By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
Marketing when done well attracts your prospects and repels non-ideal clients. Well executed marketing makes selling irrelevant.
How do you know your marketing plan is failing? If you constantly worry about where your next client is coming from and you wonder how to attract a steady stream of your ideal clients, then your marketing plan needs serious help.
When I talk with designers about their business, it’s no surprise why their business is struggling and why they are feeling stressed.
A great plan consistently executed = a consistent flow of clients.
I am assuming that your design skills fall between competent to world class. I’m also assuming that your clients love you and that you over-deliver on everything that you do.
So why is your marketing plan failing?
1. Maybe you don’t have a marketing plan. This is sadly the case for most design firms except the very top tier who understand that marketing is the lifeblood of their business. You need a plan.
2. Your plan lacks strategy. Many designers fall prey to great salespeople that offer an exclusive listing in a Realtor’s Guide Book, a solo (or series of ads) in a magazine, or Houzz advertising. Ads alone rarely impact reader’s decisions or interest in your services. An ad campaign is a tactic, and unless it is part of an overall strategy, then the results are likely to be disappointing and expensive.
3. When business is slow, many designers cut their Advertising, Marketing & PR budget first. That’s a mistake. What you invest in Advertising, Marketing & PR consistently (3% to 15% of your revenue which is the total of your fees + product sales), your lead flow should be more consistent, and if it isn’t that’s the symptom of another problem. More about that below; see #8.
4. Few designers schedule their marketing and consistently execute the tasks. You do not have to do the tasks yourself,; you can outsource or delegate. But, you do need to review and monitor the results of your Advertising, Marketing & PR outlays. Budget at least 10% of your revenue, up to $500K. Beyond that threshold , the percentage drops.
5. Many designers fail to market when they are the busiest. That lack of marketing leads to gaps in your lead flow in future months.
6. Few designers allocate enough time per week to marketing. At least 10 hours per week is required.
7. If you don’t know if you are getting results from each marketing tactic, then you may be wasting money and time. For example, it is important to track the “Return on Investment” or ROI for your marketing. If you spend $10,000 on ads, you must add at least $10,001 to your bottom line profit from the new clients you gain.
8. Your “brand” may not be fully defined and therefore you may be confusing your prospects. Every brand touchpoint is an extension of your vision. Your brand is more than a logo. It includes your brand experience, your graphics, your logo, your photos, your copy (text on your website and in your marketing materials), how you’ve designed your office, how you speak, how you look, how you treat people, and more. Your brand is complex, and it should be rooted in your personal values.
9. You aren’t speaking your ideal client’s language. (And if you haven’t created an Ideal Client profile at all or recently, do that ASAP.) Prospects come to you with your dreams and aspirations, and they also have fears and objections that must be addressed. Few designers understand how to write copy about their brand. That requires an expert.
10. You aren’t easily found online. Your presence must include a website that has been updated in the last three years as well as listings on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. Consistency is the key to success with social media. Be sure to read my Design Bloggers Conference blog post for fresh ideas.
“Things are REALLY picking up. We are having a great start this year. Our marketing efforts are paying off from last year. We have two apartment clubhouses we are starting, we just found out we were awarded 4 models from a builder we marketed to last year and we had an awesome first presentation yesterday to another builder and within an hour they emailed us and said we are hired! We have a couple great residential clients that are purchasing a lot of furniture. We feel the pressure has been removed from our shoulders again. Now we just have to keep up the marketing and maintain this flow of work. We definitely know that it is our relationships that are getting us this business and we are making continued efforts to build those relationships with developers and builders. Thank you for keeping us on track!!” – Anne Rue, Sanford, Florida