January 10, 2015 marked the 5th anniversary of the Jeweler Website Advisory Group, lovingly known as jWAG.
On January 10, 2010 at 1:10pm, this philanthropic endeavor was launched with a very long live web show event where we presented a lot of research based information about jewelry websites.
Typical jWAG Approach
As the founder of jWAG, I've made sure that all the information presented in seminars, webinars, blog posts, and Daily Golden Nuggets continue to be based on hard data that was collected and analyzed by us. The topics we presented five years ago were focused only on search engine optimization and website marketing. Since then, the topics have been expanded to include offline marketing, business management, employee training, technology suggestions and uses, and even accounting.
Even with this diverse set of topics, our presentations remain researched based or stem from our direct experience.
Research data takes a long time to collect and even longer to turn into actionable information. While I've been studying different types of data over the last 20 years as an entrepreneur and a web developer, I've noticed typical patterns emerge. If you analyze your own sales and business data, you probably already know that every year has typical cycles.
You can track those yearly sales cycles to see how they are influenced by current trends in fashion, marketing, technology, and even the economy. Trends ebb and flow together in a progressive state of change, but that's just a layer on top of the yearly cycle.
The items you promoted during the 2014 holiday season probably won't be the same items you will promote during the 2015 season, but the method of your promotions will have some similarities. Assuming you track your promotional methods year after year, you should be able to improve upon them through each yearly cycle.
However, sometimes there are outside forces which disrupt the yearly cycle and the typical progressive state of change. I'm talking about national or global scale forces that are beyond anyone's control and that can't be predicted; specifically, I'm referring to Acts of God, war, and terrorism. Although each of them brings a great deal of personal emotion for those involved, I will try to present some details from a clinical analysis point of view.
Acts of God, War, and Terrorism
All three of those situations usually involve loss of life and a disruption of the yearly cycles that we are familiar with. The emotions we experience in the wake of these situations play an important role for reshaping yearly cycles, and changing personal needs and trends overnight.
The jewelry industry is no stranger to emotions, and good sales people know how to tap into those emotions to close a big sale. Sales people can be trained to recognize the right emotions through gestures, words, and body language. Marketing professionals know how to tap into the same emotions in the ads they create. But the emotions brought forth from war, terrorism, and Acts of God are unpredictable.
These emotional times can cause a change in politics, business, and advertising. The September 11th attacks ultimately lead to many new anti-terrorism laws that affected the jewelry industry. Although Acts of God usually only affect regions of the world, it's usually those local areas that experience disruption in their yearly cycles while daily life continues for everyone else.
Terror Attacks in Paris
Last week on Wednesday, January 7, 2015 two heavily armed gunmen entered the Paris offices of the satirical new magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people. I was in Bordeaux, France at the time and many of my friends, family, and colleagues contacted me to make sure I was safe during the 3-day manhunt. You can read about the Paris attacks here on the BBC.
Even though the attacks were in Paris, they were immediately viewed as an attack on the freedoms that so many of us enjoy around the world. Newspapers throughout Europe blacked out their front page with the message of "Je suis Charlie," which means "I am Charlie." The same signs appeared throughout France and Europe as a show of solidarity of the lives lost and the attack against freedom of press and freedom of speech.
During this past weekend, January 10th and 11th, many European cities participated in unity rallies against terror attacks. Heads of state from 40 countries were in Paris on Sunday, linking arms as they began the Unity March solidarity demonstration. While the French are well known for their political demonstrations and gatherings, the anti-terror demonstration in Paris on Sunday was the biggest march in French history.
The French are proud to be French, regardless of the different religions, and they are more proud to be part of the nationality rather than their religion. Europeans were uniting with the French to stand up for the freedoms that were attacked.
You can see my photos from Bordeaux's unity rally on Google+ here and the photos from the local Sud Ouest newspaper here.
Keep Calm and Adjust Prepare Your Business
While some retail jewelers will have "Pray for Snow" promotions during the holiday season, if an Act of God is predictable and heading your way, you probably should be preparing for disruptions and reviewing your business insurance.
