The Art of Good Advertisement

Advertising is a necessary evil for every small business. As frustrating as it can be, you have to do it to continually bring in new clients and expand your design firm. If you are going to do it, you might as well figure out how to do it the correct way, right? Here are few tips to help you create the best possible advertisement:

Make it Appropriate

Your ad has to relate to your design firm in some way. It has to move the viewer toward the conclusion that you want him or her to make. It cannot be so off the wall that readers will be disappointed when they figure out what you are going for. The best ad is a simple ad that tells the reader exactly what you want them to know.

Make it Clear

As I said, the very best ad is one that gets its point across quickly and clearly. Do not try to be clever. More often than not, being clever in your marketing will backfire. Customers do not want to be fooled; they want to be convinced that they should buy from you.

Make an Impact

To be successful, an advertisement has to catch the reader’s attention in a fraction of a second. That means that it has to have an impact of your customers almost instantly. If you have been printing ads in black and white, consider trying a color printing project instead. Color is a good way to increase the impact of your efforts.

Make it Memorable

Just like your ads have to catch the readers’ attention quickly, it also must stick in the customers’ minds. Color, again, is a good way to make that happen, as long as you use the appropriate colors in the right amounts. You also want to use words that will stay with the reader.

Make it Original

Your advertising should not look just like everyone else’s. If it does, it is certain to fail. This is not the time to be a follower. Consider as many ways as you can think of to make your marketing materials stand out from the rest and make an impression on your customers. Be original and brave. Do not be afraid to try new things, even if they have never been done before. That is how great things – and new trends – happen.

Make it Effective

As you are designing your marketing materials, continually go back and ask yourself what your purpose is. What are you trying to accomplish with this piece? What are you trying to tell your customers? These are the things that you should always keep in mind, so that your ad always has a clear purpose. Remember to keep it simple and straightforward.

By Kaye Z. Marks
Photography by © Roxana Gonzalez

Kaye Z. Marks is an avid writer and follower of the developments in color printing industry and its benefits for small to medium-scale businesses.


Business Expenses for Interior Designers

Now that you have your own interior design business, whether or not you have already received any income, it is absolutely essential that you keep a record of all your expenses. If there's one thing more annoying than record keeping, it's paying unnecessary taxes because you didn't keep a proper record of your expenses.

What are expenses? Any money that you spend with the intention of earning income for your interior design business may be considered to be an expense for your business. Go back to the date upon which you set up your business and find all the receipts that show that you spent money for your company. If you cannot find receipts for some of the money you have spent then make a note of what the expense was for, to whom it was paid and the amount. You will find it easier to have a separate piece of paper for each expense.

From now on, ALWAYS get a receipt when you are spending money on your company, even if it is only for a cup of coffee. If you use a credit card and cannot find the credit card receipt, keep a copy of the credit card statement and highlight the entry.

I suggest that you obtain some file folders and label one for each month and keep receipts for in the correct file folder. Alternately, you may wish to keep a record of your expenses by category. This may simplify completion of your income tax return for your interior design business at the taxation year end.

A suggestion of the categories required are as follows:
  • Advertising costs
  • Business Taxes
  • Business Licenses & Fees
  • Business Dues and Subscriptions
  • Business Meals & Entertainment Costs
  • Business Memberships
  • Home Entertainment
  • Home Office Expenses
  • Insurance
  • Interest
  • Repairs & Maintenance
  • Management & Administration Fees
  • Motor Vehicle Expenses
  • Supplies
  • Legal Accounting & Professional Fees
  • Real Estate Taxes
  • Rent
  • Salaries, Wages & Benefits
  • Travel Costs
  • Telephone & Utilities
  • Training Courses / Seminars / Meetings

If you are purchasing product for resale: Invoices for all purchases of products, including shipping costs. This will enable you to establish Cost of Goods Sold.

f you have inventory connected with your interior design business, you will need to count the stock that you have on hand at year end. Remember it may be possible that your design business may have a different taxation year end than you have personally.

While this list is not exhaustive, it does cover the main areas of permitted costs. Find out from your tax advisor what the depreciation charges are and what is allowed. Every country has wide ranging and differing rules in this respect. You will also need to maintain records of such capital costs that you might incur.

These will normally be for such items as:
  • Automobiles
  • Office Furniture
  • Office Equipment
  • Computers, Printers and Peripherals

Taxation legislation differs between countries and each country may change their rules at any time. The information provided in these newsletters is accurate at time of publication. You should however seek specific information from your tax advisor or taxation department as it relates to your own situation each year that you are required to provide income and expense statements.

