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Getting New Customers

Bob Larson

After a lot of hand-waving, sweet-talking, and genuine hard work, I managed to pull everything together and open a frame shop. But then I realized that I have no clue as to how to get customers to come buy things from me.

Because in my ideal world, one of you would turn out to be an absolute expert, and would give me perfect advice that worked overnight, you'll probably also need some details. So here they are:

I've been open since October 24th, 2005 and even though I've had a few customers, my operating costs are about 2.5 times more than what I'm bringing in, and I'm about 80% below what I need to break even.

I worked at another shop for three years, doing pretty much everything (framing, desiging, selling, payroll, scheduling, etc.) The difference, though, is that they were in a busy mall, and had already been in business for 6 years before I joined up, so they didn't do much advertising.

I'm in a strip mall across from the major mall in the area, and one of the 5 busiest malls in the state. Basically, I'm in a suburb of Minneapolis / St. Paul, and there's quite a bit of traffic driving past, but my landlord really doesn't want me doing anything outside of the store, like putting signs up in the lawn, etc.

I've sent out postcards twice now (one announcing the grand opening, and one for an after-Thanksgiving sale), and I'm sending out another 2,700 this week. My mailing list is made up of people who have bought new homes in since August. There has been some small response, like maybe 2 sales and 5 new visitors per mailing, although I've noticed a spike in website use (not to be confused with purchases) following a mailing.

As far as money, obviously, I really don't want to spend more than I have to on advertising, and I need it to have quick results with respect to cost, but I can probably afford it, as long as it's not too spendy. I've done the math, and I have enough cash to make it through February, 2007 at the current (abysmally slow) rate, provided I don't take up any new expenses.

So basically, I just have one question:

What should I do? About anything, really; I need ways to get new customers, but if I have any advice about anything else, I'd love to hear that as well.
Sponsor Wanted


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
First off can I have a loan???

Granted I framed in my area a long time before I opened my own this summer. A couple of things that have given me the best responses:

Getting interveiwed by local business journal

Press release

Chamber membership- get to know your market and network like crazy

Your mailing to new home buyers is great, now try targeting specific neighborhoods, more affluent.

I give 25.00 gift certificates for referrals...customers love it.

I have to get back to work hope that helps. I'm sure you'll get great responses from others too



PFG, Picture Framing God

Just read your post in my topic "why are you a framer"

Difficult for me to relate to your situation fully because I don't know the location and, being a Brit, I don't even know what a 'strip mall' is ... hang on I'll Google it.

strip mall

A shopping complex containing a row of various stores, businesses, and restaurants that usually open onto a common parking lot.

Sounds like where I am.

All I'd like to say is that you are 23 and on this site you will often read this...........

".............. my only regret is that I didn't start sooner"

In years to come I'm sure you will be a force to be reckoned with - Good Luck!

I would add though that you either need time, building up a loyal customer base and not increasing overheads until turnover increases, or, if you just want to say "BOO - here I am" then you need money,lots, AND a primary location - which still comes under the heading of 'money'

Time AND money - even better!

[ 01-11-2006, 06:51 PM: Message edited by: RoboFramer ]

Cliff Wilson

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Steph suggestions about getting "articles" in the local paper is right on. Big visibility, low cost. Even "write" the article in the form of a press release sometimes get's you in. generally "editorial" press yields better/faster results than advertising.

I've found that the "new home buyers" aren't ready to frame for months. Very non-intuitive. Use her suggestion and try to do a more demographically targeted mailing.

When is your landlord around? Can the sign go up on Friday and down on Monday morning before he shows up? Seriously, store front and street signs are HUGE! The primary source of new customers "see" my store as they drive by. Barring being sneaky, how about banners in the window? On your car parked out front? A nearby billboard? (costly, but this stuff is key.)

I have had reasonable results from the radio, but if you try it, make sure you hit with a heavy consentration for at least 3 months. Say, 5 - 6 1 minutes spots each Tuesday. DON'T spread a half dozen out over the week! You want them to hear you at least 3 times in one day!

I am sure others will have more tips, but rememebr the KEY 3 foot rule! ANYONE within 3 feet gets handed a business card! And, when not in the shop, visit other local business and get within 3 feet!

Good Luck!

Jim Miller

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
When you made your business plan, what kind of business did you forecast, and how did you plan to get it? What do you think went wrong with your original plan?

By the time you open a retail store you should know who your target customers are and how to attract them. At this point you probably should get yourself to some classes offered by the likes of the Bluestones, Carter, and Goltz. You need answers tailored to your store and your ownership situation, and that kind of information probably will not come from a public forum like this.

These days, if you could earn a profit in a frame without advertising, you would be incredibly lucky. And it probably wouldn't stay that way very long. Many of us spend more than 5% of gross revenue on advertising.

Jeff Rodier

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Cheap suggestion:

I bought 18x24 magnetic signs for the automobile in the past. Should run less than $100. This way you can park in front for some exposure and when you run around town people will see the name. You can remove them should you go somewhere that you don't want signage on the car.

Bob Larson

All of this advice is great; exactly the type of stuff I'm looking for.

