Podcast 213: Tammi Ketterman, Ketterman's Jewelers | Customer Triggers Spark Sales

Tammi Ketterman, Ketterman's Jewelers | Customer Triggers Spark Sales

Bob Phibbs interviewed Tammi Ketterman from Ketterman's Jewelers in Leesburg, Virginia. Tammi talked about the importance of sense triggers, events that produce sales and customer loyalty which in her case includes 326 rum cakes.

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Tell me something good about retail

Tammi Ketterman, Ketterman's Jewelers: Customer Triggers Spark Sales


Bob: Hi, Tammi.

Tammi: Hi, Bob. How are you?

Bob: I'm well. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. Oh, Virginia?

Tammi: There you go. 

Bob: I love that. Well, tell our audience who are you, and what you have to do with retail? 

Tammi: Well, I'm Tammi Ketterman, mother of six, wife of one. We own a jewelry store in Leesburg, Virginia. That's going to be a little bit more than...It's like a mini department store were. Ketterman's Jewelers was started by my in-laws back in 1951, and my husband and I moved to Leesburg to open our own store in 1988. And we've been at it, growing it, and nursing it, and praying over it since.

Bob: Well, I'm so excited to talk to you today. I got to meet Tammi a few weeks ago at a Brighton event where they were bringing their best dealers together at Pasadena. And I was so smitten with Tammi's stories because she is... Well, you are. So I think you understand particularly holding events, and I think you understand customer loyalty and rum cakes, so we need to get to all of that while I'm chatting with you. So let's start with events because I think that you really understand why you're doing it and some of the planning that goes involved for our listeners.

Tammi: Okay. Yes. Well, we have a number of events. Usually, we try to make sure that we have a group of people who are going to be interested in whatever the subject matter or the theme of the event would be. We've found over the years that if you just kind of throw out a party, it's not as exciting as if you name whose birthday it is you're having it for. And so we choose a theme, and we try to incorporate within that theme things that will be memorable long after the event is over.

Bob: What would be a great event? Give me the specific of something you did there that stands out, not holiday-related though, not Christmas, something other than that.

Tammi: Okay.

Bob: We'll get to that.

Tammi: With our Brighton line, we had the least of product that one of the handbags had a zebra on it. It happened to come out at the same time that the movie "The Greatest Showman" was playing. So we developed an event for our Brighton customers based on the movie "The Greatest Showman." My daughter and I rewrote some of the lyrics to the songs and did an actual song and dance for our customers. We offered three different showtimes. They could come in the morning and have breakfast, at lunch and have lunch, or in the evening and have appetizers.

And so we had our core group of people that we invited. We called them and let them know they were going to get invited, and then we sent them invitations. We also had a sign-ups so that we could get some new people. We encouraged guests to come. And as one of the gifts that we gave with purchase was a copy of the movie "The Greatest Showman." And so we had a fabulous turnout for the event. Everybody had a great time. They bought a lot of stuff which was wonderful.

Bob: Can we just stop that for one second because I particularly like that about you, Tammi. They bought. An awful lot of people, a lot of gift stores, an awful lot of furniture stores put out events. Let's face it. At the level you put events on, I don't think it's easy to put. But I think you can call something an event, right? And you could say, "Oh, we're having this event," but they're kind of forgettable. To your point, you're not only coming up with something that's very memorable, but your goal is you're going to sell product, right? 

Tammi: Amen.

Bob: That's important.

Tammi: Yes. Yes. So we did sell lots that day. And now, every time they hear one of those songs, we still have people coming in saying, "Oh, my gosh, I heard that song the other day, and I couldn't help but think of Ketterman's. I saw Hugh Jackman, and I couldn't help but think of Ketterman's."

Bob: That's the best. You replaced the Hugh Jackman memory with your own. I love that.

Tammi: I don't know how Hugh would feel about that, but it's just what happened.

Bob: So I think that's what's so great. So are you always looking for an event because that's a great place to play, right? To think of, "What if we did this and what if we did that." And that's probably what makes your store so special. You are always thinking about that.

Tammi: Absolutely, we are. We've been at this a long time. I can't remember the last time I just got to sit down and watch something without thinking, "How could I incorporate this here or there," or whatever. And it actually becomes a great part of your life because you're always stimulating thoughts. As I've said, "I've got six daughters," and they all have this little spark. And they'll call me and say, "Oh, I saw this, and I thought it would make a great idea."

