Sunday, May 25, 2008

Using video to advertise your business

There may be a lot of jewelry stores in New York City, but I recently encountered one that's breaking out of the staid, conservative mold that the industry is known for and testing out new media tools. Located in New York's financial district, Greenwich Jewelers was founded back in 1976 by Carl and Milly Gandia. Six years ago their daughter Jennifer came on board, and her sister Christina followed four years later. The younger Gandias have been slowing modernizing every aspect of the business, adding a computerized inventory system, building e-commerce capabilities unto the website, and - the latest - creating the video ad on (see below).

The girls hadn't meant to follow in their parents footsteps. Sure they helped out at the store during holidays and summers while growing up, but after majoring in marketing communications at FIT, Jennifer pursued a career in fashion, while Christina put her marketing degree from Fordham to work in the financial field.

However, 9/11 changed all that. The store was just blocks away from the World Trade Center but miraculously nothing was harmed. The building however, did retain some damage, and they were told they'd have to relocate. At that time Carl and Milly flirted with the idea of retiring early, but then they got a call from a client who had found space for them. "They felt a responsibility and a desire to help the neighborhood and stay and be of service to the people here that had been so loyal to them, so they decided to reopen," explains Jennifer.

A difficult 10 months followed, and the family came together to design and build the new store and get it back on its feet. After that Jennifer found herself at a crossroads. She had been working in fashion PR for Nars Cosmetics and knew she wasn't interested in continuing there. "I didn’t want want to get to a higher level in the cosmetics industry or in marketing for a large company, so I took time off to do something I'd been wanting to do, which is live abroad, and give myself some time to think," says Jennifer.

She spent a year in Spain but by the 3 or 4th month it hit her - after peering into countless windows and evaluating products in as many jewelry stores she knew what she was meant to do. "I realized I was very interested in the family business and I wanted to be a part of it, so as soon as I got back I started working at the store. The first couple of years was about learning the "ropes" and watching what was happening. I had some ideas I implemented right away - basic operational things like a computerized inventory system and getting slightly more aggressive with the marketing, though nothing sophisticated - just direct mail and local print ads," says Jennifer.

Little by little she started getting to know the clients and what they were looking for, and she formulated a vision for the business. Luckily she and her sister see eye to eye on this. After briefly working in a finance job Christina gravitated back to jewelry. She took a position at Temple St. Claire, a designer of fine jewelry, but soon after joined the family fold. Together the siblings are seeking out smaller artisan lines that have a point of view and are unique and of excellent quality. Last year after a year's worth of careful planning they revamped the website to accommodate e-commerce capabilities and show more products.

But according to Jennifer, their most effective marketing tool to date has been their ads on Citysearch. "That was a turning point for us. Before that most of our business was very local - it was just people in the area that knew about us. There was some word-of-mouth but not outside our immediate area. Citysearch was fairly new at the time and I noticed they were doing advertising so I looked into it. We started out at a small level - like $100 a month - for a listing with just a small blurb about us. Then people started leaving reviews about their experience with us, and it started a snowball effect. We had people coming from places that we’d never seen before - uptown, Harlem, Connecticut. It really expanded our reach. It showed us the power of the internet and what it could do for our business. That continues today - it's still our greatest source of marketing. And it works because it isn't anything we’re doing - it's the reviews that we get. Obviously we're giving people a good experience and they feel compelled to write about us, but it’s the forum aspect that brings people into our store.

When Citysearch launched the video service, Greenwich Jewelers was one of the first ones they contacted. There are a couple of options and price points to choose from - you can either shoot it yourself or have them send a crew and produce it. For the latter they'll send a cameraman over to your place of business to shoot for about an hour and you'll end up with a professionally edited 60-second clip. They also provide you with the HTML code so you can set it up on your website and/or other other sites like YouTube.

