And, no this isn’t a lame attempt to sell you another ‘digital marketing package’ that you don’t need.
‘What’s the #1 secret to marketing an interior design business?’
Ask 3 different marketing consultants this question; chances are, you’ll get 3 different answers.
- Email marketing can net you $30+ in revenue for every dollar invested.
- SEO is the only way for your interior design brand to get the exposure it needs.
- Without social media management, your interior design brand won’t succeed, particularly with Gen Y and Gen Z.
Now, there are three things each of these answers has in common:
- Its implementation would require the involvement of a digital marketing consultant.
- It’s not the #1 secret to marketing an interior design business.
Then what is the #1 secret to marketing an interior business – and what makes this so unique, and so powerful?
The #1 secret to marketing an interior design business – the one interior design marketing consultants don’t want you to know about – is so potent because it does not require the involvement of any marketing consultant.
It’s one that you – as the owner of your interior design business – can do yourself.
In fact, it is something that a marketing consultant can’t do. Only you can do it…and, trust me when I say you can do it better than anyone else can.
In fact, you won’t incur any direct expenses to implement this marketing strategy.
In order to better understand this marketing strategy, let’s take a look at one of the world’s most successful brands, Amazon, and its creator – Jeff Bezos.
The next section reveals how Jeff Bezos raised funds for Amazon when he was starting out. It’s there to prove a point about the marketing strategy I’m going to talk about.
If you’d rather just know what the #1 secret to marketing an interior design business is; skip here.
Amazon – the early years
Jeff Bezos started Amazon as an online retailer of books with 5 employees in a Seattle garage.
In the early days, analysts derided the company as ‘Amazon.Bomb’, and predicted that established booksellers like Barnes and Noble would overtake the company once they launched websites of their own.
Amazon didn’t turn a profit till 2001.
Despite this, Jeff Bezos was able to raise funding for Amazon ever since he thought about setting up an online bookstore (at the beginning, Amazon sold only books).
His initial calls to investors would be from his car, as his wife drove him to Seattle, where he planned to set up his company.
And, his efforts were successful…and he was able to get the funding he needed.
Jeff Bezos was asking people to invest in a company
- Sitting in his car, as his wife drove him to Seattle
- Whose business model was criticized by analysts
- Which failed to turn a profit for years; and which he himself admitted had a 70% chance of ending in failure
And still, people invested.
Which brings me to the point…
Do you think he’d have been able to pull that off without having an extensive network of potential investors?
It’s that familiar feeling, that credibility that comes from ‘I know this guy’, that pushes a deal across the last mile.
And that’s the marketing strategy I’m telling you about.
The #1 Secret To Marketing An Interior Design Business – Networking
Business networking is the process of striking up a relationship with people who matter in your line of work – interior design.
A key feature of such relationships is that they tend to be long term.
What kind of people should an interior designer look to build networks with?
There are chiefly two kinds of people an interior designer – or, indeed, any professional – should build relationships with:
- Potential clients
- People in the interior design industry
- Professionals in related fields (like builders, decorators, suppliers, and so on)
- Other interior designers
How would having such professional networks help an interior designer?
- Potential clients would keep the interior designer in mind if they have any interior design project coming up.
- The interior designer can team up with professionals in related fields to offer a full interior design service (that is, both planning the project and implementing it) to clients who ask for it.
- You can get referrals from across your network. Getting referrals is one of the client acquisition strategies used by top interior design firms.
- You may be able to gain access to prestigious circles (and be awarded high-profile projects) via your network.
- Networking builds your profile as an approachable and reliable interior design professional, who is good at what they do.
- A lot of useful advice – whether it’s general advice on the state of the industry, or specific advice on a particular project – can be obtained from professional networks.
Note one key point here – whether it’s who to approach, how to do it, or where to do it – networking is all about the interior designer.
Also, since it’ll be their own business that the designer will be networking for, they know their business best, and they can do it better than anyone else.
Business networking for interior designers – the essential checklist
Here’s how you can go about reaping the maximum benefit from your professional network:
1. Remember, you’re establishing a relationship
The entire goal of networking is to set up a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with human beings.