By John Ritchie
Phototgraphy by Gabriel Blaj

Copyright to this article belongs to John Ritchie. Click Here For Website []. For more detailed information on Identity Theft, and to sign up for our 5 part e-course, go to Click Here For Information [].


Home Works: Running Your Design Business From Home

My job here at The Interior Design Resource Agency has to be one of the best in the world. I get to speak to designers everyday and share resources and advice that will make a difference in their interior design businesses. To see designers implement the plans and ideas we’ve discussed and witness the positive outcome is very rewarding. One of my latest encounters involved speaking with a designer  that went from prime office space with a staff of seven to working in her home. Needless to say, she considered this a huge step backward and was concerned with the stigma of working from home. I spent a great deal of time encouraging her and working with her to map out a strategy for maximizing her effectiveness right where she was. In encouraging her, I felt compelled to encourage all of you because I know there are so many more of you in a similar situation. Fear not. Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy!

The Good News

Home offices boomed in the early 90’s and the option to work from home began to crop up everywhere and in every industry from insurance to internet technology. However, long before then, designers ran their design studios from home. Because of the nature of the process whereby client meetings generally take place on site, designers realized they could do the real work in the design process from home. Conceptually, they were ahead of their time.

The benefits of working from home are undeniable: no commute, setting your own schedule, flexibility, low overhead, the list goes on. However, in the present economy designers are opting to work from home less for convenience but more out of necessity. Regardless of the reason, tips for being effective remain the same. Here are just a few for you.

1. Maintain a High Level of Professionalism

Realize that while design studios have existed in homes for years there is still a stigma attached to working from home, in some cases, but especially for designers. To combat this, I suggest cultivating a high level of professionalism in your interaction with clients. In most cities, even with a home occupations permit, business owners are not allowed to see clients in their homes, so think of where you’ll hold the rare client meeting that doesn’t take place on site. Everything that represents you needs to be superior. Your website, voicemail message, telephone presentation, business cards and brochures should be top notch. Your interior design clients should know that the quality of the product and service that they receive will not be less than the designer who’s situated on the 25th floor of the office building downtown.

2. Get Dressed

Studies show that how you dress can and does affect productivity. When you’re working from home, dress can help serve as a division of personal and professional life. If you haven’t already, make a company dress code and adhere to it. It will serve to keep you and your staff motivated and in some ways to keep you focused on the goal. It also contributes to establishing a corporate culture a maintaining a level of professionalism, even when working from home.

3. Run Errands to Meet Your Next Client

Here’s what I mean: Never leave the house in any state, that you wouldn’t want a potential client to see you. You are always representing your company and potential clients are everywhere. Even at the grocery store. Clothing is an extension of your identity and ultimately your brand. Before you leave the house (or open the door), ask yourself this question: “Would a prudent client look at me and say, ‘I want to hire that person?’” Sweatpants and a banana clip do not convey professionalism that is congruent with a luxury service. Even if you’re the designer who works with clients who are on a shoe-string budget, it’s in your best interest to present the most professional image possible. Small jobs lead to big jobs and you never know who you’re going to meet. Always present your best self as a representation of your company.

4. Develop Protocol for Your Business Phone

Set strict guidelines about anyone other than you or your design staff answering your business phone. If family members must take calls for you, ensure that they use the customary greeting that includes your company name. Don’t be afraid to give training or tutorials on the subject. After all, your business reputation is on the line. Make sure they know how to place a client on hold, take messages and end a phone call. Noise levels from televisions, radios, children and pets should be kept to an absolute minimum when making and taking phones calls. If you have rowdy kids or lots of pets, I suggest an office with a door. Clients will equate poor phone etiquette and presentation with the quality of your service- even if it was your kid who took the call. This could lose clients, and negatively impact your business.

5. Set a Schedule

Schedule everything possible: time to make and take phone calls, check email, time to meet with your staff, time for breaks and chores, even. Establish your work times around the hours you work best. If you’re energized in the morning, use those hours for your best work. If you’re energized at night, maximize the evening hours for work. Utilize high energy periods to get work done and be more effective. Having a good time management system such as a daily, weekly, hourly and monthly calendar or appointment software comes in handy. You can always make changes to your schedule as you see fit, but setting a schedule and creating a routine creates parameters for you to work within.

6. Minimize Interruptions

Let friends and family know what your work hours are. If you have scheduled a conference call or a client meeting via phone, make them aware of that. Hang a do not interrupt sign on your door, or meeting in progress sign to let family know that you should only be interrupted in case of emergency and define what an emergency is for you.

