The three most important services offered by independent framers are delivery, installation and on-site consultations. Performing these services is the best way of separating yourself from big box competition. Of the three, on-site consultation (going to the home of your client to sell custom framing), is the most productive. Building an on-site consulting program not only helps you meet the needs of your busy clients, but also opens the door for a surprising amount of additional opportunities.
A couple of years ago I recommended that framers charge for this service. In these more difficult times however, our galleries promote it as a free service. Why? Because it gives us more chances to make sales but also our return on this service has been outstanding. Not only are average tickets higher on these projects, we sell more pieces per visit. In addition, more often than not, we get opportunity to do additional framing. These jobs also commonly involve installation which adds even more revenue.
Visiting clients in their homes and offices for design consultations has become a vital part of service that opens up new opportunities for business.
Now that you know this service is a profitable one, how do you begin offering it? Like every program that impacts your business in a profitable manner, on-site consulting wont be effective unless you plan for it, create goals, train your staff and create policy and procedures. Getting on-site opportunities isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Sure, using gallery signing and promoting the service in your advertising are good ideas. Probably the most effective method however, is to listen for opportunities during a sale. When clients express hesitation in making a decision in areas like size of the project or color selection for a certain wall, jump on the opening to offer a free visit as though it is something that is standard procedure for helping make the correct decision. It’s important to be flexible about your time- busy clients may need evening appointments. If possible, create a form on your website that allows those interested in this service to request an appointment. Your new program will place demands on your schedule but you will be rewarded for your efforts.
Before soliciting appointments, take the time to clearly define what services you will perform on your visits. Clients are not shy about asking your opinion on everything imaginable concerning the décor of their home, so be prepared to determine which areas you will provide consultation. Will you:
- Help them find the art they need?
- Offer opinions about wall color?
- Suggest furniture options and placement?
- Move and re-hang existing art and framing?
- Offer to install what you are selling?
Try only offering services you are qualified to advise on, and stick to your guns on this. Clients will pressure you to provide advice and service outside your expertise, but this can backfire on you and cause problems. Making note of repeated requests may however point you in the direction of obtaining qualification for additional services. For example, there are many web based programs offering credentials for color consulting, staging and interior design which could be used to supplement a growing on-site program. Limiting service to areas of your qualifications is important because you are going to build a reputation as an on-site expert in your market. If you open the door just once in an area you are untrained to service, you will ultimately undermine the expertise you are working to establish.
Another important consideration for your on-site service is the type of tools you will provide to clients to help them visualize your plan. Consider offering a written description that not only explains the concept but shows what it will look like. This could be done by taking pictures of empty walls and superimposing art and frame combinations created by a virtual framing program and a software program like Publisher or Photoshop. Visuals like this help tremendously because they give clients the ability to visualize before they ok the project, therefore reducing the chances of miscommunication. You may also consider providing color sample swatch boards for large projects that must consider wall colors, furniture and room décor textures. Blending the colors and textures to create an overall palette on a swatch board is a great way to demonstrate that your art and framing suggestions will harmonize with the room.
Clients may insist that their designer view your plan before it is implemented. If so, make sure you are the one doing the presentation so you can answer all questions and concerns. This will give you the chance to save the sale if the designer isn’t on board. These situations really should be viewed as opportunities to show your ability and value to the designer’s clients. Obviously, the designer isn’t providing the service since the client had to consult with you in the first place. Be sure and follow up with the designer after the meeting to see if you can provide your service to them with other clients.
Finally, be observant for additional opportunity while in the client’s home. Almost every home needs more art or reframing of older art. As you gain the trust of your client, you’ll find opportunity to suggest additional service for these areas. If the client says they would like to pursue it later, be sure and record it as a future follow up. Being invited into a client’s home to consult on art and framing opens opportunities that never present themselves during gallery visits. Creating a professional program that meets and exceeds the needs of these clients goes a long way to providing more framing business and creating lasting relationships. Programs like on-site consulting that take you outside your showroom are important and necessary in today’s world of custom framing. Building a program like this is a great start to changing the traditional business model of yesterday and begin meeting the challenges of a changing industry.