You are a doer. A maker. A creator of beautiful things. At Tru Vue® we share your desire to creatively problem solve. If there was ever a time we wanted to show you that Tru Vue supports framers, this is it.
In that spirit, we have begun to put together an essential resource for suggestions, ideas and inspiration to help your framing business succeed, no matter what comes your way. We will continue to add tips, links and encouragement here on this page and we hope you will reach out to let us know what’s working and what your needs are.
We will regularly update this space with links to live and taped webinars on subjects of interest for independent framers and small business owners.
Adapt to the situation
Because you are a problem solver, you should keep in mind that there are a number of steps you can take and initiatives you can try that will go a long way to staying positively connected with your customers, and even generating business.
Click on any topic to explore the details.
Access small business programs
From aid funds to business insurance, there are lots of support systems out there that you can draw on.
Understand your options
- The Small Business Advocacy Council has a helpful list of assistance resources on their website.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also offers a list of resources. You can run a web search for contact information for your local Chamber of Commerce to enquire about local assistance programs.
- There are funds and loans available from the Small Business Administration. Note that The North American Industry Code for the CARES Act Application for the custom framing industry is 442299.
- Be sure to research additional assistance programs in your specific area. There are state and local programs that are being published frequently.
- You can also apply for grants that large organizations are offering, such as Facebook, GoFundMe, JPMorgan and Amazon. These programs are specifically designed to help small businesses like yours.
- MainVest, a crowd-funding platform, announced its new Main Street Initiative: a $2,000, zero-interest, 120-day loan for brick and mortars affected by the shutdown.
- Kabbage launched an online hub to help boost sales for U.S small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including a system for selling gift cards for use at a later date.
- Main Street America launched an online networking platform called The Point. Members can network and share ideas and resources.
- If you don’t have small business insurance, Insureon is a website that lets you compare quotes from multiple carriers.
- Again, Tru Vue will do whatever we can to help keep you framing. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-282-8788.
Evaluate your operation
By getting creative with how you do business, you can keep providing your services even when your customers can’t come in the store or your store can’t be open. While this list is not comprehensive, it will hopefully spark additional ideas.
Reassess your website
- What features and functionality can you add that will better serve your customers remotely? For example, a step-by-step guide for gathering key order information, such as measurements, hanging location, framing needs, etc.
- How might you facilitate online ordering? This might include adding quality images of your stock and a checkout process. LifeSaver, the business software for framers, offers many features that streamline this process.
- Spark interest with inspirational thought-starters for framing projects.
- Make sure your site is “responsive” so it works as well on mobile as it does on a desktop computer. There are numerous website builders that do this automatically.
- If you already have online ordering, consider emailing customers who might have abandoned a shopping cart and offer incentive for following through. This is also a feature of numerous e-commerce services.
- Moz, the SEO software company, is offering free access to more than a dozen of its Moz Academy SEO courses through May 31.
- If you don’t already have an e-commerce presence, Shopify, the e-commerce platform, is offering an extended 90-day trial for new customers. They offer helpful resources for getting up and running in no time.
Curbside drop-off and free shipping
- This service might include installing a large, protected drop box for the secure transfer of project materials to make it as convenient as possible.
- You could also include a notification system (which could be as simple as a doorbell or text) for prompt retrieval of the materials.
- Especially in the current circumstances, customers will truly appreciate free shipping or delivery, depending on the current guidelines for businesses in your area.
Stay engaged with online video chat
- Consider how you can use services like Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, Lifesaver, or even Apple Facetime to replace a face-to-face consultation. Make sure your internet connection is strong and the lighting is optimal.
- You may want to break down the process into key steps and practice to make the experience as smooth as possible before offering it to your customers.
- You can also try offering special live activities for kids or workshops on framing, decorating and hanging art for adults.
Understand the supply chain
- It will be more important than ever to be aware of what stock you have on hand.
- You should check in with key reps from your various suppliers to understand how they are dealing with orders. Keep in mind that guidelines for conducting business vary from state to state and community to community, so please be patient as things return to normal.
- If you have a need that a distributor can’t meet, Tru Vue will do whatever we can to help you. Please email us at email@example.com or call 1-800-282-8788.
By appointment only hours
- We understand not all businesses can be open at this time. Depending on the current interaction guidelines for businesses in your area, you might also consider how you can continue to offer in-person, minimal contact consultations.
- Again, carefully consider how you can prepare for the appointment, information you can gather in advance, and ways to streamline the consultation process.
Business support tools
- If you haven’t taken the time to explore all the features of LifeSaver, the point-of-sale software for picture framers, now is the time. They offer a range of support services.
- SixFifty, the legal software, released free legal tools to help businesses manage employment issues. The firm is also hosting free webinars to guide businesses on how to use the tools.
- LinkedIn has made 16 LinkedIn Learning courses available for free, including tips on how to stay productive and build relationships when you’re not face-to-face.
- Igloo Software, a digital workplace solutions provider, is offering its Business Continuity Bundle for free through July 6.
- Zoho Remotely has opened up its complete suite of web and mobile apps for free to small-business owners through July 1, to help remote teams communicate, collaborate, and be productive.
- Software giant Atlassian, which offers productivity and collaboration tools, is offering its cloud products for free to small businesses with teams of up to 10 people.
Communication with your customers is more important than ever in a situation like this. It will help maintain your community connection and create opportunity.