7. Delegate Chores & Other Responsibilities

Some designers have no problem working in an environment with clutter. Others intensely need cleanliness and order to function at maximum capacity. For these designers any ounce of disorder in your surroundings can send you into a cleaning frenzy. I strongly suggest employing a housekeeper or at least delegating chores to family members so that your work hours can be spent working. If you were in your office on the 25th floor of the Chrysler Building, you wouldn’t be cleaning. You’d be working. So make arrangements or schedule time to do that outside of work hours.
If you have kids or pets, you may want to arrange for care for them. If your little ones must be home and part of your office environment, I encourage teaching them to be respectful of your place of business. I heard a story from a business woman who created a space in her office for her children that included a desk and play phone as well as a little computer. It kept her kids occupied and engaged. It also gave them an opportunity to see what happens in a place of business and how they should behave- even if that place of business looks like home.

8. Never Eat Alone

One of our honorary advisory board members, Keith Ferrazzi of the Ferrazzi Group wrote a book a few years ago called Never Eat Alone. In it, Keith discussed the importance of cultivating relationships. He made a great point in saying you have to eat anyway, so why eat alone? Use that time to socialize, build relationships. If you need to rid yourself of the solitary confinement that sometimes running your design firm from home, I suggest you have at least one or two lunches with other designers or trade professionals to get out of the office. A lot of them work in small offices, alone or at home so you may be surprised at how grateful they are to spend an hour away from the office as well.

The interior design profession has always been one that has offered a great deal of flexibility in regard to where and how you work. Whether your interior design firm is starting up or downsizing, with a great deal of self discipline, energy, dedication and professionalism, you can see interior design business success. Pack away your fears and pull out your design swatches. Maximize the moment and seize the day!

By V. Carr
Managing Director
The Interior Design Resource Agency
Copyright 2011 All Worldwide Rights Reserved.
Image by  StockSource


Mastering the Art of Client Retention

The 13 Rules to Keep a Client.
Follow them. Be happy.

Your survival in business depends on good customer service. Here are ways to keep clients over the long term.
1.  Make every client feel important.

Tell the customer how important they are to you and then in some way give them something special. Remind yourself constantly to never take the client for granted. Treat them all like they are the only client and the number one client. GSD&M used the phrase "Legendary Client Service". Concept ways to make your service to your clients "Legendary".

2.  Be likeable.

Customers/clients buy from people they like and refuse to give business to people they don’t. An old Chinese phrase stated, " A man without a smile should not open a business."

3.  Manage client problems and solve them smoothly and quickly.

We are all just one lousy client experience away from losing a customer. Once we lose one, it is almost impossible to get them back. And not only that, an unhappy customer usually tells over 10 people!

4. Face to face communication with the client is by far superior than e-mails. Invite the client to lunch and develop a good relationship with them. And keep it going. It is all up to you.

5.  Follow-up beyond the sale.

Make sure the job is put to bed. Even after the job is complete, make sure the client is totally satisfied.
6.  Treat all size projects seriously and with respect.

Clients will not give you bigger projects unless you prove yourself with the small ones.

7. Do the best work that you can do for the client.

Make sure you are the best in the areas the client feels are important. If you are not, give the project to the expert and mark-up his time. Better to get less for a project than all for the project, but not a second job.

8. Exceed expectations in areas that would please the client. This might mean deliver more ideas and put more work into it. So what if you get paid less by the hour, you have a solid, happy client. Also, a happy client generates word-of -mouth advertising. Which leads to referrals and jobs that you did not have to cold call to get.

9. Respond swiftly by E-mail and the phone. A slow response means lack of caring for the clients needs and lack of organization skill. Even if you think it might show that you are really busy, just remember this, do you like to wait for anything or anybody?

10.  Make sure you also please the boss of the boss. Ask the right questions to go above the expectations of all players that are involved in the project.

11.  Find out answers to clients problems or questions. Go out of your way to do the helpful things for the client that are not in your job description. Even though this extra effort might be free, the client should reward you with more work in the future.

12.  Find the good in a client. This is a top priority. Appreciate them and be thankful that you have their business. Catch them doing something right. George Matthew Adams said, " Encouragement is oxygen to the soul." William James said, " The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated."

13.  Address the clients needs, not yours. Don’t let your ego define what is right for the client. Even when you know it is not the best solution for the client. Work easy with the clients needs.

