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
“Branding” is the big buzzword in marketing today.

“You’ve got to build your brand.”

The term “brand” has become a substitute for company, business, service and just about any other way to describe a business function. The vast majority of people who use the term don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. They wouldn’t know what a real “brand” is if it hit them over the head.

Go ahead. Next time some hotshot millennial guru starts flinging the word around, ask him to define it. The answer is not likely to be gratifying but is likely to have little or no connection to success in business.

To build your brand, start by understanding this: No matter what you look like, your corporate culture, the “feel” of doing business with you, the awareness you have in the marketplace or how you may or may not be identified by your prospects and clients, the only real measure of a brand is … having boatloads and boatloads of happy, consistently buying and referring customers.

Anything and everything else is just window dressing.

So, what’s the best way to “build your brand?” Don’t. Instead, concentrate on selling more stuff to more people more often. And for the typical independent retail jeweler, that means focusing on direct response marketing instead of “image” marketing.

What is direct response marketing? It’s any marketing effort that is designed to get the prospective customer to take at least the next step in the buying process.

That doesn’t necessarily mean an immediate purchase, but it should at least be to surrender contact information so further marketing can take place.

If, for example, you offer a free report on the perils of buying gems online you are making a direct response offer, even though it’s not for the prospect to buy a specific item right away.

If you send them to your regular website to get the report, odds are they’ll struggle to find the report and downloads will be minimized. Or if the report simply resides on your website and you offer it for free--meaning you don’t even ask them to surrender their contact info to get it --your direct response has been wasted.

Better to send them to a “landing page” where they find out a little more about the report and are invited to download it. To accomplish that, they must give you contact information.

Once you have that, you can proactively market to them, cultivate the relationship and eventually get the business, far less expensively than trying to do nothing but sell them up front.

And of course, all of these steps are testable and trackable, so you can “genetically engineer” your marketing for ever-increasing success.

Consider this: You run a bunch of radio ads that cost you $1,000.

Ten new prospects respond by supplying contact information. Each new prospect cost you $100 at retail to secure the information. However, to convert them to a new client, you can direct mail monthly for 60 to 100 months before you actually get that first sale and still break even, compared to the original cost of generating the lead. Email and telemarketing can be even less costly.

I confess this takes some getting used to, if you’re used to throwing marketing stuff at the wall and hoping something sticks. Of course, that’s why you’re frustrated with marketing and see it as an expense instead of an investment with a predictable payback.

If you’d like to say goodbye to the throw-it-out-and-hope approach to advertising and begin getting dramatic increases in response and conversions that will truly build your brand, shift to the direct response model.

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.