By Peter Smith
Peter Smith has more than 30 years of experience building wholesale and retail sales teams. He currently is president of Vibhor Gems.
In the first installment of What Will Become of Retail Jewelry Stores?, published last week, Peter Smith challenged jewelers to examine the strengths and weakness of their business in a number of key areas, including staffing, inventory and retail environment.
In Part II of his two-part series, Smith advises them to fine-tune their marketing strategy, find a mentor and never stop learning.

He also shares a not-unlucky list of 13 books, blogs and website that might be of interest to retailers.

Market to fewer people
A marketing “strategy” that is designed to maximize the accumulated dollars that you can collect from your various brand partners is not a strategy. It is leveraging dollars for its own sake, and it might be the worst way to market your business. If you cannot communicate your relevance in a consistent and clear manner, then customers will not have to tune you out because you will never have been relevant to them in the first place.

If you want to be the bridal player in your market, than make sure you are telling that story over and over across all your mediums, including your website, your social media and digital efforts, and in your more traditional advertising vehicles such as TV, radio, billboards and your brick-and-mortar store, inside and out.

If you commit to being the bridal player and you spread your advertising resources across a variety of brands, categories and messages, you will not be successful in reaching the ears and eyeballs of the most important customers for you. This does not mean that you cannot have more than one message, but they should be completely consistent with your stated aspiration and crystal clear to your target customer. In short, if you try to say too much, you are saying nothing.  

A reasonable person (not in the industry and not in media) ought to be able to look at your store and all of your marketing and PR efforts and know what you are about: “That’s the price store,” “You’ve got to check those guys out for the best engagement ring brands,” “That’s a great watch store,”  “They’ve got the coolest jewelry,” etc.

There are far more capable people than me when it comes to advising you on the best marketing plans but I will say this as strongly as I can: If your website is not, first and foremost, mobile-friendly, you are in trouble. Hand-held devices are the first screen that prospective customers consult when checking out websites. A site that is not completely mobile-friendly may as well not exist for millennials. If you haven’t updated your website in a few years, it is probably long past its expiration date.

Educate yourself
Whether you have a post-graduate degree or whether you are a high-school dropout, you must be committed to continuously learning about retail, about consumer behavior, about your market, about what’s going on in the industry and in retail in general. You don’t have to be a voracious reader of books to keep yourself up to date (although it would help) but you have to make time to continue to learn.

There are so many great resources available to us from LinkedIn, to Twitter (it’s not about the characters, it’s about the links that take you to great articles) to Facebook (you don’t have to be consumed in the “who ate what, when and where” to reap the benefits). You can take a few minutes to search great sources of information from organizations like Gallup and Forrester Research and Retail Dive and, of course, the industry blogs and articles.

There are also great educational opportunities throughout our industry and in local universities and even community colleges. You have to stay current with what is happening in retail (not just our industry) and constantly assess your business against what you are learning ongoing.

If you are one of those people who claims not to have any time for reading, to paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, you just might be in trouble.

Find a mentor
One of the most important things you can do for your business is to find a mentor. There are some very qualified people in our industry and there are, no doubt, very qualified and capable people in your community.

We all have aspects of the business that we feel pretty confident about and other aspects that we are just not that good at, quite frankly.

If, for instance, finances are your Achilles heel, find a mentor who can hold your hand and guide you through the process. Likewise, if the people side of the business is a struggle for you, engage someone who can help you with that process. No matter how talented you are, you will benefit from being able to talk through your challenges and opportunities with a trusted advisor.

I’ll close with a paragraph from The Retail Revival by Doug Stephens, as well as a reminder to read it if you really care about what is happening in retail.
“There are two things to keep in mind,” Stephens wrote. “First, at its core, shopping is a social activity. We shop not only to gather and acquire things we need, but also to commune in public places, to be with people. I’ll be the first to argue that online stores will get better and better at fulfilling the distribution aspect of shopping, but I will also hold that nothing will entirely replace the social experience of visiting the market. Second, although the list of things we as consumers are comfortable buying online grows each year, there are still things that are simply more confidently purchased in a physical store setting.”

I have also included below a few suggestions for other books, blogs and websites that might also be of interest to you.

Good luck!

Suggested Reading
-- The Retail Revival, Doug Stephens
-- Hiring Squirrels, Peter Smith
-- Buy-Ology, Martin Lindstrom
-- First, Break All The Rules, Marcus Buckingham
-- Good To Great, Jim Collins
-- Y-Size Your Business, Jason Ryan Dorsey
-- Drive, Daniel Pink
-- The New Rules of Retail, Robin Lewis and Michael Dart  
-- Conversion, Mark Ryski

-- Retail Dive (e-mail newsletter)
-- Retail Wire (e-mail newsletter)
-- Inc.
-- Doug@Retail Prophet (Doug Stephens)  

Peter Smith, author of Hiring Squirrels: 12 Essential Interview Questions to Uncover Great Retail Sales Talent, has spent more than 30 years building sales teams at retail and at wholesale. He currently is president of Vibhor Gems. Email him at, or reach him on LinkedIn.

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