Quick Question on Client Consultation

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Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby wrhong7 » Wed Jan 16, 2019 10:42 pm

Just a quick question from the other side of the world (Vancouver, Canada). I am really curious about how much you guys enjoy the client consultation process:

1. Is client consultation (pitching them with materials and frames & giving them quotes) something that frame shop owners enjoy? Or is it a major bottleneck and annoyance?

2. Of the customer who walk into your stores to get quotes, what percentage of people actually buy? How many turn around to compare prices against other shops?

3. What is the biggest challenge from framing shop owner's perspective? What can software engineer like myself can do make your life easier? What are the most repetitive parts of this business?

I really appreciate your input! :) Cheers!

Won Hong
--
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby poliopete » Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:32 am

Good morning Won Hong and welcome the Framers Forum :D

I could be the exception to the rule here because I like my customers :giggle:

Generally they have come a long way after taking the trouble to make an appointment often, passing other frame shops, garage and kitchen table framers. I am always excited to see what they are bringing to frame and the stories behind the item.

By the time they get to me they have possibly already checked prices. I hope that my enthusiasm, the examples I have on the wall and the way I treat my customers is the reason I never loose a sale. :giggle:

The biggest difficulty is often quoting the price :( even after a life time of framing I find telling the customers the price most difficult.

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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby Steve N » Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:55 am

Hi
You will be better off if you join the http://www.thegrumble.com/index.php which is an American Framers forum, UK customers are way different (they like to get a discount ) from USA ( who like telling about how much they paid) and Canada Customers ,
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby Not your average framer » Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:11 am

I find that the consultation bit is the most enjoyable part of the process. Lots of my customers become friends and it's all a very natural and friendly thing. Sorry to disappoint you, but I certainly would never want any software to be part of how I interact with customers. Customers come into my shop looking to interact with a human being and I want things to stay that way. Most picture framing business are small businesses and don't need to have people trained to say things that everybody knows are not truly meant "like have a nice day".

I don't like the idea that customers have to be managed, in my shop I want customers to be involved and empowered, after all the consultation is all about them and the items that they want framed. I encourage my customers to pick up and handle things, although I guide some of the process it is with a very light touch. Those customers who want to be part of the process are helped to do so, I quite often hand moulding and mountboard sample to customers and think that it is important not to leave out the touchy feely bit.

We don't just make choices with our eyes, we handle things, we feel the weight and turn things around in our hand and look at things from different angles. Particularly things that have shape and we get to see how things look as we change the viewing angle relative to the light source. Definitely no hard sell in my shop whatsoever.

How you use your eyes is important too, people will follow your eyes to see what you are looking at. When you are demonstrating something to a customer, it's all about eyes and hands. Then when you hand something to a customer they can do the same thing with their eyes and hands to appreciate what you are showing them. I don't use a computer screen as part of the process, in fact I don't use anything that customers don't feel that they cannot touch and handle for themselves.

The main thing a computer may be needed for is the point of sale, which is when you close the deal and the timing of when you close the deal, should be when the customer is ready to do the deal and I have to discern when this is. Everything should be comfortable and natural. Sorry to disappoint you, but for me the consultation is all about eyes, hands, the item to be framed, plus the framing material and techniques. Obviously visualisation software can be helpful in the consultation, but other things can be a distraction, particularly if customers don't have much time.
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby Rainbow » Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:56 am

Meeting the customer, discussing their job and helping them come to a decision is one of the most enjoyable parts of the job. The notion that my role would be as outlined on your web site would be anathema to me, sorry!
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby Tom Chambers » Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:44 am

As a relative newbie, I am enjoying the direct engagement with the customer and helping them properly think out what they want. Online sales will result in higher percentage of customer getting something home and then realising that it was not quite what they needed. The advantage of having a framer talk you through the options is that the customer is engaged in process and is getting the benefit of professional advice.

