Designers: What to blog about

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Image via CrunchBase

OK so you’ve decided to raise your business profile by blogging at least weekly. It will boost your brand awareness in your customers’ eyes and also, eventually, help your position in the results of google searches.

Unfortunately after a few weeks you run out of things to write.

So…

DESIGNERS: “WHAT DO I BLOG ABOUT?”

Let’s go.

1. Original content. Whatever it is it MUST be original. If you copy articles or republish them Google ‘knows’ that. It won’t help you one jot in your position in search results.  It might be of some benefit to your readership though but why not just post the link to the information preceded by your professional opinion about what is in the link and why is worth visiting? Add value, don’t plagiarise.

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Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

2. Apple iPHONES? So many people blog about technology and how wonderful it is. Perhaps, I would suggest, many of those conversations don’t get far over the dinner table or at parties. Why? Mainly because they are of limited interest. And, let’s face it, those discussing technology just use the technology they don’t actually invent the darn thing! HOWEVER you design amazing interiors for houses. That’s interesting to many people, they live in them funnily enough, it is an area that is very interesting to many people. So talk about your job, its one of the few jobs that people envy and are interested in. Don’t be embarrassed!

3. So blog about your last job. More importantly make your last job into several blog posts. Focus on specific aspects of about 200-300 words for each post. Talk about; products, services your approach to the project, what your client thought, how good certain contractors were. Honestly you could go on for a few months based on one project alone (remember short posts with images ideally).

4. Talk about design in general. What’s good, what’s not. And I want to hear YOUR GENUINE opinion please, not a re-hashed version of something that someone told you was “cutting edge design”. True originality and creativity is rare -people with money want to buy that (oh yes, that’s right they are your potential customers).

5. Trends. At the turn of the year I found VERY few designers talking about trends for the year ahead. And many of them were just rehashing colour trends produced by paint maker Farrow and Ball (or whoever it was). YAWN. So who is one of the most sought after media-savvy interior designers in the UK…Kelly Hoppen. Look here, she gives her professional opinion on the year ahead and writes in an engaging way. Trends are one of the easiest things to write about and few of you (with notable exceptions)  did it. Great job Kelly!

6. PLEASE think about your readers. Do NOT write something that will be of interest to all your staff. Why? They are not your customers. Write about something that your customers might be interested in. So we, KOTHEA, sell great fabrics to interior designers but I don’t tend to talk about that. I talk in this blog about stuff that might help you make more money (eventually) by doing better business. Eventually KOTHEA will stick in your brain and you will buy some of our fabrics!

 

Interior Design Marketing 2010 – 8 Predictions 8 Actions

2010: Sort It Out Now
2010: Sort It Out Now

With the benefit of proverbial hindsight the changes that have hit the Interior Design sector in 2009 were ‘obvious’. I’ll take a quick look at how some of the aspects of sales & marketing in interior design will affect ‘you’ in 2010. As always I’ll be practical and sensible and not carried away by the hype of technologies or media evangelists.

So prediction number one. I started my introduction by saying how it will affect ‘you’ with the you in parentheses. That means all of ‘you’, plural, not just you my dear reader. Well, very, very many of ‘you’ will do little different this year to what you did last year or the year before. So not much change there. But just because you refuse to change does not mean that change will not be forced upon you by the market. For example, many large design practices are now much smaller, the people who left are now starting innovative new businesses and stealing your customers. Action Point: Innovate and survive. Make a point to change something in your business this year, something important not trivial.

Click To Read More Interior Design Articles
Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

Prediction number 2. 2009 was an historically pivotal year. The time we are now living in will be looked back on by scholars as the period when the East truly began it’s economic ascendancy over the West. Not a nice prediction I know and I am not happy about it. Unfortunately, in 2010, the western economies will experience further serious difficulties. The American economy will trundle along and the UK economy will either stay in recession or double dip back into recession as massive, impending public spending cutbacks put government employees out of work. (The UK government has over the last year borrowed more money than all UK governments EVER ADDED TOGETHER that is a LOT of money and yes I have written it correctly and yes it really is true. The country and 6th ish biggest economy risks bankruptcy). This will impact you designers indirectly and directly. I doubt many of your clients work in government; however their businesses rely, in part, on the direct and indirect custom and spending power of government employees and government agencies. Action Point: Look at the type of customers you have and assess the risks to your future levels of business from that area. Survey the economic landscape in your target markets.

