Interior Designers – Get more Customers On Your Website

English: Nina Petronzio, head interior & furni...
English: Nina Petronzio, head interior & furniture designer of Plush Home, Inc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article is targeted at the smaller interior designers in the UK and consider how to get potential new customers on your web site.

We assume you already have a web site up and running. We will just now look at how to let the world know about what you already have.

There are two things you can do. Firstly you can advertise, that costs money. Secondly you can publicise your web site, that mostly takes time. Today we’ll look at advertising. “Internet advertising 101” for interior designers!

In the UK, as things stand in October 2009, Google are the only advertising search engine to use that is worth your while using. Use Google AdWords. There are other interior design sites where you can advertise, we’ll look at those another time, we’ll just look at advertising through the google search engine this time.

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If you type in Google “Interior Designer London” I’m sure you are familiar with the results. The bit on the right hand side is paid-for advertising. It’s simple to use and I think reasonably effective – just one tool in your marketing arsenal.

How do I get my company name on the advertising on the right hand side? I’m nervous and don’t want to spend too much money.

It’s not too difficult. Open a Google AdWords account. Write a mini advert that points to  your site. Create an “online advertising campaign” in AdWords; IMPORTANTLY set a budget for the campaign, say £1 per day, then you will not expose yourself to costly mistakes.

Now here is the tricky bit. You have to ‘know’ what words your customers will type into the Google search engine when looking for an interior designer. Hmmm. If anyone KNOWS the answer to this of course they would be rich. You will get many companies calling you up claiming to know the answer – trust me NONE of them do. Use your common sense or even better ask a client or friends. What the potential client types in are called keywords or key-phrases; you pick individual words or phrases, probably the latter is best; such as “Interior Designer London”.

You can fine tune your campaign for days of the week, time of the day, location, etc. etc.. But do that when you are more familiar with what is going on.

Once you have created your ad campaign then the ad appears for FREE (good for your brand awareness even if there is no click!). You are only charged when someone clicks on your advert. The click takes them to your site (you told the ad how to do that when you created it in the campaign). That click might cost you 5p or it might cost you £5. So you now need to give some consideration to how much you want to bid for various keywords.

Let’s go back to the Google user who typed in “Interior Designer London”. Everyone else interested in that 3 word phrase, including you, will already have had to bid what they wanted to pay for a click after the ad has appeared. Generally, whoever bids the most comes up first in the list (Google will fine tune it so if people click you more often they will put you higher as they will get more total revenue ). Simple enough. It might cost you 50p per click for that phrase but if you want to be less specific and bid for “Interior Designer” it might cost you £3. So you have to be specific – would you really want someone contacting you from Aberdeen ie if they had types “Interior Designer Aberdeen”? And that is important. You have to be really specific and really target people who realistically will be your customer, you have to get in their minds and figure out how they will look for an interior designer to commission their next project with.

I gave you the example of being specific by the area where you operate. That will work in many cases but not always in larger towns or cities. In fact it probably won’t work too well in London. Why? Because there are a lot of interior designers in London, literally thousands, all trying to do exactly the same thing as you which means that to appear on the top of the list for “Interior Designer London”  you might have to pay £1 per click. You will need to weigh up the many numbers of people who will type that who will never be a client against the profit from winning one such client. So try instead to choose keywords/phrases that match the kind of projects you do eg “traditional country homes interior designer” or “contemporary docklands interior designer” or “minimalist interior designer”. If you are in London then try, something like: “Interior Design Bayswater Traditional”, that would be specific enough. Then you need lots of other combinations too.

You will need to review what  you do at least monthly. Remember also that even if by doing using AdWords you put yourself ahead of your competitors they WILL catch up sooner or later. You have to innovate and stay one step ahead.

That’s about it really. Give it a try, a couple of hours should be enough to get things running.

As a closing thought; think how much time and money it would have taken historically to produce an advert for your local glossy magazine or for a 1/8 page in the back of one of the national interior design magazines. With those you operated on ‘faith’, you would never really know if anyone even saw your ad. It would take days and the artwork would cost you AT LEAST hundreds of pounds. AdWords is different it IS fair and honest and open, you only pay for what your business needs ie you only pay for someone to look at your ultimate advert which is your web site.

