Jim Ackerman is a retail jewelry marketing expert who has spoken to jewelers at JA New York, JCK and other jewelry trade shows. He can be reached at 800-584-7585, ext. 3 or by email at mail@ascendmarketing.com.
Today I got a report from a research firm called Gartner, comparing 10 different CRM/marketing automation platforms. The top names included Marketo, Salesforce, Hubspot and others.

Marketing automation on platforms like these and others (more on that below) has become a virtual necessity in today’s world, but jewelers have been slow to jump on board.

To a degree this is understandable. Each of these cloud-based platforms comes with a monthly subscription price and some of them are fairly steep. But given what they can do and how they allow you to “meld” with the millennial buyer’s new purchasing process, their contribution to sales far outstrips their price.

So, what is marketing automation anyway, and why should the average retail jeweler care?

Marketing automation is technology that allows you to define a sales process and execute that process fully customized and/or personalized to individual prospects, customers or clients, with perfect replication for each individual prospect, customer or client, entirely or largely on autopilot with little, if any, “slippage” through the cracks.

A mouthful, isn’t it?

Basically, it allows you to run a marketing program that matches the buyer’s process. And that’s important because, as I’ve said before in this column, and you know from personal experience, buyers don’t buy the way they used to.

There’s virtually no more “see an ad on Thursday, come in and buy on Friday.”

Today’s millennial, and anyone else who has adopted the millennials’ process, begins by doing online research—they get educated, check out reviews, examine products and pricing from a variety of sources near and far, perhaps very far. Then, they might or might not begin visiting a handful of brick-and-mortar jewelers to make a final decision.

Marketing automation software allows you to generate a lead with a low-risk offer to “suspects,” then convert that now-prospect into a customer over time, by rendering additional value, helping the prospect develop his or her own buying criteria (slanted to favor you, of course), enjoy the experience of working with you and building a relationship with you, and then, eventually, making the big buy.

This is not a process jewelers have typically embraced, but since it is the way today’s buyer actually buys, the sooner you embrace it, the better.

It may look something like this.

—Jeweler makes an offer for free information, checklists, tools, etc., in exchange for the suspect’s contact information, now converting the suspect into a prospect.

—Jeweler renders additional value by providing the prospect with additional useful information and insights, generally delivered via email.

—Jeweler educates the prospect on how to make good gemstone- and jewelry-buying decisions, helping the prospect establish their own buying criteria, weighted in favor of the jeweler, and thereby invoking the principle of reciprocation, instilling in the prospect a sense of gratitude and a desire on the prospect’s part to “give back” to the jeweler, probably in the form of a purchase. This education may come in the form of additional emails, text messaging, direct mail, etc. But it is all thought out, prepared, scheduled and executed according to the schedule dictated by the marketing automation software.

—Jeweler makes an introductory offer to convert the prospect into a customer who has spent money with the jeweler and has had a positive experience. This offer can be delivered digitally or through traditional media, usually direct mail or phone calls.

—Jeweler continues to nurture relationship with ongoing, pre-programmed and scheduled outreach via digital and traditional media until the customer makes a major purchase.

Of course, several steps can be combined and “next steps” almost always depend on prospect behavior or response to previous steps. All of which would be next to impossible without the help of, you guessed it, marketing automation software.

You might ask: Can’t jewelers do this on their own, especially with the help of their point-of-sale system (POS)?

Frankly, no.

POS systems can provide some of the contact information you need to initiate automated marketing campaigns. Some even offer marketing tools on the back end. But I have not seen any POS system that incorporates a marketing automation platform that comes anywhere close to accomplishing what I’m talking about.

Many of the “big names” I mentioned at the beginning of this article would do the job but are too pricey for the average independent retail jeweler.

But there are alternatives. SharpSpring, Insightly and Infusionsoft come to mind.

I use Infusionsoft myself and it incorporates CRM, marketing automation and e-commerce functions at the reasonable price of $97 a month for a single license. With it, you can eliminate a shopping cart and an email server because both of those functions are included.

If you really want to “go cheap” you might be able to come up with a patchwork solution that includes your POS and email service like Constant Contact, but the hoops you’ll have to jump through to get to the same place will be complex and cumbersome.

Nevertheless, however you address it, marketing automation is here to stay, and you’ll find it more important to both your short- and long-term success than social media or your website.

The time to look into it is now!

Jim Ackerman, “The Marketing Coach,” has addressed jewelry retailers at the nation’s biggest trade shows, including JA New York, JCK, the Atlanta Jewelry Show and others. He is providing National Jeweler readers with a free marketing automation audit, valued at $397. Send your email request to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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