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Tag Archives: Lloyd Princeton

Another new normal for designers?

Lloyd Princeton

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

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Another new normal for designers?

During the period of “conspicuous austerity” resulting from the Great Recession, consumers were reluctant to make new purchases or undertake larger remodeling projects. Designers had to adjust to the “new normal,” which meant relying more heavily on design and consulting fees in a more competitive market.

Now, the pendulum has swung back in the other direction — but with one major difference.

Renovation and remodeling activity is at its highest level in more than a decade, and consumers have ramped up their spending to acquire higher quality furnishings and materials. However, many of today’s clients are turning to design professionals for advice rather than for design assistance.

A common lament I hear as I travel around the country speaking with designers is that clients are buying fewer products. At the same time, my firm has seen a notable uptick in recruiting and hiring of salespeople.

Clearly, demand for product must be up. And in fact, it is up —quite substantially according to several recent industry reports.

Why the disconnect? The fact is consumers are going elsewhere to buy products. Some are going directly to the manufacturers or suppliers via the Internet. Many are using other sources, such as contractors, in-house designers at retail stores, even their real estate agents.

This is not a new trend. It has been building over the past decade. The difference I am seeing now is in how clients are viewing designers.

Designers should be busier than they are. The economy, employment and the housing market have improved. Demand for remodeling and renovation projects has been strong for the past two years and is projected to remain so going into next year. Yet design activity actually weakened during the second quarter of this year.

To me, this signals a fundamental shift in client behavior. You can see it reflected in this year’s Houzz & Home Report, in which more than half of those homeowners who used professional design services for a recent remodeling or renovation project did so because they wanted help with finding the right products. Less than a third hired a professional because they wanted design help.

I think several factors are driving this trend. One is the popularity of DIY, even among more affluent clients. Consumers would rather spend their money on products and materials than on services. In regard to purchasing, they view designers as unnecessary middlemen.

Linked to this is the growth of e-commerce. Consumers are much more comfortable purchasing items unseen through the Internet, and many vendors are encouraging them to do so by offering no-penalty returns, including the cost of return shipping.

In addition, the role of professionals is changing. With so much information and advice available online or via apps, and with people relying more and more on consumer reviews and social networks for recommendations and referrals, professionals are regarded less as experts and more as advisors or counselors.

This is not to say that clients no longer value interior designers. Design activity has slowed but is still up from several years ago. There are plenty of full-service design projects happening around the country —especially among high-end clients who have the resources to buy the products they want and pay for professional services.

Among clients who are affluent but not wealthy, and thus more cost conscious, we are witnessing a definite sea change — a new “new normal,” if you will. Design is becoming more of a commodity, as is evident from the proliferation of web-based design services and DIY apps.

This means designers need to think about reframing their value proposition to meet the demands of a changing market, or risk seeing more of that market captured by nonprofessionals.

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About the Author

Lloyd Princeton

Lloyd Princeton is a management and retained search consultant who specializes in the A&D industry including North American product sales distribution. As principal of Design Management Company, Lloyd is an expert at residential design pricing and is a frequent speaker major corporations, governments, developers, manufacturers and trade associations.

Continue reading Another new normal for designers?

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Who’s Your Real Ideal Client?

One piece of advice I always give to designers who want help with marketing and growing their business is to identify their “ideal client” and focus their efforts there. No matter how good a designer you are, you can’t be all things to all people. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses, our preferences and our passions. Decide what you like to do and are really good at, and go after that customer.

Let me make a further distinction. When I say “ideal” client I don’t mean “imaginary” client. Some designers take “ideal” to mean their dream client, the one with lots of money who will let them do whatever they want and shower them with praises in the end. By “ideal” client I mean the one who is most likely to pay for your services. That may not be the wealthiest client or the most extravagant client. It is, however, the client that will keep you in business year after year.

Take some time to reflect on your best and favorite projects. Why did those clients want to hire you? What were you able to provide them with that made them so happy with the result? Are there traits they shared in common, such as age, location, income or project budget, taste or style preference, occupation, lifestyle? Create a composite portrait of your best clients and that will guide you in defining your ideal client. Once you have that, you can tailor your marketing, networking, referrals and other outreach there.

But, you say, I want to attract a “better” client. Go for it, but be prepared to make some changes to “up your game” in order to do so. Take a look at who currently has that business and try to figure out what makes them successful. To land your ideal client, you need to be realistic.

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Copyright © 2013 – 2019, Lloyd Princeton. All rights reserved.

Design Management Company –  212.777.5718
Specialists in Consulting, Coaching, and Revenue Generation for Professional Designers and Interior Design Firms.
New York City, Los Angeles, London, San Francisco, Dallas, Cleveland, Chicago, Miami, Aspen, Vail, Jackson Hole, Abu Dhabi and all points near and far.

Continue reading Who’s Your Real Ideal Client?

Another new normal for designers?

Lloyd Princeton

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Share this article
Another new normal for designers?

During the period of “conspicuous austerity” resulting from the Great Recession, consumers were reluctant to make new purchases or undertake larger remodeling projects. Designers had to adjust to the “new normal,” which meant relying more heavily on design and consulting fees in a more competitive market.

Now, the pendulum has swung back in the other direction — but with one major difference.

Renovation and remodeling activity is at its highest level in more than a decade, and consumers have ramped up their spending to acquire higher quality furnishings and materials. However, many of today’s clients are turning to design professionals for advice rather than for design assistance.

A common lament I hear as I travel around the country speaking with designers is that clients are buying fewer products. At the same time, my firm has seen a notable uptick in recruiting and hiring of salespeople.

