Marianne Cherico has owned and operated a home staging company in New England for more than 20 years. She’s also a professional development coach who has helped countless entrepreneurs level up their businesses. She is also a bona fide ginger, making this week’s episode a little dangerous for Darla as she faces two soulless gingers for the first time.
Marianne tells us that for home stagers, the target market is a little bit different than for interior designers. You want to be marketing yourself to real estate agents, who are the gateway to sellers looking to stage their homes. And even more than that, you want to be front-of-mind for listing agents, who work with the sellers to get their houses ready.
Marianne recommends working with listing agents to be included in their marketing plans. If they include a consult from you in their marketing plans, then you have a direct pipeline to the clients they’re working with. And it’s beneficial to the listing agents, too, who are able to separate themselves from their competitors by including you in their marketing proposals.
When it comes to Marianne’s marketing, she’s very good at tapping into the emotions of her potential clients. Now that doesn’t mean getting all mushy with them, but rather understanding their needs and how you can solve them. So it could be just a matter of understanding that listing agents fear a lack of listings, and so your services can help attract more clients
Another great example of how Marianne uses her marketing to tap into the emotions of her clients is to understand where they are in their career. If they’re agents who have been in the business for more than 10 years, then maybe they’re interested in branding as an authority. You can help with that. Maybe they suffer from a little bit of FOMO (Google it), and if so you can help keep them up to date. Marianne is incredibly savvy with this stuff, and you have to listen to this episode to hear her insights.
High-end, luxury clients are the white whales of the interior design business. But like Moby Dick, they’re difficult to land, and you may question your sanity once you get there. On today’s show, industry veteran Debbe Daley gives us a peek behind the bling.
Debbe Daley has been in interior design for 30 years, working with nearly 700 clients, many of them high-end. Debbe has seen it all in the industry over the past few decades, and on today’s show she talks about how she approached networking on and offline, how she works with her high-end clients, and what she puts in her packages so her clients know exactly what they’ll get when they work with her.
Debbe has worked with high-end clients for years, and if there’s one thing she’s learned, it’s that they like a lot of bling. That means that you’re going to have to show them the best products. They may already know when something is middle-of-the-road, so you have to be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge of quality products.
Finding high-end clients can be one of the most challenging aspects of working with them. Debbe recommends you join civic organizations like your local chamber of commerce. Not only will you be around other business owners who may have the money to hire you to work on their high-end projects, but it’s a first step into networking. Debbe stresses the importance of not just having your portfolio online, but networking like crazy.
If you want to land a luxury client, you have to show that you know luxury. Debbe says it’s important to ensure your online portfolio shows your best work, especially your work that speaks to that luxury lifestyle. That doesn’t mean that you don’t post your in-progress shots on Instagram or dismiss other work. But when it comes to your online portfolio, it’s gotta have that bling.
Debbe is also very forward-thinking about how to communicate her work to her clients. Just because you’re working with a high-end client doesn’t mean you won’t face the pricing pushback you get from other clients. So Debbe has some creative ways to work with her luxury clients. But you’ll have to listen to find out!
Everyone says it: If you’re going to be successful on social media, you have to be authentic. If you think you know what that means, think again. Today, Shana Heinricy, Social Media Director for Wingnut Social, blows your mind.
Darla and Natalie talk to Shana (on her own free will) about how to achieve authenticity in social media, and why it’s different than what most people think. In addition to being Wingnut Social’s director, Shana has a masters degree in communications, working toward a Ph.D. And she’s worked in public relations and communications all of her professional life. She knows her stuff, and this episode is packed full of useful information for wingnuts.
Darla and Natalie started out the episode asking Shana what we mean when we talk about authenticity, and Shana discussed how there’s been a breakdown of trust of brands on social media lately. Whether it’s because of reports of data selling or social causes like the #MeToo movement, it’s difficult to build trust. So being “authentic” can sometimes come off as inauthentic.
Shana has a test for whether you are being yourself on social media or not. If you take a look at your post before you post it, and ask yourself, “Could this caption go on another photo? Is there anything about this caption that is unique to me?” If it feels like it could go somewhere else, it’s probably a little too generic.
