest, Rogers asks for feedback and receives

Do It Yourself: Become a Brand Ambassador

  • Want to be a brand ambassador? Get behind it, get excited, and run with it. “People around you will have the passion also,” Rogers says.
  • Build a club around your bead brand or other collectible line and host meetings.
  • If you’re interested in e-commerce, search-engine optimization is crucial. Rogers hired a company to guide her through SEO early on.
  • When you add a brand, consider how best to display it. When Rogers began selling Trollbeads, the company provided a countertop display. But she found it more effective to display them en masse in a table under a glass top — so she followed her vision and had one specially designed. It made all the difference in sales. “People walking through the gallery would stop short,” she says.
  • Think about how you can build a tribe around your own brand.
  • Become an expert about what you sell.

Rave Reviews: See What Customers Said

  • “I loved the gift bag!” one fan wrote. “In my house we actually fight over the different mugs you’ve given me over the years! First the beautiful engraved Trollbeads Gallery glass mug, then the engraved TBG tall mug and then last year’s travel coffee mug … LOL When I saw the reusable cold travel cup, I was in complete heaven! Thank you!”
  • Another fan wrote: “I loved every moment of it and would love for you to do another one next year, Louise. I know that there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into such an event but if you truly knew how happy you’ve made all of us by creating an event that we can get together IRL and talk about what has brought us all together (Trollbeads!) and laugh (boy did we do A lot of that!) … you should be soooooo very proud! Thank you!”
  • “You provided the perfect venue for Trollbeads collectors to come together to share their bead stories and creations, as well as the opportunity for us to see more beautiful beads than most have ever seen in one place at one time! I’m so happy to have been a part of it last year … and this year! Through this forum you created a place for collectors to meet and share … and it’s such a wonderful thing to finally put faces with names here!”

Planning Tips: Create a Successful Event

  • Rogers opens an event account with Eventbright.com, a site she recommends for events that require multiple tickets and good tracking. “I actually sell tickets for the event but I also offer tickets for the special Harbor Tour and the Final Dinner. I also offer tickets at no price just to gauge the quantity of people that will be attending the luncheon on Friday or the cocktail party on Friday night. We also offer a free ride to/from the cocktail party at the gallery Friday night.”
  • Build a dedicated website for the event. Rogers’ includes schedules, photos from past years, other area happenings, museum listings, climate, etc. www.trollbeadsfest2011.com
  • Within a month of the event Rogers posts “Share your travel plans here” on the site, which has helped people cooperate on airport transportation and make plans to meet. “Although the Fest is Friday and Saturday, people come earlier and earlier with some staying a whole week,” Rogers says.
  • As the time draws near I send out e-mails with added highlights about the event, such as a confirmed schedule on demonstrations of glass-bead making, and presentation by the designers and CEO.
  • We create hotel welcome bags for everyone staying at the hotels and deliver them to the participating hotels.

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