Expand Your Mind to Expand Your Business

It’s almost the time of year for top 10 lists and articles on New Year’s resolutions to begin appearing, so I’ve combined those two notions to create a reading list that will, I hope, open new paths and stimulate you to rethink your approach to the jewelry business. Or, as industry analyst Ken Gassman is fond of saying, “Are you in the jewelry business or the business of jewelry?”

Recently I met with a bright young director of an Indian jewelry manufacturing company and was struck by what he was reading to help him understand his competitors’ actions and blaze his own trail in the business world. It was The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, written over 2,400 years ago. If you substitute marketing and sales for war, and competitor for enemy, you have a time-tested treatise on conducting a progressive and successful retail jewelry business.

If you read nothing else on my list, read this book—not once, but twice. First time through, simply read it cover to cover. Put it down for a week and think about what you read and how it applies to your business situation. Pick it up again, and this time highlight passages that speak to your head and your heart.

After reading The Art of War, read the following books in the order listed, since they build, conceptually, one upon the other. Next on your reading list is the modern classic Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Once you’ve internalized the concepts of marketing and sales “warfare,” this book will help you understand the value and importance of creating your own place (i.e., brand) in the market and the actions needed to project that image and style to the consumer.

Having positioned your sales and marketing message, it’s time to think about whom you need to reach with your business proposition. That’s where The Next Economy: Will You Know Where Your Customers Are? by Elliot Ettenberg comes in. It deconstructs the 80/20 rule and explains how to allocate your budgets against your best prospects. It also discusses the demographic and psychographic changes that have taken place (and that will continue) and debunks many of the assumptions and defaults still accepted by clients and their old-school ad agencies.

As an addendum to Elliott’s book, I recommend Mass Affluence: 7 New Rules of Marketing to Today’s Consumer, by Paul Nunes and Brian Johnson. It transforms dry research into a compelling case for moving from a “cheap, cheaper, cheapest” strategy to a “good, better, best” one, given the changes in wealth in the U.S. and other Western markets.

Following this line of thought are two more books: Why People Buy Things They Don’t Need: Understanding and Predicting Consumer Behavior, by Pamela Danziger, and Trading Up: The New American Luxury, by Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske. Both are excellent accounts of the growth of the “new” luxury retailing sector and the people attracted to these new luxuries. Completing the luxury trifecta is Hug Your Customers: The Proven Way to Personalize Sales and Achieve Astounding Results, by retailer Jack Mitchell, a life lesson for jewelers on how to retain your best clientele.

Finally, so you don’t get too sanguine about the business, read Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, by Dana Thomas, a wonderful dash of Angostura bitters to balance the sweet and tangy reads mentioned above. It relates many cautionary tales about rapacious luxury brands and their schemes for maintaining their own existence at the expense of the little guys—like the independent jewelers that carry a significant portion of the U.S. jewelry sales freight and are often the representatives for these “power brands.”

Until next year, happy reading, as you seek the retail advantage!