Every single person that walks through your door must be treated as royalty. Because how they’re treated determines the story told about your store. And it’s those stories that build a brand.

Dear Lilian,

How should a multi-branded retailer incorporate 3rd party coop materials which may not be altered (other than placement of jewelers logo), be deployed without diluting the retailer’s own brand?

Co-op Curious in Colorado

Dear Co-op Curious,

Let’s start by clarifying one thing: the only way you can dilute your brand is by offering poor customer service.

If your luxury sales people aren’t taught that it doesn’t matter what a person wears when they enter your store, and potential customers are treated with varying levels of respect based on their attire, your brand is already more watered down than Anita Ekberg taking a soak in the Fontana di Trevi.

How salespeople treat luxury consumers when they walk through the front door is a subject very near and dear to me – it’s the secret to my success as one of the top earners at Tourneau Atlanta many years.

The man wearing sweatpants, ignored by everyone in the store but me, bought a rose gold Breitling Bentley from me at full price. And the customer who called looking for a $800 Movado would later allow me to curate his entire watch collection, which, through my personalized service and recommendation, was valued at $400,000 at the end of 2004.

So I start my response to you, dear Curious, with reinforcing the need to ensure every single person that walks through your door is treated as royalty. Because how they’re treated determines the story told about your store. And it’s those stories that build a brand.

Now, to your direct question.

One of the things that made me so successful at Tourneau was my positioning myself to my luxury customers as a trusted advisor. I had quite a few customers who trusted me to curate their personal watch collections. Making sure I knew about the latest and greatest fete of horological excellence helped solidify this position. Whenever manufacturers sent us catalogs, I quickly hoarded them from my other sales associates to make sure I had enough for my customers.

Before you shake your head at me, take note that we all did this – part of working in an all commission environment. Those catalogs became the equivalent of having a carton of cigarettes in prison – when you need a favor from another salesperson, the catalog was your bartering tool.

Moving on…

I’d go through my trusty notebook and see which of my customers has asked me for a particular type or style or brand of watch. When I identified these customers, I’d staple my business card – which displayed the Tourneau logo – onto each and every catalog. I would also slip my Tourneau logo-ed business card as a bookmark onto the pages with the watches I was recommending to him. I would write a note on Tourneau stationary explaining why I was sending these particular catalogs. The note and catalogs would be put into a folder which had the Tourneau logo on the outside and placed into a large envelope, which also displayed the Tourneau logo.

Pop quiz!

What company was I working for at the time?

If you said Tourneau, by George, you’re paying attention!

When my customers got the package, they didn’t wonder if they should call Mayor’s or Ben Bridge to get more information about my recommended watches. They called Tourneau – and more specifically, they called me.

Although I left Tourneau in December 2004, those same favorite customers are still calling Tourneau for watches because I passed my trusty notebook on to a salesperson I knew would take as good care of them as I did. If my successor hadn’t, they certainly would have gone elsewhere.

Which brings us back to the opening of this article: properly train your luxury sales team and nothing can dilute your brand.

So, you may wonder, what do I do when I have a mailing list of potential customers who have yet to experience the A-1 service of my sales team?

Second pop quiz! Why did you answer Tourneau for the last pop quiz?

Here’s a hint: how many items with the Tourneau logo did I include in my package to customers? And don’t forget – I didn’t stamp the catalogs with a Tourneau logo. I stapled my business card to them.

For the customer receiving my package, the first thing he sees is the Tourneau logo. When he’s perusing through the catalog, he’s going first to the pages I bookmarked with my Tourneau logo-ed business card.

He may be looking through an IWC catalog, but he’s doing so after subconsciously thinking Tourneau. And, of course, he’s thinking of me as the person who sent him the catalogs.

Every single catalog that enters your stores should be distributed amongst your sales team. They should then staple their business cards right there on the front cover. For the more ambitious types such as myself, have them drop one or two extra cards in between the catalog pages.

Only then are these co-op materials ready to be distributed.

Now, when it comes to co-op advertising, there’s really not much you can do beyond what the vendor is willing to pay for. And as you mentioned, that’s often only a logo.

But remember this: a logo doesn’t have true value unless you have someone reinforcing what that logo means.

That someone is the sales person who answers the phone after a potential customer sees the billboard or magazine ad with your logo; the sales person whose business card is attached to a vendor’s catalog; and the sales person who warmly greets that potential customer when he walks through your front door.

Properly train your sales team on how to respond to leads created by the co-op materials and you’ll never have to worry about your brand being diluted.