Finding Your Store Brand’s Target Customers

Who are your target customers?

Here’s what some jewelers told JCK recently: “The community.” “Everyone.” “Whoever comes into the store.” Here’s what others said: “Females, 20 to 30 years of age, planning to get engaged or married.” “Customers aged 20 to 40 years.” “The top 15 percent of our market, based on income ($75,000 and up), residence, and business.”

The difference? The second group knows who their key customers are. That’s vital to a successful store-branding strategy, say retail and brand experts.

“You can’t be everything to everyone,” says brand and marketing expert J. Russell Krueger, chief executive officer of Acquire Marketing, which specializes in retail jewelry businesses. “To be a successful store brand, you must identify your target audience and cater to them with products and services that best appeal to their needs and desires.” Or, as the U.S. Small Business Administration says in its materials, your target customers are “the bull’s-eye at which you aim all your marketing efforts.”

Some retailers have more than one target audience. Martin Binder Fine Jewelers, Valparaiso, Ind., for instance, targets professional males ranging in age from 45 to 55 and earning $100,000-plus, along with their stay-at-home spouses. The retailer also gets “many professional women that meet these demographics,” says marketing manager Helen Flude. Rasmussen Jewelers, Racine, Wis., has two targets: Baby boomers who want to reward themselves or their significant others and women between 20 and 30 years of age who are planning to get engaged and married. (“Men may pay for the bridal rings and jewelry, but it’s women who drive the purchase decisions, directly or indirectly,” explains owner William Sustachek).

Experts warn, however, not to target too many.

“Your store brand and marketing must be clear and distinct,” says veteran jewelry retailer and former American Gem Society executive director Robert Bridel, now a consultant to the jewelry industry. “You can promote yourself as a bridal and fashion jewelry source, for instance, if the audiences you want have the same lifestyle and socioeconomic demographics. But go after too many different target consumers in your marketing and products, and you’ll confuse the community as to who you are.”

Mark Rood agrees. Rood is the co-founder and president of TOMA Research, which measures name awareness of businesses, including jewelers, in their local markets. “When we ask consumers to name the No. 1 jeweler locally, they usually say, ‘I don’t know.’ The reason is small businesses try to be too many things to too many people in their marketing,” says Rood. “They should pick two to three things—at most—that they excel in and promote that in every campaign.”

How do you find core customers? Frank Proctor, co-founder of The Luxury Group, a brand communications agency specializing in luxury lifestyle and consumer products, has this advice: “First and foremost, define the primary customer you want, the one your store brand is marketing to.” Do you want people in a specific geographic area, age range, or income bracket? Young marrieds? Baby boomer empty-nesters? Pearl enthusiasts? Those seeking quality jewelry repair? Watch connoisseurs? It’s your decision.

Next, look at current clientele for those fitting your criteria. “You should know what kind of people spend the most money in your store to begin with,” says Marti Barletti, author of Marketing to Women. “Determine who among them are your best customers and go after them.”

Use information your business already has. Sales records, cash receipts—even returns and complaints—tell a great deal about customers, their buying habits and preferences, and how to better cater to them. Review sales for the past two years to determine what sells well and to whom. Study customers’ purchase histories and organize results by category and average sale by product type (e.g., engagement rings, fashion-forward jewelry, fine watches, etc.).

Credit and debit card transactions also provide useful data, which—individually and cross-referenced—present an accurate idea of who is buying what, which services they’re using, and where they come from. Addresses—correlated with ZIP codes, neighborhoods, or other data—are valuable for targeted marketing.

Surveys also provide information about core customers, says Barletti, including those done in-store, over the phone, or sent by post or e-mail to current and potential clients. “These are very effective in defining specific target audiences,” she says.

