‘How do I, an interior designer, get clients? How do those big design firms acquire clients?’

You’re not the only interior designer asking yourself that question.

In fact, ‘how can I get clients’ is a question that SMB’s (Small and Medium Businesses)…across industries…will have asked more than once.

Now many self-appointed ‘experts’ give you a lot of talk about business models, ‘being yourself’, selecting clients well and so on.

And we both know that’s about as useful as a knife in a gunfight.

So, I’m not going to waste your time with that fluff. I’m going to reveal 9 client acquisition strategies used by top interior design firms. 9 actionable strategies that you can start implementing straightaway.

Before we begin, a word.

Client acquisition is something you should be doing right from day one.

It’s natural for people to ignore it when they do have clients and panic about it when they don’t; that’s not how you should do it.

Whether or not you have a client, you should set some time aside to create and implement a definite client acquisition plan right from when you start.

 

1. SEO

As an interior designer, you need a website to establish an online presence.

However, with the internet harbouring hundreds of millions of active websites, just having a website would never work. You need an active strategy to ensure your website is seen by lots and lots of people.

You obviously know search engines churn out pages and pages of results when a viewer makes a search request.

I’ve always explained to my clients in no uncertain terms that it’s no use having a website on the internet if it’s not going to appear on the first page of search results.

Studies aside, that’s intuitive, isn’t it?

When was the last time you went to the second page of search results when you were searching for…just about anything?

That is where Search Engine Optimization, aka SEO, comes in.

In a nutshell, SEO involves optimizing your website (mostly by addition of quality content) so it achieves a high rank in the search result pages compiled by search engines. Click To Tweet

One key strategy is keyword management. The website owner ensures that certain words and phrases similar to what a potential visitor would search for are strategically placed within the content on their website. We call those words and phrases ‘keywords’.

Here’s a quick example: Say you’ve created an interior design website with a special blog dedicated to helping people with their apartment design problems.

Potential keywords can be anything from ‘interior designers in Cook County’ to ‘How to design your first apartment like a pro’ to just plain ‘interiors’, depending on what you think your target audience will search for.

There are other non-keyword-based SEO techniques too, dedicated to optimizing whole web pages, images and other aspects such as article headlines for visibility in search results.

If you ask me, for best results, SEO should be done by a professional.

If you’re on a tight budget, you can try basic SEO techniques on your own. Nonetheless, it’s a lot of continuous work, so, in spite of your best efforts, you just may not be able to keep up.

Remember, you’re competing continuously against hundreds of thousands of websites, some of which no doubt will have engaged experts to manage their SEO.

That’s why I’d recommend hiring the services of an SEO professional, just like other people will be looking to hire your services as an interior design professional.

 

2. YouTube

According to Inc. magazine, over 75% of web visitors visit a brand’s website after seeing a branded video.

That’s a good number, especially when you consider the thousands of distractions a viewer is faced with before they get to your website.

The millions of viewers YouTube receives every day are its biggest attraction, rendering it the second largest search engine on the internet.

You’ve most likely seen them already. They can play before, during and after your favourite video. Some ads can be skipped after 5 seconds, other have to be watched to the end.

I always suggest YouTube ads to my clients for brand awareness, channel visibility and new announcements.

Does YouTube offer any help with analytics?

Yes it does!

Some of its attributes provide valuable insight for advertisers, especially the ability to target a specific market based on age, gender, location, demographics, interests etc.

There is also an option for segmenting according to the type of device the viewer is using and the contextual keywords potential clients might use while searching for a video.

YouTube gives you a number of ad options, including display ads, skippable ads, non-skippable ads, sponsored cards, overlay ads. Because of their visual nature, all of them are good for advertising for you as an interior designer.

 

Best practices for YouTube ads for Interior Designers

  • Get to the point in 5 seconds or less before people can skip it.
  • Be of high quality, because poor quality ads are easily rejected by the algorithm in favour of better-quality ads.
  • Be catchy enough for easier recall and to clock higher watch times. The more memorable it is, the more viewers are likely to remember it and refer it to others.
  • Leave a clear call to action and links to where viewers can find your online presence after the ad is over.
 

Homemade YouTube ads are the easiest to spot and even easier to skip. You can of course create your own ad content. But, just like as for SEO, I’d suggest you get a video agency to help you for optimal results.

 

3. AdWords Ads

AdWords ads, also known as paid search results, are managed by Google, and appear alongside organic results; the organic search results being results that appear as a result of your SEO efforts. Click To Tweet

You might have seen them when browsing the internet.

This is how they work. When internet users make a search request in a browser, Google’s algorithms select the ads that are closely related to the search results and display them all around the organic search results.

A search for ‘commercial interior designers in New York’ will bring organic search results on the topic, but also three or four related AdWords ads alongside those organic results.

