Social MediaPHOTO BY WILLIAM IVEN ON UNSPLASH
In a world where the rich are getting richer and many of those rich folks are freely investing in new homes and those they already live in, interior designers’ businesses should be booming. But sadly most are not. For established designers their client base is aging and they are having a hard time bringing in new clients to take up the slack.
For up-and-coming designers, selling their services is even more of a challenge as young people new to affluence have little experience with or understanding of the value of interior design services.
More over many young affluent homeowners tend to take the do-it-yourself route, encouraged by makeover shows on HGTV which make short work of complex and demanding remodeling and redecorating projects. Not to mention those show hosts make doing the work look like great fun. What couple wouldn’t want to try their hand at it after watching Joanna and Chip Gaines on their Fixer Upper show?
That finding was brought home in a recent You Gov survey among the wealthiest Americans ($10 million or more net worth and household income of $350,000-plus) that found that only 10% of the wealthy “regularly” use the services of an interior designer.
Of course, that doesn’t include the wealthy that occasionally use designer services, yet it illustrates a huge gap. With some one million U.S. households among this wealthy class, that means only about 100,000 households are actively engaged with interior designers. What about the other 900,000?
The answer to reach that other 90% is is effective marketing, i.e. that brings in new clients. While word-of-mouth marketing is designers’ marketing method of choice, both most used and most effective, more designers are turning to social media in hope of attracting new clients, promoting their work and building business.
Social media fails in effectiveness
Nearly 80% of professional interior designers are active on social media. Yet among those designers using social media, only 17% rate social media as very effective in promoting their business. This compares with 85% of designers who say WOM is very effective. In other words, for 8 out of 10 designers social media over-promises and under-delivers.
Interior Designers Advertising & Its Effectiveness UNITY MARKETING
Recognizing the performance gap, Unity Marketing conducted a follow-up survey with some 200 professional designers to delve more deeply into their social-media challenges. That study, entitled Interior Designers & Social Media: Help or Hype?, found that designers don’t know the best platforms to use on social media. They don’t know how to measure its effectiveness, nor have most figured out how to monetize social media.
In marketing, customer perception is the business’ reality
With fewer than 20% of interior designers rating social media as very effective, for the remaining 80% it is failing to bring in new clients and build business. In thinking about social media, it is critical to focus not just on “being there,” but being there in the right places and in the right way that attract affluent clients.
“Designers are wasting their time [on social media]. It makes them feel good while they are going broke,” said one designer in the survey. And another said more pointedly, “Social media is for designers looking for other designers to cry with.”
One designer even found that being active on social media actually turned-off, rather than turned-on an otherwise happy past client:
All social media is too dangerous to my growth. I learned this after a client who was very happy with the results of his first home didn’t hire me for his Aspen home. They told me they loved me. But I was too ‘out there.’ They explained they lived private lives and after a Google search found me everywhere, they felt I was not who they wanted to associate with.
Find the best, forget the rest
Among social-media using interior designers, Facebook (75%) is by far the preferred platform, followed by Instagram (65%), Houzz (56%), LinkedIn (51%) and Pinterest (43%).
On the other hand, when asked which is their most important social media platform, interior designers rate Instagram (39%) better than Facebook (35%), and all the others trail far behind.
Interior Designers Social Media PlatformsUNITY MARKETING
Besides Facebook and Instagram, these other social media platforms may be a waste of time and money for interior designers. Further while Facebook may be the most used, it may not be as effective as Instagram.
Interior designers need to evaluate closely which social media platforms are actually working for them, i.e. attracting the right clients, and focus efforts there. Conspicuously absent from how designers measure success in social media is data – quantification that it is actually bringing in clients and growing revenue. While likes and share may make designers feel good, they don’t pay the bills.
Designers must be as exceptional marketers as they are designers
The critical problem for designers in marketing their services is making their value clear to potential clients. In 2013 the American Marketing Association redefined marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” The key word in that definition is creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value.
Communicating the value of interior design services is a particular sticking point for interior designers. A recent ASID survey found that 64% of designers believe the public does not understand the true value of interior design services.
If creating, delivering and exchanging value is the goal of marketing, then the measure of its success, according to marketing consultant Sergio Zyman, is selling more stuff – or in the case of designers, more services – to more people more often for more money and doing it more efficiently.
Designers need to be vigilant to hold their social media investment, both in terms of time and money, to those standards. If it isn’t helping designers reach those goals, then it needs to be adapted to do so or ultimately abandoned if it can’t deliver.
Hope is not a strategy
Too many designers are going on faith when it comes to their social media strategies. They are making the effort – they see likes and shares – therefore, it must be doing something, right?
But for this designer, belief in social media isn’t translating into measurable results through new clients gained and profits to the bottom line.
Right now social media for us is just one outlet for PR. I measure the success in simply getting our word out, though it is not necessarily bringing projects in. Currently the demographic of our clientele do not find their designer via social media.
Don’t throw good money, or time, after bad
Despite the lack of measurable success on social media, an overwhelming two-thirds of interior designers say they will focus more on social media next year. Fewer than one-third will keep their social media activities on par with the past and only 4% will pull back.
This may prove to be a waste of designers’ most limited resource: their time. Marketing luminary Philip Kotler, currently the S. C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, said, “Strategy is indeed about choosing what not to do as well as what to do.”
Interior designers overwhelmingly find that word-of-mouth marketing is what produces results, everything else barely measures up. Finding creative ways to get satisfied customers to talk about their success from the services delivered by an interior designer is what is needed, not more self promotion or talking amongst one’s peers on social media.
Don’t be insane, be strategic
Albert Einstein defined insanity as “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” That perhaps is the most important takeaway for designers in thinking about their social media strategies. Doing something – in this case, social media – is not necessarily better than doing nothing. Since time is money for an interior designer, time wasted on ineffective social media is money lost.
Rather, interior designers must make marketing work for them. It must be effective. It must deliver new business. It must be efficient and fit into the budget. In many cases, interior designers see social media as low or even no cost, since it doesn’t require any budget to launch a Facebook or Instagram page. But it can be extremely costly in terms of the time needed to learn how to use it effectively and to maintain it.
For any professional – most especially for interior designers – time is money. All marketing, most especially social media, must deliver a return on investment of both.
Continue reading Social Media Marketing Is Failing Too Many Interior Designers