Giving away the farm

Manny

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Chilliwack, B.C., Canada
I do a lot of reading, mostly Busines, Trade magazines and I attend a few seminars. I've noticed that in the past several years, experts or professionals say that in order to keep the flow of customers walking through the door we should or must give away our time, knowledge, merchandise or some form of charitable donation or if we need to, "the farm". I have tried all of these things over the past ten years to the point that the business becomes neglected or broke. We own a Gallery/Frame Shop and our prices are kept below what we call retail prices. Because we do this for a year round incentive we do not have "Sales". I feel that my Artists and Framers do not need to lower their standards. What we do is have a one time Boxing Day Sale(the day after Christmas for those who have never heard of Boxing Day) and our regular customers get 15% off their custom framing order.

My take on this "give away" approach has spoiled the consumer to the point that they have totally lost respect for the Medium to Small sized Business. We as Framers or Business owners are now having to work so much harder for less. The cost of doing business is continually going up. Why are we not standing our ground and demanding respect in our industry(wholesalers included). My competitors feel that the undercutting is the way to go. Are they not exhausted yet? Do they not realize that what we do is creating, designing and that the craftmanship deserves reconition?

Because of the way our industry has reacted to the consumer's demands, we have put ourselves in a business category that they don't take seriously.

I think every child should take "Respect Businesses 101" in school, after all isn't the small business the core of the community, the dream of our future generations.

Bankruptcy rates are up which increase taxes. Can you imagine if people just paid a good reasonable price for their merchandise and if our businesses failed after that,we'd know why. I'm tired of giving away the farm. If this give, give, give approach is supposed to work, why are the consumers wanting more, more , more.

I just took up "venting 101".

Marie

PS: I put this in the grumbler's forum because I would like lots of input and comments to this subject. Thanks.
 

B. Newman

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Originally posted by Manny:
I do a lot of reading, mostly Busines, Trade magazines and I attend a few seminars.

Marie, which magazines do you read? I read INC, Fast Company and Entreprenuer in addition to the regular framing trade magazines, and I really haven't noticed that trend. (That sure isn't to say that it's not there, I just hadn't noticed it.)

I was just curious which articles were saying that, or what magazines' writers so that I could look the articles up on their websites.

I certainly don't believe in giving away the farm (and we do live on a farm! ;) ) I do however, believe in giving good value. I want my customers to know that, well maybe they could have gotten something cheaper, they could not have gotten the value at any less cost.

I have a quote that says, "the cheapest doesn't always mean the least expensive." "Cost" and "price" are two different things.

Betty

[ 01-17-2004, 05:02 PM: Message edited by: B. Newman ]
 

Ron Eggers

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I don't think I understand what this advice is that you're talking about.

At first, I thought you were talking about actual charity. I think it's very important, from a business standpoint and a moral one, to give back a percentage of our receipts to some causes we feel strongly about. I've had a system in place for many years to do just that.

But if you're talking about charging prices so low that you can't make a living and pay the bills, you're reading the wrong magazines. I just can't imagine anyone suggesting that.

We are in a highly-discretionary business. We have no obligation to make our work affordable to everyone. It's just not good business to try.

I haven't run a coupon or had a sale on framing in over ten years. (Since I had employees to keep busy.) People ask if we have any coupons out there and I can confidently tell them I have no plans to run any in my lifetime.

That doesn't seem to prevent them from buying framing from me. They just want to make sure they're not going to find a 25% off coupon somewhere the day after they place the order.
 

Framerguy

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I'll jump in on this subject, Marie.

This is similar to the old argument about which came first, the chicken or the egg. Do we lower our prices to attract more customers which in turn drives more customers to want bigger and more discounts or do we pay the increased prices for our materials from the wholesalers as their prices keep rising and foot the bill for the image that virtually all the big stores are throwing around about getting "50% off" this and "Big Savings" on that?? It puts the independant business person right smack in the middle of a trend that doesn't do their business one bit of good.

