Creating an Effective Image

May 1999

Managing:Diamonds

Creating an Effective Image

To increase diamond profits, make sure customers know you're a diamond specialist

PLAN FOR PROFITS

You've recently taken over your family's business, a respected jewelry store with a 100-year-old tradition. But your sales aren't growing the way you think they should. Your image has clouded over the years. Your sales associates aren't as excited as they should be when a customer comes into the store. What do you do? Bill Sustachek and his wife, Kathy, faced this question in 1993, five years after they bought what was known then as Rasmussen Jewelry in Racine, WI, from their family. Their solution – a change of image – boosted sales 137% in five years and provides a blueprint for other jewelers in the same situation. You might benefit by reviewing the Sustacheks' three-point plan:

  • Decide what image you want.
  • Design every detail of your business to be consistent with that image.
  • Perpetuate that image.

Here's a closer look at each part of the process.

Which Image
Many jewelers have never thought about which image they want or studied whether that's the image they actually have in their customers' minds. "We can't leave everything that happens to chance," says Bill Sustachek. "We have to take charge and make some plans."

Do you want to be the low-price leader in diamonds in your area? Do you want to compete for every single diamond sale – no matter how skinny the margins? Instead, the Sustacheks wanted customers to view them as professional jewelers who are the source for high-quality diamonds.

Consistent Image
To achieve this image, they changed the name of the business from Rasmussen Jewelry to Rasmussen Diamonds so customers would know their specialty.

For the high-quality part of the equation, they stock almost exclusively Ideal-cut diamonds. "I spoke with a jeweler once who said he stocked all kinds of diamonds," he says. "It sounded to me like he never decided what kind of image he wanted." The Sustacheks also offer a lifetime money-back guarantee so customers never have to worry they will be stuck with something they don't like. (They promote this service as a lifetime money-back promise, believing the word guarantee is overused.)

The professional image carries through to advertising. They write the ads themselves, he records their radio ads and they both appear in the TV ads. This personal touch makes them a recognized part of the everyday fabric of the community, enhancing their approachability. For consistency, the ads are all geared toward diamonds and all stress the lifetime money-back promise.

The Sustacheks also created a brochure comprising a mission statement, an explanation of diamond cut (what they specialize in) and the lifetime money-back promise. "That's it – we don't advertise product. We advertise us." Here are some other tips:

  • Many jewelers who specialize in loose diamonds display mountings with cubic zirconia, but the Sustacheks insist on diamonds. "We are Rasumussen Diamonds, not Rasmussen CZs," he says.
  • Keep all the tools needed to sell diamonds – sales brochures, charts, loupe and a loose diamond – at various locations in the store so a sales associate never has to leave a customer unattended to get something.
  • Set up a gem lab (the Sustacheks' includes a Sarin Diamension machine and Colorimeters), not to overwhelm customers with technical information rather to establish your credibility.
  • Match your hours to your customers' needs. Rasmussen Diamonds used to be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. One day an acquaintance suggested the Sustacheks catered to the unemployed – the only people who could shop those hours. Now the store is open until 7 p.m., and the busiest hours are between 5 and 7 o'clock.
  • Capitalize on your uniqueness by stressing your years in business, your industry affiliations and memberships, and your gemological expertise.

Perpetuate the Image
The final piece of the puzzle – but one of the most important – is to perpetuate your image, says Sustachek.

One way is to hire sales associates who have good "people" skills, whether or not they have a background in jewelry. All employees the Sustacheks have hired since they took over the store were from outside of the industry, including a waitress who had given them excellent service.

The Sustacheks also stress a policy they first heard from Tom Tivol of Tivol Jewels, Kansas City, MO: "The No. 1 requirement of a sales associate is to find customers, bring them into the store and sell them a product or service." The Sustacheks also expect their sales associates to keep in touch with customers with calls and cards. One even checks the newspaper and sends cards of congratulations (not come-and-see-me cards) to people who were promoted or mentioned for other reasons.

A second way to perpetuate your image is to give your sales associates continuous training through sales trainers, vendor representatives, designers who are willing to visit stores, industry associations and the Gemological Institute of America, he says. The Sustacheks also have a library of material from well-known sales trainers, and they conduct mandatory weekly store sales meetings where associates enact sales situations and learn store policies.

Finally, hold sales associates accountable for making sales and upholding your image, he says. Examples include requiring them to show a diamond to everyone who comes into the store, stressing add-ons and giving business cards to customers (Kathy Sustachek gives three cards, one for the customer in case he or she ever has a problem or other jewelry need and the other cards to pass along to someone else who may be in the market for jewelry).

– by Ren Miller



Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


 

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