In fact, you probably should have some type of "business continuation" clause in your insurance policy that will help you recover and repair your business should it be damaged by fire, theft, or Acts of God. Part of the rebuilding factor of a community is how quickly the local businesses can get back on their feet and open their doors.
I'm not qualified to give advice on how to act or prepare if you should ever find yourself in a war zone, but if you do, remember that currency might not have as much a value for trade and supplies as the jewelry you have on hand in your store. Protect yourself from looters but also use your inventory to barter your way to safety and purchase supplies.
Wikipedia's page on Terrorism attacks details thousands of events all over the world. If you look through the list, you will come to realize that attacks of terror can happen anywhere.
Make sure to follow the directions of local law enforcement if the terror threat level is elevated for your area. Similar to the recovery from Acts of God, once the threat has passed, you will help the local economy by getting your store open for business as usual as fast as possible.
Tactful Marketing and Community Leadership
You business reputation can be destroyed very easily with the slightest incorrect judgment in marketing during terror attacks, periods of war, and Acts of God.
The internet will be trending heavily with conversations about the current disaster, and a lot of people will be using their smartphones to give their firsthand account. Anything your business posts during the disaster will get noticed while people are frantically searching online for important updates. So the first thing you need to do is deactivate all your social scheduling software so you don't look like a fool trying to solicit normal business.
The next thing you need to do is make sure you think very carefully before posting anything online at all. Twitter can be especially damaging to your reputation and people will lambast you over seemingly innocuous tweets.
Comedian Gilbert Gottfried was working as the voice of the Aflac duck when the 2011 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. He tweeted several bad jokes regarding Japan and the tsunami and quickly got himself fired.
Any specific marketing and promotions will have to be postponed. Even the best targeted marketing campaign will fail during the emotional periods I'm referring to. Simply put it all on hold.
Do not try to replace postponed advertising by attempting to capitalize on current state of emotion. It's okay to show solidarity and support with appropriate photos accompanied by your name and logo, but tread carefully when adding a written message that might be misconstrued.
Over the last few days I've seen several businesses blacking out their normal headlines and replacing them with "Je Suis Charlie." It reminds me of the period right after September 11th when so many websites changed out their logos with American Flags and eventually with messages saying "Support Our Troops" next to the American flag and a yellow ribbon.
While it's important to not appear to capitalize on these emotional situations, your business will not survive long if you stop marketing. You will have to judge for yourself, but certainly one simple and tactful marketing approach would be to tell your local community that you are open for business during this trying time.
Remember, as a local business owner you will be part of the rebuilding process of getting your community settled back into its yearly cycle. Telling customers you are "open for business" or "business as usual" will show them you are willing to be a cornerstone of normalcy.
In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey and left many communities without power. For many people the only method of communication and news gathering was through their smartphones, but keeping them charged was an issue. One jeweler in central New Jersey kept posting messages on Facebook that they were open, had power, and were inviting people to come charge their phones in their store.
Returning to Normal
There might be new laws and security measures in an attempt to thwart similar future acts of terror. The Red Cross might set up ongoing donation centers to help rebuild communities that were hardest hit by disaster. You can show your community commitment by supporting these efforts and mentioning that support on your website's community support or involvement page.
You need to gauge the emotional temperature of your community before you relaunch any of that marketing you put on hold. After September 11th, much of the marketing in all industries swung heavily toward lighter and happier phrases to help people reconnect with happier times.
Perhaps the future will hold a new anniversary in the yearly cycle to commemorate the events that unfolded.
In a show of defiance, the Charlie Hebdo magazine is expected to print more than 1 million copies of its magazine this week. The typical circulation is less than 50,000 copies every week. Google is helping to fund the massive printing to get the magazine back in operation again and other newspapers have offered staff and equipment support while the Charlie Hebdo offices cope with the attack.
Perhaps we'll see some other continued defiance against terrorism from the journalistic community that will reshape the normal cycles.
I for one wouldn't mind supporting the journalistic community. It's through freedom of speech and freedom of press that I can bring you these Daily Golden Nuggets.
Finally, as a journalist, I'm proud to also say je suis Charlie.