In this competitive world we live in, we need to remember how we like to be treated, then treat our customers the same way. If we do that, we should retain clients and continue to get referrals.

By Coby Neill
Image by Phil Date

James Neill owns Coby Neill Creative Creative Ad Agency
Author of 3 books


Power-Up Prospecting & Get New Design Clients

Strike Gold with Effective Prospecting

The key to finding new clients is effective prospecting. There are numerous ways to go about prospecting. Some of them are active methods, while others are passive. Active prospecting methods are things like Personal Observation, Public Speaking, Agent and Client Referrals, Networking, and Centers of Influence, while passive methods include using the internet, newspaper advertising and direct mail campaigns. Both passive and active prospecting will produce results, however they differ in efficiency and effectiveness – and understanding those differences will make all the difference to you and your results.

Passive methods are easy to implement, but are actually pretty inefficient. They attract "tire kickers",  price shoppers.... Please understand, these methods do produce results and can uncover fantastic people who become great  clients, but generally the quality of results is poor. When these methods are implemented, plenty of activity is generated, but few prospects become clients. The passive methods appear to be very efficient, but they produce so much worthless activity that they become extremely inefficient.

Active methods, on the other hand, take more time on the front end, but because they are so much more effective end up being much more efficient. They are so much more effective because interviews/meetings are only generated with people who have an interest in working with you, and share your purpose and passion. Clients decide to work with you because they see who you are, and identify and respect you and what you believe in. Not only are active methods more effective, but clients created this way are more loyal.

Why Active Prospecting Is More Effective

• People do business with people they like. The only way for others to get to know you is by getting out and meeting people. When you do your prospecting passively, they don’t get to know you at all. They are simply responding to something they read.

• People are attracted to someone who stands for something and has a purpose. When you spend time clarifying what sets you apart from everyone else and spend time clarifying your purpose, and then communicate them effectively, you will attract like-minded clients who identify with you and become loyal to you.

• The best way to keep clients is to build a relationship with them. Without a relationship, they simply become price-shopping customers. With a relationship, they become clients who will stay with you and become clients who refer others to you. It perpetuates success.

Active prospecting allows you to attract the kind of people you want, allows you to meet with only those who are likely to succeed and stay with you, and allows you to build a solid book of loyal clients.

Break out of the internet and advertising routine. Start powering up your prospecting and boosting your success!

By Michael Beck
Photography by Andrejs Pidjass

Written by Michael Beck, "The Insurance & Advisor Coach". Michael, an Executive Coach and Recruiting Activist, helps insurance and financial professionals succeed faster and easier. He can be reached at 866-385-8751 , or Visit,, or to learn more. © 2006 Exceptional Leadership, Inc.


How to Cultivate the Trust Factor in Your Interior Design Business

In today’s highly competitive economy, it is difficult to maintain a significant market advantage based on your professional skills alone. Developing trusting relationships with your clients is vital to your business success as well. No matter what business you are in, the most powerful value-added contribution you can make to any business relationship is the trust factor.

The trust factor is even more critical in today’s business climate with the level of trust in corporate america continuing to be at an all-time low, and suspicion of "all things corporate" remaining on the rise. To make matters worse, large corporations and small businesses alike continue to use antiquated techniques, such as gizmos and gadgets, to try to win over new clients. When instead, they should be trying to address the heart of the matter by utilizing trust-building techniques that will most effectively resonate with consumers and new prospects.

Clients are in search of trust in their business relationships, but building trust and credibility does not happen overnight. To cultivate trust, it takes the risk of being open with clients and prospects. This enables them to perceive you as a real person—one with strengths and weaknesses that come into play as the relationship develops. When trust is reciprocal, you will find that your confidence in others is rewarded by their support and reinforcement of what you also stand for as a business entity.

Defining Trust

What is trust? Trust can be defined as a firm belief in the honesty of another and the absence of suspicion regarding his motives or practices. The concept of trust in business dealings is simple: Build on an individual’s confidence in you and eliminate fear as an operating principle.

Letting Go of Fear
Let go of fear, which restricts your ability to relate to others. Letting go frees you of behavioral constraints that can immobilize your emotional and professional development. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being hurt, fear of the unknown—all these are roadblocks to developing and growing a trusting relationship with clients. Let go of your fear of losing an account or not having the right answers. Leave all your fears at the client or prospect’s doorstep.
Other critical steps in cultivating trust are knowing who you are and knowing your potential value to your clients. The relationship that forms because of this can have a tremendous impact on your sales. People don’t just buy from anyone. They buy from people they can trust. The rapport and credibility you can establish with the trust factor go a long way toward building a client’s confidence in your ability to meet his business needs.
Trust has both an active and a passive component in a business relationship. The active feeling of trust is confidence in the leadership, veracity, and reliability of the other party, based on a track record of performance.

