Selling Expertise, Service and Trust

Working with more than a hundred custom framers across the country, I have seen one advantage emerge in our industry, and that is our opportunity to connect with clients on a personal level gaining their trust.

As it turns out, this is a key factor in the decision-making process when choosing to custom frame. According to research done by Unity Marketing on our industry, 61 percent of consumers who custom frame say that “trust to do a good job and take care of my piece” were very important reasons they choose where to have their last piece custom framed. Fifty-two percent cited “confidence in the people who work there”. This is a tall order, but I’ve seen many custom framing shops deliver on it. The challenge becomes being able to communicate this, selling the intangible but crucial aspects of expertise, service and trust in your business.

Trust is a combination of two things — empathy and credibility. A client won’t care about you until they know you care about them. When you build a rapport, you develop a better understanding of the client, the hurdles they perceive, their style and approach. Credibility builds over time, but its foundation is in the relationship.

All of these things — trust, credibility, expertise, empathy and service — are interrelated. Following are five tips for creating and communicating your strength in these areas.

  1. Meet deadlines and follow-through
    Meeting deadlines is simple. Keeping your word really differentiates your business. Unfortunately in today’s business climate, follow-through is hard to come by, so this is an excellent way to demonstrate your credibility. Show up to appointments on time. Take deadlines seriously, even if you sense the possibility of flexibility. There is a connection between meeting deadlines and the perception of being professional. Doing what you say you are going to do goes a long way to establishing trust with a client.
  2. Remove their pain points.
    In every business, there are barriers in the decision making process for the client. For custom framing, the primary issues are the time and financial investment, the overwhelming number of choices, and the pressure to choose the right materials. Our job as custom framers is to identify what those points are for different clients and remove them. The time we have to spend with a client — that opportunity to establish a rapport — is a great tool for helping with this. Knowing a client’s personal style helps me cut down the process of selecting materials. If I understand that a client is price sensitive, I can spend more time explaining the benefits of certain materials. Sometimes the pain comes in the middle of a project or close to completion. If a client brings something to your attention or identifies a problem, this is a good chance to boost your credibility by being sincere in your efforts to address it.
  3. Go beyond expectations.
    Service can differentiate you in a custom market. Consider what level and types of service you offer and think about what else your clients would appreciate. For example, do you expect clients to transport and hang large, difficult-to handle pieces, or do you offer delivery and installation? Do you suggest home consultation for projects with multiple pieces or for clients who have a hard time selecting materials? Ask yourself what barriers can you take away to make the client experience more enjoyable.
  4. Articulate your design philosophy.
    Custom framers are by nature very visual and creative, but many of your customers will be less so (sometimes much less so). This is why they turn to you. But, expertise is also a responsibility. Take the time and effort to put your design philosophy into words, and get help with this if you find it challenging. It is worth it for better communication with employees, clients and, word-of-mouth — one of the best marketing tools you have.
  5. Show you are interested in them and passionate about their piece.
    Custom framing is one of the few businesses where you stand in front of a customer for 20 minutes to 2 hours, and everything your clients brings in is precious to them on some level. You get the opportunity to fill that time with questions and conversations that create a bond. Custom framing is not a commodity. You can demonstrate your passion and commitment to their piece to build longer-term relationships.

Selling trust, service and expertise is a missed opportunity for some custom framers. As you consider what your business has to offer, this should be an essential part of your plan.

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