Actually, I've gotten interviewed by a local business newspaper, which brought 2 new customers, and a few calls, but not much business. I haven't written any articles for them, and I don't exactly know how to go about getting it into the paper. Any tips on that?

I have actually trimmed my mailing list down, to focus on the more affluent and closest suburbs, but not much action, yet I'm kinda locked into this program for the next year, but the good part is that I own this mailing list, so at the end of the year, the people I have now will have owned their home for 12 months, so maybe (hopefully) it's just something I need to give a little time.

I actually do have a nice, big neon sign for the storefront, but that's all they want me to have. I have two windows, 4 feet wide each, and I can put whatever I want in them. The landlord isn't really around much, as far as I can tell, but all of the other stores in this strip (Google definition is dead on, by the way) have to abide by the same rules, so I'd hate to get them upset with me so soon.

In my original business plan, I predicted that business would be slow in the beginning, and so far, my predictions have been pretty accurate, but on paper, 2-6 months out of a three year plan doesn't seem like that long, but sitting here day after day with very few customers, the boredom gets stifling, and I'd like to pick up the pace, if I can.

I had planned on a direct mail campaign, sending out postcards once a month, with slow response at first, eventually snowballing so that six months from now, people who were responding to the 6th postcard could fill in the gaps of the people responding to the first or second.

My area demographics match my target customer very well, the area is growing, and I did all of the research as to what the motivating factors are when they do buy custom framing, but really, I don't know how to best reach them, or how to motivate them to come and actually get something framed.

As far as what went wrong, I don't know what, or if anything went wrong. I've only been open for two months, and this is my first experience with any business startup, so I don't have any sort of benchmark to compare to. I don't know when things should turn a corner and pick up, or if they should have been busier right from the beginning.

As far as the magnetic sign, have you had much response to it? I've thought about it, but I don't know how likely it is to generate new business.

I've also been advised to print fliers and put them on the cars at the mall across the street, but I don't know how effective it will be, and in my own opinion, I think they look cheap, I never read them, and they always end up on the ground. If anyone has tried anything like this, I'd like to hear about it.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Originally posted by Jeff Rodier:
Cheap suggestion:

I bought 18x24 magnetic signs for the automobile in the past. Should run less than $100. This way you can park in front for some exposure and when you run around town people will see the name. You can remove them should you go somewhere that you don't want signage on the car.
I have two HUGE magnetic signs on each side of my auto. This, I swear, has gotten more customers thru the door than I can count. Our signage rules are pretty specific & limited, too. People often just see my auto parked outside my store. We are adjacent to another city. Gotten lots of business from that magnetic sign when I am there shopping. And I always park right in front of Michaels when I am in that particular shopping center. ;)


Network, Network, Network. My shop is 2 years old now. Much of what I did early on is just starting to take off.

Customers often ask when they come in for the first time, "how long have we been here?", or they say "I've been meaning to stop in." Once they do come in they come back, again and again, and they tell 5 people who tell 5 people...

People like to see activity, they hesitate to come into a empty shop, it intimidates them. Invite your friends, family, neighbors, anyone you can think of to visit you in groups. I don't know what it is... people attract people.

Best of luck, and be persistent. Ofcourse when the sun shines, people do seem to come out more. Today was a great day, with the temps being close to 40 in Mpls. and since we haven't seen sunshine in weeks, it revitalizes all of us.

Paul N

In Corner

If you do direct mailing, a %15- 20 off coupons do wonders. And make sure you honor the expired ones too; it promotes goodwill like you can't believe.

Also, see if there is a Newcomers club / magazine or something like that. Advertise in those and offer newcomers a discount.

And, web presence. Many people Google these days. It doesn't have to be anything fancy; just show your business, address, phone number and a couple of pictures. It will cost you around $20-30 per month, but it is worth it.


True Grumbler
In this strip mall what business is the main draw? Second what do they sell? Third are they some one who would allow a cross promotion that can help you get noticed.


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
You need to sign up for as many classes as possible in Las Vegas. I have found all of
the business class very benificial. Mark Bluestone has great classes.


Grumbler in Training
All the above... and one other thing- keep it up, you're doing great! Rome wasn't built in a day!


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Sounds like you're doing everything by the book. I worked in a shop in a strip mall once, and a lot of our business came from people who drove by all the time. Then, one day, they put a stop light in at the entrance to our little mall and we got more people, since everyone had to sit there and rubberneck around at the stop light. Maybe you could get some cars to just stop and block traffic every once in a while so people look over and see you. Or dress up like a clown and wander around by the road with a sandwich board.... we thought of doing that on slow days, and since it was just me and the owner, who do you think would have been in the clown suit?


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Originally posted by Bob Larson:
Actually, I've gotten interviewed by a local business newspaper, which brought 2 new customers, and a few calls, but not much business. I haven't written any articles for them, and I don't exactly know how to go about getting it into the paper. Any tips on that?

Not to be mean here but my first tip would be not to use the word(?) "gotten"

Sounds like you have some good ideas just realize that it takes time and effort. You said you "had planned" to do some direct mail, did you actually do it? If not how come?