Please ask questions through the comments section below, if you are one of our clients we will gladly discuss (in private if you wish) any details of promoting your interior design business on the web.

The Proactive Interior Designer 1.0

Thinking
Thinking (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn_BE_BACK_on_10th_OCT)

Still waiting?

You might have to wait a long time for your next piece of work to fall into your lap. Here are a couple of thoughts for the weekend about being more creative and proactive in your search for new client projects.

1. Your existing clients. They know you. You know they already spend money on interior projects. You know they already spend money with you and probably trust you. That sounds promising. You might even know some issues that exist with other rooms or other properties owned by the client.

My suggestion here would be to put together some conceptual proposals (at your own expense) on how to solve these problems. The chances are your client is already aware of the broad issues but not the solutions. Move the thought process on.

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2. Plan with your clients. Talk to your clients about their plans for the coming year. It will be good to make them think about uplifting additions to their life or business and it might even get them to start planning next year’s projects and expenditure with you. Remember that although you may well think about Interior Design 100% of the time, your clients do not. Sometimes their thoughts need putting on the right path! As you talk about their plans you will have more information to come back with proposals over the coming months and in the worst case you may even have reminded the client about you rather than that other pesky interior designer who keeps calling here all the time.

Still waiting?

9.5 ways interior designers make more money (profit)

I Am Fluent In Three Languages ...item 1.. For...

Following on from my last article I’m continuing the trend of unusually numbered lists. So, today’s list is: “Nine and a half ways for interior designers to make more money.” The list is at the end of the article so you can skip the next few paragraphs if you want but the list is not a summary of what I am writing about so you will miss some pearls of wisdom by so doing!!

Isn’t profit a terrible word for some people? They’re almost ashamed to use it. In some design companies staff are angered about large profits. Well its profits that pay your wages, even if you work in the voluntary sector your funding comes from someone else’s profits and even if you work for government your salary comes from taxes which in turn come from profits. So now we’ve got the socialist utopianism off our chests let’s talk money.

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Here it is in simple terms: “You have to sell more and spend less” and you might want to make your profits more certain by “reducing risk”. However you dress it up that, pretty much, is business. Customer service is important but it is just a way of cross-selling more products and increasing customer retention. Fun is nice, but you rarely get paid for having fun.

So moving into a little more detail but still keeping it at quite a high level.

For starters, you know your business better than I do. But I’ll bet it follows the Pareto Rule – that’s the one that very many businesses follow regardless of the industry they are in. It’s not really a ‘rule’ but it essentially says that 80% of your ‘stuff’ or outputs usually comes from 20% of inputs. So 80% of your sales will probably come from 20% of your customers, 80% of your overall costs will probably come from 20% of your cost items and 80% of your business risk from 20% of your activities and so on. Use this ‘rule’ to focus your activities when you try to improve your design business.

So, with that at the front of our minds, we go on for some ‘quick wins’. Focus on the big ones, the easy ones, if you like.

A. Sales: Cherish, nurture and retain your biggest customers, they need great levels of service and must not be taken for granted. BUT event the richest client will run out of houses for you to work on after a while…you have to have an additional strategy in place for bringing on the new large customers of the future. These will be the ones that drive the profitability of your business tomorrow. You should be able to analyse your customers/prospects by their size in terms of profitability to you and their growth potential as a client. Ideally, you need a nice balanced mix o present day ‘cash cows’ and future ‘rising stars’ for you to class your business as healthy. Next make sure you organise your sales resources to squeeze all revenues from and make profit on those mature accounts; allocate proportionately more sales and service on the growth accounts and maybe on those small, futureless accounts you just say thank-you, goodbye and re-direct the time you have freed up. If your mix of customers is not well-balanced then you have highlighted a risk to your business. Make a plan to change and innovate.

