Why This Michigan Man Is S’mitten With Jewelry

Give Bernie Ochs a hand. After 25 years, he’s still investing in his staff and community.

1. What was your single most successful promotion?

About four to five years ago, we started sending out Christmas cards with $50 gift cards to 3,500 to 4,000 customers. The only stipulations attached to redeeming the gift cards are that they have to be applied to a purchase of $100 or more, and they need to be used by Dec. 31—although we’re somewhat flexible about the redemption date to accommodate busy holiday schedules. Since we started this program, people have responded very well, with a 20-plus percent redemption rate. Customers bring in family and friends to get in our database just to receive our Christmas cards. And it generates lots of good will and friendship in the community.

2. What’s your most memorable sale?

In the early 1990s a woman came in and told me her husband was interested in buying an 8 ct. diamond and two Rolex watches. My challenge was to convince the woman and her husband that I would be here to service them long after the sale. He knew my margins and wanted me to come down in price. Negotiations were tough. My responses noted my commitment to the community, many references from those efforts, impeccable after-sales service, and a customer relationship that could potentially be a lifelong friendship. We both got what we wanted from the sale. He and his wife are still good customers that have brought me a lot of referrals. And they’re good friends to this day. 

3. What ambitious goal do you have for your business?

We’ve always moved toward being a $2 million store. In recent years, we’ve been falling short. Part of it is poor investments in traditional advertising. But most of it is not identifying customers’ needs. That only comes with a solid sales training and rewards program. Staff members are going to trade shows and attending seminars to learn more about our vendors, potential lines, and retail essentials. In time, I can make a better-trained and better-educated staff my key market differentiator.

4. What was your biggest business challenge and how did you solve it?

At one point I was investing upwards of $10,000 in print ads a month with little growth to show for it. I attended a seminar on social media and electronic marketing and decided I needed to change up the marketing mix. I’m down to one week a month of print ads with coupons. I’m doing more targeted TV ads on certain cable shows and fewer network ads. Social media and my website are a bigger focus, with a full-time in-house staffer and an outside company working together. Radio is as needed.

5. What is the best idea you’ve had for your business?

The best idea I had was to change the way I think. The two areas I needed to change most were my thoughts on technology and new media, which would allow me to save money by trimming my advertising budget. We’re using the Edge software now, which makes us better at identifying, targeting, and ­better serving specific demographics. And special events and promotions that are out-of-box for our market with edgy, innovative ads is another change. So far it’s working. Customers are noticing the change, both in me and my business.

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