Most of your leads have traditionally always been through word of mouth. As the economy slows those referrals have begun to slow and your traditional reliance on people that you know or former clients is not enough to sustain your business. All businesses must evolve as markets change or industries change. The Internet has been seen as one of the last places that interior designers tend to leverage, in general, much less as a lead source, however there is an untapped opportunity out there. Clearly your website is a place that potential clients may first go to see your work but does anyone find designers online? I believe the answer to this depends on the designer’s business model and tailoring their model to make the channel effective for them. Also, keeping in mind that people on the mass market end will want to spend less, there are creative ways to create “products” suited for this trend and still make money. First you have to be ready to consider these bold steps:
- Think Beyond Local.We know that more and more people are beginning to specify products online and the natural evolution is for them to next seek out professional assistance online. However, as a service oriented business, you have traditionally looked at your regional market. Design Services do not have to be local. Your customers telecommute, why not you?
- Embrace the Internet and Promote yourself online. Many interior designers are not quite ready to embrace technology, however their customers are quite often very computer savvy. Being “found” is important to the client as he/she feels a little bit of prestige when telling others about his new designer and his/her coworkers “google” your name and you pop up everywhere. ”Being found” is important for every business. What do you really need to know about “being found”? Links are king on the internet. Make sure you have as many authority links to your site. Get listed on Yahoo and DMOZ
- Ensure you are getting paid enough for your time. Making your interior design services more available online requires that you put together services that are scalable and profitable. The Internet is about efficiency. Your services need to have a balance between being customizable and repeatable.
- Don’t be afraid to rebrand. Concerned that an online strategy may devalue your brand, just crate a separate entity for this business segment. No need for your core clients to know how you generate your other sources of revenue.
- Blogging. Yes, I know that those of you who already are busy don’t even think they have time for a blog, however, this is one of your main lead strategies. Consider it only takes 1 hour at night to write about an exciting new product. Soon you will have many pages of articles and this is how links and traffic are born.
If you are ready to consider promoting your services online, here are some ideas that you may consider:
- Flat fee consultation. This is a simple advice consultation based on a questionnaire and photos and you provide a detailed response. Use this simple online form will allow you to get all of your questions answered and you will have easy access to all of the responses. www.wufoo.com. Once you get an idea of your customer’s needs, tailor your response and guidance to your customer’s answers.
- 3 D Rendering Consultation: Create a flat fee consultation including 3 different bathroom layout designs and render the design in a simple program like Plan 3 D. You don’t need to know any programming and can provide a professional looking deliverable to your client, which then becomes easily repeatable. You may just need to set up 5-10 different bathroom configurations and then it is just a matter of applying different materials and layouts. Of course we would recommend that you use the designs on Beltile.com in your renderings! But you can use any materials from any site by just saving the image and dragging it into the program.
- Niche/Specialty consultation: Color consultation, Feng Shui consultation, green consultation, bathroom consultation, powder room consultation, kitchen backsplash consultation etc. Focus on your niche! Build your entire online business around a certain niche and often the smaller the better. Promote this to the hilt! Once you build a niche, you can tie in specific product recommendations which you can sell to your clients.
- Project Management: Many corporate firms allow this function complete remote management. Often, a customer just needs some help in coordinating the ultimate design with the contractor, subs, and finishes. Create a package which would include a daily review of work and progress, along with a discussion of the design and finishes to ensure the final look is executed based on the direction provided to the contractor. Sometimes the consumer just wants an intermediary.