THE SINGLE BEST PIECE OF MARKETING ADVICE YOU NEED AS AN INDEPENDENT WATCHMAKER
THE SHORT VERSION
A lot of watchmakers believe that they don’t have to advertise at all. If you believe in the whole “build it and they will come” notion, you’re gravely wrong.
Don’t link the word “marketing” with advertising, announcing, and being loud. It’s not that at all. “Marketing” just means being considerate. Marketing means making it easy for people to notice you, relate to you, remember you, and tell their friends about you.
Marketing means listening to what people need, and creating something just for them. Think of supply and demand. Marketing means getting to know people, making a deeper connection, and keeping in touch.
All of these things are just being considerate. Try looking at things from the other person’s point of view, and doing what’s best for them. I’m still trying to master this myself. A lot of watchmakers hate marketing and I don’t blame them. If you thought marketing meant taking time away from your bench, spending a shit ton of money, and being annoying, then it’s a good thing you don’t like that! Nobody likes that.
Find creative ways to be considerate. That’s the best type of marketing. It could be as simple as responding to seemingly “dumb” questions people ask or complex like a free battery change. The core of marketing is looking at everything from another person’s point of view. That's it.
This has been the single greatest factor in my development. This is meant to be conceptual so that you can apply this to anything you do. If you want something more tactical- read on.
LONG TERM MARKETING STRATEGY FOR WATCHMAKERS
THE TACTICAL VERSION
Being an independent watchmaker is hard. It’s not easy and it shouldn’t be easy. It’s hard enough as it is to service watches, polish, speak to customers, etc. Although this post says it’s for independent watchmakers, it’s really for all watchmakers. Even the aspiring ones.
Here’s some of the issues I see with marketing for watchmakers on the independent level and as a whole.
1. MANY WATCHMAKERS AREN'T EVEN ONLINE YET
We’re old-school in that sense. We prefer offline marketing and word of mouth marketing. This effectively ties us down geographically.
In small towns, that means we’ve already capped our earning potential. We’ve effectively limited the amount of traffic that comes through our doors.
In big towns, we have more watchmakers around so that means we have more competition. Competition is good, it keeps us competitive. Big towns mean bigger traffic. Anytime we open up a brick-and-mortar business, we’re effectively tying our earning potential to our geography.
2. WATCHMAKING AT ITS CORE IS LOW-TECH
Watchmakers like to work. They don’t like to bother with technology. That might have to deal with the fact that watchmaking at it’s core is still a relatively low tech field. Today, we have high-tech machines to complete certain tasks but at the end of the day, everything can be dialed in manually without the use of technology (Hard? Yes. Doable? Certainly).
This notion might have something to do with the older generation having something against technology and today’s ever changing innovations. If you pay attention, most of the praises still go to the companies that do everything by hand without relying on a machine to complete the task. In watchmaking, you’ll find that new machinery only compliments what we currently accomplish and create. Just take a look at the Quartz Crisis and you’ll see evidence of where the Swiss rejected the ease and efficiency of technology.
THE PROBLEM WITH OFFLINE MARKETING FOR WATCHMAKERS
If you’re a watchmaker and you rely just on offline marketing, you have no scale. Think of it like a pool. You can only fit a certain amount of people in the pool. If your goals are to earn a shit ton of money as a watchmaker, a small pool is definitely not something you’d want. Scale has to be on your side if you want to make large amounts of money. You have no leverage as a “brick-and-mortar only” shop. In order to have scale at the brick-and-mortar level, you’ll need to either open more stores, sell franchises, or get on the internet.
On the flip side, you can kill it geographically if you’re really that good. Think of the many restaurants in NYC that’s always booked out months in advance. It’s doable but honestly very few can ever accomplish this.
TWO COMMON REPAIR SCENARIOS
Think of it in terms of this:
Scenario A: 10 customers paying an average of $500 dollars a repair = $5000
Less work, clients, and paperwork. More quality per repair, cost, and time.
Scenario B: 100 customers paying an average of $50 dollars a repair = $5000
More work, clients, and paperwork. Less time and cost per repair.
Which one would you want? As a watchmaker you can only repair so many in a day. If you go with Situation A, you can pretty much do the work yourself and adjust accordingly to your workload. If you go with Situation B, you’re playing a quantities game. I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity as many of you know.
SCALE IS THE FASTEST WAY TO MAKE MONEY
The solution to many watchmakers’ marketing problems is to get online and tap into the global market. Reach is what helps us achieve scale. How many watch repair customers can you have in a town with a population of 5000? The more people you can reach the better. Ask yourself this- who does your business serve? The locals? Or the world? Your potential for money is directly related to the pool base you serve.
COMMON QUESTION: WHAT IF I HAVE SO MUCH WORK THAT I CAN'T HANDLE THE WORKLOAD?
