Posts tagged ‘Client Relations’

Five Secrets to Personal Branding

Personal branding is a new hot concept, which can be both good news and bad. With everyone trying to make a name for themselves, it’s harder and harder to be heard through all the noise.  Sound familiar- What designer doesn’t want to be the next best celebrity designer in a sea of designers?  That’s why a personal brand is crucial in 2010; to do it right means expert help, and for that there are few better qualified to help than entrepreneur and uber-blogger Guy Kawasaki. I recently came across the five secrets of personal branding success via Jessica Stillman on BNet Insight via Dan Schawbel’s Personal Branding Blog. The secrets come from Pete Kistler who dug into Kawasaki’s book Art of the Start.

 These 5 points are valid when it comes to trying to create your personal brand- something that designers seem to struggle with. In our DBRx consults, we find that design pros have self esteem issues and find it difficult at best to present themselves in a compelling way. So take a look at Kistler’s  5 branding points.

  • Make Meaning, Not Money. If you’re into personal branding with the goal of making money, stop now. You will attract the wrong kind of people into your life. Instead, start with the goal of making meaning. What better way to align all your actions with your long-term goals. What kind of meaning will you make? Kawasaki suggests two ideas for inspiration: 1) right a wrong, or 2) prevent the end of something good. What will you do to make the world a better place?
  • Make a Mantra. In three words or less, what are you all about? Kawasaki believes that mission statements are useless. He says, make a mantra instead. FedEx stands for “peace of mind.” What do you stand for, in the simplest terms?
  • Polarize People. Personal branding pundits often advise against being a “jack of all trades,” or a generalist that isn’t very good at something specific. What does Guy believe? He suggests being great for some people rather than trying to please everyone. Do not be afraid to make people react strongly for or against you. Someone once said, you’re not doing something right unless you’re pissing someone off. That doesn’t mean be a jerk. That means just don’t try to appeal to all people, or you’ll end up a mile wide and an inch deep, mediocre to everyone.
  • Find a Few Soul Mates. We’re all on this journey together. It’s silly to think we are alone in our careers or in our life. Find people who balance you. Then make time for them. If you’re busy, make plans in advance so you have to schedule around them. You’re only one person, so surround yourself with people whose skills round you off.
  • Don’t Let the Bozos Grind You Down. Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone will always agree with you. That’s a fact of life. So don’t let criticism or doubters bring you down. As you live out your mantra, it’s your responsibility to be strong in the face of “no,” and “you can’t do that.” Guy says, ignore people who say you won’t succeed. Use negative words as motivation. Prove people wrong.

 Jumpstart your personal brand with these mantras posted on Guy Kawasaki’s Blog:  

“Connect People to their Purpose.” That includes connecting them with each other and with resources that grow and strengthen them.

“Dance Your Life. Find Your Gift.”

“Making Work Meaningful” – we’ve been saying this internally for the past 18months and now it’s reasonating through our organisation – very powerful concept.

“Pay it Forward.” It keeps me grounded and focused on others. And, I’m connecting with others more than ever — in a sincere and caring way.

4 July 2010 at 5:12 pm Leave a comment

10 Questions to Ask When Specing GREEN



With the skyrocketing demand for all things green, designers are having to ride the Eco wave whether they like it or not. The market for sustainable products is so fluid; most designers don’t have time to keep up with all the new developments. That coupled with what seems like a daunting task to understand certifications, programs and accreditation we sometimes don’t have a clue where to start or what to choose.

 Here are some basic questions all design pros can ask their suppliers to help them choose wisely.

1. Does your company have an internal environmental policy? If so, what is it?

2. Is the finished product tested or certified by any third-party certifiers or environmental agencies? If so which one(s)?

Recent posts on Window Pro have highlighted the confusion in this area. There are mixed legal opinions and confusing data out there regarding window coverings and what qualifies as energy efficient for  the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act tax credits. Imagine the confusion about sustainability or LEED.

3. What is the product’s life expectancy? Does your company accept items back for recycling or reuse?

4.Does the product contain recycled content? If so is it post-consumer and/or post-industrial?

5. Is the scrap material from the manufacturing process reused or recycled? Does your company have programs in place to reduce other manufacturing waste and pollution?

