Saturday, 30 June 2012

SST - Early Ipressions

Saturday Story Time – Early Impressions

Staying over at Nana and Papas was always a treat.  The basement of their South East Calgary bungalow was quite cold, but 4 blankets later I remember sleeping quite well fully entombed under the covers.  That basement was full of wonderful mysteries like my Papa’s workshop.  Saws, grinders, scathes, tumblers and the most interesting of rocks.  My Papa was a rock-hound and hobby-lapidary.  He played with gold a bit; forging the odd bezel out of wire-stock he bought at the local rock-shop.  His favorite stone was tiger’s eye.  He mostly made gold-filled cuff-links, bolo-ties and brooches from B.C. Jade, agate, coral, and anything else he could scrounge from his visits to Banff, Jasper or around the world.

He passed away from a brain tumor when I was only 12, but the artisanship and love of minerals would leave an indelible impression on both my cousin and me.  Somehow out of all of the jobs I applied for while finishing up my arts degree at U of A, it was a small independent jewellery store who took notice and hired me.  I instantly felt in my element, even though the jewellery was much more refined than that produced by my Papa.  My parents and grandmother enjoyed shopping for jewellery, and I myself had a couple of chains, and pendants, gold grad ring and had received a very sleek gold plated Seiko watch for grad.  I actually still have a 70s nugget-style star sapphire ring inherited from my Papa.

Maybe jewellery is a family business, or maybe you were a great customer.  Whatever the early influence, you have to really love jewellery to do well in this business.  There’s nothing more duplicitous than selling something you wouldn’t buy yourself.

As some of you already know, my cousin Ken who shared many an adventure in Papa’s basement is the sales and marketing manager for Korite, and the face of Ammolite on various home shopping channels.  

Friday, 29 June 2012

Tough News Week

You can cruise along doing what you do well.  One week the tap shuts off and almost nobody shows up.  What did you do wrong?  Often nothing.  I feel the crunch too.  When I come to your store and you’ve had a tough week, or a slow month, it can affect the business I write with you.

Whenever I sense that vibe, I can usually look at recent headlines and see stories that caused fear in the local, national or international marketplace.  This week, industry news includes slumping rough prices and poor results from the June Hong Kong Jewellery Show.  In the US, Obama’s health care reforms could result in another $1.5 trillion in additional debt.  Even though Washington has little to do with Williams Lake, and Antwerp has little to do with Abbottsford, a bad news day can cast a dark shadow on consumer confidence and business confidence here in Canada.

At one point in my career I used to track my sales on a weekly basis and fret over every dip, and try not to get too excited about a good week.  More recently I’ve cast my goals and my marketing plans further into the future, so I wait until I’ve finished fully executing the long-term plan before I judge my success.  I’ve published blogs about doing marketing that gives you specific measurable results, but I’ve also revealed that all marketing and advertising should be part of at least a one-year plan.

The only thing constant is change.  We can’t predict what tomorrow’s headlines will be or how people react to them.  We can control our own reactions.  We can keep positive when others are negative.  We can spend when others are “pulling in their belts.”  We can refuse to participate in pity-parties when conversations center around how tough things are.  The most successful businesses are those who found ways to prosper during tough times (I can just imagine many of you nodding your heads at your own experiences.)  Next week the news will be good, then it will be bad, then it will be good again.  Are you going to buy into it or are you going to just operate your system and then see how your master plan unfolds?

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Old Carpet

I live in a house that might be 90 years old.  We don’t know for sure because records in the area don’t go back that far.  An older house such as this requires all kinds of repairs.  For instance, for the three years we’ve been living there, we’ve put-up with a terrible looking linoleum kitchen floor with patches and a soft-spot near the door.  When repairing the rotted subfloor, I found this charming old carpet below.  We look at that and think, “wow that’s tacky carpet.”  But here’s the thing, in 1972 it was “wow, that’s beautiful contemporary carpet.  The pinnacle of fashion.”

The wood above this carpeting was attacked by moisture, carpenter ants and wood-rot and had to be replaced.  If I were to have steam-cleaned this carpet it might look pristine.  This carpet was obviously of very durable quality and somebody thought it was the perfect choice for the entryway to the kitchen to this great old house. 

