Life moves at a frenzied pace for interior designers, and for nine months out of the year, it feels nearly impossible to catch one’s breath. However, the approaching summer season will soon offer respite, and an opportunity to focus your attention on internal matters as clients and vendors begin taking off to their annual vacation destinations.
While best practice for interior designers dictates that you keep a weekly eye on your finances, you have likely put business development on the back burner through the recent months leading up to Tax Day. Now that external engagement is beginning to slow down, you finally have the chance to check in on how your marketing plan is working and how previously implemented initiatives are measuring up against your expectations. This article will help you understand how to measure the Return on Investment (ROI) of your interior design marketing initiatives and prepare you to actively manage them for success, even when September comes and life becomes hectic once more.
Before you begin examining the efficacy of each of your individual marketing initiatives, first conduct an honest critique of your key portals of self-representation: your company’s website and social media profiles. Whether someone hears about you in-person, on tv, in a magazine, or online, they will most likely look at your website and social media presence before contacting you for the first time. A key part of a successful interior design marketing campaign is driving traffic to these sites, converting visits into contacts, and ultimately turning those contacts into clients. While the majority of this article will talk about measuring your active initiatives, we start with an assessment of your brand pillars, your website, and social media accounts.
Your website and social media pages are the spaces where you can control the user experience to reveal exactly who you are as a designer and what you can do for clients. Take a critical eye to both and ask, do these represent who I am as an interior designer today? Think about how a first-time visitor would experience your website. Pay particular attention to the home page, zoning in on the top half — the first thing a user experiences. If the lead image no longer excites you, change it.
Also, take note of where the navigation bar is located and how it’s organized. You may wish to consider redesigning your website layout if a first-time user is unable to immediately pinpoint specific data on your website using the navigation bar. Your website host likely provides analytics that can shed light here, showing how many people find your home page first, and then from there navigate to the sub-pages. If the number of views for your sub-pages is dramatically lower than your homepage, it is a sign your homepage design needs improving.
Another way to make sure you’re getting the most marketing mojo out of your website is to check-in on which keywords are driving the most search engine traffic to your website. You can do this using an analytics tool like Google Search Console, which is free. Once you determine the most relevant keywords your audience is searching for, you can better craft your website content around them, embedding those phrases into blog posts and the like. Maintaining a weekly blog is an excellent way to engage your target audience, and your website analytics can help you assess which topics garner the most views and lead to the most direct contact. Website analytics will also show which days of the week your website has the most unique visitors, which can help guide your blog post publishing schedule to capture the widest immediate audience and gain real-time momentum.
Social media platforms invite creative exploration, and therefore your social media pages do not have to be as strictly controlled as your website. However, take time to examine each of your social media pages with the mindset of a first-time visitor, and consider how all of your posts work together to tell a cohesive story about your brand. Your pages should be curated to represent the very best of what you have to offer. Think carefully about whether or not any of your prior posts could be misconstrued in a negative way or taken out of context, and don’t be afraid to delete posts that no longer serve you. The bottom line is that your website and your social media pages, your key portals of representation to the outside world, must always embody your authentic brand and its values. Although social media allows for a broader depiction of your brand, it must remain a direct reflection of who you are as an interior designer and a businessperson.
Measuring Social Media as a Marketing Effort
When talking about interior design marketing, we have to address social media in two different ways. Not only is it a brand pillar, as discussed above, it’s also an advertising tool. It takes a surprising amount of thoughtful attention to use social media as a sales tool without compromising the integrity of its primary purpose, brand representation.
With that in mind, it’s still important to study which posts elicit the greatest amount of positive user interaction, website traffic, direct contact, and productive business conversations. While you cannot let momentary popularity change the course of your curation, you can drill down into which posts drive the most useful outcomes, and exactly which qualities make those posts attractive to your target audience. Also, be sure to compare the different platforms you use against one another. Which platforms have the highest interaction rates? Which are driving the most useful outcomes, like client conversion? These qualities are both valuable, although not mutually exclusive, and the social media platforms that have the highest scores for these two metrics are those where you should expend the most effort.
Measuring Trade Shows & Showcases
Understanding the cost-benefit analysis of attending a trade show or participating in a showcase requires a long term view. It can take years to bear the fruits of the relationships you begin at these events, but if you’re choosing events that are a strong match for your target network, bringing your social butterfly wings, and thoroughly representing your brand, you will not go unrewarded.
Research every trade show and design showcase you’re considering attending, and find out how many people attend on average, the demographics of the attendees, and the quality and brand similarity of the other designer participants. For every event you attend, create a spreadsheet to track the number of leads sold and other meaningful contacts you make there, or consider investing in a CRM that will allow you to do the same with less manual entry and the ability to run quick analytical reports. When evaluating the impact of your event participation, look at the data over a two-year period or more, because event attendees are often passively collecting information to use at a later time versus seeking a real-time solution to an immediate need.
How Productive is Your Paid Advertising?
The process for measuring the ROI of paid advertising is similar to that of industry event participation, although the time-frame is shorter. Make a list for each of your paid advertising initiatives over the last 12 months, and write out the meaningful contacts generated from each, and the revenue, if any, that can be directly attributed to the effort. Compare which media outlets and advertising formats correspond with the most amount of productive outcomes for your business. Consider how much you have spent on advertising versus how much you made, or expect to make from projects in the pipeline that you are confident are a consequence of the ads. If the ratio is disappointing, take a step back and assess the platforms you’ve used in the past, and research new platforms and ad formats. Also, research the conditions in which each platform performs best; for example, an ad in the September issue of an interior design trade magazine will probably be seen by more people than an ad in the June issue. While the cost may be higher for prime placement, you need to give your advertisements the best chance of success by shrewdly targeting your widest target audience with each effort. Use the data you collect in this exercise to adjust your ad planning for the remainder of the year.
Examine Your Fiestas & Other Friendly Gestures
Lastly, deduce the ROI of your personal social efforts over the last 12 months, and think about how allocating more or less money to your party and gifting budgets might affect your interior design business going forward. While it’s difficult to measure the impact of giving an expensive gift to your client or vendor, take a critical eye to how much you are spending versus how much you are earning with a client, or how heavily you rely on a particular vendor. When measuring the impact of your networking parties, think about which events were best attended and how much income you can directly tie to people who attend your events. Social experiences with your network are always valuable on an emotional level, but since you have a responsibility to your business, you must keep your bottom line in mind, regardless. Community sponsorship is a great way to market locally, and because it’s a charitable donation, it is tax deductible. However, be strategic about which groups or events you sponsor and how visible your signage will be to your target audience.
As business begins to slow down for summer, don’t miss this opportunity to give your business a check-up and make sure your interior design marketing plan is on point. Remember, research can help you find the best way to reach your target audience, but representing your authentic brand is what will convert contacts into clients and other meaningful professional relationships. Once your marketing plan is bringing in new business by the bundle, be sure to stay on top of your accounting and project management needs with Design Manager so that you can provide top-notch, streamlined service to all of your many new clients!