Prediction number 3. Many of you will start writing blogs because either it’s a good idea or because you competitors do it. About half of you will stop doing that because it takes up too much time. Action Point: Either write a weekly business blog  or, if you have not got enough time to grow your business (hmm?), use Twitter/Facebook to micro-blog.

Prediction number 4. Some of you will take a strategic view on where new customers will come from and prosper accordingly. Look where the money is. Bankers STILL get huge bonuses and many spend it on houses. There is less funding available for large capital intensive projects like hotels but, once started, hotels are usually finished. Multi-billionaires are still billionaires; they will still buy ski chalets, yachts and villas because they are still rich. Footballers and MDs of PLCs still get paid too much. Fewer people will buy second homes and overseas homes. The property market (sales not letting) might grow from last year but it will still be at low levels. B&Q recently reported good sales in 2009…indicative that people are spending money on where they live now and not that they plan to move. HOWEVER remember that all economic bubbles EVER in history ALWAYS burst. (South Sea Bubble, Dot come bubble, house price bubble,  footballers’ salaries!, etc.) also remember that just because an industry is in recession it does not necessarily mean it EVER will pick up at some point in the future. Action Point: Review and understand your customer segments.

Prediction number 5. No new marketing wonder solution. 2009 saw Facebook dramatically take over from MySpace. Facebook will continue to prosper. You should use it as a marketing channel if your clients ‘hang out there’. A mini-risk with Facebook is that adoption by the young and trendy is slowing as it is no longer as cool as it used to be, mainly because their parents’ updates keep appearing on their wall.  Even I remember that sort of thing is not cool (just like using the word cool probably). Action Point: Use Facebook for your customer networking remembering that you are trying to network with potential business partners or customers NOT the competition, it’s not the size of your network that counts.

Prediction number 6. Traditional advertising’s terminal disease will not improve.  Online advertising will continue to be adopted by designers. Traditional print circulations are falling, technologies exist to let us skip TV ads, etc. How many times do you get called with the latest greatest deal for a full page ad in some magazine you’ve never heard of? How many times does a new online web site try to sell you advertising space?. Why, for the first time in 23 (TWENTY THREE) years has Pepsi stopped spending on advertising on the Superbowl and switched to an alternative online media campaign? Advertising is intrusive, usually annoying, often irrelevant and we can now avoid it as well as ignore it. If I owned a small design business I would not entrust my money with an employee marketing manager to spend blindly on advertising. If I controlled my own media spend I would review closely every penny I spent on traditional print advertising and I would want proof that it worked. And that proof would not be forthcoming. Unlike Google AdWords, for example, which tells me exactly what happened and only charges me for success. Unlike this blog post that I know will get at least 500 hits. Action Point: If you do not advertise do so online with a limited budget. If you do advertise in print consider switching a significant chunk of your spend to online.

Prediction number 7. Although Twitter is rubbish. People will use it more and more in 2010 because, for the time being, it fills a need. The need is broadly defined by the ease of connecting with people, simple quick messaging, and convenience of use with technologies like mobile/cell phones. Action Point: You should really use Twitter for your business.

Prediction number 8. Search engines have changed and continue to so do. They now look more at the instant chats and posts that your customers are making. Maybe they evangelise about your business or are less than kind about it. Either way that sort of up-to-date pertinent information will find it’s way up Google’s ranking and you really, really (yes REALLY) should know what is being said about your business. Action Point: Review weekly what is being said online about your business.

Is that all so far fetched?

You can read more of my sales & marketing for interior designer post here.

Designers: Twitter Is Rubbish – Use Twitter

Green tinged avatars appeared on Twitter, Face...As an interior designer you appreciate the beauty of the things you design. So how can this flimsily-named Twitter-thing have any beauty? or any use for that matter with the constraint of 140 characters. How can it be a professional marketing tool?

Well it is and I’ll tell you why. I should also let you know that I am from the original anti-Twitter brigade but have been converted as I wrote late last year.