Bob: Oh, that's fun. Now, I wrote down in my notes when I first heard you, "triggers." Now, is that something about what triggered you to come up with an event, or is that a trigger for what you're thinking about what people will latch onto, or what was that, you think?

Tammi: Triggers are things that cause you to think of something else, so scent, smells are a huge trigger. When my husband walks into my kitchen in August, and I've started baking rum cakes for the Christmas season, he'll say, "Is it Christmas?" And he hasn't seen a cake or anything, but he can tell by the smell. And to him, rum cakes smell reminds him of Christmas, so scent is a trigger. To this day, I can't drink mint iced tea without thinking of riding horses when I was a kid where mint grew wild.

Bob: Oh, that's so true. That's so true.

Tammi: So that is a big trigger. So in our store, we have a particular scent that's an Asian mint that people say, "Oh, my God. I thought about you the other day and found out it was because the woman next to me was wearing a perfume that's like that scent you have in the store." So that's one of the triggers. That whole Hugh Jackman thing, that could be a trigger.

Bob: Right. 

Tammi: My husband missed a dentist appointment last week. So in order to make it up to the dentist and the hygienist, he took a rum cake to the dentist. And he's standing at the reception window, and one of the women said, "Oh, my gosh. This looks so good. What kind of cake is it?" And he said, "It's rum cake." And a woman sitting in the waiting room said, "Oh, my gosh. Ketterman's have the best rum cake." And the girl said, "Oh, that is the Ketterman's rum cake." And she said, "Oh, my gosh. That's amazing." 

Bob: Well, we have to go back to the rum cakes now. We have to get into it. So how did you come up with rum cakes? What is the significance of what they do with your business? And ultimately, how does that figure into your marketing? So all of those would be great to answer.

Tammi: Okay. My aunt was putting on a shower for my sister when she was having a baby and had me come over and help bake a rum cake. She used an old Methodist Church recipe book. It was the cake that was so good that I would take it home, and I would make it for our Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. And many people don't realize this, but in the state of Virginia, you cannot serve alcohol while your cash register is open. So as time went on...

Bob: I didn't know that. Okay.

Tammi: ...my girls are lamenting the fact that we can't have tastings or whatever. I said, "Well, I can serve rum cake. That's got alcohol in it, but it's good to go." So we served it at an event and it got rave reviews. And so I've been giving rum cakes to local vets and dentists for years. So we started putting out rum cake the week of Thanksgiving, and we would keep rum cake out for the Christmas season. And the first year I did it, I don't even know how many I made because I didn't count. But we've been asked so much lately, "How many cakes did you bake this past [inaudible 00:09:32]?" This past holiday season, we served 326 rum cakes over that season. 

Bob: Wow.

Tammi: And that doesn't include the ones that we give [inaudible 00:09:44] VIP customers. And we have some lovely remembrances of customers and their experience with the rum cake.

Bob: Well, I want to go back to that, with your better customers. So they also get a rum cake? Is it something if they come in, you give it to them? How you deliver it? How do they get it? How do you know who they are, any of that kind of stuff? 

Tammi: Well, we identify customers who have been with us for a long time, who have recently become a customer. We know [inaudible 00:10:16] repeating, so we've been [inaudible 00:10:21] a great relationship with them. And we call them our friends and family which, when we came up with the term, it didn't seem like it was anywhere. Now, it's everywhere.

Bob: It's everyone's excuse to have a discount. That's not the way you use it, right, exactly.

Tammi: Right. Exactly. These truly are people that we want to go out, shake their hand, give them a hug, say, "Thank you so much for being our customer." So we send out cards just before Thanksgiving, thanking them for the relationship that we have and inviting them to come in, that we have a special gifts for them and to come in, bring their family if they want to. And so it has become a tradition for many of our customers to come in. So a few years back, I decided, "Well, this year, I'm going to put a little individual one rum cake in each one of these friends and family guests." Well, once you start something like that, you can't stop this. 

Bob: Careful what you wish for. Brilliant.

Tammi: I know. So we usually have about 200 friends and family who come in to get it. And we give away that many little individual size rum cakes with that gift.

Bob: Wow.