This is critical is the artwork is of high or sentimental value, would hate for a customer to ruin artwork by choosing something cheap and cheerful online. :shock:

The more I am learning about this profession the more I can serve the customer, that only works through direct engagement. Also if you automate too much them lots of businesses will struggle and then there will be even less professional skills around to meet client needs. Lots of examples where technology removes the human element and sometimes to late before we notice the damage it actually does.

Just my thoughts, sure others may have different ones.
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby Rainbow » Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:39 pm

I was reminded of this thread this afternoon, when I finished framing two watercolours for an amateur artist. When she showed me the paintings, I thought they were OK but nothing very special. Now each one has a double mount in colours to pick out the colours in the art, and the frames are a perfect match, and also the right size and shape for the paintings. The framing has transformed the art and now they look really stunning. If that customer had been buying a frame online, it wouldn't have occurred to her to have a double mount, let alone been able to choose a double mount and moulding in the exact colours to complement the art. She's going to be thrilled when she gets the job back. This is the second time she's come to me for framing, and she showed me a number of other watercolours that she wants framing in due course. Buying online is to ignore the creativity that a framer can bring to a picture, and to miss the opportunity to add value (artistic, not financial) to the art. I've no doubt it suits some people as there as plenty of sites offering an online service, but it's not a route I would take and I'm pretty sure my regular customers wouldn't either.
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby JohnMcafee » Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:55 pm

Welcome aboard, Won Hong

I'm sure the members of the forum would be interested to hear how you, at Ellie's Frames in Vancouver, would reply to your own quick question.

You have an interesting website www.elliesframes.com.

Another quick question:
1. Is the intention of Ellie's Frames to lower the price to the customer for bespoke framiing in the Vancouver area?
2. Will the framers in your area be paid less for their work than they would normally charge their customers?
3. what advantage is it to the framer to join your scheme?
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby wrhong7 » Fri Jan 18, 2019 7:02 pm

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for your responses. I read your comments and feedback. I am very happy to see most of you love interacting with the clients. I have to say it amazes me since not many around me genuinely appreciate interacting with the clients and servicing their needs. Perhaps, that's the mentality that separates business owners like yourselves and employees like my friends.

I have to say people on this forum are very, very blessed to have a career that you love even after decades of practicing. I guess that's what craftsmanship and mastery is all about! :)

Sorry if my idea sounds horrible to some of you on this comments. Thank you for sharing the honest opinion. That's a big learning for me! At the end of the day, I want to create something to bring more money to custom frame businesses. If it happens, it will be a business to serve small framing businesses. If there's no need for my input, then I will happy to move on to next business. :)

It seems like responses on thegrumble.com were double edged. One group of people say, "it's about the time for us to do more and expand." The others say, "we are doing well ourselves. Leave us alone." Either way, I appreciate every feedback.

--

Before I respond to your comments and questions, I would like to apologize for my ambiguous questions. I come from financial technology consulting (which sounds fancy--but it really is to build websites for you to send the money online without writing a check). We are trained to ask ambiguous questions to capture the improvement points and validate (or correct) our understanding. It sounds like it has been a success, because my initial guess was framers would be tired of making sales pitch and arguing over prices with rookies like me :). I was terribly wrong, and thank you very much for such an enlightenment!

Below is my resume, just in case if any of you are curious about my background -- https://www.linkedin.com/in/wjhong/

--

Here are some potentially useful information for frameshop owners:

Although I am an industry outsider building website and software, I have done a quite bit of framing. I have framed about a dozen in last three years for myself and my friends.

The reason why asked about the client consultation comes from the fact that millenials don't like visiting stores and get consultations.

There are two elements to it: (1) we don't like the fact that we have to walk into the stores, chat for 15-30 minutes to get a quote and (2) custom framing costs are high from our perspective.

Yes, we appreciate pretty apartments that we see on Instagram, but our income levels are not quite there yet. We would like to get to the similar results without spending thousands of dollars.

