Lead Generation for Interior Design Business
One of the most exciting parts about starting your own interior design business is envisioning yourself continually meeting with satisfied clients, conducting sales calls, and closing deals. However, it doesn’t always work out this way. Sometimes it’s harder than anticipated to get new business. But why?
Can’t you simply update your LinkedIn profile or website and wait for the clients to come swarming? The harsh reality is that although the interior design industry is growing, competition is increasing at a steady pace. New tools, platforms, and websites for sourcing businesses have lower barriers to entry for interior designers. Consequently, a proven process of sales-qualified lead generation for interior designers is foundational to the success of any design and consulting business.
In this article, we’ll break down exactly what sales qualified lead generation for interior designers looks like, common challenges experienced during this process, and how to produce a repeatable set of steps that will help you gain new business.
Image Credit: LeadFuze
The Importance of a Lead Generation Process for Interior Designers
Sales are produced by acquiring and converting qualified leads. To do this well, business owners or marketing teams need to develop consistently successful sales and marketing processes. Hold on, you might be saying – I’m a designer, not a marketing professional? What the heck is “lead generation” anyways?
As an interior designer, you may not be familiar with many of these terms or concepts. Don’t worry! In this section, we’ll define commonly used words and phrases when discussing sales and marketing tactics. This will help you better understand how the entire process of sales-qualified lead generation for interior designers actually works. Let’s get started!
What is Lead Generation?
At a high level, lead generation is simply a term used to describe coordinated outreach through one or more platforms for the express purpose of getting new business. Lead generation can include digital marketing activities like building an email list, search engine optimization, social media, webinars, landing pages, Google ads, blogging, and other forms of content marketing.
Traditional marketing activities for lead generation include networking with potential customers, talking with high-quality referral partners like real estate professionals, collecting client testimonials, etc. Think of lead generation as any attempt or series of attempts to reach potential clients.
What is a conversion?
There are generally two types of conversions for a small business. First, a prospect (meaning someone who’s potentially interested in buying your services) expresses interest by asking to learn more about what you do, or they’re willing to share more about their project. The first conversion in a sales process occurs when someone becomes a lead by giving you their contact information and asking for additional information and/or a proposal. Once this happens, the prospect has become a sales-qualified lead.
The second conversion typically happens when the sales-qualified lead reviews and accepts your proposal. This means that they have signed a contract that clearly outlines the project scope, timeline, pricing, and other relevant details. This final conversion is from a lead to a customer.
Read also – How To Find Your Niche As An Interior Designer?
What is a sales qualified lead?
Many business owners think of all leads the same way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The difference between a lead and a sales qualified lead is that a non-sales qualified lead is simply someone that you suspect might be interested in working with you.
Examples of non-sales qualified leads include people you meet at a networking event or a tradeshow, a name that is referred to you without an introduction, or an inquiry through your website or social media accounts. A sales qualified lead is someone who understands that they are actively in discussions with you about your services, pricing, project scope, etc. The key distinction here is that the sales-qualified lead will be expecting to see a proposal from you and potentially purchasing. General leads are like “window shoppers.”
What is an example of sales qualified lead generation?
While lead generation (in basic terms) is the process of getting new people interested in your business, sales qualified lead generation describes a series of steps intentionally designed to take people from interested in your business to purchase readiness (or at least all of the way to their decision on which designer they want to use). The process of lead generation is usually referred to as a funnel – which you can read more about in this article.
What exactly is the process of sales qualified lead generation for interior designers? From front to back, the entire process often involves several stages of marketing and sales activities culminating in a formal proposal. The process could involve lead-generating activities like cold calling, networking, asking for referrals, etc.
Next, you would likely focus marketing and sales efforts on getting those leads to set up a discovery meeting where you ask questions of the client to understand their needs and they’re able to learn more about your experience and areas of expertise. Once a prospect goes from merely interested to being willing to accept a meeting invitation they’re typically considered to be sales qualified.
Read also – Interior Design Sourcing and Procurement
Image Credit: Interior Design Society
4 Challenges Interior Designers Face in Lead Generation
Lead generation is difficult for most businesses, and interior designers face some unique challenges when trying to earn new business. Here are 4 common problems you might discover when starting your interior design business or taking it to the next level:
- Project-based work can have you incredibly busy one month, then twiddling your thumbs the next. This ebb and flow of work make it difficult to consistently focus on lead-generating activities and follow up with prospects.
- It can be difficult to initially generate leads without a portfolio of existing work that includes details of your prior projects, references, etc. Building this portfolio can take time, but we’ve included some tips in our interior design portfolio.
- If you’ve picked a highly competitive aspect of interior design on which to focus, you may find yourself struggling to stand out from more established providers. Proper branding and messaging can help with differentiation.
- The amount of time between when you have your first discussion with a client and they actually sign an agreement often takes at least 30-60 days. This natural lag experienced in the sales process means that you need to plan carefully for cash flow and align your marketing processes and expenses accordingly.
Image Credit: U.S. Chamber of Commerce
10 Tips to Generate Sales Qualified Leads for Your Interior Design Business:
Below are 10 key recommendations for jumpstarting an effective sales qualified lead generation process for your interior design business, regardless of whether you’re focusing on E-design, traditional services, or a mix of both. These recommendations are not as focused on marketing tactics. Instead, these tips are focused on how to create a simple marketing strategy and sales process which progressively moves prospects toward converting into a customer, from their first point of contact in your lead generation process all the way to signing a proposal.