Brand loyalty may seem like a thing of the past, but as Shana says on this week’s episode, you can still build brand loyalty, but it takes a different form. Consumers feel loyal to brands who share their values. And there is a danger to airing your values, of course. You may alienate those who don’t share those values. But you will find that potential customers feel an alignment with you if they know what you stand for and agree with it.
But that doesn’t mean that you put everything on your social media. Everything should be curated. And as Shana says, “authenticity is manufactured.” You have to be authentic, but you also have to share the authentic parts of you that you want people to see. (Downing a pint of Ben Jerry’s on the couch may not fit, in other words.)
There is a whole untapped market out there for interior designers that you may not even be thinking about: Vacationers. People who buy second homes need someone to help them beautify it. That’s where Nicole O’Dwyer’s expertise comes in.
Nicole O’Dwyer is the owner of NS Interior Designs, and because she lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania, right by the Poconos, she specializes in helping with new home construction and second-home design. Nicole has worked hard to market her company to people who don’t even live where she works. No easy feat. And on today’s episode, she talks with Darla and Natalie about how customers find her.
Nicole told Darla and Natalie that word of mouth is hugely important when getting customers who are buying a second home. Knowing realtors and contractors in the area who can refer customers to you is huge. But that doesn’t mean social media isn’t important. Having that online presence amplifies word-of-mouth to help turn prospects into customers.
It’s not easy working with vacationers who often are only coming to their house once a month. On the one hand an absentee client may be a big blessing, but on the other hand, you have to really build trust and be prepared to make things as easy as possible for people when they are in town. Nicole has it down to a science, and walks us through how she has learned what her customers need, and build her customer service around them.
One problem with working with remote customers is: How do they find you? People buying a second home could be coming from anywhere. And Nicole had a really smart answer: geotagging. By geotagging her social media posts correctly, prospective clients searching for designers in her neck of the woods can find her work online.
Nicole has found tremendous success with her Instagram Stories. While many Instagram posts show off the beautiful finished product, doing in-process stories allows customers to see different stages of a project, and inspire ideas for their own homes.
The Wingnut Social Podcast has already definitively answered the question “Is Blogging Dead?” with a resounding no. And on today’s episode, Darla and Natalie talk with Adam Japko about how to be a design influencer through your blogging or your social media.
Adam Japko is the founder of Esteem Media, home to leading national and local media brands in the luxury home design, gardening, and fine wine communities. Some of those brands include Atlanta Homes Lifestyles and New England Home. But he’s on the show today because he is the founder of the Design Influencers Conference, formerly known as the Design Bloggers Conference.
For years, Adam Japko ran the Design Bloggers Conference. But what he realized was that many great people whom he would love to have at the conference didn’t attend because they didn’t technically consider themselves a blogger. So he’s changed the name to the Design Influencers Conference, to encompass all of the ways designers and design enthusiasts express themselves these days.
One of the fascinating things that Adam said about become a design influencer is that you don’t have to have thousands upon thousands of followers in order to be an influencer. An influencer could just be someone with a small following who is respected by other influencers, or is in a particular niche. So just because you haven’t hit the “k” mark on Instagram doesn’t mean you can’t be an influencer.
When you share your authentic self and your authentic work and opinions online, people are attracted to that. And as Adam Japko says on this week’s episode, blogging and social media can no longer be thought of as a “pulpit,” but rather a platform. So the goal is to share your authentic self, but to do so in a way that is shareable and can be engaged around.
Of course you’re going to be competitive when you start blogging or start growing your social. But as Adam says, when you go to a conference like his Design Influencers Conference, it’s less about competition and more about community. Suddenly you’re meeting people whom you look up to, and you’re not seeing them as competition, you’re seeing them as peers.
Networking can be sort of a dirty word, but don’t let that scare you off. Instead, think of it as building genuine relationships. And there’s no one more genuine, or more connected, than today’s guest, Jane Dagmi.
