9 Common Interior Design Mistakes (Marketing)

Mr Stanley Rao CEO of Champions group named one of the “100 Most Influential Global Sales & Marketing Technology Leader” by Marketing Times, Sales & Marketing magazine called him “The Man Who pioneered Marketing Outsourcing industry using Technology”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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!

  1. 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”.
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    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!

  3. 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.
  4. 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 .
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

Making Sheers For Wide Windows

When you make up sheers as a ‘window treatment’ you end up with a great solution for letting light in and keeping prying eyes out.

A tip: Remember you will have your sheers visible all day. Choose your fabric wisely and also think about Double Width Sheers which are an effective way of reducing the making up cost of sheers whilst also reducing the number of joins simply because the fabric can be much wider (280cm).

Double width sheers will make trickier drops easier to make and will look great.

If you want sheer samples and are a design professional please email info@kothea.com.

Making cushions

Making Cushions

Making cushions can be trickier than you might think. For consistent, professional results we have our cushions made up by Tricia Tucker at www.softfurnishing.co.uk if you want instructions on how to make up cushions yourself then you could start by looking here www.alternative-windows.com/cushionindex.htm.

Velvet Fabrics by KOTHEA include Mohair Velvet, Cotton Velvet, Linen Velvet

Velvet Fabric Includes Mohair Velvet

Velvet Fabrics by KOTHEA include Mohair Velvet, Cotton Velvet, Linen Velvet & silk velvet. The most popular being mohair velvet the most luxurious being Cashmere Silk Velvet.

KOTHEA was asked “what is the difference between cotton velvet and mohair velvet upholstery fabric”.

More of an explanation about velvet is given here – essentially ‘velvet’ is the finish arrived at by a specific production process. That process can be applied to many fibres. Mohair usually refers to a silk-like fabric or yarn made from the hair of the Angora goat and cotton is a natural fibre that grows from the cotton plant.

This blog contains lots of posts on velvets both from: an explanatory point of view; a marketing/sales point of view; and a usage point of view – hopefully something for everyone. You can use the search tools to the right to find out more. Please feel free to ask questions.

Top 10 Design Websites – Friday Afternoon Fun

A little bit of design fun for a Friday afternoon, designed to give you
something to talk about when socialising after work.

Here are what are “probably” July’s Top 10 Interior Design Websites – in reverse order.


Someone really  has got too much time on their hands as they buy and
then modify many of the IKEA staples.


9. ain’t no disco

At number 9 a much more serious site covering some far from run-of-the-mill
office interiors.


8. mydeco

Despite daring to release an unfinished ‘beta’ web site, mydeco give a
creditable room planning tool on their site.



We would probably prefer the RIBA Product Selector as the tool of product
choice for architects however ARCHITRONIC deliver a packed online library for
designers and architects.



The font is a bit similar to World Of interiors I know. Anyway the originally
named INTERIOR DESIGN website does provide a wealth of opinion and sources.


5. getdecorating

A genuinely good source for inspiration in decoration. Although for a more
comprehensive product list we always recommend The House Directory.


4. miraentuinterior

If you like vinyl then look no further.


3. apartment therapy

They aim to be ‘saving the world, one room at a time’. It might take quite a


2. de zeen design magazine

Continuing the trend for organisations that avoid using capital letters in
their names wherever possible, de zeen design magazine stylishly delivers a
wealth of interiors news.


1. Wallpaper*

A great lifestyle magazine we would all agree. Have a look to see if their
online presence is as good as the paper version. And what is that asterisk (*) for anyway? For fabrics we would recommend World Of Interiors.


A big thank you to: www.design-training.com

Business Tips For Interior Designers

English: Maurizio_Duranti Italiano: Maurizio_Duranti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many interior designers are struggling at the moment in face of the economic onslaught. It is fair to say of course that many are doing fine. This article is aimed at small- to medium-sized interior designers who think they need to spice up their sales and marketing efforts to stay in business.

Firstly creative people often don’t ‘get’ business marketing. It IS a pseudo-science but not rocket science. To cut a two-year MBA short, you essentially have to: understand the needs of your target market; and sell and market appropriate products and services, with the correct price/quality/service offering, to that market. And you have to be passionate about it.