Just remember that we sell a product that people do not "NEED" you just have to give them a reason to come in the shop and "WANT" to spend their money with you.

Angie Pearson CPF

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Just remember that we sell a product that people do not "NEED" you just have to give them a reason to come in the shop and "WANT" to spend their money with you.
Tim you are on to something...
I think framing can be needed in some cases. You have to think that way as a sales person. Just an example: some people NEED to get those precious old photos of their dead mother out of the cardboard boxes and get them preserved before they get damaged by acid.... a ha!... Good framing is a way to preserve them! Maybe if you could get the public in the "I need this" mode by educating them in your mailings and even phone calls you will get more response.

Good luck



SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Angie, start to listen to your customers when they come in with something to be framed. I would bet that a vast majority will say that they have something that they "want framed" rather than "need framed".

You are correct in that as a salesperson we have to think that they need it framed but think back to before you were in the business, did you ever need anything framed? We as "Reatailers" need to step back and look at things from the consumer's point of view and sell to them that way.

We don't need a X-Box 360, but we all want one. We don't need a 60" plasma TV, but we all want one. We need 3 square meals a day, but many can't afford to do so because they are playing their X-Box on a 60" Plasma.

Baer Charlton

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Bob, you are now 3 months into your new business...

We you started you probably had 1,000 business cards printed.

I'm going to assume that you are now deep in the 4th reprint and are contimplating ordering 5,000 this time so it will last you longer than a month.

When you leave work, if you go home, you're headed to the wrong place.

If you are closed Mondays, and don't have at least one group to talk to, then you're not working.

If you aren't handing out your card to everyone that comes within 3' of you, you're not working.

The days of a frameshop [or any shop for that matter] opening, sending out a little flyer and the business takes off, ended about 1978.

Things changed and you actually had to work a bit to get peoples attention.

Now things have changed a lot.... and so now you have to work VERY hard to get noticed... I didn't say make it... is said noticed.

My friend the lawyer put it the harshest... If your wife isn't threatening to either divorce you or start dating your best friend... then your home to much, and not working.

Bob, if I googled Maplewood, would I find a town or 3,000 people that won't support a framer, or rather 50,000 that just don't know your there.

If there are 50,000 people, then there are probably at least 3 meetings a day of groups who would jump at the chance to have the Crazy Quilt lady come talk to their lunch group... even if it had nothing to do with tax accountants....

But those Tax Accountants have licences and degrees and other stuff that you can talk about.

They are the most boring people in the world, but they do remember how they or their daddies payed $27,000 for that piece of paper.

Those PTA moms know that a special of $35 to frame an 8-1/2x11 painted by their Johnny or Tracy is invaluable.

Call the city and ask who keeps track of speakers for groups and clubs...and while you're at it, ask who you should talk to about City Hall's framing needs.


PFG, Picture Framing God
I've been in my shop a week and a half.....have handed out a ton of business cards already, the grocery clerk, the receptionists at my doctor's office, the engraver, the mail lady, everyone! In fact, I give 2 or 3 to each person and ask them to give one to someone who might be interested. This week I've had 4 of my business cards walk in with new customers, given to them by someone else.
A flyer on the bulletin board in the community college art department, business cards attached.
Charlie Chaplin will soon be out front during the lunch hour rush with a giant gold ornate picture frame, pointing at my shop.
Lights on around the windows at night ("I didn't know there was a frame shop here!").
Today I interviewed with our paper for a little freebie business column in the Sunday edition (you have to call them to request), photo guy had me sitting in that giant frame! I felt like a dork, but I'll bet it gets noticed!
I have been asked to be on a judging panel at the local middle school art contest next week (news article about that...more exposure)
I'm making phone calls every day to let people know about the change in ownership/hours, and have done more business this week than the previous owner did all last month (Christmas.) These were all Grumbler's suggestions, and it's working already. They know what they're talking about.


Angry Badger
Love 'em or hate 'em, there's one group of people that do a lot of framing, and if your able to work with them, they can provide a steady income base. Designers...not "decorators", but ASID designers...preferably those that are business savvy as well as design creative.
Works for me.

Mike LeCompte CPF

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
and read Jay Goltz's recent article about doing the same thing ten times rather than ten things once. Repitition in any advertising is really the key. Also being in an excellent location, high traffic and visibility. And the 5% budgeted for advertising is just a start. Betcha tons of people spend twice that percentage.


Frame magazine and newsclippings of "local celebrities" and send them or drop off the job at their office with a business card and a Congrats on your Fundraiser! Your Win! whatever the appropriate message should be.

Do them small, but spectacular, as your great work is great adverstising.

Use your judgement on your target for these, I'm talking about local sports teams, etc.

Brainstorm - who frames what, why, what is recession proof? What will need framing, every year?
Wedding pics seem to be safe, no matter what the economy, for ex.
high schools- graduation shadowboxes, sports championship pics, art auction fundraisers need framing, etc, etc.
Boy Scout troops hand out Eagle Awards every year- call 'em!
Look for groups that have tourneys, and give out paper awards, not trophies (chess, school awards, etc.)

