By Kim Kuhteubl
In meteorology, visibility is a measure of the distance at which an object or light can be clearly perceived. When I work with private clients, I talk about being visible in terms of one of its lesser known definitions, being available. Being visible is being available for opportunity and it doesn’t exist then or later — it’s all about now. It means showing up, with no apologies, ready to do business. And in 2013, being ready means taking your brand online.
If you’ve been resisting building your online platform and dealing with social media: don’t. As of 2010, 23 percent of the world’s population was online. By 2020, 68 percent will be. If even one percent of those three billion new users are looking for an interior designer, that’s a whole lot of business you don’t have a chance of getting.
If you’ve been at it for decades and most of your business is by referral, you may think you’re off the hook. Yes, at least 80 percent of an interior designer’s business should be repeat business, but I’m sure you’ve heard of the expression “out of sight, out of mind”? In this content-rich world, your past clients have a lot more people to look at and listen to and even though you may have done business with them before, they’ve got easy access to plenty of new options now.
But it’s not just about slapping up a website and getting a tech geek to tweak your SEO. It’s about creating a sought-after brand that people are willing to pay for because it has emotional value for them. It’s about creating a brand that has longevity and the right DNA that can be rented to create licensing and publication opportunities, a brand that will attract your audience of ideal clients. Then, it’s about strategically seeding that brand’s exposure in the marketplace to increase its value.
As you build your online brand, keep in mind that not all news is good news. Just presenting yourself is not enough — you have to present yourself well. That said, sometimes it’s less daunting to provide a few key things not to do, rather than all the things you should be doing. To get started, here are the top three things interior designers must avoid if they want to get their online brand right:
- Amateur Photography. Have you junked up your portfolio with images that aren’t professionally shot? It’s cliché but true: a picture is worth a thousand words. For interior designers, what your audience sees is even more important. At West Week 2012, Margaret Russell, editor of Architectural Digest, told an audience of industry professionals that “Good photography is not a luxury. It’s a calling card. It’s a business tool.” In other words, having your rooms professionally photographed once you complete them is the only option.
- Being Invisible. You are the core of your business brand and transparency builds trust. So if you don’t have an excellent photo of yourself or a bio that expresses who you are, you keep yourself hidden from potential clients. If you’ve transitioned from another industry, is your bio weighted too heavily in favor of those achievements? I’ve read bios from designers with backgrounds in nursing, marketing or some other corporate field and I have a better sense of that experience than I do of who they are as a designer.
- Avoiding Social Media. In 2011, one in nine people on planet earth was on Facebook. Twitter now has more than 100 million profiles in the U.S. alone and Pinterest has gathered almost 12 million users in a year. That means that retweets, comments, pins, shares and subscribers are all potential dollars in your bank account. Think about it: 81 percent of people trust comments and reviews from strangers versus other kinds of marketing. So to give an example, if the average person has 234 friends on Facebook, just one share means your vision and voice is being amplified 40 to 130 times.
Remember, the core of your online brand is you! Your unique vision, your singular story and most importantly, your energy. The internet is a wide open field of opportunities. Your online portfolio and the social media tools you use to share it are how you strategically plant the seeds.
Kim Kuhteubl is an award-winning producer and writer who works with interior designers, product manufacturers and hosts in the home category on business strategy, the creation of bold brands and audience engagement. For more tips on personal branding and other essential marketing strategies, register for the upcoming Image 360?Telesummit on Aug. 21 – 22. Registration is free but spaces are limited and registration closes on Aug. 20.
Image courtesy www.designwoop.com.