Taking Business Further - Ensuring Success

Progress Your Business

The Three PsKeep moulding samples displays simple, clear and tidy.

Successful businesses are not static. They respond to the market place, customers, developments and innovations within the broader sphere of an industry. A picture framing business is no different - complacency can so easily cause a downward spiral.

I have been directly involved in the picture framing business for many years. I've worked from home, run my own gallery and am now opening more framing outlets. I have always developed these businesses around the three "Ps":

  1. Presentation
  2. Professionalism
  3. Profits

Presentation ... be your own best (harshest) critic

In picture framing, people expect us to be creative, artistic and have an eye for presentation. I have recently been exploring businesses for sale, looking to open up another couple of galleries. Walking into one workshop, I was amazed at what I saw. First thoughts were where is the counter? More importantly where is the staff? Squeezing my way between tightly packed displays of pictures I spotted a door: still no sign of life. A bit like Tomb Raider, the door led into a corridor opening on to a work area with a small table at one end, piled high with moulding samples, a few magazines and a discarded apron. The walkways were cluttered with packaging stacked in shoulder high piles. No real space left to put your feet. Yet, this is where customers come to place orders. In the middle of it all was a lady, framing some cross stitching. One visitor did arrive whilst I was there: the framing was actually placed on the floor in order to deal with the customer.

This is no exaggeration. Seen through the customer's eyes, the cluttered space and treatment of artwork clearly would set alarm bells ringing. You would have minimal expectations and regret ever entering the place. Would you return?

Of course first impressions are massively important, but it is vital to maintain that high standard throughout. Getting it right can be very simple:

  • Give customers attractive and spacious browsing areas
  • Make it obvious where to ask for service
  • Make it easy for staff to spot and welcome customers
  • Keep workshop and sales areas apart - it also helps with health & safety
  • Keep storage and work surfaces free from clutter
  • Make displays interesting, current and regularly changed - visitors will get into a habit of returning to see what's new
  • Display a range of your framing - people can anticipate the quality and creativity of your work
  • A smaller, clearly displayed range of current samples has more impact than a bewildering range of choice

Not all of us start our businesses with a gallery and many will make home consultations part of their service. Don't let that be an excuse to drop standards.

  • Samples must be easy to transport and clearly displayed.
  • Carriers, boxes and other materials must be clean
  • To avoid samples overload, start a conversation about preferred styles ahead of the consultation and take a relevant range into the customer initially
  • Use catalogues or a laptop to view extended samples' range

Be your own "mystery shopper" and best (harshest) critic. Be objective about what a customer takes away from your service. "Experience" the whole process from a customer's perspective - make notes and be analytical. Better still, invite somebody to do it for you. But avoid being defensive, take on board the messages and see the practical opportunities for improvement.

Professionalism ... create a special experience.

I read a terrific article recently about one person setting up a new framing business. He had invested in new technology. He offers customers a quick and clear system for pricing projects and uses presentation software to illustrate the effects of different combinations of moulding styles, profiles, mount types and colours. A 21st century take on a traditional, skilled craft. Customers will love the whole feel of the ordering process and must come away feeling in expert hands.

We can't all afford that level of investment. However, we can all find ways to show clients that we are serious about what we do and care about the quality of service.

  • Be interested in what you are doing for individuals and make it obvious that their choices are important
  • Update your knowledge of framing, offer good advice and current ideas
  • Be enthusiastic about what you are doing
  • Use storage and handling systems that demonstrate, practically, how artwork will be treated
  • Take an interest in the different art forms you work with
  • Take pride in the framing trade / industry
  • Make sure the finished pieces have a few individual touches: eg your own labels to show materials and framing styles used; a little bag with hooks for hanging; after care information

A visit to a bespoke tailor or "haute couture" designer is vastly different to buying off the peg. Whilst you don't want to go overboard, customers should feel that having a picture framed is a special experience, with best quality advice to help achieve the exact look they are after.

take an interest in the art forms you frame

Profit ... maximise your potential

Younever know where a profit is hiding. A few years ago, a customer brought in a broken, old oak frame that he wanted to replace. There was great sentimental value in the piece, so he wanted it matched as closely as possible. It may have been easier to suggest a different moulding. Instead I took it on and promised to come up with "the look". Mad panic! Commercial mouldings wouldn't have worked, nor would any of the natural wood mouldings available - just too smart. Eventually, I noticed that an old oak fence in the garden had timber with a similar look. A router, wire wool, pincers and some drying time later, I pieced together the frame. In fact I made a couple of others too, as I had more material than needed. The customer was delighted and I quickly sold the other frames inthe gallery as "Barn Oak" frames. I developed that range, using reclaimed oak timbers, culminating in sales to national design companies and exports to Europe and the USA.

So, the theory is that if you get the first two Ps right, then the third, profit, should follow.
But you need to take action to maximise potential:

  • Use your knowledge of framing and presentation skills to "up - sell": suggest deep bevels; special effects; shadow mounting and spacers etc
  • Develop specialist skills - framing memorabilia; box framing; conservation and archival work
  • Find a USP - your own "Barn Oak moment"
  • Emphasise your links with arts by hosting exhibitions
  • Ring the changes in the look of the gallery / website to ensure people re-visit regularly
  • Keep information about customers' preferences - alert them to new promotions, prints etc
  • Be prepared to work for your customers. Follow up little ideas ... they may get very big.
  • Customer loyalty is vital - 20% of your customers will generate 80% of your business

A big framing contract with top film studio. One last story

We all advertise "no job too small". I remember one of the big film studios in London, asking me to help with a job. A bit of glass needed replacing in a frame. I ended up driving miles to the studio to sort it ... a contact is a contact, after all. They were happy and their next call was to ask for a bit of help with a frame in the studio lobby. I ended up designing a series of wall mounted, hinged frames for displaying film posters that they needed to change regularly. From a single, glass refit I ended up with orders totalling between £15k and £20k.

Posted on: 15 Sep 2008@11:05:44, updated on: 15 Sep 2008@11:05:44.