Interior Design in a New World of Internet

One of the topics that we encounter regularly while interacting with Interior Designers, is that how much the design world has evolved and its impact on their design business. Today’s clients are more educated having access to design shows and online websites. Product information is readily available and many high-quality decor products such as luxury furniture can be bought online. Most importantly, everything starts online first, be it finding a handyman, a specific look or an interior designer.

Fewer people rely totally on their interior designers for planning, design and product selection. Some designers are thriving in this changing environment, but many are still wondering how to adapt. With so much information now accessible to the general public, it may seem very daunting to gain the confidence of new clients.  Let us show you how you can use the very same media channels to further grow your business and thrive in this evolving environment.

Remember who you are

As a qualified professional you have specialized in an area that promises specific skills in space planning, functionality, sustainability, and beauty, just to name a few. Most of these skills come through education and practice. Watching TV and looking online are not going to replace the years of dedication that have honed your skills. Remember this:

  1. You have the knowledge to work with contractors, architects, craftsmen, and project managers.

  2. Working with multiple clients has broadened your skillset and stretched your mind to encompass many styles of design.

  3. You have a vast array of vendors to choose, from and can customize items such as chairs, sofas or draperies creating an environment tailored precisely for one person – your client.

Even though you may have been in business for a long time, don’t forget to talk about your credentials to prospective clients. Have brochures made that show your work and extoll your accomplishments. It might sound old hat to you but not for a client.

Get the attention of Potential Clients

Now is the time to make sure you have a strong online presence so that people who are actively looking to hire an interior designer or decorator can find you. There are myriad ways in which to communicate with prospective clients online and you should take advantage of them to keep building your business.

Announce to the world that they are being smart to work with an interior designer. By the end of the project they will appreciate how your skills and creativity have given them a space where they can relax, feel right at home, function properly and feel proud to show friends and family what they have achieved.

Here are some of the ways to build your online presence:

Website

You must have a web address and a website. At its most basic a website is an online brochure where you showcase your work and explain how you work. It’s a great place to tell them why they need an interior designer and what your expertise adds to their life. You can have a simple website up over a weekend or find someone to do it for you.

A website is available to the public 24-hours a day and from stats on client websites we have seen that many people are looking at websites in the middle of the night when you’re asleep. A website gives your business instant credibility and not just with clients. If you need a bank loan, they will want to see your website – they want to know you are serious.

Write a Blog

You (and your team) can write a weekly blog. It doesn’t have to be very long and has many benefits:

  • It’s an informal way to communicate with people that is not trying to sell to them.
  • It establishes authority because you can choose subjects that highlight your skills.
  • It is an inexpensive way to send out press releases.
  • You can build up a following that will spread the word that you are that go-to person.

Online Advertising

We could write a book about advertising online but in its basest form you should be using Google Ads. When people search on-line, they rarely go past the first page and you want to make sure your company is right in front of them. Costs are low and results can be instant.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Optimizing your web pages is just as important because if a search engine can find the correct key phrases you want to be found for, “interior designer” or “New York interior designer” for example, then your website will show up in the organic search results. It can take several months for this to happen and hiring an expert may be your best bet.

Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest

You may think Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are just for socializing and personal use, but a strong business page is an excellent way to:

  • Build community
  • Showcase products
  • Communicate directly with your audience
  • Organize promotions
  • Build SEO rankings

You will already have stunning photographs from your project photo shoots, and by adding thoughtful comments, your content will go a long way to building credibility and engagement.

Advertising to a targeted population on these platforms can be achieved at low prices. It will build an even wider audience that will follow you and “share” with friends. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey notes that 68% of U.S. adults use Facebook and it remains the primary social media platform for most Americans.

Print your own magazine

Do not forget the offline marketing! It is still a very effective method. Many designers still stick to traditional marketing methods, especially when dealing with high-end clientele but advertising in shelter magazines quickly eats into your annual budget.  A proven way to appear in high-quality print is to create your own magazine. One design firm we know prints a 64-page full color magazine at the end of every year. Content includes:

  • Editorials showcasing the year’s best design work with professional photography.
  • Informative articles about new ideas in the industry.
  • Interesting stories about clients and the challenges overcome during their projects.
  • Hot design trends.
  • A featured restaurant with a favorite recipe.
  • Snippets of info on staff with their favorite gadgets and products.

To off-set the cost of such a project, regular vendors are invited to advertise. This year’s magazine included nine full-page ads including one from Mercedes-Benz.

Magazines are distributed three ways:

  1. A mailing firm is hired to send 5,000 magazines to a targeted audience.
  2. Others are used at trade shows throughout the year as an incredibly stylish hand-out.
  3. The remainder are given to prospective clients as they come to the studio or the designer goes to their home.

This may seem a costly project but from the mailing alone, the company get 6 – 10 orders annually worth approximately half-a million dollars. The secret is to target to the right audience.

Last but not the least, use TV and other online resources to stay current

It seems that just about everybody watches design shows – even designers!

A large segment of the market are baby boomers, many of whom have retired. This results in a target market that have the wherewithal to afford high-end design but are also looking at products online because they have the time to do so and are educated on pricing across the brands.

According to Nielsen, HGTV viewers are the most affluent. The ratings tell a strong story of how viewers are influenced, with HGTV being number 3 in primetime viewing and number 4 in daytime viewing, as of January 2019.

Other stats show this about viewers:

  • 73% are home owners
  • 63% are female
  • 37% are in management
  • 54% earn in excess of $75k/annum
  • The median age of viewers is 58

What does this mean for interior designers? It means that the clients you are pursuing are more educated than in previous years. They know the style they like, they have an idea of how much things cost, and they like what they’re seeing. You can use this knowledge to your advantage because it’s easier to start with someone who knows what they like, and what they don’t like.

Once you find new clients, don’t forget that having an organized, effective business will result in both satisfied clients and a happy accountant! How to run an efficient interior design business is an entirely different topic that we plan to address in a future blog. Share with us what strategies have worked for you in growing your business in this changing design environment!

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