--

Here's a potential new idea:


So now I have been thinking, what are the ways to (1) reduce the client consultation, (2) increase price transparency and comparability, and (3) lower the prices in general. That will make custom framing easy for many computer addicted millenials. :)

I think this is very doable since more and more of my friends frame their own artworks and beautiful posters. I have seen it with my own eyes. Popular websites, like art.com (mainly framed poster retail) were being acquired by giants like Walmart. Online framing websites (mail-in framing websites), like Framebridge, were funded with USD $70 million. Let me give you some metrics. Per my own research and intelligence, about 40k people view framebridge.com per month. 61K view levelframes.com, and there are 10 more of them, just in North America.

If one percent buy them, which is an extremely conservative estimate, they would still push out 1000 frames, 50 a day between two websites. I have used them when I was living in New York City. Quality was good (from a rookie's perspective). Prices were not convincing--it was not low enough to justify the mailing-in and mailing out process. The price difference would be maybe $170 for $200 offline work. If a lot of us are too lazy and overwhelmed to go to framing stores for consultation, post office is the last place where we want to go, especially in American big cities. Plus, we don't have cars to pick up from a post office, in case UPS or Fedex misses our delivery. That's why I think an online business specializing in framing connecting local businesses can be a thing--especially in big cities.

Again, these websites are not any easier than going to a local farming shops. They are not much cheaper. But they are selling! Selling by thousands and thousands a month. They are raising hundreds of millions in investors' money. They may not be making money yet, but these investors are not idiots. If they can do this mail-in mail out, why can't we do this locally. That was my question.

Let me give you some numbers. In city of Vancouver (metro population of 2.5 million), there are 22k searches on custom framing near me. So for the London metro, with 15 million, there will be about 150k searches -- a day. I think people would love to buy more locally, if there is an easy way for us to connect those online people with local shops, seamlessly. That's my goal.

I would like to seek more feedback from you in regards to what milennials frame in UK. Do they frame posters? Photography? And what were your experience interacting with them. Approximately, what percentage of your customers are below 40?


--

To answer John's question above, here are my answers:

You have an interesting website http://www.elliesframes.com.

Another quick question:

1. Is the intention of Ellie's Frames to lower the price to the customer for bespoke framiing in the Vancouver area?

My initial business idea was this:

STEP 1: Customers can design and render custom frames easily. They can even project how the rendered frame, move around in 360 degree view, to see how it actually looks. I can make this pretty easily.

STEP 2: They pay to me, process payments centrally--since that's the preferred method among our new online commerce.

STEP 3: They pick and choose a local frame shop in our network. The moment they click the "Select this shop," their order information will be sent to your email for your to get ready.

STEP 4: They come in, clarify any questions. Give you opportunity to up sell if you want to. And framework that was previously going to go for big box stores or online framing stays local.

STEP 5: I will send you shops the money once the work is done, within a day.

To do this, I have to build:

Task 1: Customers who are going to come to my website -- which is marketing and search engine optimization -- which is difficult and expensive for outsiders but for doable for tech insiders like me. Essentially, local frameshops are outsourcing the marketing and customer acquisition efforts to me.

Task 2: Find local frame shops.

To answer you question

The whole point of my website was to just check if there's any demand for such a service. I want to validate task 1 is doable or not. I have built a website and wrote blogs in a way that my website would appear on the top pages of Google search in Vancouver, people looking for "custom framing near me." I want to see how many people come in, and how many of them actually click around. I can track what kind of services (is it custom framing or plaque mounting) that people are interested in. Before I invest my 100% into this business, I want to first see if there's a market.

2. Will the framers in your area be paid less for their work than they would normally charge their customers?

Here's the interesting part. I would call our generation an IKEA generation. We want to live in a decent, clean look apartment, but it has to be cheap. We look for art, but we look for arts that are mass produced. Like posters or printers of digital illustrators. Many of us don't hang paintings anymore. There's lesser need for conservation. We don't really go for ornamental frames either (remember IKEA). We are mainly looking for simple, wooden, customized frame that matches to IKEA furniture (only four colors -- white, black, maple, walnut).

