In my blog post on Pinterest marketing I discussed how Pinterest can be used to generate interest in your website and thereby in your interior design business.
However, generating consumer interest is only half the battle.
The next stage – conversion – is equally crucial.
Unless you start receiving orders, your business won’t really take off no matter how many people visit your Pinterest boards.
Even that doesn’t give the whole story.
Unless you start delivering completed orders in the near term and can build a base of clients in the medium term your business will fail.
When I said ‘delivering completed orders’ I meant orders where you deliver the finished product to the client, receive payment and the client is satisfied and doesn’t ask for a refund.
It may seem trivial but I assure you, it’s not. Midway cancellation, demands for returns and so on are all too common scenarios and ones that can break a business.
Why did I say you need to build a client base in the medium term?
Because you can’t keep focusing all your energies on marketing and execution forever. The interior design world is constantly changing and you’ll have to keep pace with it.
A consistent base of clients means you have access to a consistent cash flow…which frees up some time for you to work on developing and improving your business.
For now however, let’s just concentrate on the second stage – getting clients for your interior design business.
This can be broken down into two parts.
A lot of what I’m going to suggest is true for any business. And then there are some steps you can take that are specific to interior design.
So, first, let’s think how you can get clients for your business (in general).
1. Do some pro bono work
This is the best way to get your firm on the map.
Every one of our most highly-paid lawyers – Ram Jethmalani, Harish Salve and so on – do a lot of pro bono work; and they always make sure everybody knows that.
If you’re in the food business, you could give free food to people with BPL cards. An interior design firm can try to create proper houses for slum-dwellers to live in.
Helping people in need can never be bad.
Apart from altruism though, this is a good marketing tactic.
It makes people feel good about your firm.
It generates free publicity because the media will obviously be interested in such a pro bono project.
However be strategic in choosing your pro bono work.
Select an area where some local interest will be generated. You can’t depend solely on media exposure and social media to spread the word. Try to ensure the direct attention of some people who can award you billable projects.
Avoid political friction. Negative attention from political parties is the last thing you need when starting a new business.
2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Upon receipt of a proposal, study it carefully to see whether you can execute it.
When you’re first starting out, make a list of the kinds of things you’re good at and concentrate on those.
For example, in interior design, try to determine what kind of design you’re most comfortable with and try to get an appropriate order.
For example do you feel more at home with office design or home design, a modern look or vintage, and so on.
Of course, it’s not given that you’ll get a project that you like; and you can’t keep waiting forever for one such…but if you have a choice, take your time before choosing.
Another constraint is whether you’re equipped for the project in question. It may be beyond your ability (capability, budget, suppliers and so on).
Don’t rush off to grab a project and don’t quote prices that you know are too low just to get an order, particularly if you’re new to the market. The client will be watching a newbie with eagle eyes.
3. Collaborate with other businesses in the area
This can be a powerful tool in understanding the demand in your area.
And there’s no need to limit it to a professional collaboration. You can try to strike up a friendship with the business owners.
Offer to share suppliers. See if they can offer you any insight in your own work. You can even try to share marketing budgets.
While competition is inherent to the business world, friendship and collaboration aren’t far behind.
The reason for that is simple. One person can’t be the best at everything. By collaborating you can fill in each other’s gaps.
4. Put yourself out there
You need to make sure you’re being noticed. Pay per click and social media management are there but you should also try to connect personally with your target market.
One fun way of doing that is to host events at periodic intervals.
They’re especially good for designers since you can design the event location as per your own skills, making the event a live display of your work.
Events are a great way of socializing and getting prospects. I say prospect because you can’t expect an order based on one evening of chatting.
What you can do is hand out business cards, ask whether you can send them newsletters and so on. You’re building a profile. You’re adding credibility to your business.
And then of course you have to keep engaged with the prospects you feel good about to convert them into clients.
5. Ensure your website is well-designed
By well-designed, I don’t mean good graphics or font size.