The passive feeling of trust is the absence of worry or suspicion. This absence is sometimes unrecognized and frequently taken for granted in our most productive relationships.

Building Trust With Care

So how do you build trust with clients? First, you need to care about them. Obviously your clients care about your knowledge, expertise, and accomplishments. However, they care even more about the level of concern you have for them. Successful trust building hinges on four actions: engaging, listening, framing, and committing. The trust factor can be realized once we understand these components of trust and incorporate them in our daily lives.

Engaging clients and prospects occurs when you show genuine concern and interest in their business and its problems. Maintain good eye contact and body posture. Good eye contact signifies openness and honesty. And your body language and other forms of nonverbal communication speak volumes about your attitude toward them. By the same token, you want to be cognizant of your client’s or prospect’s eye contact and body language.

Listening with understanding and empathy is possible if you think client focus first.

Let the client tell his story. Put yourself in his shoes when you listen to his business concerns, purpose, vision, and desires. Show approval or understanding by nodding your head and smiling during the conversation. Separate the process of taking in information from the process of judging it. Just suspend your judgment and focus on the client.

Framing what the client has said is the third action in trust building. Make sure you have formed an accurate understanding of his problems and concerns. Confirm what you think you heard by asking open-ended questions such as "What do you mean by that?" or "Help me to understood the major production problems you are experiencing." After you have clarified the problems, start to frame them in order of importance. By identifying the areas in which you can help the client, you offer him clarity in his own mind and continue to build his trust.

Committing is the final action for developing the trust factor. Communicate enthusiastically your plan of action for solving the client’s problems. Help the client see what it will take to achieve the end result. Presumably, what you have said up to this point has been important, but what you do now—how you commit—is even more important. Remember the old adage "Action speaks louder than words." Show you want this client’s business long term. Complete assignments and projects on budget and on time. Then follow up with clients periodically to see how your partnership is faring.

In the final analysis, trust stems from keeping our word. If we say we will be there for our clients, then we should honor that commitment by being there. Trust results from putting the client’s best interest before our own, from being dependable, from being open and forthcoming with relevant information. It is impossible to overestimate the power of the trust factor in our professional lives. Truly, trust is the basis of all enduring, long-term business relationships.

By Robert Moment
Photography by Gabriel Blaj

Robert Moment is an innovative small business coach, speaker and author of Invisible Profits: The Power of Exceptional Customer Service. Robert specializes in teaching entrepreneur how to start a small business that profits and grow.


Direct Mail Marketing: 5 Tips for Client Response

If you are chalking out a marketing plan for your business, and are planning to use direct mail marketing, then here are some useful direct mail marketing tips for you.

Any business or any organization cannot succeed to the fullest extent unless it establishes a bond of trust and goodwill with its end-users. Often there exists a retailer or a middleman between the manufacturer and the customer/end-user, which facilitates trade. However, in order to increase sales, or establish brand identity, the manufacturer or the organization always has to make an effort to reach out to its customers on a one-to-one level. This is where the concept of marketing steps in. The manufacturers come up with most innovative and convincing ways to grab the customers’ attention and attract the customers towards buying the products or services.

Marketing is all about establishing a healthy communication between the manufacturers and the end users of a particular product or service. Direct mail marketing refers to the practice of using the snail mail or conventional paper mail to communicate with the customers. Direct mail marketing allows the manufacturers to communicate with the customers on a one-on-one level however; much thought has to be put into the whole process for the effort to bear fruits.

Direct Mail Marketing Tips

Direct mail marketing can be effective only if certain rules are followed by the businessmen. If you are chalking out a marketing plan for your business, here are some of the things you should keep in mind:

1. Avoid Spam

Do not make your direct mail look spammy; make sure it gives the appearance of an authentic and credible mail. Customers rarely respond to mails that seem like Spam-mail. Do not bombard the customers with direct mail continuously, since this can seem a bit pushy. Send the mails at regular intervals so that the customers do not feel like you are trying too hard to market yourself.

