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Selling the Intangibles of Quality, Expertise and Professionalism

By Jen Gramm, Tru Vue Director of Marketing

Custom framers know what differentiates their businesses is what goes beyond the materials. It’s their expertise, professionalism, and quality of work that makes them stand out from other options consumers have.


While these differences may appear to be subtle to customers, they do have an impact. In fact, these qualities are determining factors in what drives a person’s decision to have a piece custom framed.


According to a survey by Unity Marketing on the Wall Decor, Art, Picture Frame, and Custom Framing Market, when it comes to deciding to choose a custom frame for a piece, the number one reason people choose custom framing is that they “wanted an expert to frame it.” Only less than a quarter said that it was because a suitable ready-made frame was not available.


Yet, it is challenging to communicate these advantages, especially to new customers. Following are five techniques custom framers can use to demonstrate their expertise, professionalism, and quality of work through their marketing and sales approach.



1. Word of Mouth


The best marketing tool at your disposal is word of mouth.  A personal referral has a tremendous impact and is one of the most effective ways to drive new customers into your shop.


  • Encourage testimonials and reviews on social media sites like Yelp! and Google+. This can help establish a sense of confidence with potential customers in the research or “browsing” stage.
  • Give your customers a reason to talk about you beyond just a positive experience. Stay on their radar with things like eNewsletters and updates on social media that showcase your expertise and style. It’s also a great opportunity to inspire more project ideas for your customers.
  • Expand your network by participating in charitable and community events. Local art shows are an ideal opportunity. Depending on your market, there may be schools or other not-for-profits that will provide a connection to the right customers. For example, you could donate to a raffle and provide a special offer to attendees at an event, especially if it involves art in some way.



2. Targeted Marketing


Leveraging your contacts and word of mouth goes a long way to creating a targeted marketing approach. Consider where your work comes from. If you handle a significant number of a certain type of project — a niche — this should be reflected in all areas of your marketing plan, from a designated section on your website to targeted direct mail and advertising.


  • Focus on preservation and restoration. Karen Clanton, owner of Four Corners Gallery in Birmingham, Alabama, sends out mailings highlighting their preservation and restoration services. In addition to word of mouth, this has helped her shop become the go-to referral for local
  • Seek out art lovers. According to research, the largest group of custom framers is people who buy art. Tony Cox is seeing growth in his corporate clients’ interest in sourcing local art, as well as frame stock, and in general recognizes more opportunities to work in partnership with artists in his area.
  • Align your work with your passion. Myrna Dow of High Desert Framing in Bend, Oregon, is very involved in the active fabric art community of the Pacific Northwest. Participating in fabric art shows and events has helped her strengthen her network with artists and enthusiasts.



3. Messaging


If you have been paying attention to word of mouth and have thought through your targeted marketing approach, you understand your value proposition. This is something that you can use as the basis for your messaging. Consider how to put your point of difference into words that mean something to a customer. Strong messaging is important for one-on-one interactions in the shop as well as in copy for
your website and other marketing materials.


It also helps with word of mouth (technique# 1) by making it easier for customers to put into words what you do. Of course, communicating your value proposition only works if you are delivering on it in the shop.  So make sure what you are saying accurately reflects the customer experience.


  • Convey the importance of getting it right the first time. One advantage to custom framing from a reputable independent store is the commitment to framing the piece properly from the beginning. “I always say that if you come in for the framing, you won’t have to come back for the restoration,” said Ray Miles, manager of Phoenix Art Restoration in the greater Seattle area.
  • Talk about how custom framing fits into the bigger picture. Custom framers are like curators of people’s personal collections. Use your expertise in home trends and design in discussions with clients and as topics for blog posts on your website or e-newsletters. John Ranes, CPF, GCF and owner of The Frame Workshop in Appleton, Wisconsin, defines his shop as part of the broader category of home decor. “I like to describe us as specialist mini-manufacturers producing a finished customized product for people with discerning taste.”
  • Create taglines or simple “soundbite” messages that reflect what you have to offer. At Casco Bay Frames in Portland, Maine, the tagline on their website is Preserving Art for Over 30 Years. This highlights their expertise in preservation and working with art, as well as their many years of experience. At Masterpiece Framing in Bloomingdale, Illinois, Matt Puchalski’s store motto is “You name it, we frame it.” It’s a simple way to say that his shop works with a wide variety of projects.



4. Commitment to Service


Nothing makes a customer happier and more inspired to spread the word than a great experience at your store. Here are some ways you can make sure your service leaves a lasting impression.


  • Stick to a clear policy for handling mistakes or disappointed customers. Tony Cox has a 100 percent guarantee, no haggle policy with all of his customers. It’s one thing for a customer to have a good experience when all goes well. It’s even more of a testament when you win them over with how you handle a problem.
  • Share your pride in their piece. Before you turn the finished piece over to your customer, ask to take a photo of the finished product. Most people will be flattered, and this will strengthen their connection to you, as well as provide something to share on social media and your website (with their permission).
  • Pay attention to the personal details. Something as simple as communicating progress updates or making follow-up calls after the project is complete is an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment.



5. Samples & Sales Tools In Your Shop


If you are using the first four techniques, you have customers coming through your door ready to witness the quality of your work for themselves. This is where you bring everything to life and turn the intangibles of quality into something people can see and touch. Here are some ways you can use your samples and sales tools to tell the story of your expertise.


  • Keep a portfolio of the top-notch, complicated, and unusual work you’ve done for customers and walk through this while discussing new projects. Impressive pieces on your wall likely don’t tell the whole story of your capabilities. Like your wall, make sure this is updated with projects that reflect more current trends and designs. Ensure that you and your staff are ready to tell each customer the story behind every piece.
  • Have a monitor inside your shop that displays a rotating gallery of your work. Your website is one of your most important sales tools, both outside and inside your store. On your website, consider how your are labeling and tagging your projects for search engine optimization (SEO) so that customers online can find you based on your expertise. Make sure to include testimonials from happy customers. A follow-up email after a project is complete is a good time to ask for one.
  • Use sales tools to go in-depth on your knowledge of different materials available to address different needs. For example, the Tru Vue® glazing choices display isn’t just for selling glass. You can use it to begin a conversation about your experience and passion for conservation and protecting customers’ cherished items.


When it comes to the finer points of custom framing, Ray Miles summed it up very well when he said, “It’s what you can’t see that makes the difference.”


We hope that these tips will help you make the intangibles of quality, expertise and professionalism more concrete for customers, from the marketing that brings them into your store to the tools you use to showcase your work once they are there.

This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.

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