6. Does the product negatively impact indoor air quality upon installation? Have efforts been taken to reduce toxic emissions in the manufacturing process?

7. How is the product packaged? Is any of the packaging reused and if so, does your company have a system for collection? recently ran a promotion asking their users to submit alternative uses for packaging materials. The contest included all types of packing materials from boxes, plastic bottles, glass, bubble wrap, etc.

8. How are the product’s orignal materials transported to the factory? How far do they travel? Are you using efficient shipping methods?

9. If the product consumes energy while functioning can you provide its performance stats?

10. Does your company foresee innovations in the product that will lead to a lowering of its environmental impact?

Think metal headrails, parts, fiberglass wands.

22 October 2009 at 2:49 pm Leave a comment

More Money, Less Pain

The June edition of Psychological Science published the results from six experiments conducted by psychologists and a marketing professor that tested the power of money in relation to social interaction. In one of the most startling results, they found that merely touching money or thinking about expenses affected participants both physically and emotionally.

In one experiment volunteers were asked to take a “finger-dexterity” test, one group counted stacks of $100 bills, while the other group counted paper. Afterwards both groups were but into a social interaction simulation where they were meant to feel snubbed and isolated. The group that counted out the money before the simulation rated their level of social distress much lower than the group that counted paper.

In another experiment, the same “finger-dexterity” test was taken and then the volunteers were asked to dip a finger in very hot (122 degree) water. Those who counted the money rated their pain as lower than those who counted paper.

The pain test was then repeated but with the volunteers now writing about either their expenses the previous month, or the weather. After the finger dip, those who wrote about spending their money rated their pain as higher than those who wrote about the weather!

“These effects speak to the power of money, even as a symbol, to change perceptions of very real feelings,” like pain, said Kathleen Vohs, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota and co-author of the study.

What does this mean for the designer? It’s just one more thing to consider when presenting the project costs. Clients need to feel comfortable enough with the potential of your work to transform their lives and their interiors to offset the real and psychological pain of letting go some of their hard-earned money! It’s about making sure the client understands the value–both immediate and long term–of investing in their home décor; so that the experiential satisfaction they get from the process and the results more than offsets the purchasing pain.

See more about this on Live Science. Within that article are also links that discuss the value of “experiential” purchases vs. “product” purchases.

7 August 2009 at 8:46 am Leave a comment

Get on The Web

marketing-to-moms-top-10-activities-moms-online-july-2008Susan and I have been encouraging pros to get a web presence for some time in our seminars and discussions at IWCE, Showtime and NeoCon. Well, if you don’t think you need one or “you are working with a web designer and we should be up and running by September” – read this.

This study by Marketing to Moms Coalition found that American Moms with kids under 18, log an average of three hours a day on the internet and that their school age kids log only 2 hours. What’s interesting is that women (your target market) spend  nearly half (49%) of their time on the web- that’s 1-1/2 hours a day -researching and comparing prices. So if you’re not on the web they don’t know you exist! 

Run, don’t walk to your computer and do one or all of these things:

Build a blog ( WordPress is our blog platform of choice)

Join LinkedIn

Create your Facebook profile.

You can add content whenever you like without having to know a bit of HTML. You can show your work. You can tell your customers what you’re up to. You can establish you self as the expert pro you are.

 When you get on the web or if you are already; send us your address and we’ll link up.

28 June 2009 at 8:18 am Leave a comment

Anticipating the Home Sector 2009

This is a blog post from Home Accents Today with the transcript of a panel discussion at Las Vegas Market revolving around what will 2009 bring for this industry. Good reading!

25 February 2009 at 7:47 pm Leave a comment

The Paradox of Choice

 In August Susan discussed Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Choice that Shapes our Decisions touching upon client’s indecisiveness because of too many options. Mark Hurst,a marketer, that I follow recently talked about the same subject with Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice , another  outstanding book on the subject. As can be the case, I am in a different business place today than in August and after rereading Mark’s blog; it all came together for me and I am on board.

Schwartz says, “Everyone agrees that having choice is better than not having choice. It seems evident that if choice is good, then more choice is better. The paradox is that this “obvious” truth isn’t true. It turns out that a point can be reached where, with more choice, people are worse off.”