Here's another issue I commonly hear, "what if I have so much work that I can't handle the workload?" Hire more watchmakers. It's simple but not easy.
First, I'd find out if you are truly indeed filled with work instead of just working for work's sake. If you ever find that you're completely busy with work that means your price point is at market value. One thing I tell independent watchmakers in this position is to increase their prices. One of the quickest things they realize is that they lose all the "high maintenance" customers and retain their ideal type customers. I’m not saying to inflate your prices. I’m telling you to raise your prices incrementally while raising the value you provide (Think pictures, videos, and time-lapses of a repair). People pay for stuff when the value exceeds their cost.
If you’ve audited yourself and raising your prices is not an option- hire another watchmaker. You need to make sure your business can scale. If you’re a one-man operation, you can only make as much money as you can churn out. If you’re too busy focusing on churning out quantity, you’ll screw up on the quality side of things. Don’t fall into the temptation of pumping out watches for the money. Quality will always reveal itself in one way or another. This is the difference between making $2000 a month versus making $10,000 a month.
WHEN HIRING- YOU NEED A POSITIVE R.O.I
Find out what your current price is of an average repair and hire someone qualified to do those repairs. You want to make sure that the business makes a profit so you’ll need to ensure that whatever you’re paying them still keeps you in the positive. If not, take on an apprentice (pay or no pay is on you) and show them the ropes. Sure that might hamper your work momentarily, because there’ll be a learning curve, but in the long run you’ll be making more money sooner rather than later. If you can’t hire someone qualified, look to hire someone that likes to work with their hands. Advertise it in the local papers, craigslist, and or job sites. You’ll be surprised at who responds. Price out how much they’ll make in a day (whether that’s salary/hourly/production) and compare that to the amount of workload you can offer. As long as the money you’re making is more than the money you’re paying them, it’s a win-win for both of you. Trust me, I know this is easier said than done.
Hiring watchmakers is a difficult job. I can literally write an entire post on this alone but that's for another day. I'd pick fresh graduates from watchmaking schools. They're eager and optimistic. When you factor in the amount
I’M NOT SAYING LOCAL WORK CAN’T GET YOU RICH
Let me clarify before many of you bash me. I’m not saying that working within a local setting won’t make you rich. In fact, I know plenty of watchmakers who are killing the local scene and making obscene amounts of money. But they’re not charging $50-200 for a repair. They’re operating at a much higher price point. Higher than the average market value cost and for good reason. Almost all the watchmakers that I know who are killing the scene make money from a Situation A perspective. Believe it or not, they’re actually undercharging and overproviding.
NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO MAKE MORE MONEY
Hey, I get it. Not everyone is in it for the money. Some people just want to make money doing what they like and if that’s you, that’s great! There is nothing wrong with that. I’d rather make $40,000 a year doing what I like than making $250,000 a year doing something I absolutely hate. Everyone is different and I respect everyone’s opinions. But if a small part of you is even contemplating your financial situation, this is definitely something to consider.
"THAT'S GREAT AND ALL, BUT GIVE ME SOMETHING TACTICAL. I WANT SOMETHING THAT I CAN DO RIGHT NOW FOR MARKETING"
YOU’RE ALREADY CLOSER THAN YOU THINK
If you’re reading this, you’re already 50% there. The fact that you’re online and you’re actively reading this to learn about marketing for watch repairs is a good thing. The next thing you need to do is start posting and contributing.
GET ON INSTAGRAM/FACEBOOK/LINKEDIN/YOUTUBE
Get on Instagram and Facebook. These are your two biggest determining factors in reaching out to your clients. I threw LinkedIn in there because it’s currently one of the only platforms that headhunters use to find watchmakers. YouTube is great if it’s medium matches your personality. Some people are more talented at writing than they are on camera. Find what suits you.
Print, radio, and TV are overpriced for our markets. Almost everyone that you need to reach is on Facebook and Instagram. Even the ad prices are ridiculously cheap on these platforms for the amount of exposure you can reach.
Having an online brand is all about building a stronger version of, what we rely so freviously on, word of mouth. It’s the exact same concept of how we would treat a customer in person except that we’re doing it online now. Same concept in different deliveries.
Just think about it. Customers are no longer bound to just talking to their limited circle of friends about you. They can instantly reach thousands of random people. A good percentage of them will check out your page/profile. In brick-and-mortar businesses, half the battle is getting them in the door. You get the idea.
“BUT I DON’T KNOW HOW TO USE INSTAGRAM/FACEBOOK /LINKEDIN/YOUTUBE“
Great. You also didn’t know how to drive a car when you were 14 but you learned. You didn’t know how to use an iPhone/Android but you learned. When there’s a will, there’s a way. Start Googling.
“IT’S TOO TIME-CONSUMING “
Is it really? If you have a couple minutes to lurk online and scroll through your newsfeed, then you have time. It’s not an excuse.