The thing that bothers me most is the fact that the "big boxes" buy their materials from the same guys that we do but they are offered so much better incentives to purchase in bulk AND can afford to do that so much easier than the little business owner that we can't offer the breaks that the larger stores can offer. This is just a fact of business life lately. We do have the option to buy in bulk also but how many of us can afford to do that? So what is the answer to this delemna?

One would be to promote yourself and your products as quality that can't be bought from other stores where the employees have very little advanced knowledge of handling any quality framing or can offer a solution to unique framing that involves using special techniques and materials. I don't necessarily advocate going on the defensive like this.

Another would be to maintain a work ethic that is above standard and educate the buying public as to the benefits of using a knowledgeable framer who may be a bit higher in price but can give individual attention to the needs of the customer. A professional who will service them with any of their problems should the framing need further attention in the future.

Still another involves stocking or at least offering a wide variety of framing materials to cover the low end, middle level, and high end framing needs of most of the customers who walk through your door.

The market is changing all around and we must keep alert to where these changes are heading and try to modify our offerings and materials to compensate for the changing buying habits of our customers. This is all rather basic but you can't survive today with an "I will use the best and screw the rest" attitude. I had that attitude at one time and I found out that it doesn't bring in profit when you are losing that portion of the framing public who don't want to pay for archival products or big expensive frames.

There has been much discussion on this forum about discounting and lowering prices to maintain business. One thing that has to be taken into serious consideration when doing this is, who suffers from any lowering of retail prices in the market? Obviously the retailer will suffer alone. The wholesalers aren't discounting those materials that you need to build these "discounted" framing packages. They are still getting their current prices for the materials. Since the framer isn't getting a pennies worth of relief from the wholesale end of the business chain, they are taking the cut directly out of their profit to discount anything sold in their shops. When you discount, you are still paying full price on your lease, utilities, wholesale purchases, and anything else that is required to keep your business open. The only benefit is to the retail buyer. And that person doesn't care a hoot if you are paying any certain prices for the goods or the utilities to keep your business operating. They are interested in what the bottom line is to them. So it is your responsibility to show them, one way or another, why it is to their benefit to use your services over some cheaper form of business. It can be done. It isn't an easy job.

You need to have examples of creative work on your walls that they can't find in other stores. You have to have a clean shop and a professional air when dealing with these customers so they know by looking around that they have come to somebody who cares about what they are offering to the customer. This doesn't always require pumping thousands of dollars into a complete shop facelift, just a clean well organized retail area that will be conducive to nurturing a trust in you and what you are offering to them. And you have to walk the walk, not simply talk the talk. If you tell a customer that you can do their work to certain standards or use quality materials in their framing, you'd better be prepared to follow through with exactly what you promised them you would do.

The thread I posted on the 100 year old Chinese silk painting is a perfect example of this. The yahoo who originally framed this piece convinced the customer that he was doing the job the right way. She didn't know any better and paid a high price to have her irreplaceable art ruined. I have no way to rectify this mis-representation of our industry other than to educate this customer on the correct methods to handle her art that won't create another disaster for her.

I could go on for another hour about this but I feel that one of the considerations any shop has to look at doesn't have to be a blanket discount. You are the only one who gets the short end of the stick on that technique.

Framerguy
 

JRB

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San Diego, CA
Marie, you live in a relatively small town, once you start discounting it is next to impossible to stop, word travels fast. The only way you can bring it to a halt is by getting every frame shop in your geographic area to stop discounting also. Good luck with that one.

The only recourse you have left is to start purchasing better so that you can maintain your margin and offer below market costs to your customers. Look for discontinued lines that you can purchase at greatly reduced prices. Even close outs from your local, or more than likely, Vancouver suppliers.

My sister lives in Yarrow, I'm hoping to get up there in the next few months, if I do, I'll try to stop in and see you. Her name is Sunny Grossart.