1. Know your customer and develop a strong sense of their “persona.” A marketing persona comprises key information and attributes of your ideal customer, including their income range, styles, total project size, commercial vs. residential contracts, geography, and whether they prefer to meet in person or purchase e-design services. This type of information is called demographic and psychographic data. Most small businesses store this type of data and contact information in their CRM (customer relationship manager).
While this might all sound a little bit complicated, it’s simply a lengthy way of referring to basic profile information that includes a list of known, shared traits among your ideal customers. This persona will guide all of your messaging, marketing tactics, proposal, etc. One of the most important elements of a marketing persona are paint points. Pain points describe persistent issues that your prospects are experiencing; these issues are likely driving them to solve their problem by hiring you or one of your competitors for interior design services. Common examples of pain points include price sensitivity, lack of knowledge on a subject, a poor prior experience with a service provider, and many others.
2. Create messaging that aligns exactly with your target audience’s pain points. For example, if you’re certain that budget is their biggest concern, make sure you address that in your marketing copy and outreach messaging. Let your prospects know that you can work with all budget ranges and project sizes. Or, conversely, if you only want high-end clients, make sure that your exclusiveness is clear. Because a good sales qualification process helps prospects understand if you are a good match for their needs, it’s ok to be open and upfront about the types of projects you take on.
3. Try to have at least 2-3 new sales conversations each month. It’s not a good idea to wait to generate new leads until you’re out of new business leads. Regardless of how you get these meetings (referral, cold outreach, inbound marketing, etc.), it’s good to maintain a healthy pipeline (i.e., list of new leads) each month because only a small percentage of your total leads will “close” at any time. You will begin to learn the ratio of proposals to closed business over time (called a conversion rate), and this will help you understand how much interior design leads you should generate in order to keep the right revenue levels.
4. Work with referral partners. Referral partners are anyone that is not a direct competitor and is willing to send you business. For interior designers, good examples of referral partners include general contractors, construction companies, boutique furniture stores, interior decorators, and larger interior design firms that may not want specialty or smaller projects. Touch base with these referral partners often as you may simply not be top of mind when the right opportunity comes along.
5. Develop a sales process with clear steps outlining how to take someone from a prospect to a customer. This process should include 2-3 steps that you can follow which will put the path to sales qualification on auto-pilot. Examples of commonly used steps include:
- An introduction email to the lead with a request for a call. This email should highlight your qualifications for interior designing and years of experience serving ideal clients. Create 1-2 templates for these emails so you don’t have to write a new one every time.
- An overview of the services you provide for discussion on the call and qualifying questions to determine the viability of a lead or new projects. Other relevant content could include case studies to demonstrate your style and capabilities.
- A follow-up action for after the call concludes (e.g., email).
- Timeline for when they can expect a proposal.
- Pitch deck and proposal outline for their project to define the duration, expenses, and proposed elements.
6. Make sure that your sales process includes a killer pitch format and presentation. Prospects, especially average homeowners, will be at their greatest likelihood of purchasing from you at the end of a good pitch, and this is the best time to ask if they’d like to move forward. A lackluster sales pitch or proposal will undermine the confidence you’ve worked so hard to instill in your prospects.
7. When refining your messaging, pitch, proposals, and even web design, ensure that you’re not simply repeating the exact same points your competitors are. You need to be differentiated in at least one key way from those who offer similar services to yours. Otherwise, prospects will likely choose whoever they feel is a better fit (which is difficult to control) or whoever has the lowest price, which may force you to earn less than you deserve.
8. Use a new client questionnaire to better understand client needs and the total project scope. This type of questionnaire will show the prospect that you prepared for the meeting with them and may bring up questions that they haven’t asked themselves or fully thought through, giving you the opportunity to provide consultation or insight.
9. Develop new content on a consistent basis. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but you should focus on demonstrating your knowledge of or interest in a specific subject matter. When developing new content, think about the pain points you identified in your target audience. Then, fill your content creation calendar with ideas and topics that address those pain points. Recalling our earlier example about price sensitivity with interior design projects, content that would help those prospective clients include tips on how to redecorate on a budget, how to repurpose furniture or decor that they already have, thrifting trends, etc.
10. Use a website to your advantage. Even basic website platforms will put you far ahead of the competition. This is a highly recommended tactic because it will allow you to rank (if you publish content) on competitive terms (called keywords) that your prospects are using to conduct research online. This is particularly helpful if you have a specific industry niche with a good search volume (meaning that at least 100 or more people are searching for that topic each month). By publishing new content each month you’ll start to earn authority and credibility on niche topics and increase your likelihood of ranking well for those searches. Drawing in new leads through this method is essential for any successful sales-qualified lead generation for interior designers.
Sales qualified lead generation for interior designers rests primarily on being able to sufficiently demonstrate your expertise as it relates to the prospect’s needs. Show off your skills, quick turnaround time, and overall sophistication with a tool like Foyr Neo. Built for professional designers but simple enough for amateurs, Foyr Neo gives you a suite of tools to quickly create photo-realistic renderings, make 3D edits in real-time, and select from thousands of existing furniture and decor items for a truly customized look and feel.