  1. Many of the readers of this blog are owners of small to medium-sized interior design firms. We just don’t have that much spare time, right? Continue reading “Designers: Twitter Is Rubbish – Use Twitter”

7 Facebook Mistakes Interior Designers Make

Appraisal / Vanity
Appraisal / Vanity (Photo credit: CarbonNYC)

Facebook is a great place to start or participate in online communities based around your interior design service. Use Facebook as one of the ways to increase your business.

BUT “What are the pitfalls?”. “What mistakes do interior designers make?”

1. Facebook Groups: These are a way to communicate with people with like-minded interests, join the same groups that your customers might or start your own group. The problems here are that you end up talking to your competitors or trawling through voluminous amounts of irrelevant comments and receiving lots of spam. The mistake is to join too many groups that are not really relevant to your business intentions.

2. Vanity URL. One common mistake here is NOT obtaining a vanity URL for your business on Facebook. What is a vanity URL? Well ours is www.facebook.com/kothea , you want one like that.

3. You are foresighted enough to write a blog to support your business. However you copy and past your blog to your Facebook page (when you remember). Use Facebook apps to automate this process eg Social RSS

4. You do not clearly display your contact details. You do not have a ‘call to action’ throughout the page. Think what a visitor would want from you next…and provide it.

Click To Read More Interior Design Articles
Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

5. You only put text on your blog. Spruce it up with photos and videos if you can.

6. You only use Facebook. Use it in conjunction with other tools like Twitter.

7. Thinking it is the same as linkedin. It’s not. Facebook is a place where you will more likely be able to reach your customer base more easily.

Interior Designers – Facebook & 4 Ways To Correctly Use It

English: An example of an automated online ass...
English: An example of an automated online assistant. Further information is found in the Automated online assistant article in Wikipedia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you target the general public as an interior designer then you MUST have a facebook page for your business.

In previous posts I’ve wittered on about Twitter and given a few pointers on improving web sites. However I cannot stress the importance of Facebook to interior designers. It’s quite an important marketing channel now and it will become increasing important over time as it becomes more prevalent throughout the lives of your customers.

Let’s start off by trying to work out if you need to do something for your interior design business on facebook. Are your clients mostly businesses like restaurants or commercial offices? Are your residential clients technology averse? If the answer to these is YES then the ‘market segments’ (types of customers) you are targeting will probably be out of reach by Facebook. However that still leaves an awful lot of people who can potentially view communications about your company on facebook.

Click To Read More Interior Design Articles
Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

You say, “Facebook is just glorified email, right? I can’t see how Facebook is a professional communications channel for my business.”

Well, people do use facebook for what could otherwise be achieved by email, that’s certainly true. But it’s a whole lot more than that. Facebook can be a proxy for a web site, it can be a customer service platform, it can be a portfolio showcase, it can be a design blog, and so the list goes on. It’s more than email, in that email is really a one to one type communication and it’s largely controlled by the initiator which, in the case of an email marketing campaign, is you. Facebook is a web of interacting ‘communities’ engaging in mass digital conversations.

But the world is changing away from the email we’ve all mostly got used to. People want information when they want it. They don’t want it when you want to give it to them. And they want it now. And that means immediately not tomorrow.

So let’s go back to your beautifully crafted email communication offering your services. It looks great and you were convinced into doing it because it is so cheap to do compared to paper mailshots, right? You send it out but…oh what a shame, the client’s project has just started with a competitor! If only you were quicker. Or maybe they will be starting their project in 6 months time and might mislay your email in the meantime. Maybe, as is more likely the case, they will treat your email with disdain and bin it without even reading it. So an ’email-shot’ was cheap to do but it cost you your time and it maybe wasn’t effective.

So instead, already having your design service offering and a online portfolio might have initiated that first contact towards winning the business. And totally new potential clients might have found your company facebook page because you write a blog with interesting content about home interior design issues and they discovered it through searching on google.

All well and good, but isn’t that a web site?

Yes, sort of! but there’s more. A  blog is the first element of interactivity over and above a regualr website. It allows potential customers to comment to you and each other about what they think about the issues you are raising in your interior design related posts. That buzz you create in digital communities creates your brand awareness.