Then, the ego groups (sorry, it's true)- appeal to this!
military love me walls - if there is a military installation anywhere near you, find them, if they don't have a hobby shop, or even if they do, tap into those quarterly awards, retirement shadowboxes, and on and on. (this will make you want to buy a plaque engraver set up, but resist) Make your own award - cut a mat, engrave a small plaque, get some rank hardware and create a keepsake that they only have to give you the info. and you get it to them- quickly.

Other groups that love their pics- enthusiasts of any kind, aviation, cars, boats, etc. Meetings are published in the paper- make a contact- never hurts to ask!

When they come in to frame this life award stuff, have gaw- juss artwork that they must have. Be prepared to show what else you can do with a frame and a mat. Make them want to start a new art collecting hobby.

Go,go, go. There is enough framing in this world to keep us all busy- we just have to shake the bushes and find it!


Oh, and don't forget to keep up the sweet talking and the genuine hard work once you get those customers through the door.

But watch the hand waving, you could put an eye out that way. ;)

Grumbler F.K.A. Harry

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
There is a lot of good advice to be gleened from this group, but what I ussualy find the most helpfull is to just read other's experience. I can then take from them what I need and apply it to my own situation. So that is what I will give you here: Sorry, no Majic Silver-Bullet just a quick story about my start up. I hope it helps.

When I first opened (17 mos ago) I too was amazed at how slow it was. Having come from a chain with solid sales day after day and then quickly to just me and my frame samples, I was, like I said, in shock.

It took about 3 months of torture and very, very agressive grassroots marketing to get my business up off the ground and about another 8 months of the same stuff to get it so it can at least stand up now. Looking back I was all over the place. Talking to anyone who would listen. I made a few good connections and worked them hard. Used the Chamber of Commerce, flyers on windsheilds, posters on light poles, a gazillion business cards, walked up and down the street intruducing my self and handing out flyers telling people who I was, had a booth at the annual town fall festival, got a couple of articles in the local papers, hosted an exhibit for the local artist's guild, got great press from that, and perhaps the one thing that hepled me the most, was I FOUND 2 good commercial accounts. They made me enough money to cover my expenses and then with the custom orders I was able to take a paycheck after 4 months.

Like you, my first several months were extremely unsettling, but with persistance and a lot of sleeples nights, I got though it. Slowly, it started to build and continues to do so. My customers are coming back now a second and third time. Truth be told, it stll feels like it could topple over in an instant.

I have a slightly different situation than you. My location is not very good. In-fact it is my biggest problem, but I am very close to solving that issue though. I know I am in a great market, I just need a better location. Soon. Very soon. On target for the spring.

So even with poor visabilty and 2 big box guys, one on either side of me, I was still able to get this thing up and runing and actualy making money in about 6 months. I have spent a lot of time and energy, (not money) chasing the type of jobs that BBs don't seem to want. (The commercial work has helped me tremendously.) My money and marketing dollars have been spent on trying to grab 10% of the retail market in year one. I came close. Real close. My goal this year is to grab aother 5% of the retail market and find one more good commercial account. I know I'll make it. With a relocation, I should exceed that.

Now I beleive that with better visability, and a never say die attitude, you should be just fine. Set yourself a plan and challenging yet attainable goals and then just keep pushing untill you realize them.

Best of luck,

J Phipps TN

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Join your local Chamber and don't miss a meating. Go to each event with a your lastest mailer and coupons!

Hand your business card to everyone there and always ask about thier business. It makes them feel like you are on the same team in this world of business. Even if they don't need anything framed they probably know someone who does.
This also helps to open doors to corporate jobs.

Some of my best conections have been from going to ribbon cuttings and breakfasts and lunches.

There are some great books out there on marketing. One really good one is "Marketing without Advertising".

Also, Meg Peters has written some good articles on marketing and a few books.

You can find her stuff at www.finerframes.com

Word of mouth is your best advertising and that just takes time, but I have to say if you have enough money to stay open untill next year you are WAY ahead of the game. By the middle of this year you should see a hugh increase in sales if you just do 1/2 of what is suggested in this thread.

I also have another thing that I have always depended on. The Lord. I pray alot and God has always been faithful to my business. He has opened doors that I could never opened. I am very thankful that He has given me this little shop and always met my needs.

I wish you well and relax, you're going to do great!


Cliff Wilson

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

Harry reminded me of something I did when I first opened.

Been open about 3 1/2 years now. I opened in October.

I had a wine/cheese "gallery opening party." at night. Just a "come socialize" and see the gallery.

I went through every list I could find and sent a hand written invitation to everyone I could think of. Church members, friends, relatives, people I worked with, my brother's friends, my brother in law's friends, etc etc. Sent out about 600 invitations.

Had about 50 - 60 people show up to wish me well and drink my wine. Always have some mighty fine wine ... no wait ... back to the story. I openend just before the holiday season and most of the party goers broght soemthing in to be framed for the holidays. Many of the no-shows came in over time and thanked me for the invite and had something framed.

I had an operating profit (with salary) in my first three months. (Oct, Nov, Dec. but still!) This was a good way to jump start the word of mouth train that is the key provider over time!

Bob Larson

Well, I looked into the Chamber of Commerce, and it looks like Maplewood doesn't have one. I'll definitely check out books, at least, though.