People can’t ignore options. There’s more effort put into making decisions, and less in enjoying them. What’s nagging is the possibility that, if they had chosen differently, they could have gotten something better. Some social science research says that one consequence of leaving your options open is that people are less satisfied with their decisions; if a decision is non-reversible, you’ll make yourself feel better about the choice you made. If it’s a reversible choice, you don’t do that. He refers to it as accepting choices that are “good enough”.

Transfer that thought to your retail business. If you provide sales options in your retail store, SAH or website, you might think the way to attract people is to provide as many alternatives as possible. But that’s wrong. You’ll attract people, but they won’t buy as much as they would with fewer choices.

 Schwartz goes on to outline how we should do that:

“There’s no general answer except “restrict options” – though in what way depends on what you’re selling. For example, e-commerce sites and store or your SAH client presentation should be designed so that the complexity is hidden, so that people who really care, or know a lot, can find their way to the complexity, and the rest of us who can’t be bothered to find it, won’t have to.

He cites an example of home furnishing stores -stores that sell things that don’t go naturally together – like clothing and furniture. They’re selling a certain aesthetic. How does a small store sell furniture? It puts a couple of things on display, and then offers a million items in the catalog. You’re not overwhelmed when you walk in; instead, you are in an environment where that’s manageable. If you like a couch, and tell the salesperson you’re interested, and ask if it comes in different colors or fabrics, the salesperson can trot out the catalog and then you can see the infinite number of couches you can get. First you’ve been seduced into wanting a couch by what appears to be the simplicity of the decision. That’s the right way to design things in the modern world, where everything is too complex.

He goes on to discuss’s If you like this.. popup. I have to say that I find it annoying. I don’t find myself buying from those popups and if I do start surfing, I end up losing focus and leaving the site without buying what I intended. So maybe he has a point. Schwartz suggests somewhere in the range of six to twelve options is what most people would be comfortable with, most of the time.

The lesson here is to arbitrarily limit the number of options you’ll consider. My husband I just bought a new TV and it took us over 1 year to decide because of all the options, new models and upgrades coming on the market. I was about to throw in the towel. I should have promised myself that I would go to only two stores and then stop my research and make a decision.

That brings me to a retail trend I have been noticing lately- the limited edition, curated site or store. While this concept plays into several consumer behaviors right now it also is based on the paradox of choice. Gaby Basora, the genius behind coveted line Tucker, just launched e-commerce with a twist. Here’s how it works: Each month, there will be a limited-edition (100-150) classic blouse in a unique print that is available only on the site. That print will not be sold again, which means that if you score one, you will be the proud owner of a Tucker collector’s item, so to speak. Consider Gaby’s take. Cut back on the number of samples books you’re bringing into the house or consider a limited edition window fashion website,

For a “more is better” person like I am; I have resolved to start to editing my options in both my personal life and in working with my clients. If they came to me because I am the so –called expert: then here are the choices I recommend and I can back up. If she needs to see every fabric in every sample book, she’s not the client for me.

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14 December 2008 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Our Attachment to Closing Doors

One of my favorite new business books so far this year is Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. It addresses all kinds of issues from the motivating power of pain, pleasure and just plain placebos, explanations for why the honor code in the workplace (leaving a dollar in the conference room for your coffee and doughnut) really does work, and more.

But the most interesting examples for me where those where Ariely explores the all too human penchant for keeping as many options as possible open, even when the choice to do so is clearly, obviously, detrimental. Ariely even created a game (try it out for yourself here) where you have the choice to keep options (doors) open or not, all while trying to achieve the highest score. Even knowing what you’re “supposed” to do to win, most people will find themselves clicking to keep as many possible doors open, rather than optimizing their score. Why?

“Closing a door on an options is experienced as a loss,” Dr. Ariely explains. “And people are will to pay a price, sometime a significant price, in order to avoid to emotion of loss.” In the game of course, the trade-off is a lower score for more open doors, but in life sometime the trade-offs aren’t as obvious: wasted time, missed opportunities, lowered creativity, etc. All because we’re afraid to firmly shut the door an option, a project, a colleague, etc.