You might not have a profile for your repair business but there’s a good chance that you already have a personal profile online. Whether it’s just to keep updated with your friends or what not, you’ve already created your own personal brand the minute you created a profile.
DOCUMENT AND LEAVE YOUR MARK ONLINE
This step is stupid simple. Post online everyday for 365 days. One post a day is more than sufficient enough. This is ridiculously simple but not easy. This is the part where many fail. Here’s how to reframe it in your head. Don’t think about creating content. Focus more on documenting your everyday activity. Make your Facebook and Instagram your journal. Be honest and have good intentions. Document everything that comes across your bench. You should literally have enough to post 5-6 times (and more) a day if you just change the way you frame it. Remember, you don't always have to have an opinion on something. It could literally be as simple as contributing to a community.
WHAT TO POST ABOUT?
TRY SOME OF THESE
- Industry news/Trade Journals
- Whatever it is you’re learning
- Something that’s giving you a hard time
- Pet peeves/rants
- Stuff you would want customers to know
- Do’s and Don’ts about watch maintenance
- Issues you’re facing
- Classes/courses you’re attending
- Failures/Bloopers (Think of all hilarious and entertaining Fail compilation videos. Or think about how cooking shows always post about a meal gone wrong)
- Something that let’s your personality shine
DON’T FREAK OUT- QUALITY IS ALWAYS KING
To everyone that is overwhelmed and scared of all the noise and distraction on the Internet, you can take a breather. Quality will always be the barrier of entry. It will always be the gate keeper. The cream always rises to the top at the end of the day. Focus on quality, have good intentions, be considerate, and most important of all, be honest.
YOU SHOULD DO THIS EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT AN INDEPENDENT WATCHMAKER
This doesn’t just pertain to independent watchmakers. If you work for a brand or manufacture, you should be doing this too. Hell- You should be doing this if you’re in the process of becoming a watchmaker. If you’re in school, now’s the time to document everything you’re doing. Use the internet to share your process and ideas with the world.
“BUT I LOVE MY JOB, I DON’T NEED TO GET ONLINE OR DOCUMENT MY PROCESS”
Good for you. Even if the economy never goes bad, I’d tell you to do this. Guess what? Having something is better than nothing. Let me ask you this: Do you honestly think a PDF of a neat list of where and how long you’ve worked with a couple bullet points each really highlight what you do as a watchmaker?
Traditional resumes are boring. I’m more likely to hire someone with a resume and a blog/internet profile than a candidate with just a resume. You shouldn’t be bound to a piece of paper that summarizes years of your work into a couple sentences. It doesn’t do you justice. Your resume should be your latest comment on Facebook or a post on Instagram or even a recent blog post. These are the avenues that will let you display why you’re unique.
STORY TIME: Let’s use a watchmaking friend (several as a matter of fact) as an example. She was very comfortable with her job. She had landed her dream job (well-known brand) after graduating from WOSTEP. She worked for the company for 7+ years. She settled down, had a husband, bought a house, etc. She felt that she had her life in order and didn’t want anything to change.
She kept hearing me talk about getting online and posting content, etc. so she decided to give it a try. She would go on to post inconsistently, once every week. Simple but meaningful things like common issues she comes across and how she fixes them. She interacted with the people that were commenting and answered many questions they had. She did this for about 6-7 months when the bad news hit her dead in the face. Her company was moving and had to relocate. Nobody wants to hear shit like that.
She took the severance package they offered because she couldn’t uproot her life. She made a post about it and BAM. She was instantly picked up by another brand that was hunkering down in her location. It turned out that a watchmaker from this brand was following her and was impressed by her capabilities and so when he heard about the news, he got her on board.
Stories like this don’t just happen once. I have plenty of additional stories of watchmakers instantly getting picked up from their jobs because of their presence online.
WHY NOW IS THE BEST TIME TO GET CLIENTS
The amount of watch people on Instagram is ideal. I know plenty of watchmakers who are posting content on Instagram and Facebook who are killing it. The amount of watchmakers out there are small. The amount of watchmakers who are posting online are even smaller. There are a lot of “watch guys” who like to post wrist shots and wrist rolls (insert gun to head emoji) but there are very few watchmakers who are actually educating and posting quality content online.
This whole thing is simple. Get online. Document/Journal your day to day everyday. Post meaningful and quality content. Interact with people. Rinse and repeat. One of the biggest things I've been explaining to people is that even though it's simple, simple isn't easy. But if you want more clients and work, you're going to need to put in the effort. No one said this was going to be easy.
LIKED WHAT YOU READ? YOU'LL LOVE THE BOOK
I go over plenty of stuff that the industry won't tell you. Stuff that you'll come across as a watchmaker and certainly things to avoid! The watch industry isn't anything like what they promise you when you're in watchmaking school.