B. Costs. Your building and staff are probably your biggest costs. Maybe also transport, utilities and some marketing expenses like exhibitions. Reducing costs is tricky, made more tricky if you are a nice person who doesn’t put the business first. Your building lease has a fixed term so you probably can’t renege on that too easily and save money and even if you could there would be the costs and disruption associated with moving, your business landlord will also know that and will of course try to make rents higher at renewal. That’s your first dilemma.

More tricky still are your staff costs. It’s always best to lead by example and set expectations of high levels of delivery from everyone in your organisation. People need to be more productive whilst being creative. If your business is growing set the expectation of harder work rather than hiring new recruits. New recruits: increase overheads; require management, require training-u; and are a risk of being an unknown quantity. If your business is stable or declining take a realistic look at where you are at today and then you might try outsourcing and sub contracting as a means of reducing headcount and overheads, it could make your business more straightforward to run and more agile in its response to opportunity. Sometimes you have to let people go, yes even the people you like who don’t contribute as much as those you like less. It can be a hard world sometimes but harder for you if your business goes under.

C. Risks. Few people in the design industry systematically review risks. Take a ‘risk register’ of what you think the major risks to your business are. Clients or suppliers going bankrupt? Key sales people leaving? Web site being hacked? Losing your prospect database? Specific fixed price projects? and so on. Most risks have two general elements 1. the likelihood of them happening and 2. the impact of them if they do happen. So an asteroid falling on your office is catastrophic…but unlikely. I would focus firstly on the most likely ones and work out what you might do if that risk materializes. Review your risk register, say on a quarterly basis. ,You will probably not catch-all the risks but you will at least have the right mindset for methodically thinking of risks and you will probably also identify a few of the big ones that you knew existed but didn’t really want to deal with yet.

OK here’s the list, I could go on but I knew you were getting impatient:

1. Outsource: Outsource anything that is not core to your design business: accounting, IT, admin, some marketing but probably not sales.

2. Automate: Automate everything that you don’t outsource from voicemail, to invoice production, to invoice chasing, to order fulfillment, to customer service, to sales, to marketing campaigns.

3. Subcontract: subcontract key design resources where you have to: make a key resource freelance if mutually beneficial. You could try partnering as a means of getting access to certain resources but partnerships, in my experience, confusingly, always seem to end up being a one way road.

4. Negotiate realistically with suppliers. Your biggest and least risky savings will come from your biggest, longterm suppliers rather than by trying to eek out every last cent/penny from new, small suppliers (who will dump you as soon as a better customer comes along). But you will only benefit is there is a win-win. We are fabric suppliers. If you ask us for a discount on your first purchase from us you won’t get one! The best way, in general, for suppliers and purchasers to both win is if you negotiate an annual rebate deal based on certain levels of business. I will then know that, as your supplier, you are bonded in some way to me for 12 months. I know I’m going to get repeat business so what will I do? Probably give you even better service. The deal you negotiated will save you money but make me money overall as well because I get more sales from you than I otherwise would have done. Win-win. This is much better than individual deal-based discounts and many companies in our industry to not discount on a piecemeal basis in any case.

5. Increase productivity. Expect everyone in your organisation to increase their productivity by 50%. Yes really, do that. It would be nice to be disappointed if they only deliver 40% wouldn’t it? Your part of the deal is to give them the resources they need without the stress they do not need.

6. Add-on sales. What extra services can you provide around your core offering? If you just do design, offer a product selection or procurement service as well, or at least get an introduction fee from a partner who you recommend to do the bits you cannot.

7. Great employees. Keep the best, lose the rest. You know it makes sense. It’s a hirer’s market at the moment but never go too far.

8. Continually or quarterly re-visit how you deliver. Re-design how each of your internal processes work (ie how you work on a job) to minimise variable costs or maximise customer service – whichever is best for each process. In general the parts of your activity that the client sees should be structured to provide good customer service, for the bits they do not see, it is not so important: so cut the costs there if possible.