2. Conduct Surveys and Research

It is always better to carry out a customer survey or research to fathom the public opinion and find out what changes or new things need to be incorporated into your marketing strategies. Create a specialized database of customer contacts with attention to individual preferences. This helps you to know what your customers

3. Personalize it

Marketing is all about making the customer feel special, since no one likes to be one of crowd. Always personalize your marketing to make the customers feel more special. Address it directly to a particular person for example To: Mr. John Smith. In case you really want to cheer the customers, send along a free gift to grab their attention and create a ‘feel-good’ factor.

4. Be Concise and Clear

Do not beat around the bush when it comes to your content - talk numbers and talk facts. Explain your offer in a brief and clear way. People like to know why you have sent the mail, without reading too much. If possible put a headline on the envelope so that the person knows what the mail is all about. Keep the content short and succinct. If there is too much of text, then break the monotony with the use of attractive graphics and pictures.

5. Encourage Response

Many a times it happens that the customers might just read your marketing message and forget about it later, unless you encourage them to take some immediate action. Two-way communication is always more effective and hence encouraging your customers to respond to you. Send along a suggestion form or membership form, which will act as an invitation for the customers to communicate with the company.

These are just a few tips to help you on your way to a successful direct marketing campaign.

By Uttara Manohar
Image by StockSource


Bang for Your Buck: The Business Card Brochure

Using Your Color Business Cards for Advertising

Color business cards are not just for developing your business contacts. In this day in age, you can actually print them for the sole purpose of advertising. Yes, this marketing material can in fact be tasked to do a little advertising for you. It is all about changing a few properties of this marketing tool, and using some additional elements to accurately create and deploy this kind of advertising material.

If you want to know how to use your color business cards for advertising, here are the tips on how to do it.

1. Print Business Cards with Marketing Messages 

The first step is to print business cards with marketing messages. You may think that there is absolutely no space for marketing messages but in fact, you can use the back of the material for extra messages.  If you are a little bit creative, you can also try folded business cards to gain additional precious advertising space. Whatever the case, be sure to add the proper advertising design on your business card that will encourage its reader to buy your products or avail of your services.

Folded Business Card Sample

2. Give Cards Out to Everyone That You Can

With your marketing tool ready, you must know how to distribute them properly. Have extra business cards handy at all times. If you see a colleague, family member or friend, do not hesitate to always hand them out with your advertising material. This spreads your advertising message within your social network, giving you a word of mouth advantage. Keep giving your business card until thay are all spent. The more people that carry your business card,  the bigger advertising opportunities you can get.

3. Leave Cards at Different Places

Besides actively giving business cards away, you can also try leaving them at select places. For example, you can leave them at certain public lobbies, or you can also include them with your public brochures and catalogs. By using this non-traditional method of giving away business cards, they basically act as small fliers, which are a perfect supplement to your marketing campaign.

4. Include Cards with Products and Other Items

Finally, you can also try including your them in the products, gift packages and other items you give to clients. By doing this, you can really boost your exposure to your current contacts ensuring that your advertising can reach your client  base and keep them interested in what you offer.

These are the things you can do to use your business card for advertising. If done well, they can be the perfect supplement in attracting people to read and understand your services.

By Kaye Marks

Niche Marketing for the Savvy Designer

"Customer is the king" - this is the first teaching and marketing tip given to any new sales or marketing person in an organization. Most companies make efforts to please their clients as much as they can. They're constantly looking for ways to pull to clients towards themselves and away from competitors. These measures have lead to immense competition in the market. In such a scenario, what can an organization do differently to make profits? Here enters niche marketing. Niche marketing simply put is catering  to a particular segment of the market instead of targeting the entire market. This should preferably a segment which has been overlooked or ignored by other competitors. Let 's try to understand the niche marketing strategy.

What is Niche Marketing Strategy?

As mentioned above, niche marketing is business strategy of targeting only some of the customers who have common needs and buying habits, instead of all the customers. Following this strategy has many benefits for the savvy designer. The competition greatly reduces. Marketing costs come down as only a few potential client's need to be targeted. Moreover, thereis a higher chance of becoming a leader in a small segment rather than the entire market.

A great example of niche marketing would be a designer specializing in  kid's rooms. The designer is not targeting the entire residential design market; only clients whose needs fall in a particular category.

Effective Niche Marketing Ideas

When endeavoring upon niche marketing, many businesses today follow a simple strategy. To be successful with niche marketing, designers should invest time and effort into researching the common needs of their niche. Based upon this research, designers should come up with a service that fully meets the needs of the niche segment. This sets the foundation for future success.

Another  important factor in developing  a great niche market strategy is to test the market. This includes knowing your competitors. Before deciding on your design firm's positioning and other strategies,  analyze what competitors are offering. The price point of their services, their delivery systems, advertisements, and everything possible should be assessed properly.