AdWords ads have been favourably reviewed by former users and SEO experts, with most opinoning that they bring in high ROI numbers in comparison to other promotion strategies.

The good news is that AdWords can be used in more or less every Google search people make; interior designers naturally fall within that. I have always recommended using AdWords ads as long as they are working right.

If badly implemented, they won’t generate returns thereby leaving you with non-performing sunken investments. If you can implement them correctly, they can yield multifold returns. Your returns depend on how well you can set them up.

During set up, you determine whether you’ll want your ad to be charged based on the impressions, views or click-through it gets. You’ll also set the daily budget, for which you have to set a fee that isn’t too low or too high.

Then you have to choose the keywords that Google should look out for when placing your ads. Choosing them requires thinking deeply about your target clients’ location and wants.

You also determine the actual wording/copy that your ad will use.

Will your ad shout out a limited time discount or coolly announce your list of services?

The overall goal is to ensure that your ad is clicked on and visitors get to your website. It’s a whole lot of trial and error; you’re not always expected to get it right the first time. And you have no reason to worry about messing it all up.

Many interior designers I know create and run AdWords campaigns on their own. They do the necessary keyword research, determine their ad budgets and analyse their metrics on a daily basis. They also visit informational websites to learn more about the process. 

 

Pro Tip!

Most of my former clients in this position have highlighted metric analysis as the hardest part of the process. They’re also the most important – numbers from an ad campaign are useless unless you can decipher what they mean.

 

Sometimes, they are a call for a major tweak in the campaign strategy. Sometimes, they are a sign of big leaps made. Sometimes, huge numbers are just temporary. If you find yourself in this situation, you might find it wise to consider professional help.

4. Facebook Ads

Facebook has long been the go-to platform for social media ads for almost any event or business.

Buffer’s State of the Social report for 2018 showed that 94% of businesses have already invested in advertising on Facebook. That number alone highlights how popular the platform is.

Facebook ads are good for brand awareness, visibility and lead generation. Click To Tweet

Perhaps the best way to start advertising on Facebook is by boosting an existing post you have created on your business’s Facebook page.

It’s not always the best tactic because it limits you to choosing target audiences based on interests, but it works in the beginning.

The platform has created a varying set of ad types that cover various purposes well enough.

You get to choose from carousel ads, sponsored mentions, dynamic ads, domain ads (these redirect to your website), video ads, offer ads and more.

Carousel ads are more ideal for product-oriented businesses, but you can always employ them to showcase your diverse range of services. If you’re not sure what an carousel ad is, for the time being, think of it as a revolving catalogue.

Domain ads are perfect for lead generation and future retargeting purposes because clicking on them directly takes visitors to your website (or other online presence of some sort).

Video ads are a good choice, especially for future retargeting purposes too. Make sure to keep them short and true to your brand. Interior design businesses tend to have a clear, stand-out aesthetic that’s distinctly clean, trendy and stylish. I recommend using offer ads although I find them quite limiting in who can use them.

Starting a Facebook campaign is pretty easy. Managing one is not.

That’s why some designers I know spend over $6000 in ad spend over 2 months and get 2 new paying gigs while others spend less than $500 and bag 10 new paying clients.

It’s not just about looking at big numbers and assuming that you’re taking a step forward. You need to deep into the metrics to determine whether your budget is paying off, or if your chosen target audience is converting as expected.

If it’s not, you need to work out how to tweak the ad campaign and save your money. That’s why you should consider having a Social Media Manager to handle your Facebook campaigns.

 

Keep these tips in mind when working on your Facebook ad campaign.

  • Target like a pro. The power of Facebook ads is in how specific they can be when you’re choosing who to advertise to. Look at the information you created about your target clients.
  • Now based on that information choose the interests, demographics, location and other attributes that will define your ad campaign.
  • Take advantage of retargeting based on the profiles and demographics you get from the analytics dashboard. Retargeting is very important because you direct some specific ads at a section of your target audience that had previously shown interest in your ads. The upside is that retargeting results in even higher conversions.
  • Use professional images. Poor images stand out almost immediately so don’t go there. Make sure the colour palette of the photos matches your brand too. That way, your ad will speak to your audience and capture their interest.
  • Understand your potential clients and create ads in languages they understand. Skip the boring wording and go for ad copy that entertains while telling your message the way your target audience would like to hear it.

An ad targeting full-time bachelor Jack Barr should not sound exactly like that aimed at John      and Jack, the gay couple living in an apartment.

  • Check each ad’s analytics in real time and remember to look at the metrics that matter most such as leads, reach and engagement, depending on your current goal. Facebook gives you a lot of data on your ad campaigns and you may not find all of that equally useful.
  • Structure your ads to go live optimally, i.e. when you most expect your audience to be using Facebook.
 