9. Innovate. Try something new and don’t be afraid to fail once in a while. Most top athletes in most competitive sports lose A LOT but they don’t shy away from the opportunity of trying again to win and neither should you. I’ll bet Usain Bolt lost a lot when he was younger.

9.5 Relax; have coffee, a spa day, a late start once in a while.

Similar articles are linked <here>.

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9 Common Interior Design Mistakes (Marketing)

Mr Stanley Rao CEO of Champions group named on...
Mr Stanley Rao CEO of Champions group named one of the “100 Most Influential Global Sales & Marketing Technology Leader” by Marketing Times, Sales & Marketing magazine called him “The Man Who pioneered Marketing Outsourcing industry using Technology”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most lists have 10 points or multiples thereof. So, for a refreshing change, here are nine common mistakes made by Interior Designers in their business generation and, perhaps more importantly, how to avoid them. The article offers some sensible advice for designers who have some degree of responsibility for selling and marketing of their organisation’s design service and, whilst not a comprehensive solution to all your sales and marketing woes, it might just help a little!

  1. Not engaging the client: It is always great to understand what the client wants and deliver that rather than a variation of the last scheme you completed. You already knew that of course! However have you thought about the client decision making process? Try to understand that: your buyer; your consumer; and your decision makers could all be different people. Taking the example of a residential project (the principle also equally applies to a business to business project) your ‘client’ may be one partner but the decision maker could be the other partner and key influencers/users could be the kids. You need to engage with all parties to get “buy-in”.
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    Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

    Not listening hard enough: It’s easy to listen but often easy to not listen hard enough. In the sales process you may be inclined to talk too much. Ask questions, lots of them and make sure they are relevant. Try to ask open questions like “tell me about the sort of style you want to achieve” rather than closed questions which often do not get you correct information eg if you ask “Do you want red chairs?” your client may very well answer “No” but this has not told you that they want animal skin covered chairs!

  3. Attempting to ‘create’ demand: You might have been asked to do a specific job, say on one room. In uncertain times you may be glad about that. Nevertheless it is still a mistake to miss the opportunity of trying to broaden the opportunity.
  4. Don’t make too many assumptions: Well don’t make ANY costly assumptions. You might assume your client only has a certain budget. ASK those embarrassing questions about money and don’t forget that most clients have reasonable contingency factored in to their plans .
  5. Risk: All projects entail risk. Always have a ‘risk register’ (list of things that can go wrong). In advance, plan what you will do in the eventuality of any of those risks happening. Also for those truly monumental risks that may well be out of your control (and fault) then agree up front with the client what will happen in those circumstances. Otherwise the client will expect you to sort the problem out when it happens at your cost as it is ‘not their fault’. A simplistic example would be the removal of an interior wall which you and your client assumed to be none load bearing. The removal of a non-load bearing wall is straightforward but removal of a structural wall is not and is much more costly.
  6. Qualify new prospects: Your marketing campaigns, if well designed, should generate lots of leads especially if you have decided to invest heavily in those campaigns. After such a successful investment you will be energised to thoroughly follow-up all your leads. Great! Nothing wrong with that. Well nothing except that you only have limited resources to follow up the lead so make sure you focus those resources on qualifying the prospects and further refine your focus on the best prospects. Do not allocate equal resources. A simple rule for qualification is to follow ” BANT”: B – Existing Budget, or access to funds; A – Authority to approve and progress; N – A  Need exists to necessitate action; T – Timeframes are sufficiently clear.
  7. Failing to follow-up: Once you have qualified your leads properly it should then be a crime to forget to follow them up! Yet we’ve probably all done it at some point. The price of disorganisation is missed opportunity. Get some sort of system that reminds you to follow up people at the right time; be it a diary, your email package or a contact management system. If you work for a large organisation then what if the lead generator/owner is ill? How will their follow up actions be acted upon if no-one knows about them? What if you lose your diary or your PC crashes? Such errors can cost you tens of thousands of dollars/pounds/euros – a lot regardless of the currency.
  8. Not understanding your own product or service: New products and materials and methods are developed every day. (At KOTHEA, www.kothea.com, we introduce a new fabric design on average every month rather than having spring/fall collections). Keep up to date with innovations in your market. The best sales and marketing campaigns are a mix of customer need and product understanding. Take time to read trade journals, visit showrooms and talk to customers. Always ask questions.
  9. Measuring activity rather than outcomes: If your design practice is large enough to employ people at least part time in marketing or sales then you need to measure the impact of their activity.  Digital marketing is changing how business works. Is it best to have unquantifiable paper PR in World Of Interiors? Or is it best to send out 200 glossy brochures to past clients? Or is it best to have 300 clicks costing 50p/50cents each on Google Adwords? I’m not saying there is a right or wrong answer on this one but really, really consider the effectiveness of what you are spending and how you can measure it. Rest assured that your competitors are already doing that.