Tammi: And each year, we'll have a little different gift. This past year, it was a wooden tray with a red pickup truck, antique pickup truck on it. And we had handwritten on the door of the pickup truck "Ketterman's Always," which is our tagline. My husband had wanted to get a fleet of 1951 automobiles to commemorate the year that Ketterman's Jewelers is opened. Well, we could afford one. It is an old red pickup truck that we park out in the parking lot, and people come and take pictures. We decorate it for Christmas, and they stand next to it and take pictures. And so we've now become identified, not only with rum cakes, but red pickup truck. 

Bob: I love that. I love that.

Tammi: And so that's what we gave away this past year to our friends and family was a wooden tray with a red pickup truck on it, and it says, "Ketterman's Always."

Bob: But now, they can't come into your store and buy it, right? That's a gift just because you're our best customers. Is that correct?

Tammi: That is exactly right. And so that gift is not given with the intention of making money.

Bob: Right.

Tammi: But it does come at a time of year when most people are out shopping.

Bob: Yes, it just happens.

Tammi: And so we do just happen to make money at that time of year.

Bob: Well, I love that. You were, I think talking about going down the Potomac with your best customers recently. What was that event?

Tammi: Well, we just called up 10 of our best Brighton customers, and we took them down the Potomac River for the cherry blossoms. Brighton had come out... This particular year, they came out with a line of jewelry, shoes, and handbags that commemorated the cherry blossom. And so we took these customers...and this wasn't a selling trip, but these were customers that have really supported Ketterman's over the years. And so we just took them on this lunchtime cruise, and they had a fabulous time, I had a fabulous time. And we have seen every one of them since that cruise in the store at least twice.

Bob: Sure. Yes.

Tammi: So that's just as relationship sort of things, and it's very intimate, very special.

Bob: I think that's what I get from you because I think, if I remember correctly, you won't let people say, "Have you been waited on?" or "Can I help you?" You always ask, "Have you been cared for?" And I think just the thought behind that process is so great. Is that something that you do? Where did that come from?

Tammi: It kind of came...I can't specify a date or time, but I remember saying it to a customer one time and them kind of puzzling and saying, "What do you mean by cared for?" And that was the day the definition came to me. I said, "It means I thought about you before you came in the store. I'm going to care for you now, and I'm going to think about you after you leave," so you will be cared for over the entire process, and I truly mean that. And so then as time went by, I thought, "This needs to be part of who Ketterman's is, that it's not just a one and done deal. We're here within the community wanting to be thought about and thinking about others all the time. 

Bob: I think that is so key, and I loved, also, you're changing of your marketing that it's always Ketterman's.

Tammi: That's right. Ketterman's Always. This morning, we had an opportunity to pull all of our shop jewelers together. And we had somethings to talk about; some of them apologies, some of them triumphs. And at the end of it, I said, "One thing about Ketterman's Always is we can put anything on the end of that. And today, it's going to be learning," so we're always learning.

Bob: Oh, I love that. I love that. That's such a great idea.

Tammi: Yes.

Bob: What do you think your biggest challenge has been the last three years, and how you overcame it, Tammi? Because listening to you, you sound like everything goes wonderfully all the time because your infectious enthusiasm and your creativity will bring you far. And I love that. But what's the challenge like in the last three years, and how you might have overcome it?

Tammi: Well, a challenge, I think one of them is replicating yourself. My husband and I have been at this for a long time, and then we bring on our daughters. And they're going to do things a little bit differently. We had the advantage of Dan's parents being an example to us of not bringing on the younger group, instead saying, "Go out and start your own." We decided we do want to bring our younger kids, our daughters on with us. And we realize there's going to be a give here, so we're going to have to accept some of their ideas.

The beauty of this though is not all of our customers are my age now. They're also my daughter's age. And since I've got so many daughters, I've got a lot of ages. And I realize that as they grow up, they have to listen to the next generation. So while keeping it generational, not pegging ourselves in one place because it's comfortable has been a big thing for me to overcome. It's kind of like using a cell phone. That was a big deal for me where my grandchild, they won't know anything else. 

Bob: Yes. What do you think the best advice you've ever received from somebody about your business has been over your long history here?

Tammi: To have compassion without going through the torment, and that can apply to anything in life. Try to have compassion without being put through the trial.

Bob: Well, as you say that, I think of an employee. Some employees are going through stuff.

Tammi: Amen.

Bob: And you can be their friend and you can say... But at the end of the day, you're running a business, right? At the end of the day, it's a different relationship. So how do you navigate that? It's not something you read in a book. It's something that you have to really be careful to balance both because I think either way, if it's all one or the other, I think that it's limiting for you. Wouldn't you agree?