But people might complain and everyone will see it? Well yes that’s true but you should have done it right in the first place. This gives you a second chance to rectify the problem and to show people that customer service is important to you. You get the chance to stop people complaining about you when you are not there to influence it.

Writing a blog from within Facebook is free. Hosting your digital portfolio on Facebook can be free to do. Creating a Facebook page for your business is free. Compare that cost with the cost of doing it on your web site.

Oh and there’s another thing. Have you noticed those flashy Blackberry mobile/cell phones and Nokia equivalents? I’m sure you have. They are becoming more and more common. People are using them for all sorts of communications and soon they will be using them to do their research (eg to find an interior designer) on google much more than they are now. So you’ve just invested let’s say £$10,000 on a cool new web site. Fantastic. However. First of all you probably cynically or intentionally forgot to put a blog on there (and even if you did you probably won’t keep up writing it for too long) and secondly I’ll bet if you borrow someone’s Blackberry and try to look at your new site 0n it then it will look awful. Great showcase for your business?…not.

So you’ve spent all this money on a web site. But have you tried typing “Interior Designer” into google and seeing where you rank. Probably not that highly. So how are people going to find you? Well you could spend more on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) but that’s a whole new and expensive ballgame so let’s not go there right now. Let’s do the effective and free stuff first.

Well once you built your network on facebook you will find people discovering your site inadvertently though your connections. For example Facebook will automatically tell a friend-of-a-friend that the friend is a fan of you, yes you the interior designer. So when the friend-of-a-friend is contemplating looking for an interior designer they discover that you have done a great job for one of their friends. It really is informal networking and digital PR, the sort that you used to do face to face and the sort that you used to pay for to get coverage in magazines.

So look. I’m not saying you can build an interior design business based on Facebook networks. What I’m saying is that it is a potentially cheap, new and effective marketing channel. Use it alongside your traditional methods that have already been shown to work.

And that’s another thing. With digital marketing you can see the metrics. When you placed an ad in a magazine you had no idea how many people saw it. all you had at best was an over-inflated circulation figure. You can now count the clicks. You can count where the clickers came from and you can track where the clickers clicked to. Be warned I’m watching you! (Digitally of course!)

So  Interior Designers how do you correctly use facebook?

Here’s 4 ways to get you started.

1. Create a vanity url, a business page and make sure that someone can see the ‘fan’ functionality.

2. Either write a blog in facebook or get a free facebook application to copy in the content of your blog to facebook.

3. Use one of the free applciations to add extra info about your company.

4. Build your network. Friends, family, colleagues, clients – the bigger nework, the better.

Spying On Competitors – Staying Ahead

It’s a bit negative really isn’t it? I mean spying on your competitors implies they are better than you and you are devoting time just to play catch up. Or you could turn it around and say that by employing ALL the industry best practice from all your competitors you will be ahead of almost all of them! Depends how you see it.

This article considers a few easy ways to ethically get more information on your competitors and then show you how to easily integrate all that information into your web browser so it’s there to use on an ongoing basis whenever you have time in the future. Fantastic long term investment merely for investing your time.

We look at:

  1. Google Alerts;
  2. Competitor News Feeds;
  3. Industry News Feeds; and then finish by
  4. Putting it all together in one place using Netvibes.
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Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

Skip to the end of the article if you want the URL for the example created.

Let’s create a real life example by pretending that we are a Hotel/Hospitality focussed interior design and architecture practice. Now, I’ve only been to LA once so with my very minimal internet research I’ll pretend further that my main local competitor is Ralph Gentile Architects (www.rgastudio.com) – I don’t know this company  and  they seem to be in the hotel interior design industry. Also we will look at WATG (www.watg.com) who are a leading design consultant for the global hospitality market. Continue reading “Spying On Competitors – Staying Ahead”

Bad things they say about Interior Designers

Truth & Consequences
Image via Wikipedia

You have a great business. You have great referrals from clients and you have a good presence at events and online.

What if you suddenly started getting a lot of bad press, perhaps because of just one well connected but disgruntled client? What if you did not realise for 6 months? The consequences could be disastrous, right?

This is one of those things that are, hopefully, unlikely to happen but if it did the CONSEQUENCES would be severe. So it’s the kind of business event where you probably need not worry too much BUT you do need to give it some thought to plan contingent action.

