Are They Educated?

Before I get into my topic I want to thank all of you for subscribing to this newsletter. It proves this wonderful trade of woodworking we all enjoy is not a dying craft. I also want to thank the contributors to this newsletter. Each month they freely give us content to continually learn and improve.

But that now brings me to my subject at hand. Education. As woodworkers, we are always learning. Maybe you watch videos to learn something new. Perhaps it’s a photo from a social media platform that inspires you. Maybe even this newsletter might add to your knowledge. Whatever it is, it’s fair to say we can spend a lifetime and still never learn everything there is about woodworking. But our knowledge is not enough if you want to make a living at this trade. You also need to educate your customer. 

This is the time of year people want to fix their houses up. It’s the holiday season and people will be having family or guests visit. I typically get very busy around now, and this year has been no different. But I also run into another problem. Sticker shock. 

People will want a fireplace mantel or hall tree to welcome their guests. When they look online or visit a store they will see prices such as $400 or $500. However, there might be something slightly off about it that makes them hesitate to buy it. Maybe the size isn’t right. Perhaps it doesn’t have some features they require. Or maybe it’s something as simple as the wrong color. Whatever the reason is, that’s where I come in. But they are rarely ready for what I am about to tell them. 

Meeting a new customer is always tricky. I want to give them my full attention but at the same rate, I don’t want to waste my time. No matter what the project is, I ask them what their budget is. Nine times out of ten their price is way too low. When I tell them my price is about seven times higher, I can hear them gasp for air. That is the crucial moment when I know if the customer is serious or just fishing.

If the customer says, “Oh well never mind, I can buy it cheaper online.” then I simply thank them for their time and politely leave. But if they say, “Why so much? I saw it online for much less.” Then I have an opportunity to educate them.

As woodworkers, we know the difference between a butt joint and a mortise and tenon. But to a potential customer, we might as well be talking French. (unless the customer knows French, then they’ll understand) This is a great opportunity to show the customer the skills and abilities you have and how they can be assured they will be getting a much better quality product than what they could buy online. By telling them, or better yet, showing them the difference in quality will truly make a huge impact on them.

I also like to ask them what they plan on using the piece for. This gives me an opportunity to customize the piece specifically for them. Looking around their home gives me an idea of their style. Many times I will incorporate something into the piece that they relate to. 

If they are getting excited about it, I will do up to three drawings for them. This allows them to be co-designer of the piece. They are more invested in it and realize that they will truly have a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture. 

If I’m feeling positive about how the customer is reacting, I go to the next step to seal the deal. I make a small-scale model of the piece for them. When a customer sees the skill and effort in making a small model they are blown away! This is the time to drop the price on them. And a big price it will be. When I tell them the price they are much more willing to accept it. Why? Because they have never had customer service like this. (click here for a video about making models)

If they ever bought something they typically just pick what’s available. Never have they had someone say, “I can give you whatever you want.” This allows them to have a say in the design and add features that are unique to only them. It’s a service no one else gives. Plus the model shows them a 3-D version of what to expect. And it does one more thing, it tells them you are committed to making this piece a priority for them. 

The last thing I like to do is to give them total satisfaction, I will make a full-size mock-up of the piece and put it in their home. It can be made out of scrap wood or cardboard, but it gives them a sense of the scale it will be taking up in the room. This is the last chance they have to make changes before it gets built.  (click here for a video on full-size mock-up furniture)

Now it sounds like a lot of extra work to do, but it does several things. 

  1. The drawings make the customer more invested in the project allowing them to be creative.
  2. The small scale model will not only impress them but helps you with the design process.
  3.  The full size mock-up makes sure that when you deliver the final piece the customer will have no regrets or changes.
  4.  Lastly, it allows you to ask that price of 7-8 times higher than the online store. 

Over the years I have watched my customers go from knowing nothing about furniture to true connoisseurs. With that knowledge, they can appreciate fine furniture, and it can give me the paycheck I need to keep the lights on in the shop.

Chad Stanton- owner of Stanton Fine Furniture 11-28-2021