Marketing. Without it, any professional or company sells themselves short. Any company expecting its products to fly off the shelves strictly through word of mouth is literally leaving money on the table. Any professional-- particularly one who works independently-- who thinks they can make do without a plan that gives them a concrete idea of how to market themselves and capture business is setting themselves up for failure.
This is especially true in the world of interior design. Interior design can be an exciting, meaningful way to earn a living, one where a creative visionary can be richly rewarded while getting the chance to pursue their passion. But in order to succeed in the profession, an interior designer had better formulate a good marketing plan.
Marketing is, of course, a broad term, and a marketing plan can mean a variety of things, depending on the field, as well as the type of business it's executed for. In interior design, as the Houston Chronicle notes, a marketing plan typically includes the following:
1. Identifying a target market: Some interior designers specialize in Southwest suburban decorating. Others do their best work in commercial spaces converted into lofts. Whatever the persuasion, an interior designer is wise to determine the type of customers they can best serve.
2. Developing an image: Ideally, an interior designer wants a potential customer to associate their name with interior design as quickly as possible after learning it (Source: Coupar Consulting). This means having a decent looking and functioning website with professionally shot photos and references. References can come from friends or family members of new interior designers, provided some work is done for them. Together, all of this can help an interior designer quickly paint a picture, so to speak, of the type of specialist their client will be getting.
3. Creating goals: These should be measurable and attainable, though there's no timetable for how long they should take to reach. Some interior designers set goals around how soon they'd like to turn an annual profit. Others focus on dominating a region or becoming a go-to designer for a particular design niche.
4. Evaluating the competition: Interior design is a highly competitive field. Done well, it can be lucrative, with the average American interior designer earning about $47,000 in 2012 according to labor statistics. But to succeed, though, just as in any field, an interior designer must keep a keen eye on the competition. This means knowing acutely what competing designers or firms do well and also where they fall short. Like it goes for any company, an interior designer can gain work by showing what they're capable of that other firms can't or won't do.
5. Budgeting: The Houston Chronicle notes that without a solid budget, a marketing plan effectively is "just a piece of paper." The Chronicle continues:
"To accomplish the goals set forth in the plan, the interior design business needs to allocate a certain percentage of sales to marketing. The marketing portion of an interior decorating business budget can reach up to 20 percent, but on average takes up to 5 percent to 10 percent. New interior decorating businesses typically spend more on marketing in the first few years in business to establish themselves in the community."