And flip this to the client side…how much information is too much for clients? Whether they gather it on their own, or we supply it them, the more options they’re presented with, the harder time they have coming to decision. And from Dr. Ariely’s research, this is an ingrained human habit. So don’t get too upset with your clients for dithering…instead think of ways to simplify and clarify the decision-making process for them. Plus keep in mind that they might be willing to pay in order to keep options open! 

As for the “option habit” in our own businesses, I’ve been making a conscious effort to truly weigh what keeping certain opportunities “live” costs me, and I’ve found I’m more willing to cut the cord on them than I was before reading this book. But make no mistake, it is an effort, and it often does cause little mental twinges and spasms of doubt and regret…but I also feel less cluttered mentally and emotionally than I have for a while.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments!

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13 August 2008 at 1:01 pm 1 comment

Overcoming Overwhelm

As solopreneurs we are at a high risk for overwhelm—one missed deadline by a supplier, one mis-shipped material, one mis-placed file—and our carefully planned project schedules are thrown into a jumbled mess. Or somedays it’s the thought of having to be the collections officer, the bookkeeper, the marketing coordinator, the sales rep, the office manager, etc., when what you really got into business for–the design–seems like the last thing you can get to.

And so you slip into that frame of mind, where you’re sure the next phone call is going to be even worse news, the next e-mail will just be more trouble…and your negative feelings become self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling, because when you believe you are overwhelmed, everything seems overwhelming! Your main thought is “I don’t want this, I can’t handle this,” but when anyone tries to offer assistance, the main response is often a childish “I fine, I can do it, just leave me alone.” Nice.

The thing I’ve come to realize is that “overwhelm” is often a great shield to hide behind. We can get so caught up in the drama of everything that needs to be done, of all the problems and issues and concerns, that we can use it as an excuse for missed deadlines, poor behavior, and a wide range of other bad habits. Other people, we think, will realize that these things are beyond our control because there’s just soooo much going on.

And here’s the thing, giving into overwhelm diminishes your responsibility and shifts the “blame” to others: your vendors, your clients, your co-workers, etc. It’s “their” fault you’re in this situation.

So the next time you feel yourself getting caught up in the drama of overwhelm, take just a minute and think about what it gets you. What’s the prize for feeling rushed, stressed, abused, mis-understood, etc. That it shows how much harder you work than anyone else? That you care more? That you’re more committed? Those are the most positive spins to be on it, and if true, surely there are better, more productive, less draining ways to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment! Or is it about sticking it to “them”, you know, the “them” that put you in this situation?

I found that the key to calming the storm of overwhelm is to recognize how self-perpetuating overwhelm is and how much “being the victim” helps me justify not-so-professional behavior. And that’s not what I want to be known for, not what I want to project and not how I want to live. Now I’m not perfect, by any means, and still find myself in that overwhelm state of mind. But now I force myself to be aware of it and think about what trade-off I’m making: overwhelm or ????

6 August 2008 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

Ask For It: Part 2

Yesterday I posted about seven asking strategies you can apply to your business and your daily life, as outlined by Jack Canfield, then I got to thinking about how I have asked and been asked in the past…what makes a question work and what just adds to the confusion.

Some of my clients will tell you that at first, they felt I was asking too many questions and not giving them enough feedback, but with new clients, until you understand better their language, their actual concerns and needs, (as opposed to the ones they often first voice) the project may head off in the wrong direction. Then it becomes very difficult to get it back on track, time is lost, feelings are hurt, money is wasted, etc. Ugh. So here are my suggestions for how to ask.

  1. Be Specific
    Again, my clients (and friends!) will confirm that “Be Specific” is a pet phrase of mine. “I don’t want to spend too much” is not the answer you want when you ask your client about a budget. In order to get a specific answer, you need to ask a specific question: “Do you have a dollar amount in mind for this project?” will get you much closer to the info you really need.
  2. Be Persistent
    You will inevitably hear plenty of no’s and I don’t know’s and all other forms of non-helpful answers. Keep asking. You may need to change your timing, your source, your attitude or the form of your question, but if it’s information that’s important to you, it’s important to keep asking.
  3. Be Positive
    People who know what they’re looking for and know what they want get a much better response to their questions than those who are hesitant, uncertain or uncommitted. Ask your questions with confidence and assurance and even if you don’t receive the answer you’re looking for, you’ll most likely be referred to someone else who may have the appropriate information.
  4. Be Real
    I think the number one reason most questioners don’t necessarily get the information they’re asking for is that there is often no real emotion–interest, desire, need, sincerity, etc.–behind the ask. To get real information you need to be as invested in the response as the “questionee” is in giving it.
  5. Be Creative
    From a personal phone call to a mass web survey; from a customized presentation to a clever postcard, there are hundreds of ways to ask. Don’t get locked into one format or one system. Take time to think about the asking format that works best for your audience and the information you want to receive.

