Archive for April, 2008

Everything for Everybody

One of the many wonderful things about being in the design field is the wonderful results of our work. We help our clients to new, transformed and improved lives. With so much to offer it’s no wonder that we’re often eager to offer our services to everyone.

But when it comes to creating a truly successful, inspiring business, trying to be everything for everybody is to set yourself for failure. And so often, what Deb and I hear when speaking with designers about their business is often a list of skills and product offerings.

Take a moment to clarify for yourself what you and your business represent.

1) What is it you do in your business?

2) What about it do you love?

3) Why are you in this business?

4) When you think about what you do and why you do it, how does that make you feel?

This may all seem a little right-brained, but it’s a key step in defining what you really have to offer. And once you define your offer, you’re able to market more directly to the clients who most understand and best appreciate you and your business skills.

29 April 2008 at 6:26 pm Leave a comment

Raising Rates

There was a recent article in the NYTimes online about the tricky process of raising your rates in a soft economic climate. The most straightforward approach was given by a small business consultant, Marc S. Jacobs:

There is a simple formula to calculate a minimum hourly rate, he said,
but it cannot be done in a vacuum. It is imperative, he said, for these
entrepreneurs to write a business plan first that states clearly what
they want to do, how they intend to do it, and foresees revenues,
expenses and profits for the first several years.

Once they have done that, Mr. Jacobs said, they should add up weekly
living costs and business outlays and divide by 20, which is the number
of billable hours to shoot for. “Now you have what you need to charge
per hour, and you can compare that to the marketplace rate,” he said.

But for the business with existing clients that wants to raise its fees the recommendation is:

First, he said, increase them for new clients only, and use the exercise to explore how high you can push the rates.

Then, he said, the consultant should inform existing customers in
person — not in writing — that he plans to raise rates by 5 to 10
percent. “Have a conversation as part of a regular visit,” he said.
“Make it casual. Tell them why you’re doing it. Say something like
‘I hope we can work out an agreement.’ ”

Some customers will say there is no way they can afford to pay
more, he said. In that case, the consultant have to decide whether
to let them go.

It’s a short but interesting article, you can check out the whole thing here.

28 April 2008 at 8:14 pm Leave a comment

Design Focus Friday #2

So the biggest, baddest design show around just wrapped up earlier this week, the Milan Furniture Fair. Unfortunately the current state of the dollar made it prohibitively expensive to go to Italy this year, but we have our ways of getting information!

Because of the scope of the fair it’s impossible to cover in one post, so I’m going to settle on what, to date, is my favorite item from an amazingly strong new collection at Moroso. Following up on last year’s successful Charpoy collection the design team of Doshi Levien introduced a new seating group called “My Beautiful Backside.” 

My Beautiful Backside by Doshi Levien for Moroso

Inspired by the cushioned seating arrangements found in India, the pieces have no set back but, according to the Doshi Levien website feature, “a composition of floating cushions in celebratory colors and shapes.” Made of English suiting wool and felt, the back cushions are detailed with silver or gold foil stripes. 

It’s interesting because I’ve just come across several references in design articles lately about the difficulties in furnishing loft spaces and living areas with floor to ceiling windows, etc. This is a line that looks to have addressed that issue in a very lovely, stylish manner.

For more photos of My Beautiful Backside, head to Dezeen.

For lots more photos of Milan hightlights, check out the galleries at DesignBoom

 

25 April 2008 at 2:25 pm Leave a comment

Understanding Happiness

Daniel Gilbert, the Harvard psychologist who wrote Stumbling on Happiness was interviewed in the NYTimes the other day. His book examines most people’s fundamental inability to truly predict what will make us happy-or unhappy. As he puts it: 

Bad things don’t affect us as profoundly as we expect them to. But that’s
true of good things, too. We adapt very quickly to either. So the good news
is that going blind is not going to make you as unhappy as you think it will.
The bad news is that winning the lottery will not make you as happy as
you expect.

