Pantone has declared yet another provocative color of the year (pair!).
Your work is top-notch, but you are still struggling to score enough interior design clients. To make things even worse, the ones that stick around are often a nightmare to work with. It’s just the way things are when you are working with people, or is it?
The answer is No. The truth is that it doesn’t have to be like that, and it certainly won’t be once you nail your branding strategy.
Simple as that.
Ask a million different people, and you will get a million different answers. But while there may be numerous definitions of branding, they all agree on one thing - you absolutely need it!
Years back, branding was considered as a combination of a name, slogan and design elements that identify a company among the competitors. Today, it is much more complicated than that, but in short:
It is not just about appealing visuals; it is about your voice and the way you build relationships with your network. Your brand is a promise of what the client can expect from you if they choose to hire you, so it needs to represent the true you and your deepest passions.
And of course, you need to deliver this image and results consistently.
Don’t let this part scares you. It doesn’t mean you need to out your inner being in all of its grace. To be able to pull together successful business strategy you need to identify your key strengths and ambitions, and then highlight them for the world to see.
That’s it. All the wisdom.
Your ideal clients are looking for you, but you need to help them recognize you from the crowd. There is so much noise on the networks these days, and we need to put some extra effort to stand out.
So, let’s get started!
Before we cover How to do it, we first need to know What are we trying to achieve.
You need to define your brand. If you don’t, someone else will do it for you, and you might not like the image they’ll come up with.
Yes, I said define, not create. You already have a brand; you just need to outline it.
You are an interior designer, but so are many other people. What sets you apart from the industry?
You are an artist. You are different. You are special. You’ve already proved it numerous times to both you and your peers. So, why is it so hard to articulate what makes you authentic? Answer these questions and write down your thoughts.
Every designer has its favorite style/s. Is it traditional, mid-century modern, Scandinavian or something else? Say it out loud and show your expertise. If you don’t, there is no chance your ideal client will be able to find you.
Don’t be afraid to specialize. There is a widespread belief that if you specialize in something, you are missing out on potential clients who don’t fit in your build. This is partly true since you won’t be scoring as many jobs that are not related to your specialty (which doesn’t mean you won’t be able to cater projects that don’t fit in perfectly, only that it won’t happen as often as before), but wait a sec - is this a bad thing?
Would you rather be super busy working on projects you don’t feel a connection to, or equally busy exploring your favorite style? And don’t let me start on the extra income you would be giving away if you choose to stay generalist. Oh, you WOULD like to hear more about it.
Becoming a specialist has more perks than just staying in your preferred area of interior design. More experience will make you an expert in the field at some point and will grant you higher income in the long run. You don’t want to be the cheapest solution to your clients. What you offer is not a commodity, it is a life-changing experience, and it doesn’t have to come as a bargain. If you create an emotional connection and ensure them that you can make their interior wishes come to life, your dream clients will find a way to afford you.
So, who are your dream clients? If you don’t know your target customer, you are marketing to everyone. But let’s face it - if you are marketing to everyone, you are actually marketing to no one.
Your customers are part of your brand, and their vibe will attract more people similar to them. It is shocking how few interior designers understand the importance of catering their brand to reach the people they wish to work with. But you know better than that.
Answering these questions is crucial and will set the sail for a successful marketing strategy you are looking for. Once you’re done with defining your brand, you can start working on How.
There are two elements of branding - visuals and experience.
Visual branding is the overall design aesthetics of your business. Its goal is to give prospects a sneak pick to what they can expect to find in your portfolio.
In general, it can be broken down to a huge list of elements, but in our case what is important is:
Since you are in the design industry, your visual branding needs to be top notch. Hire a professional to help you with the basics (logo, fonts and colors), and if you feel like it, you can DIY the rest. Keep in mind - consistency is key!
A common mistake here is that people often choose to go with the look they personally prefer, which sometimes doesn’t translate to the brand they are looking to build.
Don’t get me wrong, those two can match, and if so, by all means, go for it! It is a match made in heaven! But if they don’t, no matter how gorgeous the aesthetic might be, it just won’t work for growing your interior design business.