It helps to know how things went for everyone else, as far as how business was at first, and when it started to pick up. I, too, came from a well-established store that had daily business (although they were in a mall, had 3800 sq. ft., and had 4 employees, three of which were full-time)

I did the same thing for the gallery opening (wine/cheese), and although I had about 60 people show up, I'd estimate that I personally knew all but 5 of them. Most of them were family and friends, but the support was encouraging, and I've already gotten a few of them to come back, and a referral, so they've definitely been my strongest source of business so far.

Baer is right about the business card thing: I ordered 2000, gave them all away, and I've got another 5000 coming. I give them out to anyone and everyone who will take one (especially at the class reunion back in November).

As far as getting commercial clients, I do have one prospect: in the mall across the street, there's a store that's had a unique history. It was part of the Wooden Bird chain, which for those of you that don't know, was a stronger chain here in Minnesota. But when wildlife art fell in popularity, so did the Wooden Bird. This particular store went out of business, and then was reopened three months later (still as Wooden Bird). They used to offer custom framing, but since the reopen, haven't yet. I spoke with them back in October, and they said that they already had someone they were working with, and were going to be offering custom framing in time for Christmas. But as of right now, they still don't do custom framing. Obviously, if I did it for them, it'd be at a substantial mark down, but hopefully, their business would add enough to pay some bills and make it worthwhile. Has anyone else had any experience with this type of situation?

I guess one of my biggest things that I'm wondering about is how to keep track of what's working. So far, I haven't had anyone come back with a business card, and I've only had a handful of people come with the postcards that I put a 20%-off coupon on. But, like some of you have said, repetition seems to be the key in advertising.

As far as the money issue, maybe I should explain better. Through some miracle (this was that whole prayer thing that Jennifer mentioned) I managed to get an SBA loan, two lines of credit, and a few credit cards with high limits. I also pulled every cent I had out of savings, which admittedly, wasn't much, but since I was planning on opening my own shop for a while, I managed to accumulate equipment and inventory over time. So although I can probably finance things through the start of next year, it will be by taking on a huge amount of debt (read: House of Cards) that I will ultimately need to be able work myself out from under.

Oh, and not to be argumentative, because I really do appreciate all of the advice that everyone has given so far, but I just want to defend my use of "gotten" - I went to graduate school for linguistics, and "I've gotten" is an acceptable use of the perfect/past participle (I had/have [verb]). I chose "gotten" because in this sense it takes a patient (a noun that undergoes an event not of its own volition). I suppose "I've been" could have been appropriately substituted, but they're roughly equivalent. A lot of people think that "gotten" isn't a word, but really it's just their instinctive aversion to seeing the passive tense in written English. And that concludes my little linguistics lesson today.


True Grumbler
I came from the advertising industry into framing. We bought a store that had been in business for 15 years. We took over the first of August. Everything mentioned here is a good suggestion. It sounds like you are getting good results. If you get 2 or 3 people in from a mailing - that is a good thing. There are so many customers that I worked with or talked with, when I was working for the newspaper that got NOTHING from their ads.

There was a woman I spoke with once who bought a full page ad for some sort of golf clinic gift card. It was Christmas time and she thought that she could sell a lot of them. She hired an ansering service for the day that the ad ran and sat back and waited for the money to roll in. When it didn't, she called the newspaper to complain. My answer to her was "Don't you think that if you could make money by buying an ad one time and selling something for one day that the rest of the world wouldn't be jumping on that band wagon?" It's all about repetition and variety. Direct mail measurable response is about 2%. That's the highest response rate for any type of advertising - but of course it is very difficult to measure!

I think that I mentioned it on this board before - we had a sale in October. I sent out sale fliers to our mailing list. The flier did NOT mention custom framing. We had a lousy sale - hardly anyone came, BUT our custom framing business took a HUGE jump.

Try everything mentioned here and more and all should be well!
And I have to believe that because we are sort of in the same boat that you are - our Christmas was 60% less than the previouos owners did last year. And our business plan is based on their figures. I'm having their books audited, but apparently there was more attrition that I counted on.


Bob Larson

Yeah, I've heard the 2% figure, which is why I'm disappointed over the success of my direct mailing campaign so far.

For the first mailing, I sent it to 1600 people, 1200 off of a mailing list that a friend of mine had, as well as about 400 of my own addresses that I had collected. After at least 200 of those came back undeliverable, I decided to buy a mailing list. So the second mailing went to roughly 1900 people, only about 100 of whom were from the first mailing (so much for repetition). This third mailing is going to 2700 people, a full 1900 of which are from the second mailing.

The upside is that the profits from those 2 or 3 people pay for roughly 65% of the cost of printing and postage, and I know that the remainder of the cards at least left *some* small impression on the people who got them, but I have no idea how long it will be before they actually come in and buy something.

I do agree with you though, about this season being much worse than last season; the place I used to work for had that same 60% decrease from last year. I'd like to say it's because I was that important to their business, but I have to be honest, and admit that they probably didn't miss a beat.


