Polly Williams, the multi-award-winning Designers’ Advisor, founded Camberyard, an interior design business development consultancy, in 2015. Inspired by the belief that collaboration is better than competition, she also formed the Camberyard Collective, a select group of like-minded designers, brands and creative professionals that meet regularly for workshops and events. Here, Polly shares her tops tips on building a brand and developing your business.
A successful studio owner balances design projects with business development.
I see clients every day who are launching, growing or streamlining their interiors business. The most successful love the business side and embrace it as much as their creative projects. It is my job to ensure all of my clients take a holistic approach. At Camberyard we use a 360-degree framework, identifying all the areas of one’s business that, when put together, add up to a whole. Attending to every area provides the best chance of creating a successful studio long into the future.
The ‘business’ side represents the foundational elements essential to sustained growth.
At its core, this includes the practical aspects of setting up a studio: contracts, insurance, CDM regulations, GDPR and financial planning. On a tactical, brand level: PR & marketing, networking, social media, website/SEO and strategic reviews. Put yourself in a strong position by staying on top of the practical and financial elements, creating clear action plans for your brand, and scheduling regular reviews.
Identify and clearly articulate your USP to build a compelling brand.
In a competitive industry with an easily accessible online market, it can be difficult to stand out. Thus, the key questions are: Do you know your USP? What will make your dream client find you, engage with you and, most importantly, hire you? Your particular offering and unique voice need to come through clearly in all of your branding from your tagline to your website, social media and press. And, of course, in face-to-face interactions – practice that elevator pitch!
Get inventive to connect with your target market.
First, identify your ideal market. Who are they, what do they spend money on, where do they live? Next, think about how you will find and gain access to them. In addition to any online branding, PR and marketing work, go out and meet your audience face-to-face. You might organise a colour workshop by collaborating with a nearby kitchen company or, if your target market is home gyms, you might connect with gym equipment suppliers and see what opportunities you can open up. Get creative and get out there!
Your website is key to your brand.
Don’t be the designer with an out-of-date blog and broken links. Make sure your website reflects your company foundations. If your blog has fallen by the wayside, look at ways to change the format to omit the date whilst still retaining the information. Social media is, of course, a fantastic tool to grow your online presence and start to engage with journalists, potential clients and brands with whom you would like to collaborate. It’s an immediate way to create a voice and get your brand out there, tapping into a wide network. Your website is about current, quality content.
On and/or offline business – the choice is yours.
The internet has transformed the market. Computer-savvy clients can source furnishings and, crucially, see the price it is retailing. This online-based interiors market creates the option of engaging purely online with a client. The client sends a brief and a studio can then provide a full interior design service remotely – sharing ideas, giving advice and buying the products – without ever meeting the client. Consider how you want to run your business. What will best suit your needs and help you to achieve your targets? It may be fully online or only offline – or a mix of both.
Time, integrity and strong testimonials are integral to building a brand
At its core, building a strong brand is about investing time with your clients when you first meet them (whether on or offline). They need to buy into the values of your brand and, most importantly, into you. Creating a rapport with potential clients is important to first getting the business; developing that connection into a strong collaboration is then key to the project’s future success.
Monetary success should not be underestimated.
One of the most important questions to ask yourself after you have defined your brand and USP is whether your studio is financially viable. If not, there is work to be done. Financial planning should be one of your larger fractions of action. A healthy profit gives you options. For instance: what projects you accept/decline; whether you can afford to hire staff; what premises you want for your studio; and how you plan for future growth. It doesn’t necessarily mean outsourcing certain areas (though it can include that). It means really working on the creative marketing element to barter and collaborate with other designers and brands.
Collaborate not compete.
Fellow designers or brands should be an inspiration and support rather than a threat. Take time to build connections. Visit design fairs, attend talks and other industry events where you can meet people and see others’ work. Joining a group like the Camberyard Collective – where a huge range of creative professionals share knowledge, form collaborations and work together to develop their skills and grow their businesses – is a way to form an instant network of like-minded people.
Polly Williams, The Designers’ Advisor, Camberyard
07889 748 908
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