John
 

Manny

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Betty

There isn't any particular Magazine or Seminar. It is that the suggestion is always made. To attract customers give them something free. I am not attacking anyone here, especially not the magazines or the speakers. I have learned so much from reading and seminars. What I am saying is that, by having gone that route we have spoiled the consumer to the point where they are now demanding it, no matter what quality or expertise that we may have. We as an industry have created this. We have not given away the farm we are doing just fine. It was meant as an expression. It's just that it makes it more difficult to deal with on a daily bases. What triggered this post today was (a) I need to participate more on the grumble (b) a customer came in with a print to frame and after spending a half hour with her, she wanted a discount. I say NO. Our prices are good and competitive. I lost the sale. She probably went to my competitor who has 25% off all year. Then, another lady came in with a poster from Michael's with a 50% off coupon attached to the back. Did not discount. Got the job.

Ron

We believe in giving to charities for nothing in return. That goes without saying.

JRB

My mother lives in Yarrow. You most come and see us if you are ever out here. Put my gallery to the test.

My apologies to anyone who may have misunderstood or misread into my post. I thought this would make a good topic for discussion.

Marie
 

Rick Granick

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I would recommend not reading anything that advises discounting, and instead reading anything you can get your hands on by Jay Goltz. (And take his class at the trade shows.)

:cool: Rick
 

B. Newman

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Marie, I do understand what you're saying. For instance, JC Pennys does a big promo commercial for their "One Day Sale." Fine. Only problem is, they run this "One Day Sale" once a month!

Many people wait until as close to Christmas as possible to do their shopping because they know that the discounts will be greatest then.

And some in our industry have created this atmosphere as well. What we have to do is be who we are. If you're going to discount, make sure that you've built that in so that you can afford to discount. If you're not, then make sure the customer understands why you're different. (Remember the L'oreal hair color commercials? Sure it's expensive, and I'm worth it!)

Betty
 

Ron Eggers

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If you only run a coupon or a sale once-a-year, you'll find that many, maybe most, people are perfectly comfortable waiting a year to bring in any framing. And if you use a coupon to lure in new customers, you'll end up with a bunch of coupon-clipping customers.

I bought a Sears radial saw 26 years ago for around $500. About three days later, it was on sale for $100 off, but they wouldn't make any adjustment. I noticed later that it was on sale about 3 weeks out of 4. How do you suppose that made me feel?

Since I still use that saw today, and I've cut about 10,000 frames on it, you'd think I'd have gotten over it by now, but I've never quite forgiven Sears.
 

Framerguy

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Ron,

I'll bet that if you hurry you can take your saw back for a refund and buy that same saw at the sale price.

(Oh, ........... that was 26 years ago. Well, maybe their return policy has expired by now.)


Sorry.

FGII
 

Cath BPF

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Canberra ACT
I have been told a story by one of my suppliers that one of their customers, when they have completed a reasonable size job for a customer, could be one large framing job or a whole lot in one go, the framer makes up a freebie with the off cuts. Just a small frame with a mat to give to the customer when they pick up the work, a little thank you.
I have tried this and it seems to work a treat. The customer is blown away by our generosity and tells all their friends.
 

Bogframe

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OK, here's my two cents: What I'll do in lieu of discounts is give a little "extra" once in a while to a repeat customer that needs a little push to upgrade to bigger and better things ie: v-grooves, fillets, etc.
It's been my expeience that once I've done this, the customer will want more of it, and will actually bring back things I've already framed to have these touches added.
Of course, I don't do it gratis the second time, and when asked why, I'll always smile and say "The first one is free, the second will cost ya!" That never fails to get a good laugh
.
 

Rick Granick

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Seth: That's EXACTLY RIGHT. Give them a little more than they expected. It's a pleasant surprise for them, and they'll tell their friends how great you are. Little do they realize you're hooking them on a new feature they'll want from now on (at regular cost). I guess this is a little like cigarette companies giving out free samples to kids ;) .An upgrade to UV glass is another good one to surprise them with- and explain why you did it.
BTW, nice to see you on the G again. Where ya been?