How does this relate to jewellery?  Well, doing restyle and design work requires recognition and acknowledgement of quality; even when style is outdated.  It often doesn’t make any sense to restyle a 25 year old 17-stone diamond cluster ring which contains little gold and poor quality diamonds; bought as a promise ring from some long forgotten suitor.  An early ‘80s 17-stone diamond cluster purchased as an engagement ring might contain hand-set F-color, VS clarity diamonds.  The quality and meaning of this ring might indeed warrant an expensive restyle and could even beckon for a new feature diamond!

When someone brings in some nuggetty-looking ‘70s ring, or some gaudy ‘80s cluster, appreciate it as part of an era.  It may have monetary value from high quality gemstones or despite the quality it may have huge sentimental value.  It may warrant an extensive restoration or a creative new restyle.  You might even sell them a ring that compliments it and bridges the gap between contemporary and classic.

As for my floor?  This classic old house deserved a fabulous new ceramic tile floor laid with the utmost precision and that’s just what it got.  The carpet’s still there for the next owner to discover.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

How Small is your World?

Social networking allows you to play to a larger audience than ever before.  Think about my grandparents going to the theatre to see newsreels about what was happening in World War II.  Then as everyone was adopting television there were less than a handful of channels to watch.  Heck, just drop-back a few years to when “snail-mail” was a critical form of communication because long-distance was so expensive.  Then came faxes, instant messages, email, blackberries, Facebook, blogs and viral YouTube videos.  I’m working on a new song parody, so I’ve listened to the original song on Youtube, which has had 124 million views (that’s an eighth of a billion.)  This morning as I push the “send” buttons, this message will reach about 250 jewellers in several provinces and maybe up to 10 countries.

While the world becomes smaller and easier to reach; you still can’t email a sympathetic look.  You can’t YouTube a hug.  The technology doesn’t exist for you to digitally slide a ring onto a person’s finger and hold their hand-up for them to admire the look and feel of an amazing jewellery design.

The jewellery industry in particular needs the close and personal touch.  Don’t get so carried away with social media and digital marketing that you forget that it’s only a “lead generator.”  The stories I’ve heard of people coming into your store because one of their friends had a great experience and Facebooked about it, still ended with that “lead” coming into your store and experiencing your excellence of product and service.

Your challenge for the day?  Try to get the song It’s a Small World out of your head.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Too Good to be True?

I just read through a jewellery-marketing free report from a couple in Australia.  It has some very good fundamental marketing practices in the free report alone.  One thing they mentioned was particularly worth blogging about.  They suggest that you go through the different media you use and test each with an offer that’s “too good to be true.”

In a world where people’s attention is divided 6 million ways every day, it’s hard to see the effects of any of your advertising.  You might be surprised by what you learn from a too-good-to-be-true offer.  What if you offered something for free, and nobody even showed-up to claim it?

Let’s say you planned on spending $5,000 with a radio station, you might try spending the first $1,000 this way: create an ad offering for a $129 pair of earrings for $10 this weekend only for the first 10 people who come in with the secret code-word, “gold-rush.”  Your costs should be $500 for the ad placements before and after; and $500 to subsidize your product cost.  If you don’t get 10 people responding to the ad, you might have just saved yourself the other $4,000 you had planned to spend with them. 

If they’re lined-up 20 deep Saturday Morning to take advantage of your generous offer, you’ve done two things.  First, you’ve discovered that this particular media reaches people and provokes action.  Secondly you’ve just conditioned your market to pay attention to your ads in case there’s another too-good-to-be-true deal. 

After a promotion with successful results, you can release your follow-up advertisement thanking those who came-in and encouraging listeners who missed-out to keep tuned-in for the next surprise deal.  Your next surprise deal doesn’t have to be as good as the first, but don’t expect a stampede if your “promotion consists of “10% of select items.”

Now, you can repeat the experiment with $500 worth of ads in the newspaper, other radio station, bus-benches, Coffee News or whatever and see if the results match the first media.  That’s how you establish the value of your various media.  Oh, and by the way, those cheapskates who bought your $129 earring for $10?  What if two of them become new customers for life who each spend $10,000 with you over the next 10 years?