Going back to your point, yes, the prices will be lower, not because we want to reduce your margins substantially, but we just want to get the "unnecessary frills" out. For us, we are looking for something that looks nice--we don't look for conservation or decoration.

3. what advantage is it to the framer to join your scheme?

Again, this is theoretical; it's an experiment. As I meet more people, I will change my business models to cater business owners' needs.

I bring you clients for free. You don't have to pay me anything. I never thought about charging a cent to frame businesses. From my perspective, building a beautiful technology like this is easy. It's not expensive since I can build one myself. But selling is the hardest part. [/b]

Yes, your per client revenue will be lower (cuz our target customers are more budget conscious), but I doubt your margin percentage will be lower.Number one, you won't have to spend time and effort selling and consulting, number two, I heard from the masters in grumble that often margins on cheaper frames are actually higher (which surprised me actually), after adjusting to material costs and effort level.

Yes, the revenue per client is lower, but margins are not lower. It's still money on the table, brought in by new clients. At the end of the day, people who frame with you (higher end market) won't even come into my website. What do you have to lose?

What do you think? Would you be interested in joining such a network? I want to see if any of frame shop owners will be interested in such a business referral system.

Please let me know what's the marketability of such a business scheme. If you think I am wasting my time, please let me know :) If that's true, I would love to hear that and move onto next project.

In fact, to quench my thirst on this industry, I will be flying to Las Vegas next week for the WCAF Art and Frame Expo to chat with people and see what's going on. Apparently, lot of people on the Grumble are coming so excite to finally get to meet them in person!

I would love to hear more from folks in UK! Any input is a learning lesson for me. Thank you very much!

Cheers and have a great weekend!

Respectfully,

WJ Hong
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby wrhong7 » Fri Jan 18, 2019 7:33 pm

I just want to add one more thing --

Of course, for the creativity element, I completely get it. I would love to see the local frame shops upsell on customers that are referred by me. At least, I contribute to your business by sending more customers and increase traffic. Does that make my idea more appealing, or do I still sound like a nightmare? :) Please let me know!
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby Not your average framer » Fri Jan 18, 2019 7:51 pm

You are seeing this from a purely financial perspective, most of our customers for bespoke framing are expecting something very special and don't mind paying for it. They won't be getting that by looking at a simulated result via the internet and their own uncalibrated monitor. Really stunning framing takes time and costs what it costs.

Customers buy things over the internet mainly wanting something cheap, customers who are expecting to spend more to get something of real quality and top class workmanship already know that they won't get that from an internet based framer aiming at beating prices to get the orders. Sorry to disappoint you, but there is a big difference between the quality end of the market and the cheap end of the market.

The cheap customers want cheap and the quality customers want quality. Trying to find a market between these two ends of the market place is not usually viable, because the middle position is neither cheap, or quality and the volume of viable business is either at one end, or the other. Not many customers want mediocre at a middle of the market price.

As for your last one more thing, most of us get all the work we need on our own merits, because we've work hard at getting our reputations for producing quality work. Somewhere I've got an old engraved print of a couple where the husband is painting and his not so bright wife is say that if he sold his painting for half the price he would sell twice as many.

Unfortunately chasing the bottom of the market is a bad idea when hard times come and if you can no longer get enough volume for the business model to still work. Also having a reputation for cheap framing won't make it easy to go after the better quality end of the market, because the quality customers will still be taking their work to the framers with the reputation for producing the quality work.
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby wrhong7 » Fri Jan 18, 2019 8:01 pm

Mark, thank you very much for your input. Those are very valid concerns. Have a wonderful weekend.

--

For others, please let me know if there's anything else to add on. Learning is the most pleasant feeling that I have!