Some practical suggestions?

1. Cross Sell

You have just finished a job. Fantastic, well done! Move on to look for the next one? Well, right and wrong. The next job may well be closer than you think. It may be as close as one of the friends of the person whose job you have just finished.

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Host a thank you party at the client’s house. Tea-party, ‘cheese & wine’ party it doesn’t matter that much and it doesn’t have to be expensive. You will use the job as a showcase for your work. As your client is agreeing to host the party he/she is implicitly recommending your work and hopefully what you have done visually recommends itself anyway.  At the party DO NOT put business cards on a table and spend the whole time socialising with your client or the best looking/most funny person there. You are a professional, act that way or go the way of the dodo. Network. Speak to EVERYONE, briefly. Exchange business cards or email addresses or get any method of future contact. Work out what you will say in the brief exchange beforehand, work out a few variants of what you will say.

2. Go Fishing

Use your design library as a design consultancy. Offer an hourly service to prospective customers where you will help them design their dream home. This must be a charged-for service. If your clients pays nothing they place little or no value in what they have received (please remember that for all your dealings, very rarely offer freebies). For the fee they get a space, access to a computer and to your library and to your expertise. When they realise they are almost there they will realise the magnitude of the project they have to manage and control and that you are better placed to do that. Of course now the initial fee becomes refundable against your project fee. There are many benefits to this approach; your new client feels like they have contributed to the ownership of the project and also your client has paid you to tell you what he/she likes so you have a great starting point for understanding the route of the project.

3. Use the down-time

You’ve got some more time on your hands. Research a related business or geographic area. Look at new technology – would becoming one of the Twittering Wits (Wittering Twits) on Twitter help you get more business (probably not) but technology can help improve or increase your profile or maybe save you costs internally or maybe help you work more efficiently.

4. Auction your services

No of course I didn’t mean ebay, though you could try. Think about your target market, who and where are they? How do you get in front of them? Try putting your services up for auction at the local private school or at a charity auction; that kind of place is where your clients might ‘hang out’. You know your market better than me. If these are not the right places go and find them. You will end up giving some of your services away essentially for a good cause HOWEVER in return you will get wide exposure and as your auctioned service was paid for the winner places a value in it and as your auctioned service was limited in scope the winner will hopefully go on to expand the scope and pay money to you for a bigger project.

5. Run a business

It’s been really easy over the last few years for many people. All that cash rolling around, all those nice things to buy? If you think back then maybe you could have been more discerning? Anyway that’s water under the bridge. Each time you spend money work out how much profit from client time or sold products is required to buy it – you will probably amaze yourself and realise that your existing Blackberry is good enough for the job and that you don’t really need this year’s model that much of the incremental benefits to your business are limited.

Look at your suppliers, if they have a fancy Chelsea Harbour showroom then you are the one paying for it, albeit indirectly. Showrooms are VERY expensive and companies that have very high cost bases like this might be more exposed to the economic vagaries of the market more than others. The high cost bases also make the products more expensive to you – are there same-quality alternatives available more cost-effectively? Only one plug for KOTHEA’s fabrics: “We do not have a Chelsea Harbour Showroom.”

6. Plan for the future

Many companies are desperately trying to hold onto key staff so that they will be well placed for the recovery if, and when, it comes.

Take a view on when you think things will turn round and plan accordingly.

A summary of my view is that the UK economy has, in the last few decades, been driven by The City of London and Housing and Cheap Finance – they are related to a degree. Many City firms have already started paying good bonusses again. This filters through the London/SE House prices and then that has a knock on effect in other regions and in supporting industries…like yours. Green shoots may well be there.

7. New markets

Think beyond your historical clients and look at economic and demographic trends. The population is ageing, does that present any opportunities for example?

8. Networking…again

This time with complimentary suppliers. Perhaps you could periodically meet up with sales reps from companies you work with to exchange ideas and leads?

9. Gifting

A simple thank you gift to a client can create enormous good will. Ask for a referral in exchange or schedule a 3 months meeting after you have handed over your project to the client. Ostensibly to check they are happy but another chance to ask them for leads.

