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Guiding Customers Through the Framing Process

By Jen Gramm, Tru Vue Director of Marketing

It’s probably a familiar site in your shop, a customer or couple walks in holding a piece they are interested in having framed. As they view the dozens of samples on your wall, they begin to look overwhelmed.  You ask to see their piece, lay it on a viewing surface and ask them a few questions about what they want. Right away they say they are on a budget but that the piece they’ve brought in is special, destined for a high-profile space in their home or doesn’t fit a ready-made frame.  They don’t know where to start and could use some guidance filtering through all the options they see. They may say they aren’t the “artistic type,” and have a hard time choosing what will look best.


According to research from Unity Marketing, trust, confidence, and choice of materials are the primary factors that influence a person to choose where to custom frame.  These are the factors that help bring customers through your door, and what your customers expect you to deliver once they are in your store.


Many framers agree that some of the toughest issues to address when working with customers on projects are price, envisioning the final piece, and how it will look in their space, and feeling overwhelmed with choice.  Fortunately, custom framers have three important items in their “toolbox” to help address these challenges.



Customers look to your store walls to inspire their own


According to John Ranes II, CPF, GCF, and owner of The Frame Workshop of Appleton in Wisconsin, in today’s custom framing business climate sales tools, including samples, are more important than ever. Framed projects on your wall can help inspire, but they are also an ideal tool for educating. Explanations can win confidence, Ranes points out, and sales tools are a great way to enhance you ‘show and tell’ for customers.



1. Make sure the pieces on your wall reflect your range.

The completed projects you display should be a reflection of the wide variety of options you offer, not just your most impressive work. Including pieces that represent a range of prices, as well as different types of objects that can be framed helps customers visualize the potential of their project. In fact, the Unity Marketing research shows that one-third of items being framed are shadowboxes, as well as growth in framing non-art items.


“I display items that are more than just flat art,” said Matt Puchalski, owner of Masterpiece Framing in Bloomingdale, IL. “I have sports jerseys, musical instruments, police memorabilia — it shows customers that there are many different ways you can frame.”


Ray Miles, owner of Phoenix Restoration in the greater Seattle area, has had several projects develop from one piece he has on display in his shop — a memorial collection for his family dog Lucy. The piece includes a plaster cast of her paw, tags and a plaque in a shadowbox, which has inspired several other customers to ask for something similar for their pets.


2. Offer samples to go.

Providing samples to take home is a key benefit framers like Tony Cox, owner of Casco Bay Frames and Gallery in Portland, ME, and Karen Clanton, owner of Four Corners Gallery in Birmingham, Alabama, offer to customers struggling with envisioning their framed piece. Clanton finds it especially beneficial for sizing, since the frame and mat will add to the size of the piece in ways customers might not expect. Samples also help with decisions like wood vs. metal, colors and glazing choices.



3. Consider how much is too much.

Every framer interviewed talked about getting a feel for how involved a customer wants to be in selection of materials. Some will want to see everything, and others will do best with just a few samples, especially to start.  To help keep customers from becoming overwhelmed, Puchalski has an unusual approach when it comes to samples. He limits them to top sellers and has far fewer pieces of molding on his walls compared to many custom framers. Because he began his business with home consultations, doing his framing in his parents’ basement while in college, he had to work with a limited number of samples.



Your website is a window into your shop


Any small business is well-served by a good website, but there are excellent opportunities for custom framers. Your website not only gives you a home in cyberspace, which is the modern version of a Yellow Pages ad, it also provides. an ideal forum for educating your customers, showcasing your work and communicating your professionalism. Here are some ways you can use your website to help demystify and inspire.



1. Include photos of sample projects.

A website provides nearly unlimited space for projects. For example, you may have one or two shadowboxes on your store wall, but you can have a dozen on your website, showing the variety of items that can become protected treasures thanks to custom framing. Take photos of all your framing projects to include on your online gallery.  Remember to title each photo appropriately for SEO using alt-tags.



2. Showcase your expertise in specific types of framing.

Perhaps you specialize in framing military memorabilia, which requires knowledge of how items need to be displayed, or you have a passion for textile art. Your website gives you space for a subject-specific showroom where you can display your works and demonstrate your expertise.



3. Display groupings to help customers visualize how pieces fit in with others.

The living room is the most popular space for custom framing, and it is likely that customers will have more than one piece on the wall. Seeing how pieces can be grouped will help inspire them and might even lead to additional projects. (Research shows that custom framing consumers have at least one piece waiting to be framed.)



4. Walk visitors through the framing process.

Take a project and break it down with photos (or videos) and explanations at each step in the process to help educate potential customers on how framed pieces come together.  It’s your opportunity for them to see your talent in action.



5. Add a  before you visit us checklist to your site

This could include the questions you typically ask during the design process such as where the piece will be hung, value (sentimental or monetary), room decor and colors, other pieces on the wall, personal style, etc.



6. Set up a monitor in your shop to let customers visit your website onsite.

This is a great way to help people “settle in” as they consider their next step with their project.



7. Get testimonials from your clients and put them  on your website.

Sell your potential customers your expertise and customer service before they even walk in the door. 3.



Nothing compares to the personal touch


Possibly the most important resource framer shop owners have for working with customers is their design and sales staff. The top reason customers choose custom framing over ready-made is that they want an expert to frame it, according to Unity Marketing. You and your staff are those experts, and personal influence and professionalism are keys to keeping your customers engaged and enthusiastic throughout the project.



1. Use your initial conversation as an opportunity to educate.

Many framers have said that once their customers understand their choices, it is easier for them to make decisions and stick to them. The opening conversation is a great opportunity to get information about the piece and the customer’s expectations. It is also an ideal time to provide information on different types of materials, design elements and processes that will help achieve their goals for the piece.



2. Focus on visualization.

Being able to envision their final piece is one of the hardest things for a customer to do. Some framers use visualization software, but others maintain that a good designer will do a better and more consistent job. Help your staff use props and put design elements into words so that customers can more easily “see” their final piece.



3. Make it a team effort.

When working with a customer who has a hard time making a decision, Cox will bring a second designer in to get their opinion. “Nine times out of ten, they’ll go with the second opinion,” he said.



4. Offer a home consultation.

This is an excellent way to help customers feel more at ease with the process, and it also lays the groundwork for future projects. Take notes of the space and pictures with permission, and keep them on file for the current as well as future projects.



Most framers get involved in the business because they have a passion for art and objects that are the treasures of people’s lives. Translating that to the customer goes a long way to inspiring them. “Framing is always about emotion,” said Ranes. “All customers want to be inspired, even the ones who talk mostly about price.

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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