Jane Dagmi is the editor of Designers Today, a great interior design magazine that all designers should be subscribed to. Jane has been in the magazine industry for more than 20 years, and as editor, her focus is less on the pretty pictures of interior design, and more on the process of design, and how professionals can improve and try new things. She’s also ubiquitous at industry events, and the perfect person to talk to about networking.
The second anyone is told they should be networking more, they freeze up. No one likes the idea of being the schmoozy networker. But if you think of it another way, think of it as building relationships with people in your field, whom either you could help or they could help you down the line, it’s not nearly as skeezy.
On this week’s episode of Wingnut Social, Jane told Darla and Natalie about two designers who met at an industry event, and became friends. And years later, they ended up collaborating with each other on a major project. And Darla and Natalie shared a similar story about their High Point event, which came from making friends with someone at a previous event. So play the long game.
Jane says something really smart on this week’s episode of Wingnut Social, which is that you should think of networking as an opportunity, but don’t be an opportunist. In other words it’s a chance to meet and connect with people, but don’t try to take advantage. Often that means having a good sense of what you are looking for when you approach someone, everything from being a fan of that person or looking for a mentor.
It can be difficult to get the energy to network. But as Jane says on this week’s episode, it’s something that can really benefit your interior design business, and there are ways to make it less scary. Schedule your days, identify small events that speak to your interests, and look for communities where you’ll feel comfortable.
Marketing is important to any business, but there’s maybe one thing that’s more important than marketing: profit. So on today’s podcast, we’re doing something a little different and talking about the Profit First approach with expert and fellow podcaster Michele Williams.
Michele Williams is a certified Profit First professional who focuses on helping creative business owners grow the profit of their business. She’s the head honcho of Scarlet Thread consulting, and helps business owners fix their financials and better understand how money flows through their organization. She’s also the host of the Profit is a Choice podcast.
On this week’s episode, Michele breaks down the “Profit First” approach to running a business by drawing an analogy to a family’s income. When you have a certain amount of money coming into the home, you know you have to budget a certain amount to pay necessities: mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc. It’s the same with a business, you may have $10,000 coming in, but you know you have to pay $2,000 to a vendor. But you rarely think about how much profit you are saving.
Michele tells Darla and Natalie that Profit First switches up the mindset of business owners, and tells them they need to sock away a bit of profit every month, to either allow the business to grow, or to pay for unforeseen expenses. And so what you’re doing by prioritizing and saving profit, is you’re investing in the sustainability of your business, and getting off the “living paycheck to paycheck” mentality of many business owners.
What’s maybe surprising about the Profit First approach is that it’s a literal change to how you manage your money. That may mean setting up a separate account in the bank, or even at another bank if you might be tempted to dip into an account at your current bank. In many ways, Profit First is about organizing your money in a structured way so it cannot slip into other revenue streams.
Most of the companies that Michele works with saves between 5% and 10% of their profit. But, as she told Darla and Natalie, not every business can do that. So even if you’re just starting out, putting a few dollars away a month will get the ball rolling.
Blogging is one of the most effective ways to engage with potential clients and get your search engine optimization up to speed. So why does it feel like the last thing interior designers want to do? Today on the show, Carla Aston hits the reset button and tells you why you should be blogging.
Carla Aston has had her own design firm since 2001 and has been an industry leader in blogging, with her “Designed with Carla Aston” blog being a must-visit destination for anyone interested in interior design. Today on the Wingnut Social podcast, Carla talks about her blogging ROI, how her blog posts bring her bundles of web traffic, and throws a mean curveball into the Wut Up, Wingnut round.
A few years ago content creators made a big deal about a “pivot to video,” meaning they were de-prioritizing the written word online and putting resources behind video. But as Carla tells us, video isn’t everything. There are still plenty of people who want to scan or read content online. Not everyone wants to watch a 10-minute how-to video. Millions of internet users still want to read a quick article to get the tips or advice they need.
The key is to practice proper blogging procedures and hygiene. That means you have to have good headlines, you have to have great subheds so someone who is looking for specific information can scan and find it easily, and you have to organize your information in a way that makes sense to a reader who’s scanning your content.