Those are important, of course. People should be able to go through your website without getting a headache or having to squint.
But that’s not all of it.
Yours is a business website.
Its purpose is to convince visitors to place orders with you.
So it should follow a logical process.a. First and foremost, ensure site certification. In plain English, ensure your site URL starts with ‘https’, which means it’s a secure site. A non-certified site is a huge turn-off if you’re running a business. b. You can start off with an introduction of yourself and your work; make it interesting by adding one or two spicy personal details (like ‘of all the Mahabharat’s produced so far my favourite is the one by B.R. Chopra.’) but keep it short and relevant. c. From there you can give the visitor two choices – they can go to the blog/newsletter corner or they can proceed to order. d. More about the blog/newsletter in a while; right now let’s talk about getting the order. e. The best way to take an order is to ask interested parties to book a consultation with you. This looks very professional; plus it gives you a chance to talk directly with the client. f. Even after taking the order, keep updating the client about the status of the order, costs incurred and so on. g. If you keep them apprised of costs incurred, if there is an overrun out of genuine issues, it won’t lead to an argument. h. If you can, try to have an option for each client to track their orders by themselves. i. Even after the order has been executed and you’ve been paid, get in touch with the client again after a month or two. j. Ask if they’re happy with what you’ve done. If not, try to find out why. If they are, ask them to give you a review on your website and/or social media. k. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list. It’s merely an indication of how your website should be modelled.
The visitor must be able to go wherever he/she wants easily and not get lost. Those who want to place an order must have an immediate opportunity to do so; preferably within one click.
One of the greatest ways to establish your presence online is to blog.
It doesn’t cost you anything. And it helps project you to prospects.
However, don’t blog randomly. Try to make blogs keyword-rich, that is, choose content strategically so you can include trending keywords.
The more you include popular keywords the higher you get pushed up Google’s organic ranking (that is, non-ad ranks) and the higher the chance people notice your website.
7. Maintain an email list and send out periodic newsletters
This is very important for keeping clients and prospective clients engaged.
Now, you may ask, what makes the newsletter separate from the blog?
- You’re sending the newsletter to people. That makes it more personal than the blog.
- The blog is supposed to be a ‘knowledge hub’. That is, try to avoid commercial information like pricing and rebates there. The place for that is the newsletter.
- Try to include various pieces of information in the newsletter but make each individual article smaller than those in your blog.
8. Have a well-run social media profile
All businesses should try to have profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Those with larger marketing budgets should try to have WhatsApp as well, targeting mobile internet users.
Just as with your blog, don’t make the profiles random. Don’t, for example tweet cat pictures.
Keep your social media posts interesting, targeted and precise.
For example, if you’re posting about some Mughal trends in interior design
Add a snippet of historical information (irrelevant to interior design but makes the post interesting).
Try to focus on a particular design – showroom of a shop, living room of a home etc – instead of just speaking about the trend in general (targeted towards end clients who may be looking to redesign their shop or their home…you get the idea).
It doesn’t matter if your post looks too short. But it does matter (visitors won’t be driven to order) if you keep adding to the post without adding any relevant detail. In other words, keep it precise.
This final piece of advice is interior design-specific –
9. Get a Houzz account and use it well
What is Houzz?
It’s a community for home owners and home professionals (designers, builders and so on) to meet.
Think of it as a Facebook for interior design.
Accordingly, set up your account and meet up with prospective clients.
Not sure about how you should run your Houzz account?
Just think about whatever I’ve said here…most of that applies to Houzz.
- Keep your account engaging and friendly.
- But keep it targeted as well; don’t get carried away and post overly broad or, God help you, irrelevant content.
- Keep the content keyword-rich.
- Use colors appropriate to the content. For example if you’re describing a very bright garish design, use those kinds of colors in the background.
- Never get tired of talking with people but never forget you’re there to bag orders not make friends.
And that’s about it!
Can you think of other ways to get interior design clients?
If you do, drop a comment telling me about it!
All the best with getting clients for your interior design business!