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Lots of good advice on this thread.
I'll add my two cents worth.
I've been in business about five years now.
Before I opened I inserted a small and inexpensive Ad in the local newspaper. It's been running for five years and is a source of some new customers each month.
I inserted a Yellow Pages ad, the least expensive I could get. It has been a source of additional new customers each month.
I networked as much as I could/would and that has been a source of new customers.
As the customer base increased I started seeing more and more "repeat" customers each month.
The repeat customers now represent about half of my orders each month.
Its been a slow process but has resulted in good growth each year, over the previous. Having lots of fun with it and hope to have an even better 2006. Oh yes, this year I'm taking a couple of marketing courses at the WCAF this month.
Good luck.

Bob Larson

Also, I've noticed that my mailings seem to focus mostly on artwork, at least as far as the images are concerned. I've got a few sentences about custom framing, and I usually offer a discount on the framing, but that's it. Granted, I do sell both art and custom framing, but custom framing is what I like to do, and I've only got a 1400 sq. ft. shop, so there's not exactly a lot of room for art. Any ideas on how to better push the custom framing in mailings?

As an example, here's my most recent postcard (designed and printed before this thread was started):

http://www.regalgalleries.com/mailing.html - The Postcard

I wouldn't mind some comments (both suggestions for change as well as what, if anything, that I'm doing right) about the card, if you guys would please take the time to look.


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Make sure you write thank you notes after customer have picked up their custom framing.

Also where did you have your postcards printed/designed. I like the look.

I'll have more suggestions after my 2 1/2 year old goes to bed.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

After looking at your postcard I hae a few comments.

First of all it has a nice professional look, needs some layout changes but overall it looks good.

The side that has the address on it is the front (many don't realize that) and should have the offer that grabs the person's attention, you have that with your 15% offer. This is the side that you want to get the most information on but you may want to cut back a little and use a bigger type, it may get noticed beter.

Is the background really striped like it looks or is that just a computer thing? If it is striped I would get rid of it, too much for the eyes.

I have read before, and experimented both ways, that reverse print is harder for people to read. What I mean by reverse print is a colored background with white text. If anything I have always found that red text for the offer always gets noticed.

You talk about,and want to sell framing yet of the 5 images, only one has a frame.

To get a beter response you may want to put an expiration date on your offer. If there isn't an expiration there really is not a immediate call to action.

As Leigh Ann said, hand write a thank you card after an order and give them a discount with no expiration date, those always are saved. We have had some of those postcards come back 10 years later.

Overall, the postcard looks good and I think with a few changes and the repitition that you plan on doing, you should get a better response.

Mike LeCompte CPF

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Tim's too modest I suppose byut listen to him. He's not one of Decor's top ten galleries in the country for nothing

My two cents: bag the Vettriano. He's SOOOO "yesterday", at least here and "here" is five years at least behind the rest of the country in art appreciation. How's about an abstract or something more classic?

Finally: as I stated previously and echoed by Jay Goltz: repitition is the key and as Jay said, do the same thing ten times rather than ten things once. I frankly find direct mail response at 1 to 1.5% to be wonderful and sometimes it's 1/2 of 1 percent but that's OK too because as you're discovering a few really good customers can pay for the mailing and still be profitable at those lower percentages. Then again, I've got six competitors around me plus a Michael's and Joanne's and now two Hobby Lobbys which aren't included in what I callthe smaller competitors. You're results obviously will vary if you have fewer competitors; that is, your percentage of return could be higher.

Just my idea

Bob Larson

Well, as far as the design on the postcards, I did it myself - computers are my true calling, but framing is more interesting. I'm having them printed by a place in Anaheim, CA that promises overnight printing, but so far, hasn't come through on that promise, as well as a few other problems (that they've resolved, but obviously, by the time they're taken care of, the mailing schedule is affected) so I'd rather not promote them.

I'll definitely take your suggestions about bigger type and moving the address / phone number to the back side, too. After thinking about it for a while, I agree with putting an expiration date, too - it makes people realize they can't just sit on it. I chose not to do it on this one, since people have senior portraits coming in over the next few months, but in retrospect, I think I should have done it.

The stripes are actually there, but when printed, they blend well, and aren't too busy - the way an art school friend explained it to me was that it allowed for negative space without looking empty. But, you may be on to something with the inverted color scheme.

With regard to the red text, do you think it'd work as well with orange? As you could see, my company color is orange, and I'd like to reinforce that (It might not mean much yet, but UPS was small once, too). I use orange on the website (http://www.regalgalleries.com) for highlights, and I like how it feels. I also don't think red would work into the color scheme as well.

As far as the Vettriano, I think you're right. I got mixed reviews on it - everyone who was for changing it had the same point: that it's everywhere, and that it's not as popular anymore. But everyone who was for keeping it said that it did a good job conveying the Valentine's day feel, and that everyone knew what it was. Here in Minnesota, I couldn't have an abstract, although something classic (like Klimt's "Kiss") would be easily recognized.