Click To Read More Interior Design Articles
Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

An easy thing to do as part of a response to this issue is to look at: online articles and publications; and online social networks.

At its most simple level: once you realise what is happening make every effort to politely counter what is said in written and make efforts to make the disgruntled client happier.

At another level think about a way of monitoring the PR you get on a regular basis to avoid cumulative bad press.

Facebook For Interior Designers: 7 Steps To Get Started

Now consumed Become a fan on facebook http://w...
Now consumed Become a fan on facebook http://www.tomtolkien.com (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article tells interior designers how to setup a business page for their interior design business on Facebook.If you sell to the general public then the consensus amongst marketing professionals is that your marketing strategy must include Facebook. Facebook will work to promote your services through your network and through the networks of your network members.

If you sell to businesses (eg if you are a hospitality interior designer specialising in restaurants) then I’m not convinced that Facebook is the best medium. However, and its a big however, many of your clients will be using Facebook already so maybe you should use it to help them consume the information that you produce and to help them interact with your organisation in a way that suits them. It’s not what is easiest for you that should be the way forwards, it should be what is the easiest for your (potential-) clients.

Click To Read More Interior Design Articles
Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

Let’s get started then. Here’s what you need to do and it will cost you nothing other than time:

1. Create a personal Facebook account if you don’t already have one. If you have one, use the one you have.

2. Create a business page for your business – sometimes called a fan page. Listen up here!

  • Don’t create another personal page.
  • Don’t create a group – you don’t need to know what one is.
  • Create a business(or fan) page: http://www.Facebook.com/pages/create.php

Make a note of your default business page ie the URL that Facebook gives you. KOTHEA’s is http://www.facebook.com/pages/London-United-Kingdom/KOTHEA/129265851209/ and yours will be similar, make sure that Continue reading “Facebook For Interior Designers: 7 Steps To Get Started”

Retail Interior Designers – 8 ways to sell more

Sales
Sales (Photo credit: Nils Geylen)

OK let’s focus on sales. Without further ado here are 8 suggestions for ways to sell more. Hopefully, at least one will be something new to try. Change is good:

1. One for the owners and managers: interact on the sales force with your staff and your customers. Be visible and foster relationships.

2. The retail world moves forwards changing all the time. Don’t look back to the glory days. Innovate, take a view on the future.

Click To Read More Interior Design Articles
Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

3. Browsers. For all those people who just can’t be engaged by your sales people get the sales people to give these ‘browsers’ a flyer. The flyer (terrible word) can be a discount voucher, an unadvertised promotion or a brief look at a new product, anything of value. Keep it succinct.

4. On weekends when you are particularly busy ensure that a senior staff member greets entering customers and tries to engage with leaving ones (who have not purchased) to ask them what they were looking for that they could not find.

5. Make sure your best sales people are selling on busy days. Ensure they are properly incentivized to SELL. Customer service is great but you want the money, right?

6. Consider a promotional event that is invitation only for your best customers (and anyone they want to bring along). Make sure there is genuinely something in it for the attendees.

7. Ask your salespeople what can be done on a practical day-to-day level to sell more. More products? Better layout? Different incentivisation or promotion?

8. Work your networks. Through Facebook; through staff, friends and family, email list.

Faux Leather Skin – Heavy Contract Upholstery Walling

LONDON, England. 07-DECEMBER-2009 11.30 AM: KOTHEA today announced it has expanded its extensive contract faux skin collections by the addition of KOFAUXLEATHER. KOFAUXLEATHER is a high durability, faux leather: a superb contract fabric with a very high Martindale result. It simply and effortlessly delivers longstanding elegance in all the right bars, hotels and marine environments both as upholstery and as a wall or door covering. It looks great.

KOFAUXLEATHER

Reference: 04-003-378

Colour Shown: Marle

Other colourways: 18

Width: 140cm

Repeat: none

Composition: 100% Cotton basecloth, 94% vinyl 6% polyester coat.

Martindale: 100,000++

Primary Usage: Heavy contract upholstery and walling.

Type of fabric: Faux Leather / Faux Skin

About KOTHEA.

KOTHEA are a Continue reading “Faux Leather Skin – Heavy Contract Upholstery Walling”