Prioritize your social media efforts
- Offer positive and inspirational posts on Instagram and Facebook. This could include suggesting people finally get around to framing that family heirloom, or freshening up their walls rather than staring at them. These suggestions can be a welcome motivator for your customers.
- You can also consider the positive trends that arise from unique cultural conversations as material you can share, joining in the conversation in a contextual and valuable way.
- Showcase new business features (e.g., curb-side drop off) in your posts.
- Balance business messaging with feel-good posts that are more likely to be shareable. Consider content you think might most resonate with the local community.
- Be sure you are using hashtags in their proper context, and, as always, be sensitive to how your posts might be construed. Consider running the content by one or two others to get perspective.
- You can also research and share examples of people supporting others and efforts to help small businesses.
- To help you get the most out of your social media efforts, Hootsuite, the social media management platform, is offering free access to its professional plan through July 1.
- If you have an emailing list, it’s a great time to consider sending messages that would be welcomed by your customers. This could be as simple as offering encouragement as a member of the community, or repurposing inspiration for framing projects mentioned earlier.
Seek out ways to contribute
- Are there ways you and your staff can help the community? This might simply mean delivering food and supplies with company vehicles, or donating services and goods. Check local news websites for opportunities. Such efforts go a long way in establishing goodwill with your community.
- Tru Vue wants to share and inspire positive “Stories of Community Service” that are happening around you. Show us what you’re doing for your neighbors, customers, and loved ones as we all work together. Tag your service-related social media photos with #TruVueSupports so we can share your stories and inspire others to get through this together!
Create community connections
As a small business owner, your community is your business. That’s why it’s essential to regularly connect with your customers. Take some time to consider how your business can serve their unique needs. Be sure to document your efforts to use as content, as now is the time to double down on digital marketing to stay in front of your community and increase your connections.
Below are some thought starters for fostering your outreach.
Provide valuable content and inspiration
- Think about special dates and events that are approaching and how your business, skill sets, and products can help your community during this time and beyond.
For the community at large
- Many people and organizations in your community are looking for help and volunteers, so use your time, skills, and connections to help, while creating and strengthening bonds in your community network.
- Here is a useful guide from Main Street America on how we can support each other during this time.
For your customers
- People are hungry for home-based activities, so consider offering online classes for both kids and adults; if you sell art supplies, offer a class supply bundle.
- Think of upcoming events and holidays where you can add value; for instance, both Mother’s Day & Father’s Day are approaching; Paula Jones has a project idea list to help you get started.
- Even though graduation ceremonies and sporting events have been canceled, you can offer by-appointment-only photography sessions by partnering with your local school; see if they can lend you the props you may need like caps and gowns, uniforms, etc. – and don’t forget to offer framing; have examples in your store when you host the photography session.
- People are rediscovering old photographs and cherished mementos, so ask them to share these items on social media and suggest framing their favorites; Bored Panda has some inspiration.
- If you like these ideas, here are some templates we created to help you get started.
For your local business community
- Since you’re a great connecter and creative thinker, why not develop promotions with other local businesses to generate interest and income? For example, you can partner with florists, caterers and others to create digital gift card bundles for themed wedding or anniversary packages; or try offbeat promotions like this community did, offering a small business raffle.
Make changes for the better
There has never been a better time to apply your creativity and ingenuity to solving business challenges. That means taking proactive steps to help position your business for success. You likely have a list of projects and ideas that you have never found the time to complete. Take advantage of any downtime to tackle these projects and learn the skills that will add value to your business. Again, as you implement these efforts, be sure to document your work for digital content.
Refresh your marketing plan
- This is a great time to spruce up your website and social strategy: what new features can you add and what social platforms work hardest for you? You should also create a content calendar to keep customers engaged; David Lantrip has some terrific social media content ideas.
- Don’t forget your traditional channels: send mailings to your regular customers with ideas, words of encouragement, and project ideas; submit articles or project ideas to local newspapers; and use your windows, sidewalk or parking lot for creative display and communications. Use this free marketing plan template by HubSpot to create a plan for the next 30, 60, or 120 days.
- Buffer offers a helpful guide to developing your Marketing Content Strategy, and you’ll find free tools by The Balance for creating and tracking your goals.
Refine your, budget, business processes, marketing plan, and skills
- Review your budget and trim the fat, removing any debits that reflect wants more than needs; Inuit QuickBooks offers free guidance.
- Ken Baur has great resources for framers looking to update company manuals and processes on his website KB Consulting.
- Learn new skills or processes that could help your business; the Small Business Admiration has a robust Learning Center with free courses, while The Frugal Entrepreneur offers free online business courses, seminars, and training.
Leverage your efforts as social content
- Updates, like painting your walls or creating new in-store displays, provide opportunities to involve your community; send out a survey on the paint colors options for your shop, or push out a call for entries for new displays; share the process on social media.
- Any cleaning footage will showcase how you are preparing your shop for reopening; giving everyone peace of mind when you invite them to see all the changes in-person.
Update your space
- Rethink your store layout and merchandising: Is it time to improve your store layout for better work efficiencies and merchandising, or freshen up with a coat of paint? Check out what @picturethiscreative has done to enhance their shop.
- Deep clean & organize: a thorough cleaning is always a good idea. The thoughtful reorganization of your space can create better workflows and perhaps accommodate social distancing in your shop as a precaution. Click here for a guide on assessing your space by Meg Glasgow.
- Update wall displays: showcase new techniques and trends to customers.