Clearly, demand for product must be up. And in fact, it is up — quite substantially according to several recent industry reports.

Why the disconnect? The fact is consumers are going elsewhere to buy products. Some are going directly to the manufacturers or suppliers via the Internet. Many are using other sources, such as contractors, in-house designers at retail stores, even their real estate agents.

This is not a new trend. It has been building over the past decade. The difference I am seeing now is in how clients are viewing designers.

Designers should be busier than they are. The economy, employment and the housing market have improved. Demand for remodeling and renovation projects has been strong for the past two years and is projected to remain so going into next year. Yet design activity actually weakened during the second quarter of this year.

To me, this signals a fundamental shift in client behavior. You can see it reflected in this year’s Houzz & Home Report, in which more than half of those homeowners who used professional design services for a recent remodeling or renovation project did so because they wanted help with finding the right products. Less than a third hired a professional because they wanted design help.

I think several factors are driving this trend. One is the popularity of DIY, even among more affluent clients. Consumers would rather spend their money on products and materials than on services. In regard to purchasing, they view designers as unnecessary middlemen.

Linked to this is the growth of e-commerce. Consumers are much more comfortable purchasing items unseen through the Internet, and many vendors are encouraging them to do so by offering no-penalty returns, including the cost of return shipping.

In addition, the role of professionals is changing. With so much information and advice available online or via apps, and with people relying more and more on consumer reviews and social networks for recommendations and referrals, professionals are regarded less as experts and more as advisors or counselors.

This is not to say that clients no longer value interior designers. Design activity has slowed but is still up from several years ago. There are plenty of full-service design projects happening around the country — especially among high-end clients who have the resources to buy the products they want and pay for professional services.

Among clients who are affluent but not wealthy, and thus more cost conscious, we are witnessing a definite sea change — a new “new normal,” if you will. Design is becoming more of a commodity, as is evident from the proliferation of web-based design services and DIY apps.

This means designers need to think about reframing their value proposition to meet the demands of a changing market, or risk seeing more of that market captured by nonprofessionals.

Share this article

About the Author

Lloyd Princeton

Lloyd Princeton is a management and retained search consultant who specializes in the A&D industry including North American product sales distribution. As principal of Design Management Company, Lloyd is an expert at residential design pricing and is a frequent speaker major corporations, governments, developers, manufacturers and trade associations.

Continue reading Another new normal for designers?

A consultation deserves a fee

Lloyd Princeton

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

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A consultation deserves a fee

“Should I charge for a consultation?” is a question I am often asked when speaking to designers. There is a lot of confusion around this topic.

In practice, designers handle consultations in various ways. Some charge, some don’t. Some charge if the client hires them, others charge if the client doesn’t hire them. Some charge their regular hourly fee, and others charge a fixed price for a prearranged amount of time.

My advice is yes, you should charge for a consultation — but be careful not to confuse a consultation with an interview.

An interview and a consultation are two different things. An interview is where you meet with prospects to see if you are a good match for each other.

You review your portfolio with them, and explain to them the services you provide. I suggest preparing a bulleted list of all the services you offer — including shopping, floral design, bidding with contractors and project management — as prospective clients often are unaware of the range of professional interior design services. If the interview goes well, give the prospects a list of past clients and ask them to call them.

Normally, the meeting is relatively brief. It could even be no more than a phone call. You are not providing any services, making any commitments or giving advice. You discuss their project just enough to determine if it is one you want to take on.

In my opinion, you should not charge for an interview. Consider it a form of one-to-one marketing. It is an opportunity to size up the client and make a sales pitch for your services.

A consultation, on the other hand, involves providing an expert opinion, advice and possibly recommendations of specific products or service providers. Unless you are meeting the client solely for the purpose of a consultation, this usually will be your first business meeting with a new client.

At this point, you have not prepared any sketches, plans, renderings or boards. This may be the first time you walk through the space to be designed, making observations, taking measurements and photographs, and asking questions.

Afterward you can have a conversation with the client and gather the necessary programming information. This is all part of your design process, so naturally you should charge the client for your time.

If the appointment is solely for the purpose of a consultation — i.e., the client is interested in getting your professional opinion and advice, but at present has no plans to hire you to do the work — then, of course, you should charge. What you have to offer has value; otherwise, they would not be talking with you.

Be clear in advance which services are included in a consultation and which are not. I know designers who consider such consultations a waste of their time, but think of it as an opportunity to educate the client and quite possibly “upsell” them to engage more of your services.

For consultations that are the initial step to a larger project, it makes sense to charge your regular hourly fee. For standalone consultations, however, my advice is to charge a premium fee.

You are not just charging for your time, you are also charging for your creativity and experience — both of which you have acquired at no little personal expense and sacrifice. Other professionals do no less.

Where designers sometimes get into trouble is allowing an interview to slip into an unintended consultation. Then they are left with the perplexing problem of whether they should charge the prospect when the initial understanding or assumption was that there would be no charge.

Be clear from the start that you do not provide free advice as part of an interview. If the prospects press you, tell them you will be happy to schedule a consultation for a later date. If they are not interested, then you know they are not serious, and you’ve not lost anything than a few minutes of your time.

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About the Author

Lloyd Princeton

Lloyd Princeton is a management and retained search consultant who specializes in the A&D industry including North American product sales distribution. As principal of Design Management Company, Lloyd is an expert at residential design pricing and is a frequent speaker major corporations, governments, developers, manufacturers and trade associations.

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