5. Quora Ads

A few years ago, Quora ads weren’t a thing. But the platform was already popular, so when their self-serve ad set-up feature was released worldwide in 2017, it quickly became a popular way to run some ads.

If you hadn’t heard of Quora before now it’s one of, if not the most, popular Q&A platforms in the world right now with over 190 million monthly unique visitors from all over the globe as of last reporting. Click To Tweet

The attraction is in the professionalism of the answers given on the platform, some of which come from globally acclaimed experts and celebrities. Some of the answers are to difficult and sensitive questions that people wouldn’t ask others in person.

Advertising on Quora is in two forms; personal promotion and regular ads. Personal promotion is what everyone was doing before the ad system was released. It basically involves answering a question and promoting yourself in the answer by linking to your website or other online channels.

But like with anything that’s been overdone, this form of promotion is worn out. I only recommend using it with a strategy in mind. The strategy requires that you position yourself as an expert on the issue you’re answering such that readers looking for answers can learn to expect value from you.

With this strategy, longer, more detailed but equally relevant answers are preferred to the quick, much short pieces that everyone writes. The more answers you write, the higher your reputation, ranking and answer views.

Remember to link to your website & other online channels only when it’s necessary. When you decide to link, talk about your business at the end of the answer and in a way that makes it sound established and useful to the reader. Click To Tweet

Make your answers appear more professional by sharing links to other websites along with yours.

Creating and running an advert campaign is the other alternative. Like Facebook and other social platforms, Quora now allows you to run ads on their platforms. The first Quora ads were plainer looking than Facebook ads but they are getting better.

Nowadays they are placed non-intrusively between answers to a question.  

 

I recommend Quora ads for designers because;

They are easy to set up and manage. The dashboard is as easy to use as Facebook’s.

They have cheaper leads than most of the other platforms. A couple of clients that recently took up Quora ads have reported less spending on cost per lead with Quora than with AdWords and Facebook.

They give you an even better set of targeting limitations to choose from for your ad campaign. You can select a target audience based on questions asked, locations (based on zip code), topics of interest and platforms (desktop or mobile).

They provide more detailed analytics on conversions, ad spend, impressions, delivery and cost per click in real time.

They are exposed to high-quality traffic unlike most ads on the internet because of the nature of Quora and how targeted they can be.

Direct targeting is the best sauce here too. Remember to select your target audience based on the attributes you gave your target clients. For example, what would Jack Barr look for on Quora that no one else would? What about Anna and John Smith?

Would they even have a need for the platform or know about it?

Answer these questions before choosing your target audience.

Please remember to check out Quora’s advertising guidelines first. The platform has a strict set of rules regarding headings, word count per section, punctuation and wordplay. Also, note that Quora uses the bidding system for its ads.

Remember to make a higher bid at the check-in auction to rise above the competition. When your ad goes live, it competes with hundreds of other ads for the same spots on the page. According to Quora, the top spot is won by the ad found to offer the highest value to the platform users that see it.

To make your ad appear more valuable, push it to stand above the competition with a higher bid. Tests done by the good folks over at MarketingLand found that bidding higher results in higher CTRs and lower CPCs, which is the perfect way to go.

Don’t forget to set up your Conversion Pixel for the Quora ad; you need it to track each website conversion as it happens.

 

 

6. Partnering Up with Real Estate Agents and Builders

This is another particularly helpful tactic that I’ve employed myself in the past. It’s also one of the easiest ways of promoting yourself and getting your first clients.

Here’s how it works:

You partner with other service providers in your industry especially those that the members of your target audience would also need.

In this case, this would be architects, builders, real estate salesmen, plumbers, painters and the like. You then refer each other when you get clients.

Some partnerships can be made for all such that there is sharing of profits at the end of the day, but that’s quite complex. Other partnerships work on commission basis, where you pay a small fee for each client referred to you by another business.

The beauty of referral partnerships is that each party gets to benefit and that you get access to potential clients with an expressed need for your services.

How to get started:

  • Look up the addresses and other contact information of other service providers related to housing and interior design. That could be anyone from a random house painter to a well-known architect. You can also find such information in trade magazines and on their websites.
  • Schedule a meeting with them and lay out your plans. Some people are less formal, so you can meet them at social events and ask them to refer to you just like you refer to them.
  • Be ready to agree to a commission-based system in case you’re dealing with top service providers. Plus, leave a couple of contact documents behind with them, like business cards.
  • For each client you’re referred, do the necessary research. You need to provide them viable solutions. Remember, you’ve set up an ecosystem; you can’t become the weak link. If you can’t meet client expectations, your partners may stop referring clients to you.

If you think going all the way to their business premises to strike partnerships with them will be hard for you, there is an alternative. A little bit of technical computer knowledge is required.

This alternative involves keeping track of the clients that other service providers work on. Then you look up the contacts of these clients and meet them to offer your services.

