ABM: Always Be Marketing
I’m not the first person to use this acronym, but it is one I talk a lot about. In my opinion, the most common reason businesses fail is by not acquiring enough incoming sales. I’m not saying marketing solves all problems (just ask Gail), but it does cover a multitude of sins in your business. If you have no leads, you have no sales opportunities. If you have no sales opportunities, you have no project. No projects, no income. I think you understand.
I just returned from Spring High Point Market, and everywhere you looked, big brands were advertising. In fact, we received tons of email blasts, Instagram posts, and direct mail pieces in the weeks leading up to market. Once we were there, we saw posters on walls, banners on buses, signs on buildings, and special events in almost every showroom. Now that we are home, we will get more email blasts, calls, and brochures in the mail from everyone we saw. If the big businesses don’t stop marketing, why should you?
One question I like to ask designers is, “what do you do to get the phone to ring?” Unfortunately, I don’t usually get the response I want to hear. They typically tell me that they have been fortunate, and the majority of their business comes through word of mouth. What frustrates me is the fact that this is simply not true. I then ask, who built their website? Do they send email campaigns to their current customers? Do they receive press and have a PR rep? …and on, and on it goes. All of these things ARE marketing.
I’m not saying you need to buy a big ad in Luxe or your local shelter publication, but you do need to have an active role in marketing your business. Most designers I talk to do not continually photograph their projects and update their website. Most designers don’t blog on a regular basis. Most designers are present on social media, but with no strategy in mind to drive business. Most designers just talk to friends and neighbors hoping someone will call one day with a big fat juicy budget. Someone who will never complain and who will let them design whatever they want. It just won’t happen. You need to understand marketing. You need to build a strategy.
But where to start? You must know who you are first, what you are good at, and how to stay true to yourself. I host a panel called, Passion Sucks. It’s all about the Money! at High Point. This market was my 4th edition of this panel (you can listen to last market’s here) and Libby Langdon was one of the panelists. She talked about being true to yourself and not trying to be like other designers. Libby is very different from Nina Magon, from Stacey Garcia, and from Lauren Clement (also on the panel). Her brand is “Easy. Elegant. Everyday Style.” and everything she does is consistent with that. So, you need to know who you are. Are you glam and bling? Are you country chic? Or are you New York sophisticated?
After you understand who you are, then you need figure out who your ideal customer is. Where does she live? What does he look like? What car do they drive? Do they have kids? If, so how old? Once you understand who they are, you can craft a message that they will love and that will attract them. These two steps will help you begin to develop your brand. A strong brand will help communicate who you are to your customers.
Marketing is about communicating, and if you don’t understand who you are, or who your customer is, then you won’t be able to attract customers on a consistent basis.
Nick May is the host of a widely acclaimed interior design podcast, The Chaise Lounge, dedicated to the business of interior design. Each week he interviews top designers from across the globe to find out how they got into interior design, why they started their firm, and what has made them so successful.