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Business Tips For Interior Designers

English: Maurizio_Duranti Italiano: Maurizio_D...
English: Maurizio_Duranti Italiano: Maurizio_Duranti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many interior designers are struggling at the moment in face of the economic onslaught. It is fair to say of course that many are doing fine. This article is aimed at small- to medium-sized interior designers who think they need to spice up their sales and marketing efforts to stay in business.

Firstly creative people often don’t ‘get’ business marketing. It IS a pseudo-science but not rocket science. To cut a two-year MBA short, you essentially have to: understand the needs of your target market; and sell and market appropriate products and services, with the correct price/quality/service offering, to that market. And you have to be passionate about it.

Some practical suggestions?

1. Cross Sell

You have just finished a job. Fantastic, well done! Move on to look for the next one? Well, right and wrong. The next job may well be closer than you think. It may be as close as one of the friends of the person whose job you have just finished.

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Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

Host a thank you party at the client’s house. Tea-party, ‘cheese & wine’ party it doesn’t matter that much and it doesn’t have to be expensive. You will use the job as a showcase for your work. As your client is agreeing to host the party he/she is implicitly recommending your work and hopefully what you have done visually recommends itself anyway.  At the party DO NOT put business cards on a table and spend the whole time socialising with your client or the best looking/most funny person there. You are a professional, act that way or go the way of the dodo. Network. Speak to EVERYONE, briefly. Exchange business cards or email addresses or get any method of future contact. Work out what you will say in the brief exchange beforehand, work out a few variants of what you will say.

2. Go Fishing

Use your design library as a design consultancy. Offer an hourly service to prospective customers where you will help them design their dream home. This must be a charged-for service. If your clients pays nothing they place little or no value in what they have received (please remember that for all your dealings, very rarely offer freebies). For the fee they get a space, access to a computer and to your library and to your expertise. When they realise they are almost there they will realise the magnitude of the project they have to manage and control and that you are better placed to do that. Of course now the initial fee becomes refundable against your project fee. There are many benefits to this approach; your new client feels like they have contributed to the ownership of the project and also your client has paid you to tell you what he/she likes so you have a great starting point for understanding the route of the project.

3. Use the down-time

You’ve got some more time on your hands. Research a related business or geographic area. Look at new technology – would becoming one of the Twittering Wits (Wittering Twits) on Twitter help you get more business (probably not) but technology can help improve or increase your profile or maybe save you costs internally or maybe help you work more efficiently.

4. Auction your services

No of course I didn’t mean ebay, though you could try. Think about your target market, who and where are they? How do you get in front of them? Try putting your services up for auction at the local private school or at a charity auction; that kind of place is where your clients might ‘hang out’. You know your market better than me. If these are not the right places go and find them. You will end up giving some of your services away essentially for a good cause HOWEVER in return you will get wide exposure and as your auctioned service was paid for the winner places a value in it and as your auctioned service was limited in scope the winner will hopefully go on to expand the scope and pay money to you for a bigger project.

5. Run a business

It’s been really easy over the last few years for many people. All that cash rolling around, all those nice things to buy? If you think back then maybe you could have been more discerning? Anyway that’s water under the bridge. Each time you spend money work out how much profit from client time or sold products is required to buy it – you will probably amaze yourself and realise that your existing Blackberry is good enough for the job and that you don’t really need this year’s model that much of the incremental benefits to your business are limited.