What’s been your best ask? We’d love to know.

31 July 2008 at 1:22 pm Leave a comment

Ask For It

I’ve never read any of the Chicken Soup for the… series nor have I explored the world of professional business coaches, so the name Jack Canfield didn’t really mean much to be when I started following a string of links and references on a range of other websites until I finally arrived at a newsletter post from him titled “The Power of Asking: Seven Ways to Boost Your Business”. It’s a great reminder to all of us, especially all the solo-preneurs that comprise the design industry, that “Ask and you shall receive” is a famous old adage for a reason! So here, with permission from Jack Canfield, are seven strategies for asking that work for your business and your daily life.

  1. Ask for Information
    To win potential new clients, you first need to know what their current challenges are, what they want to accomplish and how they plan to do it. Only then can you proceed to demonstrate the advantages of your unique product or service. 

    Ask questions starting with the words who, why, what, where, when and how to obtain the information you need. Only when you truly understand and appreciate a prospect’s needs can you offer a solution. Once you know what’s important to them, stay on this topic and find solutions for them.

  2. Ask for Business
    Here’s an amazing statistic: after giving a complete presentation about the benefits of their product or service, more than 60 percent of the time salespeople never ask for the order!That’s a bad habit, and one that could ultimately put you out of business. 

    Always ask a closing question to secure the business. Don’t waffle or talk around it—or worse, wait for your prospect to ask you. No doubt you have heard of many good ways to ask the question, “Would you like to give it a try?” The point is, ask.

  3.  Ask for Written Endorsements
    Well-written, results-oriented testimonials from highly respected people are powerful for future sales. They solidify the quality of your product or service and leverage you as a person who has integrity, is trustworthy and gets the job done on time. 

    When is the best time to ask? Right after you have provided excellent service, gone the extra mile to help out, or in any other way made your customer really happy.

    Simply ask if your customer would be willing to give you a testimonial about the value of your product or service, plus any other helpful comments.

  4. Ask for Top-Quality Referrals
    Just about everyone in business knows the importance of referrals. It’s the easiest, least expensive way of ensuring your growth and success in the marketplace. 

    Your core clients will gladly give you referrals because you treat them so well. So why not ask all of them for referrals? It’s a habit that will dramatically increase your income. Like any other habit, the more you do it the easier it becomes.

  5. Ask for More Business
    Look for other products or services you can provide your customers. Devise a system that tells you when your clients will require more of your products. The simplest way is to ask your customers when you should contact them to reorder. It’s often easier to sell your existing clients more than to go looking for new ones.
  6. Ask to Renegotiate
    Regular business activities include negotiation. Many businesses get stuck because they lack skills in negotiation, yet this is simply another form of asking that can save a lot of time and money. Look at your vendors and suppliers and see if there are areas where you can be saving money. Just ask. 

    All sorts of contracts can be renegotiated in your personal life, too, such as changing your mortgage terms and rate, reviewing your cell phone plan and requesting a policy review with your insurance agent. As long as you negotiate ethically and in the spirit of win-win, you can enjoy a lot of flexibility. Nothing is ever cast in stone.

  7.  Ask for Feedback
    This is a powerful way to fine-tune your business that is often overlooked. How do you really know if your product or service is meeting your customers’ needs? Ask them, “How are we doing? What can we do to improve our service to you? Please share what you like or don’t like about our products.” Set up regular customer surveys that ask good questions and tough questions.
Jack Canfield, America’s #1 Success Coach, is the founder and co-creator of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you’re ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get your FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at:

30 July 2008 at 10:57 am Leave a comment

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