|You can use scrap material to provide Cub Scouts and other groups with a kit that they can use to complete Handyman badges.
Who says you have to participate in slow times? Just focus on these ideas and increase your bottom line.
Successful businesses must do many things well, but there’s a difference between doing things well and being perfect. It is important to avoid the temptation to need to have everything perfect before taking action. This is especially true in an economic slowdown. Is that what we are experiencing now? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m not an economist, but I can tell you that if you don’t work on your business to make it more appealing and don’t try to maximize the profitability of the sales you do make, there will be an economic slowdown for you.
I love the quote, “I refuse to participate in the recession.” Here are a few points that will help you move forward in making your circumstances better so you won’t have to participate in any slowdowns.
Business development in times of lower revenue comes with special challenges because the lower cash flow keeps you from being able to afford investment in development. In reality, this is a great opportunity to concentrate on some fundamentals of business that don’t require direct money invested but nonetheless are critical to the long term health of your business.
There are three things you should focus on to turn both revenue and profits back up while keeping expenditures under control:
1) Community Outreach and Networking
2) Additional Service
3) Maximization of Material Yield
Community Outreach and Networking
Even in slower economic times, there are still people who spend. The community where you work is full of people who still spend money and want to feel good when they do, and they are more likely to be aware of that than ever. These consumers are also the most loyal because what they expect is to be treated with a high level of service. They don’t want to waste time shopping for a better deal; they just want it to be done right and to have a positive experience.
When consumers are more selective, it is an opportunity for those who are smart enough to be active in the community. People like doing business with someone they know. They like doing business with someone who is well known by their circle of acquaintances. It is almost a cliché that word of mouth is your best advertiser, and word of mouth happens when you are involved in people’s lives. They are thinking about you, and they are ready to bring up your name to those who are in need of what you do.
Word of mouth is not restricted to people who are satisfied customers. Many a new customer is referred to you by those who have never bought a thing from you but believes they are providing good advice. People like to give advice, and the more you are involved, the more people will advise others of your service. The more people you interact with in a positive way, the more likely they or someone they know will walk into your store for framing.
So to get more involved in the community, the first thing you should do is keep a list of donation requests and consider which ones you might like to be more actively involved with. I just recently connected with a service group as a result of a request they made for an in-kind donation. I joined the committee for raising money through an event they were planning and met people who never knew we even existed.
The event was a fundraiser for “Make a Wish” and involved selling children’s art. We donated framing (in this case in-stock materials, but in the past I have received donations of materials from suppliers who were appreciative of the charity I was supporting). We also helped set up the event while meeting all the artists (potential customers). We also offered to scan in all the original work and created prints for the event. As a result of my involvement, there were more than 50 people who visited my store who would have never known I was there, and we framed many of the prints we donated. We also had several new customers who did framing with us for items not related to the event.
Second, start attending meetings when possible at the chamber of commerce or local civic group. Membership in a few of these groups is well worth the investment. Our chamber has multiple social events per week, and the time commitment is minimal while the opportunity for meeting new people is maximal.
Finally, memorize several simple comments that will open the door of conversation around what you do for a living. Wherever you go, plan to use these phrases and see what doors they open. There is always a way to bring up your vocation in a non-solicitous, non-threatening way, and you will be surprised how many times people will ask you to give advice or ask you how they could frame an important item they have. For example, when you are in a store shopping, be ready to compliment workers, telling them you appreciate good service because you are in the picture framing business and service is very important to you as well. Or, when you are at an event at the chamber, ask people to tell you about their businesses. This will almost always result in them asking you about yours. Be ready to tell them what’s important to you about how you do business.
|A kid's craft sign put in a store window can be used to promote kits made from scrap materials.
In a slow economy, you will find that the people who still buy are those who will be willing to pay for service. In general, additional service only costs you time. If business is indeed sluggish, that’s something you should have more of.
If you don’t deliver and hang, start to. If you don’t do on-site consultation, add it to your services. I started doing hanging service for anyone who asked (when we were busier, we provided hanging only for our own work). This has added hundreds of dollars in additional revenue. On-site consultation allows you to not only provide a service needed by a customer, but it also gives you the opportunity to provide additional ideas for framing and solutions to things the customer may not think of on his own (such as replacement of highly reflective glass, drymounting wrinkled objects, replacement of acidic mats and other conservation upgrades, etc.).
We’ve recently done thousands of dollars of business with a banquet facility where, upon delivery of a different item, we simply pointed out how we could correct all the wrinkled posters that we saw. They were very grateful, and we are now the banquet hall’s trusted framer—because of our added service. The drymounting cost us little in materials but was a very profitable service sale.
We added art printing last year after I got the idea from another framer in the area—Matt Puchalski, owner of Masterpiece Framing in Bloomingdale, IL—who added a Stylus Pro Printer to allow him to sell art printing along with custom framing. We added our printer and have been selling photo restoration as well as retail art and photo duplication. If you’d rather not invest in the equipment, there are several sources that will provide printing at wholesale. It is a great add-on service for any size of framer. Service is a great way to add revenue because there are no material costs (and in the case of adding art printing you don’t buy inventory, which drains cash flow).
If you have a website, you need to add Artaissance to your arsenal of sales weapons. Artaissance is a great source of added revenue that costs you very little to get started. When customers connect to the Artaissance website from yours, you will automatically be credited with any resulting sales.
Maximization of Material Yield
On more of a management level, the final suggestion for improving your business in a slow economy is to find ways to use what you already have. If you already paid for the inventory, turn it into cash! Every dollar you bring in adds to the bottom line if you can be creative about using dead inventory.
We have created several new ideas to convert slow or dead length and scrap mats into sales opportunities. One we call the Kids Kit. We cut wide mats from a variety of scrap mats and use whatever short sticks we had in inventory to make the kits. Then we made samples of kids drawings and signatures on the mat and advertised it at $29.99 as a great gift idea for Mother’s/Father’s Day, teachers, or coaches. The same idea can be used for ready-made graduation and wedding signature frames. Materials that would have sat idle and eventually been discarded have now been turned into revenue.
A similar idea is to use scrap material to provide Cub Scouts (or other groups) with a kit for completing the Handyman Badge requirement (or other field trip opportunity). This service requires no monetary investment because all the materials are scrap and likely to go to waste anyway. This idea fits into both community service category and the idea of maximizing material yield. We offer a 90-minute educational, hands-on program in which we invite the scouts, leaders, and parents into the store. We talk to the group about custom framing and demonstrate some of our technology and equipment. Following the presentation, participants assemble their own custom-framed pieces. Participants are asked to bring one 5”x7” photo or artwork. Due to the hands-on nature of the project, we ask for one adult to be present for every two scouts. We offer this program as an in-kind service, and we even present each participant with a $25 gift certificate towards future framing. The result has been making our business known to more people in the community, building more goodwill, and adding new customers.
My dad used to say, “There are two kinds of people in the world--those who are part of the problem and those who are part of the solution; which do you want to be?” (Although there was a time when all of his old sayings annoyed me, I love them now.) When you accept the fact that you can choose to act with what you have, you are then free to act rather than believe there is nothing you can do and so you wait for things around you to change.
When you focus on these three areas, you can create direction for your business to follow to increase sales and profit. Only you can know the specific opportunities that you can leverage into increased business. Use these ideas to brainstorm opportunities for your specific circumstances. List the ideas on paper, pick one, and then get started. Just because times may be a little slow, that doesn’t mean you have to be.