Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

Not Everything Is an Emergency

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sidetrack

Have you ever had a client call you after hours in a panic to tell you something had gone horribly wrong with their project, only to find out that it was something minor or that could have waited till the next day? Of course you have; it happens all the time in business. But how did you respond?

Did you immediately answer? Did you promise to come up with a solution right then and there? Or, worse, did you then start calling others to get them involved in the drama? Because that’s the key – how you respond to those “emergencies” can make or break you and your business.

Yes, customer service is the keystone of any successful company – I talk about that all the time. But there’s customer service and then there’s enabling, and you have to understand the difference and know how to handle those non-emergency panic attacks.

lack of planning

Business is just a series of calm and crazy, especially when you’re dealing with so many players. And sometimes you’re working with people who just seem to thrive on drama. We can find ourselves getting absolutely nothing done because we’re putting out wildfires that didn’t really need our immediate attention. And there are two particular reasons for why immediately responding to a non-emergency is not a good idea.

First, you get caught up in the crazy – especially if you’re responding to all of those “emergencies” after hours. And sometimes, if you get caught up in the crazy, you can help spin it even further without meaning to. It can escalate in the heat of the moment. So it’s good to have some space, and allow things to calm down to a more rational point before you deal with it.

One thing you can try is to let calls from your clients go to voicemail after 5pm or 6pm. If it’s truly something important, you can call them back immediately. But if it isn’t, you can call them back the next day, during working hours. It sends the subtle message that you have a life, too, and that there are boundaries that need to be observed.

drama

The second reason for avoiding those panicked non-emergencies is that they will take your eye off the ball. You can end up spending most of your time doing someone else’s bidding, not the important (planned) things on your to-do list, or the projects that are on deadline, or even REAL emergencies. In other words, sometimes we let other people’s agendas, poor time management, poor planning, and procrastination, take priority and control over our workday goals. And that’s not good.

Yes, plans rarely go exactly as planned, especially on interior design projects. But save your energy, your time, and your stress for real emergencies. For your own health, don’t let those faux panics wind you up, too. And be sure that the actual priorities on your to-do list get the attention they deserve. Sometimes, the squeaky wheel shouldn’t get the grease.

xo,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

You ARE Your Brand

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brand

When you’re a business owner, you know you need to focus on your company’s brand. So you spend a lot of time crafting it and ensuring that it is a fabulous representation of your niche and your company. But there’s one part of branding you may not be considering: your personal brand.

When you own a small company – or even a large company, for that matter – your personal brand is a parallel to your company’s brand. And it is really just as important. They have to complement each other, and they certainly can’t be in opposition.

So what do I mean by that? You have to review and consider every way in which you’re communicating with the outside world to be absolutely sure that those “touch points” enhance your business’s brand, and doesn’t do anything to hurt it. That includes your personal social media, your photos, your LinkedIn profile, and any other way that you appear online.

google

Here’s an example: You’ve built your business brand professionally and you’re really proud of how it represents what you want to achieve with your company. But your profile photo on your personal Facebook page is one of your dog. Or you just made a comment on a friend’s post that is hilarious to you, but kinda inappropriate. Those things can definitely impact your business’s brand.

I can hear you saying: “But Tobi, my social media accounts are private! I should be able to say and do what I want there.” Ah, but nothing is private about social media. Anything that you post can be found and seen by others. Social media is community-based – think of it like being outside in your neighborhood or town. That photo that in the past you would have shown in a photo album to just close friends and family is now being plastered on a billboard downtown. That’s what social media is really all about. And even if you told only your friends and family where the billboard is, it would still be out in public and could be seen by others.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t be “you,” online. But you have to think more about having a personal brand that’s like the one you would present at a networking party. Still fun, still very much your personality, but still appropriate. Remember that every comment or tweet, every photo and post, can have an impact on how people think of you – and how they think of your business.

trust

People want to deal with companies on a personal level today – they want to feel like they have a relationship with brands, so you’re even more fused with your company brand than ever before. That’s another reason why your company’s niche must be fully authentic to you personally.

So if your company branding says that you love working with children, and you’re then posting online in your personal accounts about how you can’t stand being seated next to kids in a restaurant, you aren’t going to appear authentic or believable to clients who might see that.

I know the idea of focusing on your personal brand as a parallel to your professional brand can be tough for some of you. But making them complementary to each other will really only enhance the relationships you want to build with your customers – as much as the ones you want to build with family and friends!

xo,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

Six-Month Check Up

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goals

It’s time for my six-month check-up – not with my doctor, but for my business. We’re moving into the second half of the year and before we know it, it will be the holidays. Scary, right?! So this is the perfect time to look back at goals that we’ve set for the year, to review where we are, and to plan what we want to achieve before 2016 is over.

