Creating an Effective Image
To increase diamond profits, make sure customers know you're a diamond
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.
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.
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
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.