Once the niche is defined and information about the competitors is in hand, the next step is to plan the advertising and marketing campaign. Since only a segment of the customers is being targeted, factors such as what the campaigns will say, the language that will be used, where will the advertisements be  posted, etc. should be decided upon with the advertisements of the competitors, as well as the customer segment, in mind. For example, if a firm's niche market is real estate staging,  the internet is a great medium for advertising, especially if the competitor is doing the same. To have an edge over competitors, placing advertisements in local real estate magazines and real estate offices will be a unique niche marketing strategy specifically for this demographic.

This is the short story on niche marketing:  Identify the needs of your niche properly. Put the right message across through your campaigns. Base the pricing of your service on research or test marketing that shows how much people your niche are willing to spend for such a service. Follow these tips and look forward to gaining clients and making money in your niche market.

By Aastha Dogra
Photography by Phil Date


The Right Way to Build Your Design Firm

Large conglomerates have large advertising budgets allowing forays into all sorts of marketing avenues. Small businesses do not always have such luxuries. They must make every advertising dollar count. There are some universal rules, which apply to all small businesses attempting to maximize their advertising return on investment (ROI).

You Will Do Just Fine by Using One Line

The most successful campaigns have involved a catchphrase, which can efficiently convey your message in under 5 seconds. Verbosity and advertising do not mix. Repetition of the same catchphrase is required to essentially elicit a Pavlovian response. Studies have shown the average person needs at least ten exposures to a message in order for it to be retained. If you vary your message, you will never achieve the requisite impressions needed for success.

If You Want a Marketing Coup, It Better Sound True

Many consumers have become very cynical when it comes to advertising. Claims that appear too good to be true are often dismissed in the mind of the listener. You must ensure the claims you make sound realistic and believable. Backing them up with objective and independent evidence is the best option to ensure the claims proffered in your advertisements retain credulity.

You Will Know Best After a Test

Never dive head first into any given advertising strategy. Test several different methodologies and compare results. You are then in a far better position to allocate the bulk of your advertising budget, knowing where you are best ROI can be had. There is no reason to risk the bulk of your advertising dollars on an unknown outcome. Color printing has become quite economical allowing for multiple direct marketing tests.

Sales Will Not Get a Pop If They Can't Find Your Shop

All advertising must obviously include clear location or contact information. If it is not prominently displayed you might leave a prospect being intrigued with your product but having no idea where to find you. Today, it is required to display your web site address clearly. However, also still important are telephone numbers, address and other requisite basic information.

You Will Be Set Up For a Fall If You Try to Market to All

Small businesses should identify, define and sell to a niche market. This enables crafting your product or service to fit the needs of a small audience with specific needs. Advertising then becomes a lot easier knowing who you need to reach and what you need to say to them. Trying to be everything to everybody is not a winning formula. Drill down and focus on an undeserved smaller subset of your overall industry. Returns on advertising expenditures for small businesses are far more substantial for niche marketers.

These simple rules if followed will greatly enhance your advertising effectiveness. A small business needs to make every dollar count. Do not waste even one.

By Kaye Marks
Image by StockSource

Kaye Z. Marks is an avid writer and follower of developments in color printing industry and how these improvements can benefit small to medium-scale business.


Winning the Client: The Most Underutilized Strategic Advantage

Photography courtesy of  Eastwing

Designers are always looking for a way to differentiate themselves to win an account. Few use one of the most powerful tools in their bag, the right reference.

You have been chasing this account for six months and feeling optimistic as the buying process is coming to a conclusion. The sale is between you and two other firms. The competition is fierce, but you feel you are ahead. At 11am, the client asks for three references to be provided to her by the end of the day. In a panic, you send a company-wide email in search of these referenceable clients. At 4:58pm, you get the three references from your colleagues and quickly send them out to the client. Whew! Mission accomplished! They wanted three references and you got it done. And so did everyone else. You see the finish line, forgetting that many a designer has fallen one step short of winning.

This scenario plays out in companies every day across the country. It doesn’t matter if the company is big or small, nor does it matter the type of industry. The request for references is a standard part of any buying process. However, few designers use the reference stage of the process to their strategic advantage. They simply desire to provide a quick response to the prospect with their requested references. In the mind of the designer, the speed of the response communicates company performance. While somewhat true, the discussions the prospective client will have with the references carries more weight in the selection decision than the speed of the response from.

