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Gold bars
Gold bars

Grow: Mia Wedgbury

Referrals worth their weight in gold Add to ...

If there is anything that connects us to our favourite treasures, it is the sparkle of a good story.

Small business owners with conservative budgets are challenged with a similar task: how do you ensure your customers walk away with great tale to tell?

After noticing some spectacular rings on some of my colleagues and hearing them rave about their jeweller, I knew that Toronto-based jewellery designer and goldsmith, Leif Benner, was on to something.

Mr. Benner runs a small jewellery studio in Toronto’s Distillery District, staffed by himself, his brother and his cousin, and fuelled by artistry and a passion for the creative process. His custom-made designs often get the wearer stopped in line at the grocery store – just the kind of word-of-mouth marketing that designers hope for.

“I have one customer who is a little bit shy and it took her a couple of months to get used to getting stopped and having her ring admired,” said Mr. Benner, with a laugh.

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Word-of-mouth marketing and referrals are the greatest tool in Mr. Benner’s PR kit. His business is built around maintaining strong relationships with both his clients and his creations – often keeping in close contact with customers for years to come.

“I don’t have the budget of a Birks or a Tiffany’s,” explained Mr. Benner. “So I have to be creative in how I do my PR, and most of it is just keeping really happy customers.”

Mr. Benner is humble. He gets right at the heart of what his client is looking for, designing items they thought they could only imagine. Beyond that, he has created several other ways to keep his customers (and their friends, neighbours, co-workers) coming back.

First of all, he offers free maintenance on all of his jewellery – a small expense compared to the benefit of having his pieces proudly modelled as shiny and polished as they were the day they were sold.

Secondly, he recently launched a blog [[http://www.leifbenner.com/blog.php]]/note> telling the story of how he actually creates his pieces. Careful not to reveal any trade secrets, he shares the whole story: from the initial sketches, to prototype, casting, stone-setting and beyond. He is proudly portraying the evolution of his designs, as well as his own passion and commitment to his craft.

“I have conversations with people daily about the process,” he said. “A lot of people go to the website for initial information, and I wanted to strip away some of the superficiality of it and have them realize that I’m a maker, showing them the beautiful jewellery that they will enjoy and hopefully want to buy.”

“I wanted to create a close connection between my hand and their finger,” he said.

Since starting his blog Benner has received positive feedback and seen his website traffic spike. With just a little bit of extra effort, he has created a PR strategy that will hopefully outshine his competitors.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Wedgbury is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies.

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