By Jim Ackerman
Jim Ackerman is a retail jewelry marketing expert who has spoken to jewelry retailers at JA New York, JCK, The Smart Jewelry Show and others. He can be reached at 800-584-7585, ext. 3 or by email at

It’s a classic story …

Third-, fourth-, fifth-generation jewelers, working out of the same space their great-grandparents did, generating about the same mediocre income, married to the business and the business is running their lives, not the other way around.

This in a market where “newcomers” have taken root and surpassed them in sales, profit and reputation, in seemingly no time.

And this phenomenon isn’t limited to multi-generation jewelers. The same malaise burdens the majority of jewelers, regardless of when, where or why they got into business. There just seems to be a “glass ceiling” beyond which they cannot grow.

Why? And what can be done about it?

The problem is “stinkin’ thinkin’.”

Make no mistake about it. What you think and feel about the nature of your business and your role in it has a greater impact on your ultimate success than anything else. More so than your:
lines of merchandise;
ability to design or appraise; and
affiliations with any group.

You see, as an owner, if you see yourself as a jeweler, you are frankly seeing yourself wrong.

Not that you can’t or shouldn’t perform some “jeweler functions” but seeing your role as “jeweler” is exactly the “thinking error” that is limiting you.

Bill Warren runs a shop in the miniscule North Carolina berg of Hudson, population 4,000. From that town he routinely generates more than a million dollars a year.

But it wasn’t always that way. Not too long ago, Bill’s revenues were less than half that. In his own words:  

“I thought if I was the best jeweler, people would come. They didn’t. Then I thought if I was the best designer people would come. They didn’t. So I thought if I was the best appraiser people would come. They still didn’t. Finally, when I decided to become the best marketer, the best businessman, they came. And they’ve been coming ever since.”

You see, the thought process that turned Bill and his business around was the realization that he is not a jeweler. He now knows that he is a marketer of jewelry, gemstones and jewelry-related products and services.

That simple, even subtle, shift in thinking made all the difference.

When you own the business, your first and foremost responsibility is to bring in business. You can find people to do the other things, but if you don’t have bodies coming in the door, there is no way to put dollars in the till.
“Marketing consists of a collection of skills. And the development of skills requires an investment of time and practice. There are no shortcuts.” -- Jim Ackerman
Unfortunately, most jewelers avoid their marketing duties. They don’t just delegate those responsibilities, they abdicate them. They wait for media sales reps to tell them when and what to promote. Some pawn off their marketing responsibilities to an underling. Even more devastatingly, they avoid any investment in learning about marketing or in improving their marketing skills.

That’s not to say they receive no education whatsoever. Most will attend free education sessions at trade shows. Trouble is, a collection of one-hour sessions, while perhaps idea-stimulating, can only be rudimentary at best, leaving the jeweler with lots of ideas of what to do, but few on how to do it.

Marketing consists of a collection of skills. And the development of skills requires an investment of time and practice. There are no shortcuts.

So I suggest you dedicate yourself to mastering a basic set of skills to dramatically improve your ability to run the real engine that drives your enterprise--marketing.

Begin by setting aside a minimum of 30 minutes a day to study marketing principles, strategies and tactics, and to develop them in your enterprise. This should be the same half-hour or more each and every business day, and the standing rule in your store should be, “Unless the building is burning down, I cannot be disturbed during this time.”

This is a regular appointment you hold with yourself. Respect yourself enough to honor it.

Second, access a source of marketing know-how. Books and audio trainings are good. Special seminars and workshops are better. Ongoing help from a coach or consultant might be best.

Third, seek both feedback and accountability. Feedback is expert critique from people who know marketing. (Sharing your ideas with your staff is OK, but their reactions are more opinion than feedback. They are valuable, yes, but must be valued appropriately.)

Accountability is having someone hold your feet to the fire, e.g. giving you specific assignments with specific deadlines. It’s not too different from having deadlines for completing a design or repair job. But, in the long run, it is far more important.

Are you courageous enough to face your fears of marketing and take this advice? If so, it will signal a turnaround from “stinkin’ thinkin’” to “streakin’ thinkin’” and you’ll be amazed to see what happens to your business, and how quickly.
Jim Ackerman has spoken to jewelry retailers at JA New York, JCK, The Smart Jewelry Show and others. He has teamed with Shane Decker for the Ultimate Jewelry Sales & Marketing Boot Camp, to be held this September. National Jeweler readers can get more information about the event and download a free report here.

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.