When I talk to professionals, one of their most common gripes is that they are selling a service that is viewed as a commodity in the marketplace. They cite "price" as their biggest bugaboo. Right behind that they lament about their inability to differentiate their service. (The truth is that price and differentiation are directly related, but that is a topic for another article.) When I ask if they would like to learn of an easy way to get a competitive edge, they are all ears. After I share with them that they have the ability to differentiate themselves through managing the reference selection process, they look at me in shock as they can’t believe they have been missing this opportunity. Then the stories start to come out. "Yeah, I lost a deal because they called the reference and we had just screwed up their order. I should have checked before I used them" The stories just continue from there.

But why do prospects ask for references? Webster’s defines "reference" as someone who can make a statement about a person’s qualifications, character, and dependability. Interestingly, there is a perception disconnect on references between designers and prospective clients. When I talk to trade professionals, I usually hear that references are just a standard part of due diligence. Some use the term "rubber stamp" of an award. However, when I talk to buyers, I hear a very different message. Many buyers look at the reference step of the buying process as their opportunity to validate the message that they have been hearing from the potential designer. In essence, prospects are searching to ascertain whether a supplier can deliver on the promises made during the buying process. Can the designer really handle this size account? Are they really that fast? Or that accurate? Is the service as good as they described?

In many cases, the change of designer carries with it the ownership of the designer's performance. In the case of corporate clients, if the new designer does not perform to the expectations that have been represented, there is risk for those who selected it. Heads will roll! Sometimes, prospective clients ask the same questions of the reference that they asked of the designer to see if there is a difference in response. Other times, they ask specific questions relative to their needs that may not have been shared with the designer. For the prospect, this is their most critical evaluation step of a design firm's expected performance.

It is the little things that winning designers do that makes them winners. So, if all of the competing design firm's are going to provide "good" references, can you provide the "best" references? You most certainly can! However, there is a process to do so as "best" is different for each prospect."

The first step is a conversation with the client. "I received your request for references and I’m happy to provide them. So that I can provide you with the references that best support your initiative, what are you hoping to learn from our clients?" If you can gather that information from the client(don’t say it can’t be done until you try it), you have the roadmap to identifying references. Even if they can’t or won’t provide you with this information, you have at least shown that you care. And "care" can be the differentiator that pushes you across the finish line. All is not lost if you can’t get that information either.

Going forward by taking a step back, think about the account and what is important to them. Reflect on what was learned during the needs analysis discussions. Thinking about that, imagine a different approach to responding to the request for references. If they were concerned about implementation, you provide an account that your company recently implemented. Perhaps, the decision is being made by a CFO, and you provide a reference of a CFO from one of your clients that can speak to your performance. For the third reference, you provide a client that is purchasing the same size of the same service. From the prospect’s perspective, how great is the opportunity to speak to three clients who can relate to their needs. They are able to gather the information they desire from someone with whom they share something in common. They feel confident in their ability to perform due diligence on their potential supplier. They can make an informed decision.

To take it a step further, imagine rather than simply sending the contact names and phone numbers to that client, you provide a brief narrative explaining to what each client was serving as a reference. How many designers are doing that?

Still raising the bar, imagine contacting each of the three references and informing them that a call was coming their way to discuss your performance as a supplier. During that call, you share that this prospect is calling to discuss particular areas of the business. Thus, when the prospect calls the reference, the reference is expecting the call and is prepared for the conversation. What a great experience for your prospect and your client. Keep in mind, one great way to burn a relationship with a happy client is to surprise them with a reference phone call. No one likes to be blind-sided or unprepared. I’ve seen more than a few opportunities lost where the prospect cited the reference experience as the deciding factor. An unprepared reference reflects negatively on the supplier.

In a competitive marketplace, every opportunity that you have to demonstrate value to a prospect is critical. Leveraging the reference step of the process can give you just that little edge that pushes you over the top.
By Lee Salz
Image by Eastwing

Lee B. Salz is a sales management guru who helps companies hire the right sales people, on-board them, and focus their sales activity using his sales architecture® methodology. He is the President of Sales Architects, the C.E.O. of Business Expert Webinars and author of "Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager." Lee is an online columnist for Sales and Marketing Management Magazine, a print columnist for SalesforceXP Magazine, and the host of the Internet radio show, "Secrets of Business Gurus." Look for Lee's new book in February 2009 titled, "The Sales Marriage" where he shares the secrets to hiring the right sales people. He is a passionate, dynamic speaker and a business consultant. Lee can be reached at or 763.416.4321.