Look at your suppliers, if they have a fancy Chelsea Harbour showroom then you are the one paying for it, albeit indirectly. Showrooms are VERY expensive and companies that have very high cost bases like this might be more exposed to the economic vagaries of the market more than others. The high cost bases also make the products more expensive to you – are there same-quality alternatives available more cost-effectively? Only one plug for KOTHEA’s fabrics: “We do not have a Chelsea Harbour Showroom.”

6. Plan for the future

Many companies are desperately trying to hold onto key staff so that they will be well placed for the recovery if, and when, it comes.

Take a view on when you think things will turn round and plan accordingly.

A summary of my view is that the UK economy has, in the last few decades, been driven by The City of London and Housing and Cheap Finance – they are related to a degree. Many City firms have already started paying good bonusses again. This filters through the London/SE House prices and then that has a knock on effect in other regions and in supporting industries…like yours. Green shoots may well be there.

7. New markets

Think beyond your historical clients and look at economic and demographic trends. The population is ageing, does that present any opportunities for example?

8. Networking…again

This time with complimentary suppliers. Perhaps you could periodically meet up with sales reps from companies you work with to exchange ideas and leads?

9. Gifting

A simple thank you gift to a client can create enormous good will. Ask for a referral in exchange or schedule a 3 months meeting after you have handed over your project to the client. Ostensibly to check they are happy but another chance to ask them for leads.

10. Trend Presentations & Inside Track meetings

If you have a group of prospect clients or some wavering on making a decision. Organise and host a ‘trends evening’ several of your suppliers will presents trends in differing product areas to you and your clients. Whilst you might learn something new yourself you will find that as all the parties interact the big gainers will be your potential clients, who will hopefully become re-enthused about continuing their project and continuing it with you as the lead.

11. The client within

One of your biggest competitors will be the client themselves. Many more people are opting to do the project or part of it themselves. This will always be an issue but more so now than ever before. Work out how you will cope with that. You might want to choose suppliers like KOTHEA who will never deal with the general public only with the trade. This protects your business. You need to have a strategy on  how you want to do this or you will unnecessarily lose business.

12. The competitor

You could partner with ‘trusted’ competitors to manage costs and work together on projects in the short term. Risky, but worth considering as work could be given back to you in your quieter periods.

13. Your products & services

Just read only then next sentence and then do what it asks you to before proceeding. “Write me an email telling me what your business does”.

You cheated! You read on. Anyway I would imagine that your email would have been paragraphs long. You are lucky that you are not accountants as, at a party, you have something that is perceived to be interesting to talk about. But some designers have been known to focus too introspectively at times.

However we are in a time of mass communications and limited attention spans – thank you SMS and Twitter and Facebook. Make sure you can be succint with your prospective clients when the need arises. Don’t confuse passion with effusive verbal dexterity.

14. Bit by bit

Think about selling one single million pound project. Then think about selling twenty 50,000 pound projects.

One approach to client penetration is to just focus first on getting in there and signing any deal. Do that tightly scoped piece of work well and then move on from there. eg just charge for the first phase of the design with the deliverbale being detailed plans for the client or just choose to work room-by-room. Or you could time-box developments for a trusting client who might want to trust you with GBP20,000 to do what you can within a month.

Different approaches with obvious individual drawbacks. Sometimes you may be required to think out-of-the-box. When you are required to so do it would be nice to have already given it some thought.

15. Makeovers

For a client’s forced house sale or for a sale that is tricky because of low levels of activity the appearance of the house is always key. Historically this area has made a difference in terms of the eventual sale price achieved nowadays it might make the difference between a sale or no sale. You could market a range of services here including renting items from your displays for a house open day. You also have the advantage that the seller is probably also soon going to be a buyer and potentially in need of your services for the new house.

If you found this useful there is more information <here> for those of you new to the industry.

Copyright KOTHEA Limited. This is a reworked article based on one produced in September 2007.