Talking to Bob Klose of Images Jewelers in Elkhart, Ind.

Branding has been king from the beginning for this Indiana jeweler

1. What one advertisement or promotion elicited the biggest response?

We gave hundred dollar gift cards to local businesses that had customers like ours: the dentist, the guy who worked on my car. It brought us a good amount of business for four or five years. We also did a one-day bridal event where we sold 10 bridal sets in four hours. You never sell 10 bridal sets in four hours. We promoted that event on short-term billboards and through radio and TV. We also did direct mailing to people on our lists. Sometimes on these events you spend as much money as you take in. But you’re planting seeds all the time.

2. What was your finest hour in the realm of customer service?

We had a customer who ordered a custom pendant with a 3 ct. diamond. We didn’t know when we started making it, but we found out from a grandparent that it was a piece honoring a baby who died in childbirth. We gave the parents the pendant for free. They were very touched.

3. What’s the best idea you’ve ever come up with for your store?

Branding our own jewelry. I started in jewelry design in 1970, and I was in that first group of people who were actually making their own jewelry. That’s always given us an edge. Nobody around here does that. We learned that, in our market, people don’t necessarily want a brand name—they just want a certain look. And as a jeweler, you have to constantly change that look. So we’re chameleon-like. If halo rings are fading in popularity, you have to move on, and a lot of guys don’t move fast enough. We make as much as we can, because I can do a better job of it and give my customers a better price. We need to make what our customers want. Doesn’t sell? Rip out the diamonds and start again. We’re able to experiment, and we’re very profitable because of that.

4. What is your single best money-saving initiative?

I have the problem of being complacent and getting used to people I work with, even if they’re the wrong people. I’m a live-and-let-live kind of person. But last year we let go of two people who needed to go, and we’ve seen a drastic change in the team and sales since doing that. Their bad attitudes are no longer dragging people down.

5. What has been your biggest ­challenge, and what have you done to resolve it?

We spent a lot of time climbing the ranking ladder of Google’s [search engine] to show up on page one for “custom ­jewelry.” It was my partner Steve Lennox’s idea to work for that—he said trying to get on page one for bridal jewelry was like trying to get to the top of Mount Everest, and he was right. So we were on page one for a long time. Then, just recently, Google changed everything about their search functions and we just vanished. So we’re slogging our way back to No. 1 with social media. It’s a harder slog now. We get 12 to 14 orders a month from Internet searches these day, instead of 50. But we’ll be back up there.

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