By Lloyd Princeton
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To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question. With so many social networking channels, interior
design blogs, and designer directories available, where should you be putting your marketing
time and efforts? I have two thoughts to share on that subject.
Online marketing experts will tell you that you should be everywhere—preferably, all the time.
You have to make some noise if you want to be heard above the roar of the digital crowd. That
may be true for companies trying to attract the mass market, but that’s not you. You want to
target your “best client.” First, take some time to investigate where your “best
client” is going to seek out interior design advice or to follow trends, and
focus your efforts there. Try not to get distracted by all the noise.
Remember, one good client is more valuable than a hundred
“followers” who just want to pick your brain for design ideas.
Social media and online marketing can be effective tools to
attract potential new clients, but they are no substitute for old-fashioned networking and personal contact when it comes to
developing and maintaining client relationships. Taking the time to
call on clients, invite them to lunch or dinner, drop off a little thank-you gift, or send them a handwritten, personal note sends a strong
message that you care about them and their well-being, not just their
business. It gives you the opportunity to form a stronger bond and to build trust, which are
critical to securing future projects and referrals.
Of course, you and your clients are both busy, but personal contact need not be time-consuming, onerous, or expensive. A little goes a long way. It’s also much more satisfying than
all that digital chatter. In my book, a client’s gratitude is worth a thousand tweets.
Having grown my own business from a one-man
shop, I’m well aware of the pride that comes from
building a brand and earning the trust of a loyal
clientele. I have experienced both the pros and
cons of adding staff, and have had to adjust how
I envision my role in my own company. I have also
reaped the rewards that come from letting go of the
things I don’t do well and concentrating more of my
efforts on the things I can do well.
I see a lot of designers struggling to grow their
businesses because they want to do it all themselves.
I call them “DIY designers.” I’m talking about the
designer who’s reluctant to bring on staff because
they’re afraid of losing control or just because they
believe they have the skills to do it all alone. They’ve
created a great brand, but they are limiting their
income and their reach because there is only so
much new work they can take on. And very likely they
are spending a lot of time on unbillable tasks.
It may sound contradictory, but trust me,
if you’re a DIY designer, you’re missing
out on the opportunity to maximize
your firm’s potential by devoting
more of your time to your best
self. Whether your strength is
designing, project management,
sales, or marketing and man-
aging your firm, delegating other
tasks frees you up to do more of it.
Yes, you could outsource various
tasks. But think about how much addi-
tional oversight time it will take to manage multiple
individuals, each with a fragmented picture of your
entire business. If you’re at that stage where you
need to add staff, here are some things to consider:
w Start by making a skills inventory. What do you
do well and want to keep doing? What other
tasks or roles could someone else assume?
What skills and experience would that person
need to meet your expectations?
w Create a position description that encompasses
all the tasks you need that person to do.
Don’t assume you can’t find someone
with the right mix of skills and experience.
Believe that they’re out there.
w Set a salary and rate target. How much will you
need to pay a qualified employee? (Don’t be
skimpy; this is the time to stretch a bit.) How
much will you be able to bill for that person?
How will that help you bill more for your time?
(The benefit should outweigh the cost.)
The key to expanding is in finding the right
person whose skills and talents complement
yours—an individual who will be committed to your
firm’s success, as well as their own.
TIPS TO IMPROVE
PRACTICE Growing a small business is no easy task.
Lloyd Princeton is founder and principal consultant of Design Management Company, where he coaches interior designers and
architects to help them increase revenue, gain media
exposure, and develop their businesses. We asked him to
share some quick advice any designer with a small business
can start putting to use right away, but these four pointers
are just the tip(s) of the iceberg. For more, head over to
our In Edition blog throughout the month of May, or visit
dmcnyc.com/resources to get it straight from the source.