Look and feel of your visual branding needs to relate to the style of interiors you design. I’m talking colors, fonts and illustrations here. Everything needs to be in line with your work and the aesthetics of your target customer. If you are targeting female clients, sweet pinks, sans serifs and whimsy drawings can take you far, but if you design industrial interiors for bachelors, you are probably not going to score many jobs with this kind of strategy. Also, if you want to score high-end clients, make sure your visuals don’t come off as cheap. And vise versa, don’t advertise unrealistic expectations to mid-range prospects.
When talking about branding, people usually consider only what meets the eye, but as we already discussed, branding is not just how something looks like, but also how it feels like.
Brand identity is a bit more complicated to define, but not too difficult to master. A brand identity is the personality and voice of the business. Its soul. It is the experience you create for your clients and the message you are sending to your prospects (on the blog, social media, in direct communication...).
Think about your brand as a person and make sure you like what you see. You want your design business to be empowering, understanding, generous and generally a positive character. Someone who is always ready to offer a helping hand, providing design solutions to those in need.
Show them what you can do for them, what sparks your creativity. You are not looking to beat the competition with your branding. You want your branding to attract customers who NEED you. People who would hire only you and no one else but you. You are THE person they are looking for, and once they get to know you and hear your message, they will discover that you understand them and their vision of their future home like no one else before.
Even though you do have so much in common, never forget that you are NOT your business and your business is NOT you. When creating a brand identity for the interior design business, we are only highlighting some elements of our personalities, not broadcasting all of it! We are all incredibly complicated, deep and complex beings, torn between many interests and passions, and, let’s be honest, by no means perfect. No one is. But successful businesses usually are.
However, don’t take this very seriously. No one likes to work with know-it-all robots, cold and calculated personas from a parallel universe we sometimes create on a web when trying to impress our peers. Being perfect in this case means being professional, authentic and having a healthy mindset. Don’t copy other designers. If you want to stand out, don’t hide away the sweet little freak everyone you know is so desperately in love with. Do filter it though (no one will shortlist you if you come out as nasty), but stay true to yourself and you will be unstoppable! Anything else is just not sustainable.
A great brand is to the point and delivers a clear and consistent message at all times. When clients give reviews of an adequately branded business, they usually share the same vision with the owner of the business.
Nowadays there are many marketing channels, but your website needs to be the starting point. Most prospects will visit your website and evaluate its content before deciding to convert to clients. Don’t disappoint them!
Your website is a portfolio of your work that shows your experience and expertise. It needs to build trust and encourage people to get in touch with you.
Modern websites are very straightforward and airy, balanced between the text and visuals. Every image out there should be following your visual branding, and all the text should come from your brand identity’s pen. And pretty please, if you haven’t already, do update your old website design. Today, website templates are very cheap, some even free, so there is no real excuse for letting an out-of-date website drag you down.
Bonus tip: Don’t complicate too much. Highlight your visual branding and make the website mobile-friendly.
Here is one excellent example of how it should be done. Our user Maja from The Room Co. by Maja nailed the branding of her website. Great inspiration if you are looking for fresh ideas.
Similar to the visuals and marketing materials, you can brand your designs too. The secret souces of our creative geniuses always find a way to pop from our work, but this doesn’t have to be so random.
The easiest (and quickest) way to brand your mood boards is by placing your logo somewhere on the file. You may choose to use the template and always put the mark on the very same spot, or play with its position depending on the project.
Develop your personal template and use it all the time, or choose from the ones available in the editor.
Come up with a signature style by mixing elements of your visual branding. Always use the same font/s and color scheme templates.
Branding your mood boards will streamline their creation, save you precious time (you won’t be starting from scratch) and give your work a professional, easy recognizable stamp.
With SampleBoard, you can do all this and much more without a steep learning curve.
Don’t procrastinate any longer! Dig deep inside your personality and draw out that special sauce you’ve been hiding out of fear. You can figure this out and transform your business to cater your aspirations in a way you’ve always been dreaming. With a kick-ass branding, your ideal clients will feel emotionally connected with you even before they pop in your inbox asking for a quote. And you know that, when this happens, actual job signing is just a mere formality.