:cool: Rick
 

Jim Miller

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Originally posted by Manny:
...experts or professionals say that in order to keep the flow of customers walking through the door we should or must give away our time, knowledge, merchandise or some form of charitable donation or if we need to, "the farm"...
Marie:

I don't know of those "experts" you refer to. The ones I've seen & heard are dead-set against giving up profit by any means. Are you sure they were "experts"?

Indeed, the most successful framing businesses are the ones that discover ways to increase profits, not reduce them.
 

Manny

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Well, I do believe I made my point from the respones that have been posted. In the future I will reframe from using the words "expert and professional" from now on I will refer to them as "writers and speakers". Do you see how powerful words can be when used in such a direct manner? How many buzzwords can writers or speakers use just for the words "give away"? Here are a few.
-an offering
-an incentive
-a tocken
-a gift
-a prize
We have accepted this words, now we are immune to them. They are a regular practice. The words "quality and custom" doesn't seem to be effective any more. We now call ourselves, Picture Framing designers with high standards. Are we or are we not professionals? I will let you guys answer that one. I will continue to preach the high standards, educate the best I can and read all those wonderful magazines,attend as many seminars as I can. But, I will continue to notice the buzzwords.

Betty

One of the things I do say when a customer asks for a discount or wants to know when we are having a sale. I respond to them by saying, "In order for us to accomadate a sale or give a discount I would have to inflate our prices or lower our framing standards and in order to be fair to the customer we are not prepared to do that". "We have good competitive prices every day". It usually works. Thank you everyone for your respones.

Marie

Marie
 

Emibub

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Centennial, CO, USA
Whenever I read these discount threads I always feel like a "Second Class Grumbler". Like I'm doing something to poison my business or drive the final nail into the coffin. Since we all are aware that I have no working capital at all the only thing available to me is to use these coupons. Personally, I don't think it lowers my standards or my clients perception of me. But it sure feels like I am doing harm when I read these threads.

I am convinced I wouldn't still be here if I hadn't been using the coupons. I don't know what else to do to get customers to discover I am here. I think you can still give your customers a positive experience and offer value and excellent framing without appearing low end.

My plan is to eventually gravitate away from the discounts. I am getting some results from my sign and I'm getting good referrals from previous customers. But those things take time to grow, and I haven't had that time. In a perfect world it would be lovely to have all the resources to feed my business with and watch it grow and flourish like a well tended nurtured flower. But in my world I have to grab here to feed this, and hold on for dear life and just hope I have done enough and then do more if I'm lucky enough to have made a difference, and so on, and so on......

You guys make it seem so easy to just show your best wares, chat up the benefits and "voila" the bucks just come rolling in. It ain't that easy for some of us down in the trenches.

We all do what we have to do. There I go being overly sensitive again.......

[ 01-19-2004, 04:42 PM: Message edited by: Emibub ]
 

Ron Eggers

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Kathy, nobody's judging. Or, if they are, to **** with 'em.

When I said I haven't run a coupon in ten years, that means I WAS running coupons for the first 17 years.

So, yes, that other stuff takes a really long time.
 

Sharonx

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Watertown, SD
Just had this conversation with the Uptown Assn in our town. They wanted to run a promotion each month. I told them, I would take part in advertising an uptown event but would not run a sale. Consumers are pretty bright. They know you will be running a sale soon and will wait to get their framing done at sale price. A good example is how many of you buy your Christmas wrapping paper before Christmas. I haven't for years. I always buy after when it is sold out at 50 to 75 off. I give to a couple of annual fundraisers. The hospital has one every year. I can't begin to list the business I have gained from hospital employees that have seen my work at the hospital bash. Things like that have been good for me.
I also give my good customers a little extra once in a while. I had an artist who wanted to take one watercolor out of a frame and mount a different one in. Since she brought in 4 more pieces to have matted and framed, I remounted the one for a no charge. I do all her framing and she was most appreciative. Sometimes, something as small as a free brass plate is a big deal to a customer and it only cost me 3.50.
 
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