Connect with customers through special events

While sales are the ultimate goal, the most successful events are those that—more importantly—connect with customers and form relationships with them, according to Kathy Sustachek, of Rasmussen Diamonds in Racine, Wis., a speaker at the JCK Show ~ Phoenix.

“We want to dcreate relationships with our customers and pamper them,” she said. “Events really are the way to connect with them.”

Sustachek speaks from experience, having mastered the art of the special event and playing host to monthly in-store birthday and anniversary parties, and hosting such larger events as a community golf tournament.

The key to finding success in special events lies in carefully planning the what, when, and how, then thoroughly evaluating each event once it is over, she said. The results she looks for include an increase in store name awareness and making sales—either now or later.

Events at Rasmussen Diamonds are planned on an 18-month calendar—keeping in mind what is happening in the local community and taking advantage of tying into local events. Sustachek’s strategy is to mix the various forms of events—from thank you parties to in-store vendor visits to charity benefits.

Among the important “hows” of pulling off a successful event are having someone to serve as an event planner and paying strict attention to budget.

“Remember to go into all the details and remember everything,” she said. “Pay attention to every little detail.”

Along with this, Sustachek advises proper advertising and marketing—including mailings and phone calls to customers and prospects—and keeping staff educated as to what is going on. This meticulous planning not only allows a jeweler to stay within budget and achieve the desired results—but also makes the entire process easier.

“Make it simple. Don’t make events complicated. You won’t want to keep having them if they’re complicated,” she said.

An example of Rasmussen’s skill in special events is the monthly birthday and anniversary parties the store holds. Each month, any customer celebrating a birthday or anniversary is invited to a special party where they receive a gift (for example, a Rasmussen wine glass filled with candy) and are simply thanked for their patronage.

“It is not a selling event, it is a party to thank them,” Sustachek said. “However, it has become a substantial buying event each month.”

At the end of the year, everyone who attended a birthday anniversary party is invited to the store’s holiday party—held the first Sunday of the holiday selling season. Last year, 150 people attended the holiday party—which included a raffle each hour to help draw customers. The benefit for Rasmussen lie in a captive audience eager to fill out wish lists and get a jump on holiday shopping.

After this and every event, it is necessary to evaluate food and drink inventory, attendance, finance reports, sales associates reports (wish list follow-up), send thank you notes and, finally, decide if it is worthwhile to repeat the event.

One element that Sustachek stresses is the opportunity for publicity. It is important to notify the local press and invite them to cover the event. As an example of the positive press possible through in-store events, Sustachek said she recently asked her local newspaper to cover an in-store diamond cutting event. A reporter and photographer attended and, as a result, a full-color photo of the event ran on the front page of the paper. “I couldn’t buy that kind of publicity,” she said.