Carla has been blogging since 2010, and it’s still paying off for her, thanks to her search engine optimization. Her blog comes up a lot not only for people looking for interior design ideas, but also for interior designers looking to advance their business. Using proper keywording and subheds, etc., has allowed Carla’s blog to be a trusted source in Google search results.
Darla asked Carla on this week’s episode: How many of your clients come through your blog. And Carla had a startling answer: All of them. And what she means is that she gets a lot of clients who find her blog and then hire her, but also that clients who are considering her find her blog and then spend time on it, and the blog, without trying to be, becomes a sales funnel for her.
Marketing is essential to growing your interior design business. But a lot of times creative types (i.e. interior designers) suffer from a lack of confidence or what’s called imposter syndrome. Today on the show, Darla and Natalie tackle the problem head on with Heather Havenwood.
Heather is a self-described serial entrepreneur, of Havenwood Worldwide, LLC and Chief Sexy Boss. She is regarded as a top authority on internet marketing, business strategies and marketing. Getting her start in 1999, she has played an active role in the online marketing world since before most even had a home computer.
Heather says there are two factors that will help you boost your confidence and feel ready to land a big client. The first is learning to be unapologetic (or as she puts it, unapologetically fierce). We are taught from a young age to ask permission and to be hesitant to give our opinion, but interior designers are in the business of having opinions, and you need to be ready to stand firm behind your opinion as an expert in the field.
As Heather says, you may think that what you’re offering is obvious or interior design is easy, but for 99% of the people out there it’s not. It’s a foreign language that they don’t understand and they need help. So you should be unapologetic in offering your opinion, because you’re the one who knows design. When you’re selling your art it can feel weird, but it’s the business.
The second factor in boosting your confidence to improve your marketing is to learn to sell yourself, Heather says. That means you’re getting used to discussing your previous work and what knowledge and expertise you bring to interior design and to do that, you have to look at your expertise and knowledge as another entity.
As Heather says, by treating your expertise and knowledge as a third entity, you can view it as totally separate from you, so it’s not tied up in your own doubts or feelings about yourself. So if you think of it as another entity, then when someone comes to you with a design problem, you can say, “You should do x, y, or z” because of this third entity, aka your experience and knowledge. So rather than it’s “what I want,” it’s “this is what’s best.”
Marketing your interior design business is a business all its own. Social media marketing is essential, but so is marketing in real life, and spreading that all-important word of mouth. So on today’s podcast, we’re talking with someone who knows marketing inside and out, because she was a professional marketer before leaving her corporate job to begin her career in interior design. Darla and Natalie talk with Michelle about how her marketing career informs her interior design business, how brand marketing and direct-response marketing are different, and how she drummed up her first client with a simple marketing trick.
In 2016, Michelle transitioned to interior design after spending 15 years as a marketer. Since then she’s worked on countless projects, has been featured in Design*Sponge and Room magazine. She’s also a former Roller Derby jammer, and she has her own podcast called Business Homies where she picks the brains of experts.
Michelle spent years in marketing, but as she says she didn’t have a lot of experience with online marketing. However, she knew right away that she needed to put up a blog (even though she didn’t tell family about it) that attracted the type of clients that would want to work with her, and turned away potential clients that would not, in the end, jibe with her personality. That’s a hard lesson to learn for anyone starting out, but Michelle’s years in marketing helped her figure that out from day one.
And knowing that, it allowed Michelle to really own her own personality, and not be afraid to be herself and share her true self as part of her business. It’s not always easy to be yourself in business, but if you’re going into business for yourself, it’s truly the only way to make yourself happy, and have an authentic connection with clients.
Every interior designer should hear Michelle’s advice for maximizing the potential of Facebook groups. She lives outside of Toronto, and she’s a member of loads of Toronto Facebook groups, and each of those Facebook groups has rules about when you can post to promote your own business. So Michelle made a calendar for all of those Facebook groups, and she would make sure that on those days she’d go on to promote her interior design business.
Michelle tailored her posts in Facebook groups to be less promotional, more sharing blog posts, etc. She wasn’t trying to be overly promotional, but she would leave information if someone wanted to schedule a consultation. And the very first time she posted in a group, she landed a consultation. Social media marketing works, people!
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