Tammy Hart, I.D.D.P, CAPS is a graduate and tutor of QC Design School as well as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist from the National Association of Home Builders. She is the owner and award-winning designer for Designer Chick Co., and she’s the previous director of the National Board for DDA (formerly CDECA). She is a professional speaker and has spoken at venues like IIDEXCanada and the Small Business Forum. She’s been featured in East in the City Magazine, has had a guest spot on Daytime Durham, Rogers TV and has won the HOUZZ Service Award 2017. She works to empower young women to become successful future leaders and supports ocean clean-up efforts.
One of the biggest challenges new designers and decorators face is attracting clients who will become loyal, returning clients. While there’s no “secret sauce” or one-size-fits-all recipe that will guarantee client base growth, there are business strategies you can implement to help increase your client base.
Pros & cons of building a loyal client base
Some designers and interior decorators run their businesses without building a loyal client base. Meanwhile, others strive to attract loyal clients for consistent work. When you work without a loyal client base, the cost of acquiring new clients is much higher than retaining and winning work from an existing client. But there are pros and cons to spending time on loyalty building.
Having a loyal client base means they will act as your sales reps and advocate for your business. Their home will become your “live” design portfolio, showing off your skills to their friends and family. Your loyal clients’ word-of-mouth referrals will grow your client base at no cost to you.
A con for building a loyal client base is that you’ll still need to find new clients. Existing clients aren’t going to be consistently reno-ing or decorating their homes – especially if you’re doing your job well.
Who is your interior decorating business’ target market?
The first step to acquiring your ideal client is to define who your ideal, target market is. I tell my QC Design School students that to successfully complete this task, they will need to close their eyes and imagine themselves in a meeting with their ideal client.
What do they look like? Where do they live? What is their financial status? What about their marital status? Do they have children? What is their occupation? What is their personality type (seriously, take the time to understand personality types and traits)? What are their hobbies? What is their project budget?
The more specific you are, the better equipped you will be at knowing where to find your ideal clients. Don’t worry about limiting yourself. By doing this exercise, you’ll be able to zone in on your specific client. It will save you the hassle of advertising your services to people who aren’t as eager to work with you as your ideal, target market.
How to turn ensure your clients return to you
Loyal clients will be advocates for you, your brand, and your interior decorating business. How do you transition one-time clients to loyal, returning ones?
Always have a funnel list. The list will include potential clients, current clients, and past clients. I use this list to “drip” on them. What you’re doing by “dripping” is simply interacting with and reminding your clients that you exist. This process of “dripping” on your funnel list can include email newsletters, special offers, seasonal greetings, workshop and event news, and recent work updates.
Use these opportunities to connect with past, present, and future clients. Remind them why they should be working with you.
Promote your interior decorating business on social media
In addition to using your funnel/drip list, use your social media accounts to connect with clients. Facebook and Instagram are excellent platforms to drip on clients. Follow the 80/20 rule where 80% of your posts contain valuable content for them. The other 20% will comprise of promotional content. This will help build trust with your clients and increase their loyalty.
Take time for small gestures
I always like to take the opportunity to do something face-to-face with my clients. I find that small gestures help increase loyalty in my clients because it shows you value their business.
For most of this past summer, I was working on a major exterior design project with a new couple. At the end of the project, I showed up with a gift of “Yardzee” that was made by a local vendor. I also included a lovely bottle of wine with a hand-written note of appreciation. They could’ve chosen to work with any designer, but I’m grateful that they chose to work with Designer Chick Co. Her reaction was, “Oh Tammy! You didn’t have to. We should be thanking you!” It’s honestly the small things that will help create loyalty.
Should you offer discounts for your interior decorating services?
Then there’s the question of discounts and flash offers… to offer or not to offer? This should be a decision you have to feel comfortable with making.
Technically, I don’t offer discounts on my services. With my design services, I will, on certain projects, advise a potential client that I will charge a fee for the consultation. But if they book a project management service with me, the consultation fee will be applied as a discount on their final invoice.
However, I do offer discounts for my products. Specifically, with my bespoke line of decor cushions, I will offer a discount if they buy multiple items. For example, if they order two decor pillows, I’ll give them x dollars off. I’m fortunate to have a very loyal bespoke decor client base. When my clients return, they will receive a loyalty discount on their order.
Be comfortable with how you choose to off your loyalty program. My biggest piece of advice is that you must not give your services away for free. Your knowledge is expert advice. As such, it shouldn’t be given away for free.
By consistently communicating, performing to set expectations, and valuing your clients, you will steadily transition your one-time clients to loyal, returning clients.
Do you have any advice for building client loyalty? Leave us a comment!