Dear Design Doctor
I sell luxury jewellery, very high-end and contemporary. I am a new maker, and so far I have been pretty successful; winning awards and I even got into Goldsmiths’ Fair.
But the reality is that I am really struggling financially. On the outside it looks like my career is going well, but I’m barely making any money as my costs and materials are so expensive!
If only I could get a grant or a sponsor who could give me £50K so that I really could create that amazing collection to wow my clients and press, and launch my career properly.
Patricia van den Akker, Director of The Design Trust, answered this question as The Design Doctor in Crafts Magazine July/August 2016 (page 30) where it was titled ‘Financial realities of selling luxury’:
‘Thank you for sharing your challenges with me. As a creative coach I see this issue regularly, but I know that few jewelers (and other crafts people doing luxury products and high end commissions) are prepared to share their reality.
It looks all very shiny on the outside, but it’s tough to keep going.
It’s often a famine or feast, with huge gaps in between sales, and the right marketing opportunities are rare.
And there is such a sharp contrast between your life and that of your clients, which can often make you feel even more ‘poor’ then you (actually) are. The life of a luxury designer maker is often full of contrasts and you will need all the stamina and self-belief you can get.
Unfortunately there are no grants available for a business like yours (for more on funding click here), and it might be difficult to get a bank loan either (although as a new business you might want to try the UK government-backed StartUp loans).
To raise finance to launch a collection you can now also try crowdfunding, which helps to raise your profile too and get money through rewards. If you are very ambitious you could even look into equity crowdfunding, in which case your funders would get a stake in your growing business.
But, although this sounds a bit negative so far, you can get out of this situation by targeted marketing actions while keeping your costs down as much as possible.
The trick here is to focus on marketing your skills and brand, instead of a FINISHED product.
How can you get commissions (and get a deposit) instead of having to create a new, expensive jewellery collection?
In fact, would somebody want to buy an expensive piece of luxury jewellery ‘off-the-peg’ or actually be involved from the start with the process to create a highly personal piece?
Could you make more from your current collections and present them even better? At the high end of the market it is about quality-above-quantity after all.
Could you tease potential clients of your luxury jewellery by sharing beautiful drawings and mood boards of new ideas instead of the finished thing?
How can you get more luxury shops to buy from you, instead of Sale or Return?
Also as a luxury jeweller you are selling so much more than ‘just a product’ anyway –
You are selling the dream of ‘being rich’, heirlooms, love, self-expression and memories.
Why have people bought your jewellery so far? Do you know their deeper emotional connection to your jewellery? These insights can give you some important clues to how to turn current interest in your work into orders.
Research in depth how other luxury fashion, car and perfume brands sell themselves. You might be surprised how little product they show to sell themselves very successfully!
Your market will be small but international, with a highly personal touch, so you will need to focus on really getting to know your clients at this deeper level. Firstly identify 50 specific people, organisations and brands that sell luxury jewellery, and who you would love to work with.
Who are these high-end galleries and boutiques?
Who commissions your kind of contemporary, luxury jewellery?
Who are the event organisers, influencers, fashion editors and luxury bloggers that are your perfect fit?
Secondly what would these 50 people expect to see from an emerging luxury jewellery brand like yours?
Is your website, photography, styling and tone of voice conveying the right message to attract your dream clients? The perfect positioning of your brand is crucial, and details like colour, fonts and models matter hugely.
Are you showing your packaging and stockist/client list?
Can you highlight some recent commissions on your website and share your creative process and excellent customer care skills with potential clients? Then turn these case studies into email newsletters or print them to send to potential clients.
At which events would your clients expect to see you, or in which specific magazine, blog or catwalk show?
Why don’t you organise your own exclusive event or with other high-end designer makers or fashion labels?
Once you have done this fundamental ground work you can start approaching your 50 potential clients and audience to build relationships with them. Choose carefully what the best way is to get in touch, and try different routes. Be patient and professional as your clients are busy people. Engage on Instagram with that luxury stylist. Send a gorgeous letter press invite for your exclusive event. Share your press cutting from Vogue with your mailing list.
Can previous clients give you a testimonial or recommend you to others in their network?
Referrals and repeat business from existing clients will be the most effective marketing tools in your strategy.
They take time, patience, and excellent care but cost very little.
Indeed: Selling your luxury jewellery won’t necessarily cost that much, but successful marketing will need a thought-through strategy, time, courageousness and creativity. Good luck.’
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Want to learn how to promote and market yourself?
We can help! Our popular Get Clients Now marketing programme helps creative businesses like you (from luxury designer makers and freelance designers and illustrators, to stationery & commercial giftware businesses, to galleries and event organisers) to find out what really works when it comes to getting clients (and what doesn’t!). You will create your own 28-page marketing plan for YOUR business and YOUR clients at the end of our two online workshops, and get detailed feedback from me. And you will have a great plan to work from. By yourself, or with a partner.
Or, if you want more support and accountability you can join our 5-week Get Clients Now group coaching programme after the two workshops to really get you into action on your 28-day plan, to share your ups & downs, to celebrate every week your achievements, to ask questions from me and the other creatives on the programme, and to get two individual coaching session with me too. Find out more about Get Clients Now here.