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Custom design video still by Greg Stopka

Conversation Starter

Using technology to sell custom in the COVID age

By Shawna Kulpa

Greg Stopka

Greg Stopka
JewelSmiths
Pleasant Hill, California
San Ramon, California

Last year, COVID-19 forced many businesses to temporarily close. Among them was JewelSmiths, a small design and service studio with locations in Pleasant Hill and San Ramon, California. President and Chief Designer Greg Stopka continued going to work every day, though, not knowing what to expect. And he admits that he was nervous about how the company was going to move forward.

To sell its custom design services, the company had long relied on the customers coming in for its other services—repairs, restorations. Throughout two showrooms, renderings of past projects were on display, and the repair and restoration customers were invited to book appointments for custom consultations. But with customers stuck at home, Stopka knew that he needed to step up his marketing game.

Although the company has a website that allows customers to book design and service appointments, Stopka and his team weren’t in the habit of regularly collecting e-mail addresses, so they couldn’t do any e-mail campaigns to promote the business. Although they use social media extensively, they needed to figure out another way to engage with customers.

Realizing that he needed to do something to attract business, Stopka began creating videos and posting them on the company’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

“I started creating short videos of tips and hints on jewelry—how to clean, store, and inspect,” he explains. As he got the hang of it, he expanded the focus of the videos to showcase custom designs. And whenever he posted a video, he included a link back to the company’s website and encouraged viewers to book an appointment. “They have encouraged engagement, appointment setting, and phone calls.”

Although the videos helped, Stopka knew he needed to do more to increase engagement with customers. While he was wondering about how to move forward, he got a call from a salesperson at Podium, a technology company that develops cloud-based software to help businesses modernize customer interactions. He tested out the system, liked it, and, as he puts it, “hit the ground running.”

Using the software as his foundation, Stopka took the next step in expanding his marketing efforts. Although Stopka and his team hadn’t always been diligent about requesting customers’ e-mail addresses, they had been great at requesting phone numbers to follow up regarding their repairs and services. Those numbers now allowed them to communicate with customers and prospects via text messages.

“Everyone answers texts, more so than with e-mails,” says Stopka. “When you’re doing something online, an e-mail can take awhile to germinate. But with text, it’s immediate. It’s so fast to get a reply or a decision. People love fast responses.”

The company now sends out text opt-in boosts to groups of customers, whether it’s those who may have stopped into the showroom or folks who reached out through the website. “We’ll send them information about the custom design process,” says Stopka. “Often, they’ll text back.”

If a customer responds to a message, the company can follow up via text, send images, or even have a live video conversation with the customer. “It’s like Zoom on steroids,” he says. “There is something about the process of immediacy that allows customers to stay excited and give you a better chance to make a sale.”

Because Stopka recognizes the importance of word-of-mouth marketing, he started creating templated text notices to encourage clients to leave an online review by simply clicking on a link in the text. Since implementing the system, Stopka says one of his locations has seen a 65 percent increase in reviews. “Customers are definitely more responsive and are quick and to the point.”

Besides the immediacy that texting offers, Stopka thinks another reason why he’s had so much success with it is the relaxed feel it has for customers.

“You’re going after it in a polite way, not a high-pressure way,” he says. Stopka estimates that they send out 20 messages per day at each studio, with a response rate of 90 to 95 percent. He says that 30 to 40 percent of the customers who respond wind up booking appointments.

Although investing in this system wasn’t a cheap endeavor, Stopka is more than satisfied with the impact it’s had on his business. The marketing efforts it enabled contributed a significant portion to the company’s sales over the past year: In the first week alone, Stopka says he did $6,500 in design sales, and that has only continued to grow. In addition, he notes that the sales they’ve made in response to these efforts have closed better and without having to give discounts.

“It made us realize that the customers that come into the studios aren’t as much ‘just looking,’ but instead they’re committed and are much more serious about getting something done. That has been the biggest surprise,” he says. “It’s been worth every penny.”

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