I do have some surrounding competition. Actually, maybe a lot of competition. There's a Michael's and a Jo-Ann Etc. each about two blocks away, a Great Frame Up a few blocks down, and a Wooden Bird (which no longer offers custom framing, as far as I can tell) in the Mall that's across the street. That's just the 1/2 mile radius. In the Twin Cities area (Maplewood is a suburb of St. Paul - one of the Twin Cities) there's a population of 2.7 million, in about a 50 mile radius, but there's also 400 or so frame shops. (So I figure that's just under 4000 customers for each of us. ;) )

In the store, I've differentiated myself by having some really high-end/unique designs, and showing off the frame samples that I know the BBs don't get to have, but obviously, none of that matters if people don't come in the door.

I originally planned to send these postcards about 8-10 times per year, and unless something makes me reconsider, I'm going to stick to that, so I've got the repetition thing down, but obviously, if I offer a sale every month, why have regular prices? (Or maybe that's the genius of it all?) Any ideas about what I should put on the postcard to get people to stop in?


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Have you tried Modern Postcard in Carlsbad, CA.

Check them out. Very quick turn around , reasonable, and will mail them for you. You can do everything online.


I use them for all my mailings. I have gotten the most response from the Sumo Size.

Bob Larson

Hmm.. For 3,000 postcards, with shipping, they're about $150 more than what I'm paying now. I guess you get what you pay for, though.


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
This is an interesting thread. Reading some of these ideas got me thinking about the business cards. What about putting an offer for a discount on the reverse of the card, perhaps in smaller text along the bottom so as to not distract from the message on the face of the card. Something like: present this card on your next visit for a 10% discount.....?
I might try that on my next set of cards.


Bob Larson

You might be on to something, James. It'd be a good way to see where my cards go, and how. But it brings me back to another question I had earlier.

Should all advertising offer some sort of discount? Is there a good way to encourage customers to come in without offering a discount?


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
This has been a very thought provoking thread... so much so I can't begin to respond to everything.

One thing I reacted to was: " but my landlord really doesn't want me doing anything outside of the store, like putting signs up in the lawn, etc." - this has to do with the town regulations - not your landlord!!! Check out the town's guidelines - most towns are pretty strick - other's don't have heavy sign police patrol!! We have a very nice aframe we put out on the street - and that along with a number of bright, artsy, coolorful flags bring positive attention to our location... and because of our location - we have good traffic!!

I like your postcard... looks very rich and elegant. For future mailings consider the same layout but with different style of moulding and art. You could have a series and then see which one brings in the most response! I track right on my POS. I have utilized the promotions data from the Lifesaver POS (which works really great for this!!) and I ask every customer (well, about 95%) how they found us. Top winners: Driving by and referrals!! I also track sales by using the "employee" data as types of business as well as sales people. Every work order asks for a salesperson initials; I have created a subset of types of business, i.e., regular framing, printing, gifts, gallery, special (1 time) projects, Tax exempt projects. I can print the data for these to track where the business is coming from.

Good luck



PFG, Picture Framing God
I like the look of your postcard Bob. I think Marc Bluestone's class is called "Getting new Customers", he was just here this fall teaching it, if you get the chance take it. All of it was so obvious and not all of it costs money to do.

I don't have any advice for you that hasn't been given. I'm still asking the same question after four years in a bad location, I know what my answer is.

Welcome to the Grumble and good luck!

Bob Larson

Someday, I'd like to take a few classes, but the likelihood of it being offered in Minneapolis in the near future is kinda slim, I think. Travelling isn't exactly in the cards, either, since I've gotta stay here to watch the shop.

I know that my town is pretty strict with regard to signs - I used up all of my "temporary sign" time with a "Now Open" banner, and they called to remind me that my time was running out.

In the summer, I'll probably put a sandwich board out on the sidewalk with a frame or something, but right now in the winter, when it gets dark so early anyway (4:00-ish, here in MN) and when it's so cold that nobody's walking around unless they have to, I don't think it'd do much.

About the postcards: I have kept the same layout for the three cards I've sent so far, just changing the text on the front, and the pictures, and I've found so far that I've gotten the most calls about the local artists (painting local scenes).

Quickbooks POS has something similar to what you describe, although obviously, it doesn't take framing orders. For that, I use a program I built myself (like I said, computers are my true calling) to track orders, materials required, calculate pricing, etc. Someday, I plan to market it, right after I travel to the moon and win an olympic gold medal in the 10,000m rocket sled.

J Phipps TN

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Thats a good idea, of offering a discounton the back of your business card. I have written in a discount before, but that would be easier.

I also forgot to mention earlier about my newsletter. I got the idea from Betty Newman, of Course.(she is great)

I send a newsletter out 3 times a year, Feb, May and Sept. Then we of course have an open house which has a mailer of it's own.

But in my newsletter, I always offer a coupon with an expiration date. Then I write articles about things like.... "The Family Gallery"(that is family photo in a grouping,very simple) or "How to remember your vacation with Framing" (and show vacation shadow boxes).

I try to do things that make the customer think about differnent ways to use custom framing in thier homes.

I always explain how custom framing is like having a piece of furniture on the wall and if you buy cheap it looks cheap.(no, not in those words,but you get what I mean)

I usually get a really good response from these mailers, probably 5%. My mailing list only has about 1200 on it. The response does vary. I have tryed alot of different things and this one works the best, as far as repeat customers.

