Most lists have 10 points or multiples thereof. So, for a refreshing change, here are nine common mistakes made by Interior Designers in their business generation and, perhaps more importantly, how to avoid them. The article offers some sensible advice for designers who have some degree of responsibility for selling and marketing of their organisation’s design service and, whilst not a comprehensive solution to all your sales and marketing woes, it might just help a little!
- Not engaging the client: It is always great to understand what the client wants and deliver that rather than a variation of the last scheme you completed. You already knew that of course! However have you thought about the client decision making process? Try to understand that: your buyer; your consumer; and your decision makers could all be different people. Taking the example of a residential project (the principle also equally applies to a business to business project) your ‘client’ may be one partner but the decision maker could be the other partner and key influencers/users could be the kids. You need to engage with all parties to get “buy-in”.
Not listening hard enough: It’s easy to listen but often easy to not listen hard enough. In the sales process you may be inclined to talk too much. Ask questions, lots of them and make sure they are relevant. Try to ask open questions like “tell me about the sort of style you want to achieve” rather than closed questions which often do not get you correct information eg if you ask “Do you want red chairs?” your client may very well answer “No” but this has not told you that they want animal skin covered chairs!
- Attempting to ‘create’ demand: You might have been asked to do a specific job, say on one room. In uncertain times you may be glad about that. Nevertheless it is still a mistake to miss the opportunity of trying to broaden the opportunity.
- Don’t make too many assumptions: Well don’t make ANY costly assumptions. You might assume your client only has a certain budget. ASK those embarrassing questions about money and don’t forget that most clients have reasonable contingency factored in to their plans .
- Risk: All projects entail risk. Always have a ‘risk register’ (list of things that can go wrong). In advance, plan what you will do in the eventuality of any of those risks happening. Also for those truly monumental risks that may well be out of your control (and fault) then agree up front with the client what will happen in those circumstances. Otherwise the client will expect you to sort the problem out when it happens at your cost as it is ‘not their fault’. A simplistic example would be the removal of an interior wall which you and your client assumed to be none load bearing. The removal of a non-load bearing wall is straightforward but removal of a structural wall is not and is much more costly.
- Qualify new prospects: Your marketing campaigns, if well designed, should generate lots of leads especially if you have decided to invest heavily in those campaigns. After such a successful investment you will be energised to thoroughly follow-up all your leads. Great! Nothing wrong with that. Well nothing except that you only have limited resources to follow up the lead so make sure you focus those resources on qualifying the prospects and further refine your focus on the best prospects. Do not allocate equal resources. A simple rule for qualification is to follow ” BANT”: B – Existing Budget, or access to funds; A – Authority to approve and progress; N – A Need exists to necessitate action; T – Timeframes are sufficiently clear.
- Failing to follow-up: Once you have qualified your leads properly it should then be a crime to forget to follow them up! Yet we’ve probably all done it at some point. The price of disorganisation is missed opportunity. Get some sort of system that reminds you to follow up people at the right time; be it a diary, your email package or a contact management system. If you work for a large organisation then what if the lead generator/owner is ill? How will their follow up actions be acted upon if no-one knows about them? What if you lose your diary or your PC crashes? Such errors can cost you tens of thousands of dollars/pounds/euros – a lot regardless of the currency.
- Not understanding your own product or service: New products and materials and methods are developed every day. (At KOTHEA, www.kothea.com, we introduce a new fabric design on average every month rather than having spring/fall collections). Keep up to date with innovations in your market. The best sales and marketing campaigns are a mix of customer need and product understanding. Take time to read trade journals, visit showrooms and talk to customers. Always ask questions.
- Measuring activity rather than outcomes: If your design practice is large enough to employ people at least part time in marketing or sales then you need to measure the impact of their activity. Digital marketing is changing how business works. Is it best to have unquantifiable paper PR in World Of Interiors? Or is it best to send out 200 glossy brochures to past clients? Or is it best to have 300 clicks costing 50p/50cents each on Google Adwords? I’m not saying there is a right or wrong answer on this one but really, really consider the effectiveness of what you are spending and how you can measure it. Rest assured that your competitors are already doing that.