Your approach must be casual.
Don’t become completely laid back, and start cracking inappropriate jokes or sharing intimate secrets, but your approach must be casual, almost as if establishing a friendship. Click To Tweet
Finally…and this is crucial to establishing a successful business network…you must remain strictly non-commercial.
Commercial benefits will come in due course; but when you’re establishing a new relationship, remember to keep it free of any commercial or transactional intent.
2. Set networking goals
While you should not have any commercial intent when you’re trying to establish a networking relationship, you should have a goal in mind as to what you want to gain from it.
Are you looking to:
- Meet up with people in allied industries (like suppliers, builders, and so on)?
- Gain entry into an interior designers’ circle?
- Meet people who may be able to give you referrals?
How will this help? It will give you an idea of how to prepare to talk shop, and how to pitch your business, if an opportunity comes.
Having goals also helps you choose where to network (and which places to give a miss) and also helps you strategize your networking efforts.
3. You must be prepared to talk shop
If the other party starts talking business, or discusses anything related to the industry, it is critical, absolutely critical that you be able to add meaningfully to the discussion.
For example, if you’re facing the head of the local chamber of commerce, and they’re talking about a slowdown in the local construction industry, you must be able to rattle off some numbers, either from your own business, or from the interior design industry in general, to either support or contradict them.
Remember, it’s not essential to support everything the other person says, you’re free to contradict them; however, you must be able to add meaningfully to the conversation. Click To Tweet
If the conversation goes towards your interior design business…
It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. You must be able to pitch your business like a pro, talking about:
- One or two large orders you’re proud of
- Orders in the pipeline
- Orders you’re hoping to get
- Your expansion plans (if any)
- Your opinion on where the design industry is headed
Initially, you may need to make some notes on your phone; but don’t consult them while you’re engaged in conversation. Refresh your memory while you’re not talking with anyone.
4. Remember, networking is not a 9 to 5 job
Networking can happen anywhere, and at any time.
What matters is there are people you want to network with in front of you.
- An industry event
- Your gym
- A bar where people meet up after work
- Even on social media, in forums and chat rooms. Social media engagement is a key way to promote your interior design business.
You should be prepared to seize the chance, if it comes up.
5. Follow up
Striking up a conversation, and establishing is only half the battle.
The other half is maintaining the relationship.
How can you follow up on your initial conversation?
- Invite them to the next seminar or industry event you’re attending.
- Send them some industry news – whether it’s a new government program to help businesses, or it’s a new project in the area, and so on.
- Wish them a happy birthday, or happy anniversary or Merry Christmas (you get the idea).
Whatever it be, keep the conversation flowing, every month or so.
The onus is on you to keep the relationship alive.
N.B. Following up with your clients is a good way of marketing your interior design business in a recession too.
6. If you’re an introvert
There’s no shame in it. Some of us are that way.
What matters is that you overcome it, if only to network for your interior design business.
- Practice ice breakers, which will enable you to enter a conversation smoothly.
- Take a friend along, to support and help you.
- Take a break after every conversation; grab a coffee, or just visit the washroom and splash some water on your face.
The #1 secret to marketing an interior design business is networking.
An interior designer should look to network with;
- Potential clients
- Professionals in the interior design and allied industries (such as builders, suppliers, and so on)
Networking can help interior designers;
- Get projects directly
- Get referrals
- Get contacts with whom to team up for a full service project
The key things to remember in networking for your interior design business are;
You’re establishing a relationship, not asking for work.
You need to set goals.
You must be prepared to talk shop if the opportunity arises.
You must grab every networking opportunity that arises, whether they’re within office hours or not.
You must follow up on your initial conversation.
If you’re an introvert, you need to overcome it:
- Learn some icebreakers you can use to slip into conversations.
- Take a friend along for support.
- Take a break every now and then.
If this blog helped you network for your interior design business; or if you have any networking success stories you’d like to share, feel free to drop a comment below!
I wish you all the best in your networking efforts for your interior design business.