A report by a nonprofit documented an alleged seven deaths and 41 assaults on artisanal miners at the Williamson mine in Tanzania.
Designer’s Diary: A Unique, Artistic Approach to Holiday Sales
Vittoria d’Aste-Surcouf tried selling her designs online only using just renderings. Did it work?
As the pressure of holiday sales started to descend upon the jewelry world, I began, like every other designer, to plot my holiday plan of attack.
To date, my designs have been purely bespoke and my strength has been working one-on-one with clients, hand-rendering designs for either engagement rings or updated heirloom pieces. This means I start from scratch and hand-render every project that crosses my desk.
I toyed with the idea of creating a line of jewelry but, up until this point, had not really needed to.
My thought process shifted as I began strategizing on holiday sales and marketing.
As I did this I wrestled with three nagging questions: Should I design a collection? If I do, how do I promote it? And, most importantly, do I give into the pressure of inventory?
I began to strategize about what exactly I could offer my customers. I analyzed my marketing goals, reviewed my “dream” customer profiles, scrutinized the brevity of my mailing list and analyzed my approach to selling jewelry.
I concluded it was best not to solely rely on bespoke design for making sales during the holiday season but to invest in designing four small collections that would give my customers (primarily men) quick, direct and easy gift choices.
Each collection would be unique, easy to fabricate and casual enough for everyday wear, with just a hint of diamond.
I also kept a bit of the bespoke by allowing room for each piece to be customized based on the gold color or letter engraving.
Once the renderings were finished, I anguished over the idea of stocking actual, physical inventory.
Do I bite the bullet, fork over a large amount of money and mass produce several pieces in anticipation of a flood of sales?
After many rounds of debate with my marketing consultant, fellow National Jeweler columnist Jacqueline Stone of Bubblegum and Duct Tape, and further analysis of my business model and customer base, I decided against this.
We settled on selling the collections through an online holiday gift guide; I would promote this virtually through personal emails/calls, email campaigns and social media.
Jacqueline and I scrutinized my market, strategized and came up with a marketing game plan.
Not giving into the pressure of inventory meant that I would still have to fabricate the orders as they came in, which means they would technically not be ready-to-wear but still “custom.”
Another question that came up was whether or not customers would be patient enough to wait a few weeks to have their pieces fabricated.
After researching other jewelry companies, I discovered it has become common practice for designers to ask customers to wait a few weeks while their pieces are being produced.
What about missing out on those last-minute holiday sales? The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t have the type of clientele who buys last minute so, for this holiday season at least, my approach might work.
I took this even further by not showcasing finished pieces of the collection in the gift guide. Instead, I settled on an artistic approach and featured my renderings.
This was the part that made me the most nervous. I was not sure if this very unique approach was too abstract for customers to wrap their heads around. Would I be able to sell from renderings alone?
After a bit more thought, I realized: I sell from my drawings all the time. This is how I approach my bespoke design business. I don’t use CAD images as a sales tool but rely on my realistic, multi-view renderings instead.
I did not see why this should be any different with my holiday gift guide since this is what my customers expect from me.
I worked with my graphic designer to superimpose the renderings on actual black-and-white photographs of models.
The pieces were sketched in yellow gold, and the warmth of gold was a beautiful contrast that popped against the stark background. The result was stunning and incredibly professional-looking.
The renderings flowed perfectly on the necks and ears of the models and the gift guide turned out even better than I could have imagined.
It was a huge success, and my customers did not seem to have an issue with the fact that I was not displaying actual images of jewelry. Sales flowed in and I was really pleased with the fact that this novel approach had worked.
It is a great feeling to know that creating something unique and unconventional was successful.
While I do not think this strategy will work for all designers, I wanted to share my story to encourage all of you to really think outside the box with your marketing.
The success of my renderings-in-an-online-gift-guide experiment also proves that having a deep understanding of your client base can work wonders.
During this time of extreme competitiveness in the jewelry industry, it is necessary to take big chances with marketing, own the decisions you make, go out on a limb and trust your belief that whatever you are planning will work.
A custom fine jewelry designer, Vittoria d'Aste-Surcouf, has a diverse background in art history, events and public relations, jewelry fabrication, sales and fine jewelry rendering. She currently serves as CEO of her own jewelry company, VAS Bijoux. She also designs part-time for Gleim the Jeweler. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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