Smart Talk From Stuller’s Bridge Conference

“Hiiiii, y’all!” The spirited Southern greeting, hollered into the microphone by Stuller’s executive director of events, Ken Dugas, set the friendly, down-home tone for Stuller’s most recent Bridge Conference

The event, which was held Sept. 7–9 at Stuller’s sprawling headquarters in Lafayette, La., welcomed 60 retailers for three days of education in marketing, merchandising, and equipment. 

The education sessions revolved around the concept of change, namely how to adapt to the current market conditions, which are increasingly favoring e-commerce models. “The question isn’t even about if we have to change,” said Stuller president and COO Danny Clark in his opening remarks. “The question is if we can change fast enough.”

Courtesy Stuller

Stuller’s headquarters in Lafayette, La.

Attendees broke into three groups for three sessions, which covered online marketing, the in-store experience, and virtual selling and customization (which doubled as promotion for the brand’s CounterSketch Studio software). 

Most valuable among them was a presentation by Steven Domingue, director of e-commerce for the company. Domingue explained, in refeshing detail, the importance of inbound marketing, which is all about placing your business in all the right places, in all the right ways online to improve your search ranking in Google.

Why is ranking so important? People rarely click beyond the first page of results when looking for a business online.

He talked about the importance of confirming your business page on Google+, Google’s social network that, naturally, it favors when compiling results from a query. “If you take anything away from this session, it should be that you need to sign up for Google+,” he said. 

Other tips from Domingue: Don’t try to fake reviews—if you get caught, they will erase your whole profile, and your biz will vanish from searches. And don’t have people write Yelp reviews of their experience while in your store, because Yelp erases batches of reviews hailing from the same IP address.

Also, check your company’s presence on listings sites such as Yellow Pages, Citysearch, and SuperPages—clicks from them can enhance your ranking. And keep your store’s info—address, phone, and contact emails—consistent to the letter to ensure every click works for your search engine ranking.

Does your store blog every day and post to social media like crazy? Domingue said he considers both almost a waste of time, because neither play into how well a store ranks. (Author’s note: Take this advice with a grain of salt—social engagement is still an important part of branding and events promotion.)

“Inbound marketing is so much more impactful than outbound marketing [any marketing you do where you’re reaching out to consumers],” concluded Domingue. “It just has a much higher conversion rate.”

The other highlight of the event was the extensive (two-hour) tour of the company’s 600,000-square-foot facility, which rambles over an entire city block in Lafayette. To get a scope of Stuller’s output: An employee in the shipping department said that during the holidays, Stuller’s FedEx shipments often take up an entire delivery airplane—or two.

Attendees were able to walk through the facility’s endless workshops, all crisscrossed with hulking metal machines, while witnessing staffers in action as they cast, polished, stone-set, and packaged goods. Retailers took turns holding a half-million-dollar bar of gold and various multi-carat cut diamonds—which brought out the inner magpie in us all.

After handling a blindingly big 5 ct. emerald-cut diamond from Stuller’s oversized gems vault, I remarked to the retailers walking around me, “Yeah, but you can’t really wear a diamond that big in real life, right?”

“Watch me!” exclaimed Kimberly Odom, co-owner of Alabama’s Doug Doggett Jewelers, holding out her hand in front of her. “I think it would look real nice right here.”   

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JCK Senior Editor

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