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How Consumer Insights Can Form Your Unique Selling Proposition

By Jen Gramm, Tru Vue Director of Marketing

Developing a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that sets you apart from competitors is not a simple process.  Fortunately, there are many tools to help you work through the challenging, but essential, step in differentiating your business. Consumer insight is one of them.


Recently, Tru Vue conducted focus groups asking consumers their experiences, opinions, and attitudes about having pieces custom framed. Much of what they said echoes results from a study done by Unity Marketing on the custom framing market. The study revealed the factors that influence people’s choices on where to custom frame — such as trust in the ability to take care of a piece and confidence in the people who work there. Consumer insight, such as the information obtained from the above-mentioned focus groups and other market research, can be helpful in identifying what gaps a business can fill.  Knowing what is missing from the market is a good place to start when thinking about what you have to offer that is truly different.


Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, and former advisor to the Federal Trade Commission wrote about market “blind spots” in a recent New Yorker article on the success of craft breweries. But a market “blind spot” is not just about what’s missing; it’s about specifically what customers want that is missing.  Certain language came up regularly when the participants were asked what words or phrases they associate with custom framing and why they choose to patronage individual stores. Following are five of the most prevalent descriptors and the stories the participants shared to support their points on what they look for in a custom frame shop.



Fill your market “blind spot” to stand out


Use these five descriptors to help fill your market “blind spot”, determine your USP, and to help stand out from the competition.


Expertise and Professionalism

Specialization in custom framing was very important to the focus groups. A business that handles only custom framing and art conveyed an image of professionalism, expertise, selection and design help. Participants described owners and staff as “not just there to take an order,” and that they “help make decisions.” Consumer confidence in the expertise is critical. One participant said, “I know they know what they are doing.”


More Special

Participants reported that how “special” a piece was impacted their custom framing decisions. An important aspect of this is that what makes a piece special to a person varies, and the reasons aren’t always related to a monetary value. For one person, it was because her piece was given to her by her 90-year-old father. Another person considered what she was framing special because it was a gift. One woman had a simple poster custom framed because it was from a resort where several generations of her family had visited and worked.  The impression of these consumers was that certain pieces deserve a higher level of consideration in the custom framing decision.


Personal Service

In addition to expertise and professionalism, the participants placed high value on the personal service they have received from their custom framers. Here are some of the specific things they said:


  • “They will answer your questions about different frames, mats, etc.”
  • “They take the time to really look at your piece.”
  • “They act like they have all the time in the world to listen to what you say.”
  • “They sit with you, spend time with you.”
  • “I feel closer to the owner of the shop, working one-on-one.”



As part of the preparations, we asked people to bring in pieces they had custom framed. What the participants came with ranged from posters, photographs, and art, to a roll of negatives of band members from the Grateful Dead and a matchbook from a political campaign. In every case, the consumers were proud of their pieces.  One described custom framing as, “making it art.”  Another said, “I love, love, love my piece.” Everyone agreed with someone who said, “Framing just adds so much.”



In addition to enhancing their pieces, preservation and protection were significant benefits mentioned by the participants. Some talked about passing pieces down through the generations. Others used the terms “family heirloom” and “restoration.” All were interested in being educated about their options for making sure a piece will last. The perception was that if a consumer wants something that will last, it is best to bring it to an expert in preservation and protection.



Consider the impact you have on the end result


When you think about how to differentiate your business, consider not just what you do — custom framing — but the impact it has on a piece.  From the focus groups, participants said many things about what their custom framers have done, using words that reflect the end results of their work.


  • “Made it art. Focus group participants talked about how framing transformed their pieces. Think about how you work with customers to get them excited about the design process by sharing the features and benefits of different framing materials, such as what colors and sizes of mats will enhance certain aspects of the piece or what moldings will make the piece stand out in their home.


  • “Inspire me.” Customers love seeing examples of your work. It often helps them visualize the possibility for their own pieces. Creativity and design style can be an important element in your USP.


  • “Helped me make a decision.” Consider what you do to help your customers navigate the decision process. Do you offer samples to take home? Do you do in-home consultations? Services like these often make a difference among competitors.


  • “Did it justice.” The focus group participants valued the expertise of custom framers in knowing the best way to preserve their pieces over the course of time. Any expertise, certifications or training you have in preservation and protection should be a part of your USP.

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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