May 14, 2008

Getting Creative in a Challenging Economy

A special report for Interior Designers, Decorators, and other Home Fashion Specialists

Are you feeling like your clients and prospects are getting more wary about spending money? Are they taking longer to make decisions? Are you struggling to convince homeowners to purchase from you?

If not, great! You are one of the lucky few. Although "official" statistics do not yet show that consumer spending has dropped, many designers have seen a slow-down in spending on home furnishings.

So what do we do? Many small business owners stick their heads in the sand and ignore it, hoping that what they've done in the past will start working again... soon. But studies show that if you keep doing the same type of marketing and selling while the economy changes around you, you very well could be out of business before things pick up. If you want to be a design professional who thrives despite the challenging economy, there are many proven methods you can use.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Spend more time and energy on short-term marketing
    Long-term strategies, like branding and website optimization, are extremely important for creating a strong, profitable business, so you can't give that up. BUT - in a slower economy, you need to apply strategies that create immediate revenue. Hold a promotion, offer a limited-time special, try pay-per-click advertising.
  • Highlight your less expensive products
    Okay, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying to sell cheap things, or to sacrifice your high-end image. But there are homeowners who want to spend right now - if they can get something less expensive. If you can offer a fabric line, for example, with lower cost fabrics that are still of a quality you are proud to sell, everyone wins.
  • Go virtual
    Is there a way you can offer any of your services online or over the phone? Businesses that are working this way are seeing overhead costs go WAY down, and profits go way UP.
  • Increase online product sales
    Most designers have a hard time imagining selling online. We are artists, for goodness sake! And our services are personal and customized. How can we sell over the Internet? Well - with rising gas prices, homeowners are shopping online more than ever. These homeowners, who once only wanted customized service (and who will want this again in the next few years), will more likely purchase something now because it is quick, easy, and inexpensive. Make sure you have products for this market.
  • Ramp up your client retention
    It is always harder and more expensive to acquire a new client than it is to get business from a past one. But during a slow economy, the cost of acquiring new customers is even higher. Remember to exceed your existing clients' expectations, and keep in touch with past customers through your email newsletter and by calling them on the phone.

When the market seems tough, you just need to be smarter with your marketing. Fortunately, you now have some effective tactics to use so that you can not only get through the tough times, but actually flourish!

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