I always get comments on the articles and everyone enjoys reading about what is going on in our shop. I try to feature something new in it everytime.

There is a whole thread on articles for newsletters somewhere on here, because that is where alot of my ideas came from.

A newsletter gives you more opportunity to sell yourself and your creativity. It's alot of hard work though. I am working on mine now and am having a hard time thinking of something new and fresh.
I thought since you are spending the money anyway, this might be a good idea.


Bob Larson

I've thought of doing a newletter, and I do offer one on the website, but so far, I don't have enough subscribers to send a newsletter to.

I'd love to see an example or two of your newsletters, something to get the ball rolling. I guess when I think newsletter, I think PTA letter: 5 or 6 pages, news, updates, ideas, etc. But there's no way I have enough content to fill up 6 pages, and I doubt anyone else does either, but I'm having a hard time imagining something with less that doesn't look empty.

I've been thinking about writing a small article for a local paper about preserving vacation / family keepsakes, since there's such a huge emphasis on family around the holidays, and especially in Minnesota, the winter is a popular time to fly south, so I expect people to be vacationing. The local indie newspapers are always jonesing for content, so I'm sure that if I give them something good, they'll print it.

stud d

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Bob you are thinking and that is half of it. I think it was Bob Carter who said if you are going to advertise then you need to see a return. You need to be able to track your numbers to see if it is actually working. If you don't know than what is the sense of doing it. Blind faith?

Ok this is a simple method that I read somewhere, probably here. Advertise in two local papers, the rag and the regular paper. Put on the bottom of the ad/slash coupon you can only get this if you mention dave sent you. In the other paper say you can only get this if you mention Bob. Then track to see who asks for who? Yes you should ask all new customers why they came in. This will let you know witch one you get a bettter return on.

Also in your postcard you mantion Valentine's Day, but for me it falls flat there. You do not have any really lovey dovey images. Yes two people dancing, but something better..."the kiss" black and white photo? Heck maybe a customers photo of a lovong moment? Of course ask first.

You need to get really good framed itmes on this card. That is where (I think) you are trying to make most of your money? If so sell it...don't show unframed things....bad very bad.

You have many great ideas on here, heck I am saving this thread somehow so I can benefit. Use them wisely and it is a good start.

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
What about putting an offer for a discount on the reverse of the card, perhaps in smaller text along the bottom so as to not distract from the message on the face of the card. Something like: present this card on your next visit for a 10% discount.....?
I have had a 10% discount on my business cards. Of the last 1000 printed I have got 9 returned.

I haven't been around much lately. I have been busy opening another store. So I have been a little too busy. {Never open just prior to Xmas!!!}
I collected a heap of ideas about marketing (from others on the grumble)and placed them all on one thread you may want to check that out http://www.thegrumble.com/cgibin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=11;t=001048

The first thing I would do is a Thankyou note to all your clients. With a referal letter. Do this up in word, with a mail merge so I can be personalised. Something like "Thank you JOE. Pass this letter onto a friend and they will recieve 10 % off their framing with us." Keep the letter and next time Joe comes in thank him and also give him another 10% off.

Create a newsletter and send them out to all your clients. This is so cost effective.

If you do any thing for any one. Eg the local footy club want to have a raffle and wants you to donate. Make sure you are getting your name out there, have an understanding that your name will be displayed, business cards are placed on the table, A sign is placed on the wall etc etc etc.

Create a 1 minute dialogue that is remembered. When someone asks what do I do. I say I frame Memories. I frame anything that will help memories be visible. It might be a picture of your last holiday, A golf stick, or your dads war medals.

Make sure you message is consistant, and never expext a one off advertising in any media, to give results. The message must be out there again and again and again and again. Make sure when people think they want something framed that your name is the first on that comes to mind. Dont let you opposition get to that place in peoples minds.


PFG, Picture Framing God
Be careful with discount vouchers. First impressions count, do you want a reputation as someone who can be haggled with?

And once established - well here's a story - we put an ad in a local paper once which included a discount voucher, up to 30% depending on spend. The ONLY people that cashed them in were regular customers who would have spent anyway. It worked against us.

Not saying it's a bad idea, just 'be careful'


PFG, Picture Framing God
We have found that 30% off and $30 off are interpreted the same way. We rarely discount but always are offering some sort of $$ off deal. I can't tell you how many times our $20 off coupon is referred to as our 20% off coupon. It works for us!

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
Bob, I can't help but I can testify. I'm almost 2. Things are going well. I just relocated. That has helped tremendously. For me building a business isn't similar to a dam busting. It’s more like a slow running drain. When I frame for say 10 people, I have don’t see 4 of them back again (yet). When there is 100 in your database you might see 10 on a regular basis. I have a bit over 200 now and I do in fact see about 20 of them regularly.

I can't tell you how to market. To tell you the truth postcards and location are the only two things I put any faith in whatsoever. But I can say that if you’re a good framer with happy customers, you'll see em return and that is what a business is built on. It does take time. I hear that most businesses fail because they run out of money (and then desire) and not because of poor work.

Good luck and keep us posted.
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