Dr. David Weiman is the Marketing Director for Lapidary Journal, Colored Stone, Step by Step Beads, and Step by Step Wire Jewelry. He has worked for Lapidary Journal since 1986. He is also the editor of Touchstone, a marketing newsletter for the jewelry trade.
Dr. Weiman is a licensed psychologist, and he writes about the psychology of selling jewelry in his “Marketing Q&A” column that appears regularly in Lapidary Journal and Step by Step Beads. He also created the seminar How to Market and Sell Jewelry, presented at Bead Fest and the Jewelry Arts Expo several times a year. A CD/Workbook version of the seminar is available at www.marketingjewelry.com, where there is also a free weekly newsletter about selling jewelry.
• One of the first questions that I always ask anyone involved in jewelry making and selling is where they got their start. How did you get first get involved with Lapidary Journal, was that your first exposure to jewelry making in general?
My first exposure to jewelry was as a child. My father owned a few jewelry stores that he inherited from his father. They were called “Weiman’s for Diamonds” and they were located in Philadelphia. They sold jewelry and giftware. So I’ve been around jewelry selling my whole life. I began working at Lapidary Journal in the summer of 1986. My aunt and uncle, Sonia and Mitch Gilbert, owned a publishing company that had purchased LJ a few years prior, and when Mitch Gilbert died in March of 1986, I was brought on to write marketing and promotion pieces (I had previously worked as the marketing director for all of the Wendy’s restaurants in South Jersey, and was an advertising copywriter).
I was fascinated by the gemstones and jewelry that we covered in LJ and our other magazines, which also related to jewelry. My cousin, Leif Klein, who ran the magazines with Sonia and really built LJ and it’s associated magazines into a modern juggernaut, showed me how amazing the world of gems and jewelry were. Even though they no longer own Lapidary Journal, Leif and Sonia are still very active jewelry and gem enthusiasts. It was their love for the field that I “caught,” and fortunately, it hasn’t gone away.
• What are some of the most common mistakes you see designers make when they first start out selling jewelry?
The mistakes fall into three categories. First, many designers start selling without having established clear goals for selling jewelry. It’s kind of like building a house without any plans. You really have to understand why you’re doing it before you sell the first piece.
Second, many don’t plan how they want to sell their jewelry before they begin selling. That may be because they don’t know where the correct outlets for their jewelry are, or because they’re anxious to get started. But advance planning can help you avoid mistakes. Those mistakes usually occur when you are attracted to almost every selling idea that comes your way … so you wind up trying to do too much at once. For example, you start out thinking you’ll just sell to people you know, then you start doing craft fairs, and at the same time try to get your website up and running. And each time someone gives you what seems like a good idea, you pursue it impulsively. You wind up starting a lot of things without finishing them. And although jewelry making itself can be like that (many jewelry makers work on several pieces at one time, that are all in various stages of completion!) it’s difficult to sell successfully that way.
Third, many don’t charge enough. This is because many beginners aren’t confident in their work. They’re sensitive to rejection and believe that pricing low will assure some initial success. This is a problem because most of us resent selling something for less than we think it’s worth. And, due to the psychological nature of pricing non-essentials, like jewelry, pens, certain kinds of giftware, or paintings, people often assume that something that doesn’t cost very much isn’t worth very much.
For example, when some people are shown similar products, they will assume that the more expensive one is the better one. That’s even true with consumer goods. Consumer Reports found that the best-performing toaster was among the lowest priced. But people often buy much higher-priced toasters because of the color, or the design, or because they associate the brand with quality, even if the toaster itself doesn’t work very well!
This is related to a psychological concept called “cognitive dissonance.” Dissonance occurs when our decision to do something isn’t necessarily backed up by evidence, so we reduce the dissonance by coming up with an explanation that makes sense to us. In the case of the toasters, you tell yourself that it’s better than the others because it costs more, to reduce the dissonance created because you really bought something that doesn’t work.
So let’s apply that same concept to jewelry. Very few people actually are able to judge the quality of a cut gem, or a glass bead. But they know what they like. And some of them actually feel better when they spend more, because they associate price with quality, even when they’re not able to judge the quality themselves. If you’re showing your jewelry at a booth, and the jewelry maker at the next table is showing very similar jewelry made out of the same materials, but at a much higher price, there are some people who will buy the other vendor’s jewelry because they think it’s better, based on price alone.