Make It Yours, Make It Local

Spotting Your Customers

I've hinted at it in all the previous articles about developing a picture framing business, but just to clarify: it is essential to keep taking stock of how you are doing. Having a really good (and honest) look at what is working well, what needs improving and what needs a complete overhaul will keep your business fresh.

Many things will evolve in your business as you become more confident with what you are doing. One thing, however, that seems to remain the same is the customer profile. I have done this a number of times with my own galleries: when you analyse the demographic of your customers, you will probably discover that the majority is within a 5 mile radius of your shop / workshop. In more rural areas it might be a bit wider, say 10 miles. But the clear fact is that the main income is generated locally.

Working with the local community: helping the nuresry PTAIt is also important to recognise that, if operating from any form of commercial property, picture framing is seen as a "destination" market. In other words, customers come specifically with something in mind for framing: they will often have it with them. Impulse buying is less likely unless you sell prints or photography, for example, where buying the artwork might trigger the idea of having it framed.

So what are the implications for you?

  • First of all, understand that local success is vital.
  • Secondly, by increasing your local profile you will increase business.
  • Finally, make sure you identify all of the local possibilities.

Get yourself noticed in the local news: framed snakeskin

The Biggest Fish In the Local Pond

Marketing to the immediate, local area is far more important than "the district". Ads in Yellow Pages etc will help people to find you, but they will often be using it to see who is local.

Whatever ad style you use, make it very clear where you are. If you use a website, give some form of map / location finder to make it as easy as possible for people to use you. Even show where nearest car parks are as people might make a decision about which framer to use, based purely on how easy it is to get the artwork to you.

And don't forget local advertising:

  • Cards (professional design not handwritten) in shop windows
  • Post offices - sometimes they have digital ads in electronic frames. If not use the cards again.
  • Community magazines - parish mags, school newsletters etc
  • Local advertisers - many areas have monthly business directories distributed to homes.
  • Fliers and pamphlet distribution - don't go for mass distribution, find ways to make it more personal
  • Promotions - money off vouchers for returning customers
  • Discounted referrals - introduce a friend style discounts

Remember that because a massive amount of custom comes from local customers, good reputations are also great publicity. The trouble is the reverse is also true.

Give Your Business Character

Get yourself noticed in the local news: supporting local firefightersAs well as the obvious ways of getting noticed through advertising, a more subtle and more durable way of ensuring customer loyalty and growth is by becoming involved in the life of the community.

Because my own children were starting in nursery just as Sunflower Framing took off, it was very easy to see how I could support the local school. I sponsored all sorts of events: art days, PTA school fairs etc. There are so many aspects of the school community that can be linked with picture framing: by showing the interest and commitment to it, you become a familiar and identifiable service.

These opportunities can also help to develop a distinctive reputation (or USP). A prime example from my own experience was helping out a local fire brigade. They had commissioned an artist to produce a large scene of early fire fighters. It was an enormous canvas. We ended up hanging it, then building a frame around it, in situ. That project, along with the giant snake skin I framed for another customer, established my reputation for taking on large pieces. Both of these events were written up for the local paper, along with photographs. It all helps to make you visible, a local character and a bit of "an expert" - even better, it's free publicity.

There are many ways of raising your profile - choose ways that work well with your own personality.

  • Links with other community based projects
  • Links with annual events organisers
  • Supporting arts groups
  • Presentations to groups about enhancing artwork through framing
  • Promote local artists, photographers etc - exhibitions, sales, profile new works.


Spotting Potential

Spot potential business partners in the area.If you are only identifying the domestic customer, then you would clearly be missing a huge number of potential clients.

The types of businesses I regularly work with are:

  • Photographers
  • Printers
  • Interior designers
  • Graphic designers
  • Hospitality industry - pubs, restaurants, hotels etc
  • Sports clubs, leisure centres, spas etc
  • Specialist shops: wedding dress retailers, baby boutiques
  • Arts & needlecraft shops
  • Golf clubs
  • Equestrian centres
  • Hospitals, residential homes
  • Local industry - I actually had a major film studio on the doorstep where I started.

Take time to go through the local business directories and start to consider all of the possible services you can offer. The more you think about it the more opportunities you will spot. In fact just about any business / commercial set up can be potential customers. You can work with them in any (or all) of four areas:

  1. Interior design - help to improve the look of a commercial venueExtending an existing service; eg Photographers - offering a framed product
  2. Developing a new product range; eg Sports Clubs - presentation pieces: medals & photos in a frame
  3. Interior Design; helping to improve the looks of circulation and work areas with framed artwork
  4. Service to employees; people can become local customers simply because of the convenience of a service near their work place.

A good example of working with a local business, in a less conventional way, was with my local hairdresser. The salon offered good wall space, a captive audience and time to chat. I installed some framed prints on the walls as conversation pieces, offered the stylist a commission on each print sold from her walls and £5.00 for every framing customer she referred to Sunflower Framing. By the time I returned to her shop to replace a sold print and then paid a finder's fee cheque of £50.00, the hairdresser was totally sold on the idea.

In all of this, the skill is to spot what is right under your nose, then to dig a bit deeper making sure you reach the real treasure. Local custom is definitely your mainstay: it should be easy to identify and not too costly to target your marketing. By increasing your own profile and using a bit of lateral thinking, you will bring customers to you. Add to that a bit of creativity and you will ensure some varied and profitable "days at the office". Having that foundation, you can then think about dipping in to wider markets ...

... and eventual world domination!

Posted on: 20 Oct 2008@12:42:31, updated on: 20 Oct 2008@12:42:31.