Tammi: Absolutely. Absolutely, it is. But having compassion for the customer, realizing that what I like, they might not like. If everybody liked the same thing, they'd all be married to my husband.

Bob: Well, it's good they're not that. You've been gracious with your time today. How do you think retail has changed in the past few years from when you started? Are people that different now than they were? I think we're all pretty much the same still. I think people go to shop to feel something. I think they go to feel they matter, and when they feel that, then they're willing to either celebrate themselves, or a friend, or treat themselves to a number of things. And I think so many retailers are struggling right now because they don't have that. You don't feel that, and it feels more alone. Have we really changed that much do you think from the beginning?

Tammi: I don't think we have, but I think we think we have. That's the thing. We're all created to be relational beings. We just are. And you realize that life is pretty hollow if you don't have a relationship. And it's hard to have a relationship with a device. You can only go so far with that.

Bob: It's very true.

Tammi: Eventually you have to put some skin and flesh on a relationship, and so that's always a longing. Anybody that you've ever talked to, had a long pen pal relationship with someone or talked to them on the phone, they really can't wait to get together. They want to...

Bob: Very true.

Tammi: ...meet the person face to face, eye to eye, and it's no different in retail. I think what we've done is sell people short, sell our young people short by letting them think that this device in their hand is a substitute for relationship. And if we can just introduce them to what face-to-face relationship is and be generous in our relationship with them as opposed to combative, then they're going to feel something that they've not felt before maybe. And they're going to be excited about it, and they're going to want more of it.

Bob: See, I'm right with you, Tammi. I think your daughters probably are the same way. Maybe they grew up with a caring mom and who shows the way, but a lot of other people may not experience that. But when they come in contact with it, it suddenly reshapes everything, and you kind of go, "Wow, I've been settling. I have to walk in a store and been happy being alone. It's a lot more fun if somebody takes interest in me, right? It's a lot more fun."

Tammi: Yes, exactly.

Bob: I mean, that's what I think brick-and-mortar certainly offers for so many people. And like you, I think I'm trying to fight that same good battle that I think, unfortunately, less and less retailers seem to be interested in because that's the battle. That's the battle. It's how do I go through… And to your point, to convince you that what you've been settling for really isn't what you're looking for, and then once you experience it, you're going to crave it like a rum cake or something like that.

Tammi: Yes. 

Bob: You have been great. And I don't want to take too much of your day because you're probably off…coming up with some other fantastic thing with Hugh Jackman coming to your store in a red truck or something. But if you had a friend who said, "All right. So Tammi, I'm thinking of opening up a retail store in the next few years." And they take you to coffee at your local coffee place. What advice do you think you would give them about going into retail? 

Tammi: Oh, gosh. Well, pick something that you love so you're not really going to work. You're just going to someplace you love. It's not going to be what you think it is. It's not as glamorous. But if you're going into it for the glamour, you're not going to find it. Find something else. Go be a movie star.

Bob: Nice.

Tammi: But if you enjoy people and you enjoy problem-solving, then absolutely, go into it. And just make yourself some memories, and you're going to find you're going to drag some other people along with you.

Bob: That's a great way to look at it. Well, I always close my podcasts with asking you to tell me something good about retail. I don't think it'll be hard for you. But why do you enjoy it? Why do you enjoy it? What's something good about retail that you could share with our listeners? One thing. I think you have many, but one thing, at least.

Tammi: We have quite a number of customers that come through the doors each day. And one of my daughters' mother-in-law once said that the reason she had 12 kids was that one of them made her sad in the day, one of the other 11 was bound to make her happy. And so I just feel that's what it is with customers. If you have a bad one, just keep going out there. You're bound to find one that's going to make you happy.

Bob: Well, that is a fabulous story to share with us, Tammi. Now, how can they find out more about your wonderful store out there in Leesburg, Virginia? 

Tammi: Kettermans.com. That's our website. We're on Facebook, at Kettermans on Facebook. There's Brighton at Ketterman's on Facebook. And then there is that Instagram thing. I'm still not sure I understand that, but the girls do. .

Bob: That's all that counts. I'm glad someone does because I don't understand it as well I should either, my friend. So you've been a gracious guest, and I thank you so much for your time today, Tammi.

Tammi: Thank you so much, Bob. You

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