Dealing with the Pain

Part 4 of our ‘Industry Pain’ Series

The seminar I’ve been giving most often this year has talked about how our brains make buying decisions. One of the most important things we’ve learned is that our brains are lazy. They don’t want to deal with any more than they have to. It’s called avoiding the pain.

Today almost every industry in the business world is being challenged in its relevancy like never before. The game is changing at a very rapid rate and it’s not going to slow down. The industries that survive will be those who adopt by recognizing the pain experienced by their customers and find ways to ease it.

This is the third in our series of four discussions about the pain which exists in the picture framing industry. Market studies have shown that framing is considered to be:

  1. Too much of a time-consuming of a process
  2. Prices are perceived to be unknown and elusive
  3. Choices can be overwhelming

Let’s talk about Number Three. Our brains feel pain when they have to make choices. The study shows that when people think of custom framing their brains hurt because there are too many choices. Knowing that, we now must find ways to simplify the process of making a decision.

One of the first things I notice when I watch framers design, is that those who seem to make the process enjoyable are also the same ones who ask questions and then talk customers through the process of making a choice. We all design that way- no framer just starts grabbing mats and frames hoping to find the “lucky” combination. No, we all have a plan in mind that simplifies the choices. The problem is that many of us don’t share the process out with the customer. In my framing company we emphasize the need to “talk the customer through” the design process.

This is one way of simplifying the decision-making and removing the pain of too many choices. I’m sure there are many more. If you have worked on easing the pain of overwhelming choices, tell us how you do it. The future of our industry depends on overcoming the pain associated with using our services.


  1. Simplifying the process. yep, hear you loud and clear! Sometimes it comes down the reading people, their personality type, their cultural background etc. These provide clues or starting points to how we read people. In regards to personality types, I find I am exploring that from the get go, teh way they present themselves, talk move etc, it gives me clues. Example a gentleman walks in in a suit, he makes solid eye contact and starts to talk in very direct terms. “I want to frame my certificate, the last one I had done turned out well, it was not done here but it had…” and he went on, very direct, rather specific. My role became one of following his direction for colour and style of frame, then the mat and glass ok he knew about UV glass and how that worked.
    There was little in the way of small talk, he was on a mission and did not want to waste time, so a Director type.
    Then in complete opposition to that, the next person who came in was quiet, genteel, softly spoken and had an embroidery. They mentioned the weather outside and had a chat about finding our place, so some small talk, as they unravelled the work to be framed. I chatted about the piece and how neatly the stitching was finished off on the back, we then talked about the other items she had in her home and where it would hang and then leisurely strolled through frame types, colours and ways to enhance the look of the piece. A longer process but an enjoyable to and fro. So more of a relator type who wanted to chat, less direct and a much softer approach all round.
    It’s about guiding people and using clues from the smallest thing onwards, being flexible in your approach and appreciating customers differences.

  2. I always talk my customers through the design process, and ask a lot of questions! I like for them to know why I’m looking at certain colors, what I’m thinking, where I’m trying to go. It takes the mystery out of it, and it gives them something to focus on while I’m working –a way to “fill the time” if they’re not totally into the process. I put at least as much work into drawing my customers into the process as I do actually nailing the design. Often people swear they are “color blind” or don’t have a style, but if you ask a lot of questions, take in their body language, etc., you can eventually coax their preferences out of them. Also, tell jokes. If they insist they have no idea how they want it to look, I tell them I’ll go for the “spaghetti trick: throw things at it and see what sticks.” Or, if I’m going to try a wild color combination, I warn them first with something like “I know this looks weird, but let me get it down first and show you what it does for the art. . . ” I almost always do that when I pull the purple mats. A lot of people are afraid of purple. I almost never say “How about purple?” I show it to them first, show them how neutral it can be. And, when I pull the STACK of greys, I say “The book lied: there are more than 50.” Or “Don’t let this stack scare you. It’s not for you; it’s for me, so that I can pull the 5 that will work best for your piece.” And I always encourage them to speak up if I skip over a color they’d like to see. I have a lot of repeat customers and almost all my “marketing” is word-of-mouth. Talk to them; it takes the pressure off.

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