10. Trend Presentations & Inside Track meetings

If you have a group of prospect clients or some wavering on making a decision. Organise and host a ‘trends evening’ several of your suppliers will presents trends in differing product areas to you and your clients. Whilst you might learn something new yourself you will find that as all the parties interact the big gainers will be your potential clients, who will hopefully become re-enthused about continuing their project and continuing it with you as the lead.

11. The client within

One of your biggest competitors will be the client themselves. Many more people are opting to do the project or part of it themselves. This will always be an issue but more so now than ever before. Work out how you will cope with that. You might want to choose suppliers like KOTHEA who will never deal with the general public only with the trade. This protects your business. You need to have a strategy on  how you want to do this or you will unnecessarily lose business.

12. The competitor

You could partner with ‘trusted’ competitors to manage costs and work together on projects in the short term. Risky, but worth considering as work could be given back to you in your quieter periods.

13. Your products & services

Just read only then next sentence and then do what it asks you to before proceeding. “Write me an email telling me what your business does”.

You cheated! You read on. Anyway I would imagine that your email would have been paragraphs long. You are lucky that you are not accountants as, at a party, you have something that is perceived to be interesting to talk about. But some designers have been known to focus too introspectively at times.

However we are in a time of mass communications and limited attention spans – thank you SMS and Twitter and Facebook. Make sure you can be succint with your prospective clients when the need arises. Don’t confuse passion with effusive verbal dexterity.

14. Bit by bit

Think about selling one single million pound project. Then think about selling twenty 50,000 pound projects.

One approach to client penetration is to just focus first on getting in there and signing any deal. Do that tightly scoped piece of work well and then move on from there. eg just charge for the first phase of the design with the deliverbale being detailed plans for the client or just choose to work room-by-room. Or you could time-box developments for a trusting client who might want to trust you with GBP20,000 to do what you can within a month.

Different approaches with obvious individual drawbacks. Sometimes you may be required to think out-of-the-box. When you are required to so do it would be nice to have already given it some thought.

15. Makeovers

For a client’s forced house sale or for a sale that is tricky because of low levels of activity the appearance of the house is always key. Historically this area has made a difference in terms of the eventual sale price achieved nowadays it might make the difference between a sale or no sale. You could market a range of services here including renting items from your displays for a house open day. You also have the advantage that the seller is probably also soon going to be a buyer and potentially in need of your services for the new house.

If you found this useful there is more information <here> for those of you new to the industry.

Copyright KOTHEA Limited. This is a reworked article based on one produced in September 2007.

What is the martindale rub test?

Most fabrics undergo the Martindale Test to check their durability and suitability for various uses, i.e, curtains, domestic furniture, contract furniture. The test is also known as the Rub Test and it tests for abrasion. The test gives a score in 1000’s of rubs. Domestic fabrics often have a rating of up to 20,000 rubs. Generally, the higher the figure the more suitable the fabric for heavy usage. For example some KOTHEA velvets and faux leathers have scores of over 100,000 making them usable for heavy contract scenarios in hotels. KOTHEA have linen mix fabric for upholstery with a Martindale of 80,000.

You also might want to look <here> for details on the related Wyzenbeek test. Wyzenbeek is another (but different) kind of abrasion/rub test.

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The technical details of the Martindale test are shown below but this information is not normally required to be known by an interior designer: All you need to know is the appropriate rub test for your installation.If you are an interior design professional and you would like more information please call us in the UK on 020 8943 4904.

A circular specimen, mounted in a specimen holder and subjected to a defined load, is rubbed against an abrasive medium (standard wool fabric) in a translational movement tracing a Lissajous figure, the specimen holder being additionally freely rotatable around its own axis perpendicular to the plane of the specimen. The normal end point of the test is when two threads are broken or in the case of pile fabrics when the pile has completely worn off. The inspection interval is dependent on the end point of the fabric and is usually every 1,000 up to 5,000 rubs, every 2,000 between 5,000 & 20,000 every 5,000 between 20,000 & 40,000 and every 10,000 above 40,000.

For more information on luxury cashmere throws or to request cuttings please visit www.kothea.com.  For black faux leather upholstery fabrics try <here> and for mohair velvet and mohair velvet upholstery fabric please follow the links.  Upholstery Linen is also one of our specialities as are luxury  silk velvet  fabrics.