Keep it short, say experts, (one to three pages), with a brief introduction explaining that knowing more about customers enables you to better serve them. Ask for name, address, e-mail address, age (optional), gender, frequency of visits (regular, occasional, never), how they heard about your store, what they like most and least about its products or services, their favorite product, and their most recent purchase. To help prompt a response, offer an incentive like a gift coupon or free cleaning.

Two online companies, Zoomerang.com and NetReflector.com, will help design online surveys, contact customers, and tabulate results. A variation, suggests James Sterne, president of Target Marketing, Santa Barbara, Calif., and author of World Wide Web Marketing, is an online chat room, where a retailer can conduct focus group interviews.

Store-generated information is useful in two ways. First, it gives the jeweler a good idea of who among current clientele are core customers. “It’s far more cost-effective and profitable to keep customers you have and add more than to constantly solicit new business,” says Krueger. “Existing customers spend more with you, are more loyal, and tell more people about you. Home in on and cater to them, even as you expand.”

Second, it allows a jeweler to focus on the likeliest prospects. “To be successful, small businesses must talk to the right people,” says Krueger. “Target merchandising at those most likely to be or become customers. Don’t spend your luxury jewelry’s marketing dollars on people who can’t afford it.”

Beyond home-grown data, there are other sources to pinpoint target customers. Start with the Chamber of Commerce, says Bridel. “It has lots of research data about your community. So do local professional realtors associations, shopping centers, and ad departments of local media, which collect demographic, geographic, and psychographic data for segmented marketing, identifying audiences in specific areas.” Local media include newspapers as well as radio and TV stations, including cable stations.

Bridel notes that local ad agencies should already have market research, done for larger clients. He also says that larger towns have visitors, tourist, or convention bureaus, which conduct research intended for prospective clients, new firms, or conventions. “To get it, you must ask,” he says.

A jeweler can hire an ad agency, independent marketing consultant, or data collection firm to gather market information. But be sure the company has a strong knowledge of jewelry retailing, warns Bridel. Web sites of the Marketing Research Association (www.mra-net.org) and the American Marketing Association (www.marketingpower.com) have directories of local members and chapters.

For a less expensive collector of market data, go to your local business school or college. Many business classes do research projects using real market data. Offer your business as a subject or underwrite a class market research study, identifiying target customers in your community.

REACHING OUT

When you know who and where current and prospective target customers are, there are many ways to reach them, including these:

Community involvement. “What are the relevant charities, clubs, sports, schools, or religious groups?” asks Bridel. “Once you know who you’re targeting, get involved.”

Use media selectively. A Pennsylvania jeweler, for example, advertises on local TV and radio shows targeting adults aged 25 to 54, while an Indiana jeweler targeting watch buyers bought all the time announcements on popular Friday night broadcasts of hometown high school basketball games.

Partner with retailers aiming at the same market segment. For example, high-income consumers are usually interested in luxury cars and luxury fashions. The jeweler and the local fine-car dealer could hold an event to which they invite those on each other’s mailing lists. A jeweler and a florist can have a crossover Valentine’s Day promotion, or include each other’s brochure in their mailings.

Speak at groups whose members include target customers. If your target is businesswomen, find women’s groups in your community and offer to speak on topics such as trends in jewelry. (You’ll also get free publicity and a reputation as an expert.)

Ask vendors to join you in co-op advertising to specific consumer segments.

Even “minor” methods help. In answering your phone, for example, say something like, “Jones Jewelers, your source of personalized service and custom-designed jewelry” or “Anderson Jewelers, the Northwest’s leading pearl experts.” Put your logo on store stickers, stamps, paper, packaging, envelopes, and stationery for a cohesive look and to reinforce brand awareness.

Use newsletters. Whether printed and mailed or sent via e-mail, they help you focus on and cater to loyal core customers.

Hold in-store events for current and prospective key customers. Examples include trunk shows, a brides-only night, a workshop for women watch collectors, and a “Jewelry 101” night. You can also host a catered event on jewelry and watch trends with a local expert to benefit the local symphony, sports team, or hospital.