Conservation Is the Key to Preservation of This industry
What are the reasons people custom frame the special possessions they have? Certainly framing allows them to be enjoyed every day. Of course well designed framing packages enhance the art and contribute to the décor of homes and offices. Oh, and one more thing- proper framing provides protection for their valued possessions.
Two of these three reasons for custom framing are easy to recognize- the ability to display something and display it in a manner pleasing to the eye are obvious. The third benefit of our craft isn’t so obvious. Most clients can’t distinguish between conservation grade materials and materials that don’t protect their valuables.
Like most technology, advances in the conservation properties of the materials we use have happened quite recently. Most of the things we can now provide clients were not available just 15 years ago, and just five years ago they weren’t as effective as they are now. This means there is a huge void between what most customers are aware of and what we as framing professionals know.
Customers come to independent framers because of our knowledge about proper treatment of their valuables.
It’s a strange thing about voids in consumer knowledge- although they really are opportunities, many framers view them as dilemmas- almost hurdles to completing a sale. “Should I or should I not offer Museum Glass®? It just might blow the sale if I offer it.”
One of the most important parts of marketing is to identify the benefits you offer to clients. Most businesses get confused here and talk about the features they offer. For example, they might say we offer a specially coated glazing that keeps 99% of UV light rays from reaching your art. What they really want to say is we offer glass that provides the maximum protection from fading while giving you a crystal clear view of your art. That’s two huge benefits. Benefits are something that EVERY client should be made aware of. In fact it is our obligation as professionals to inform and educate the consumer of benefits available to them. You could even say that withholding such information is cheating your customer. Most would say it certainly is unprofessional.
I’m going one step further- withholding knowledge about conservation technology is going to kill our industry. We must offer the latest and best benefits to everyone we serve. Let them make the decision- give them the knowledge. In fact, if you start viewing your role as one of educator instead of sales person, it will reduce the anxiety you feel about offering more costly benefits. You are obligated to do this because the customer is counting on you to provide the full story- tell them what they need to know.
At the beginning of this article I listed the reasons why we are in business. There really aren’t that many. As technology grows, it allows less experienced and less educated framing businesses to enter the industry. They can now produce reasonably competitive product and it will continue to evolve as they commoditize what we do. The advantage they have is that they can offer better prices due to volume. The disadvantage they have is that they are expected to offer low pricing- meaning offering conservation materials and imparting choices with better benefits doesn’t completely fit their business model.
But there’s a problem. We aren’t capitalizing on this weakness. Statistics show that sales of conservation grade glass are DECLINING in independent frame shops! We are doing a worse job at presenting the benefits of technology than we were two years ago- amazing! We are killing our own industry. We are self destructing by forfeiting one of the biggest advantages we have over the BB- our knowledge about the benefits of technology in our industry.
I know what many of you are thinking. The reason why conservation materials have declined is the recession and every aspect of business is in decline. If so, why are sales for non-conservation glazing materials not showing the same decline? Focus group studies have shown that when clients are educated about the benefits of conservation grade glazing they will choose it over less costly glazing. If you believe these studies, there is only one logical explanation – we as professional framers are not giving our clients the knowledge to make the choice. In fact we are making the choices for them. We are deciding that price is more important than protection! This is obviously wrong on many levels, but it seems to be occurring.
Customers have never come to independent framers because they are seeking low prices. They have always come because of our design capabilities and our knowledge about proper treatment of their valuables. This is what we do best- this is why we exist in the market. If we don’t continue to provide the things that customers come to us to get, we will no longer have a market share. We are no longer of benefit if we change our role and begin assuming that what we do doesn’t matter as much as the price. Go back to having fun by creating designs that are truly unique. Start sharing the benefits of advanced technology with every customer- they are counting on it.
Help stop the decline in use of preservation materials. Start a new commitment to educating clients about every benefit available to them- especially those that will protect their valuables. It’s critical to our survival and it also just the right thing to do.