If you haven’t read his book, it’s worth it; a great combination of humor, insight, examples and information that can make an immediate difference in your life. But in the interview he summarizes one of the significant studies described in the book.

…we know from studies is that people tend to take more
pleasure in experiences than in things. So if you have “x”
amount of dollars to spend on a vacation or a good meal
or movies, it will get you more happiness than a durable
good or an object. One reason for this is that experiences
tend to be shared with other people and objects usually aren’t.

The value of the experience, especially in the custom design process, should never be underestimated. What are you doing to add experience value to your design services?

24 April 2008 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

Ask For It

One of the most basic principles of marketing is often overlooked when trying to develop a unique, personal marketing message: You’ve got to get people to do something. Any ad, brochure, website or other promotion that doesn’t include some type of “call to action” makes it difficult to measure the effectiveness of the promotion. And without knowing for sure what’s working for you and what isn’t, what you can perhaps tweak or what you just might need to scrap…that’s tossing away a portion of your marketing budget. 

So if you want your audience to respond to your promotions, you have to ask for a response. Call Now. Stop In Today. Limited Time Offer. It sounds hokey, but the thing is, if you don’t ask, you’re expecting your audience to do your marketing work for you. People are too busy and the media landscape is too cluttered for them to spend more than a few seconds with your message figuring out what to do next.

Yes, you may think it’s obvious: “Why else would I be running this ad, if I didn’t want them to buy something,” but with service category like custom window treatments, the audience might not even know what the next step should be. Do they need to call for appointment? Check out your website for measurement instructions? Visit your store or studio?

The next promotion you work on, step back and think about why you’re doing this. Is it to introduce yourself to a new market? Generate leads? Tout a new product or service? Whatever the purpose of the promotion, a specific call to action for that purpose should be included.

It’s also true that a strong marketing campaign needs to be more than just a call to action, but we can save that for later post! But we’d like to know: What types of “Call to Action” promotions have worked for you?

23 April 2008 at 6:05 pm Leave a comment

Emotional Marketing

I spent several years in the trenches of various advertising and marketing agencies and every few months there was another industry genius whose campaign or strategy was the ultimate solution. But sometimes there were real gems of truth to be found among the hype. One of the names I followed since then is Terry O’Reilly, a fixture in the Canadian advertising biz. I recently came across several of his comments that made sense to me back then and still do.

“Emotions should be felt, never stated.” Think about the most powerful moments in your favorite movies, the commercials that move you, even if they’re for products/services you’re not interested in…that’s the power of emotional understatement. 

“People don’t want to be targeted, they want to be understood.” Again, sometimes we lose track of what the message should be when we’re in the midst developing it, but it’s important to keep in mind that custom window treatments are not purchased to cover windows, but for thousands of other emotional reasons, that designers as therapists need to understand.

22 April 2008 at 7:48 pm Leave a comment

Lessons in Referral Marketing

I mentioned Duct Tape Marketing in the DBRx Atlanta session and John Jantsch, the who runs the site is a firm believer in the power of referrals. “Few business harness the true power of referrals by making a systematic referral plan a cornerstone of their marketing efforts,” he writes.

Referrals work because they are credible and, in addition, the people referred to you tend to spend more money. “Research has proven this beyond a shadow of a doubt,” he adds “and it’s likely because people tend to refer others who are highly qualified and not just tire kickers or price shoppers.”

And a recent piece by Paul S. Brown at the New York Times online brought two other referral gurus to my attention. Denise O’Berry at targetreferrals.com emphasizes the difference between a lead and a referral. A lead “is just one step up from a cold call,” she writes while a referral is a “warm contact.” Check out the link for much more detail.

And finally, Gary Lockwood writes on the ICBS website that one of the biggest steps small business owners miss in the referral process is helping your referral sources help you by being clear about the clients you’re looking for and explaining in the detail how you can be of service to them. And, while you’re at it, take the time to define the types of clients you don’t want. It makes the whole process easier for everyone.

21 April 2008 at 7:28 pm 2 comments

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