The idea is that by the time they are using the services of service provider ABC, they are likely to need other related services such as your interior design services or know someone else who does.

It’s important that you learn how to tweak the structure of your offer for every new client that you meet. Click To Tweet

All referred clients tend to ask for different stuff, so you must be able to pitch your services in a unique way that speaks to them and their need.

 

7. Pinterest

This is a big platform for interior designers because of its visual set up and board cataloguing feature. It’s perfect for brand awareness and lead acquisition.

While it isn’t one of the bigger platforms for advertising, the fact that it allows you to share images of your completed projects, work in progress and behind the scenes is a good way to draw some eyeballs.

Pinterest users create boards on which they can save ‘pins’ they’ve found on the platform or anywhere else on the internet. Businesses like yours can create boards too on which you share your images and allow them to be seen by other Pinterest users.

Boards created by users literally become mini museums for your work and they can be shared across the internet, spreading the word further. Just make sure you use the best images possible. 

 

8. Webinars and Podcasts

Webinars and podcasts are another marketing medium that I recommend you embrace.

Each one of them is a good starting platform for projecting your authority, expertise and knowledge on various issues, especially your interior design niche. Podcasts tend to have smaller though highly dedicated listeners/viewers.

Webinars attract niche specific individuals that are looking for a solution to a problem or a new technique of doing things.

Both podcasts and webinars also come with one added benefit; you can start your own if you can’t find any that suits your niche or standard.

Here’s a plan I recommend to get started.

For podcasts

Look for available interior design podcasts in your region or country. You can find them on popular podcast platforms such as Stitcher or iTunes, or from industry websites, trade journal recommendations and trade magazine reviews.

Select the good and relevant ones. Not every podcast is commendable. Some are outright horrible. But niche podcasts aren’t common, especially podcasts on interior design.

Look for those that are hosted near you, maybe in a neighbouring city. Look out for those with high listenership. Look out for those that would speak to your target audience.

Pitch them for your presence. Most podcasts allow potential guests onto the show, but you have to pitch what you’ll talk about first.

Make sure your pitch highlights how much value you’ll give listeners and not how much you’ll talk about yourself. Make sure your pitch fits the style of their podcast. Click To Tweet

When you get onto the show. Offer valuable advice and express your authority without coming off as showy. Only talk about your services when your host invites you to.

NB: Additionally, you can strike marketing arrangements with podcasts you think have the listenership that needs your designer services. Ideally, it should be a commission-based contract, with a certain percentage given to the podcast for each listener converted to a buyer of your services.

For webinars

  • Look out for future industry webinars and see how you can get involved.
  • Sign up for them, and if you can, ask to be a speaker (especially if they are local webinars)
  • When given a chance to speak, make your point known clearly and offer clear solutions without promoting yourself blatantly.

 

9. Reviews

This is one of those strategies – obvious yet forgotten by every second person.

If you wanna hire a plumber, what’s the first thing you do? Look up ‘plumbers near Berlin, Alabama (or wherever you live) on a search engine.

You get a lot of hits.

Even within the first page of search results there are 10 different plumbers to be chosen from.

Now you search for reviews of each plumber to see who is considered the best by others.

And that’s the ninth strategy – remember to ask your clients to leave reviews.

Your Facebook account can always be used to house reviews but there are some review-focused websites that I’d suggest you focus on.

  • Angie’s List
  • The Better Business Bureau (and while you’re at it; try to get accredited by the BBB)
  • Yelp
  • Houzz
  • Home Advisor (yes, they specialize in home service reviews)

 

So there they are 9 specific strategies you can incorporate into your business plan for your interior design firm. As promised.

Just one more point.

If you analyzed the points clearly, you’ll have noticed that the strategies – whether they be SEO, paid ads, social media management or whatever – hinge on you having a WEBSITE.

And the central tenet of having a website is to ensure it’s designed to absolutely dazzle viewers.

Viewers need to see you as a serious and credible designer who can provide feasible solutions to their interior design queries.

Viewers also need to see you as a trustworthy designer who isn’t going to disappear the moment they hand over a check (to turn up months later in Rob Wolchek’s Hall of Shame).

I know there are platforms like WIX that help you design your own website by just dragging and dropping, but it’s not the easiest process.

The chances of getting stuck midway are pretty darn high. Wix keeps updating all the time and you’ll need to keep learning the new functionalities in lockstep. Not what you need when you’re managing your own interior design firm.

Many consultants say a free WordPress website is a good start.

I DON’T.

A free website makes it appear you’re not serious about your work. Remember, you’re providing your services professionally, not as a hobby.

Just like your client’s search for an interior design expert, you should search for a website building expert.

If you have any other client acquisition methods for your Interior Design Business, please comment below.

Haver a good day!

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