By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
Most interior designers have finally accepted the fact that they have to have a website. But that’s just the tip of today’s virtual marketing iceberg. Promoting your interior design business online requires new thinking today. If you’ve been relying on referrals and the occasional website query for your business, you might be missing great prospects.
A holistic online marketing strategy requires a multi-pronged approach that includes your website, a blog, design community websites, and social media (written and visual).
Where do you start? Think of your online marketing in terms of a wheel, with a hub at the center and spokes radiating out to create a unified whole.
From a marketing perspective, a website is somewhat passé. If you have a static website, I am not suggesting that you get rid of it. Most prospective clients will expect you to have one. But your new marketing hub for your business really should be a blog. Why? Because virtual marketing these days is all about community. You need a personality to connect with prospective clients. A blog gives you a voice and an image—in other words, a strong brand. You can attach the to your current website. That gives you a site you can update frequently and increase traffic to your website, which will boost your ranking in the search engines. (This is not the place to get into Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, but you should craft your blogs to improve your site’s SEO. Talk to your tech support for tips on how to do that.)
Social media sites are the spokes off of your hub. They should include the major ones, such as your Facebook Business Page (they’ve done away with the word “fan”), Pinterest and Instagram. You might also want to include Twitter and LinkedIn, but many designers find them less effective. If you only have so much time to devote to social media, keep to the main ones clients are likely to visit to check out designers.
Along with social media, you should have a profile on Houzz. Yes, you will have lots of competition there, but it’s another place that clients expect to you be if you’re a design professional. Needless to say, on Houzz and social media platforms you want to present your best work shot by a professional photographer. Save your smartphone snaps for your family members and friends, or to share with your design team.
Another “spoke” to consider adding to your wheel is video marketing. Video marketing is like jet fuel for your online presence. It’s phenomenal what you can do with video. The place to be for video marketing, of course, is YouTube. Once you’ve posted your video to YouTube, you can easily link to it through other media, such as your website, blog or social media channels. Some of you may feel overwhelmed having to learn all these new tools, but there are shortcuts. Once you get the hang of it, it takes less time and effort.
Your #1 job is getting clients. That means you have to go to where the clients are. The old methods are fine, but they won’t keep you ahead of the competition. It’s important to have a complete strategy both offline and online to generate leads. Finally, don’t neglect your current and former satisfied clients. Online referrals and reviews count for a lot with prospective clients. Be sure to dedicate some time and money in your marketing plan to tend to and cultivate client relationships. Many designers tend to overlook that area of their marketing strategy.