If you've been thinking of using video as a marketing tool but don't know quite how, this may spark some ideas. Gone are the days of the cheesy late night Crazy Eddie commercials. With the internet it's easier than ever to make and distribute video, and savvy businesses like Greenwich Jewelers are taking advantage of this.

By the way, they've just launched a new campaign where they're giving away a piece of jewelry every month. All you need to do is sign up - no purchase necessary! This month it's a pair of beautiful NuNu earrings (shown right). Deadline is May 31.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Goalsetting, or Tips on How Not to Blog

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. I have broken the cardinal rule of blogging, which is, well, not blogging, or failing to blog. I could say that I've been busy with work (true), or I've had visitors (also true) but the reality is that it's mostly been plain 'ole writer's block (aka perfectionism/procrastination/paralysis). I find a million other things to do instead of putting my thoughts down on “digital paper”. They say we're our own worst critic but sometimes it’s like I have two TV sportscasters (let's call them Frank and Joe) in my head and instead of sports they're giving me instant replays and analysis and commentary on every little thing that I do or don't do. And if I can't do something perfectly, or exactly right, forget it. Drop it. Don't do it at all.

Luckily, since I started working for myself I've learned a few tools for when I get stuck like this (although sometimes it takes a while to get around to them – thanks Katie for nudging me!). First, I fire Frank and Joe (these little rascals tend to sneak back in when I'm not paying attention!). Second, I get out my bag of "tricks". These are little stunts I pull to "fool" my mind into doing things, like telling myself to forget about all the mistakes until the end and just write. Other times I'll need to bring in the big guns (multiple calls to my action partner). Setting a deadline or a specific date for me to post on my blog has also helped (not always). But every week it's like I'm starting from scratch. The pen feels like it weighs 800 pounds. The computer is covered in kryptonite, and I’m Superman.

When it comes to my business, the same thing happens. There are tasks that feel so easy to do (playing around with pictures and colors and fonts for my new, soon-to-be-released logo; web surfing in the name of "market research", checking email every 5 seconds) while others are frightening (usually the ones that lead to actually generating income, like making a list of target clients and writing marketing proposals). If I put things off long enough the anxiety will slowly rise, until all I want to do is run for the hills, or hide under the covers with a gallon of cookie dough ice cream. I could do that. But a better option is to break down my scary projects into small, manageable tasks and put each one in some sort of time line.

So for my blogging, I could break each post down into parts and give myself a deadline for each. And then put it all in my Outlook Calendar:
1-make a list of 3 possible topics (Monday)
2-research them to see which one works best (Tuesday)
3-make an outline of what the blog post will be about (Wednesday)
4-write the damn thing! (Thursday)
5-edit, and let it rip (Friday)

As I read this I'm already judging it, saying "oh no, it shouldn't take me that long!" And maybe it won't, but at least I have a little system in place to get me started.

The truth is, no one single tool works best. I need to have a number of systems in place. I need a lot of support, and I don't like doing things by myself. Which was the thinking behind the new Dream Project Intensive workshops I launched last month (see pictures). I wanted to offer support to other entrepreneurs that were suffering like me by forming a group that would make its members accountable for the tasks they wanted to accomplish. At the first one there were 9 people sharing their ideas for a business, and it was a total blast. So I decided to do a follow-up last week focused on setting goals then breaking them down into actions. This is no easy task, mostly because in our head we see things more complicated than they really are. So when someone got stuck during the meeting, the group came up with a slew of possibilities and suggestions, or simply asked additional questions to get more clarity around it.

We also used what I call the back-tracking method: we started out with the end goal and then backtracked from there, thinking about the steps we would need to take just before that, and then the ones just before that, and so on until we get to the present. It worked! Everyone ended up with a short list of actions to take until we meet again in a month.

Not to be left behind, I set some goals for this month as well. One of them is (you guessed it) to faithfully post at least one entry on my blog per week. Wish me luck!

Do you have a trick you use to get past perfectionism/procrastination/paralysis? Please share it!