Cheers!
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby Tom Chambers » Fri Jan 18, 2019 8:04 pm

An interesting topic and thanks for going into detail on what you are exploring.

The challenge is millennials want things easy and cheap, they don't value things anymore. If businesses start responding to this lack of value there is only one place that business will end up, out of business. As an ex-management consultant I have seen too many businesses not respond to changing markets or in some case become very reactive (without fully understanding how things were changing). In both cases they don't last long, yes things are changing but that includes the needs of millennials as they come to realise the value of things..

The reality is that framing businesses offer service not product and that is where millennials need to realise that you cannot always go cheap, or you end up with poor service. Whilst the idea of someone doing all the marketing and sales aspects sound good, this removes a critical part of any small business responsibilities. What happens when the people doing the marketing and sales move on to the next big things millennials want, the poor framer is left with no knowledge of how to take on that marketing, or worse the marketing people then start charging more and more for the service (happens all the time).

You have made me think hard about what you propose, but I just don't see a win win for everyone over the longer term. Face to face is where we provide real service, just look at how people are already fed up with self-service checkouts in supermarkets (Most of the time you need a member of staff to sort an issue with the technology).
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby Not your average framer » Fri Jan 18, 2019 8:39 pm

It's a very difficult thing trying to sell framing by mail order via the internet. The cost of postage and packaging forces the costs for the framing down and leaves less scope for profit. If you are glazing with glass, you packaging, needs to be good enough to protect the glass. If you are using polymer mouldings, they may brake in transit. If you are using wooden mouldings, they may still be damaged in transit.

The framers who do internet based framing successfully need to be pretty smart to succeed. I would guess that you need some quite serious volume of sales to make this work and there's not room in this market for very many companies to capture a big enough portion of the market to be viable. Not everyone can get top ranking on Google either. Lose you position on Google and your sales volume potentially drops overnight.

Much easier to be a bespoke framer in a small town, if you ask me.
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby Framerpicture » Sat Jan 19, 2019 3:04 pm

The UK high streets are failing (or in some cases have failed) for many reasons.

It's really not helped by a fall in discretionary spending, spurred by rising shop prices and weak wage growth and a near 15% devaluation of the pound since Brexit,making imported goods dearer. All of which could be cyclical but whts here to stay is the transformation in shopping habits

If the predictions are correct we can expect to see the high street metamorphosize with less traditional shops, and more places to socialise, with a more experience led culture with outlets offering demo's and classes and maybe a community center, or doctors surgery based in part of a redundant shopping center.

Galleries and framers are well placed to take advantage of the 'new high street' as customers nearly always like to see the picture 'in the flesh' before buying or like advice on having things framed. The down side of this is I suspect frame shops will no longer just be a 9-5 operation and opening times will need change to match public's demands

However, I'd say ignore the internet at your peril as personally I find myself very rarely visiting any shops these days. The majority of things I need are delivered right to my door, and I purchase this way just as much for convenience as price.

I may have misunderstood the OP's concept, but I think its very useful for customers to be able to visualize what they want framed at home, prior to visiting the gallery. It could also be that the framer uses this method to send suggestions for framing to the customer.

This concept need not be a race to the bottom, and could work well for those with framing specialties that can also successfully pack and send frames by courier.

I would definitely like to see more technology available for the sales and marketing of framing
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Re: Quick Question on Client Consultation

Postby JFeig » Sat Jan 19, 2019 7:38 pm

Won Hong, Welcome

I am in Michigan USA and have been a member of several forums for years. There is no such thing as too much knowledge. You just have to be able to manage that knowledge to not clutter your mind.

Being a picture framer, you have to wear many hats.

A business owner
a marketing/public relations person
a salesperson
a craftsman with an artistic eye
a shoulder to lean on
a diplomat
a negotiator
an accountant
an open-minded thinker who enjoys learning from others

You have to learn how to balance all these hats to be efficient, profitable and stay in business.
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