In January, I set my Word of the Year, like I have for the past five years. This year, I chose the word FOCUS. And I said my intentions would be that:

  • I will forgo the good and Focus on the GREAT.
  • I will say no to many things that seem urgent and Focus on what matters.
  • I will travel less so I can Focus on my family more.
  • I will Focus on what I REALLY want.
  • I will Focus on change.
  • I will Focus on what I can control.
  • I will Focus on what excites me.
  • I will Focus on being healthy.
  • I will Focus on finding joy.

writte

Already I can see where I have already succeeded, and where I still have some work to do. I have definitely been focusing on the GREAT this year, and I’ve said no to a lot of things that weren’t important for my goals. That’s given me time to really focus on my family and what I really really want to achieve this year.

And I have definitely focused on change – some planned changes, and some that I didn’t see coming. But that’s just a normal year in business, right? Change can be fabulous, and it can be scary. Some changes can rock your world, even if you wanted those changes to happen. But I’m excited about what I’m building this year and I know it will all pay off in the long run.

So what do I still need to work on? I need to keep my focus on joy and on being healthy. I struggle just like so many of you do on taking care of myself when I’m also taking care of my business and my family. Too often we feel guilty for taking care of ourselves – and it’s a cycle that so many of us need to break out of. I am already mapping out a plan to ensure that I have some “me” time to help me recharge my batteries, and to focus on my joy this year!

joy

See how important it is to have this six-month check up? It allows us to re-focus on what we want and what we need to do. I’m going to sit down and rethink how I can move my focus off of goals I’ve achieved, and put that attention to the ones I still want to achieve. And health and joy will be a BIG part of that.

So what do YOU need to do to finish this year in a big way? What goals have you set that need more attention? And are there any goals that you set at the beginning of the year that now seem less important? Start making a new list for the last half of this year, and create a plan for achieving those goals. Together, I know we can do it!

xo,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

5 Tips to Help You Attract the RIGHT Client

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attract

In my courses and live events, I talk a lot about attracting your ideal client. Not your idealized client, but the one that is perfect for you and the way you do business. Many of you tell me all the time that you are getting clients, but for some reason they’re the ones that everyone warns you about, the wrong fit for you or maybe even one of those not-so-great clients that can drain you of energy and creativity. No one wants that!

So how do you avoid the bad-fit clients and attract the right ones for you? I’ll give you my top 5 tips to help you get it right:

1. POV. What’s your point of view, or your niche? What’s your specialty? What sets you apart from other designers? Do you know? That may be your entire problem! You need to differentiate yourself, and you need to point out HOW you’re different in your marketing and communications. That’s actually a two-part issue. For the first part, you need to define and refine your unique selling proposition. Even if you think you know what it is, take a hard look at your business, your brand, and your niche. Is it really solid? Do you believe it in it completely? Because if you don’t believe it, how in the world will you convince a great client to believe in it, too?

fit in

2. Tell them. For the second part of that tip above, I want you to review your website and your social media. What would those sites tell someone who knows nothing else about you? Are they sending the right message? For example, if you really want to attract clients who love modern design and super-edited rooms, is that what your portfolio shows them? Or are your photos all of traditional design? You might be confusing your message! You can always design a room or two in your own home, in a showhome, or in a friend’s home, to give you the photos and look that you want to show the world. And double-check your taglines and copy – do they clearly spell out your niche and your services? It’s difficult to attract the right client if they can’t figure out who you are and what you can do.

3. Remove emotion. It’s difficult to keep yourself from saying yes to every single client who calls or contacts you. That’s why I think it’s so important to have a screening system for clients – it helps you weed out the ones that aren’t a perfect fit without having you get emotionally attached to the client, or the money. If you can’t afford someone to answer your phone, at least have a client questionnaire on your website that asks some screening questions. On my site, I include a range of budget numbers so I can immediately get a sense of where that person fits. We also ask questions about the scope and size of a project, and my screener asks what they like about my work. If they say they haven’t really seen my work, then that client isn’t a fit. Find a way to keep from getting emotionally involved before you find out if that client is a fit for you!

fit

4. Time for benefits. Studies show that people want to save time MORE than they want to save money. Their time is precious to them – so speak that language. Be sure you’re telling prospective clients exactly how your services will help them in their own lives, that you will save them time and energy on all the thousands of decisions that go into designing a stunning home. And if you have any other amazing benefits, be sure you’re listing those, too!

5. Be honest. However, if you aren’t the speediest designer around (and that’s ok!), then don’t say that you can create a room faster than anyone else. That’s a recipe for disaster for both you and that potential client. Instead, point out that you have the knowledge and talent to make the job run smoothly and efficiently, bringing it in on time and on budget. Honestly is definitely the best policy when you’re talking about your niche and your abilities!

And as you’re weeding through those potential clients, watch out for those red flags that tell you the client isn’t a fit! You know what those red flags are – and they’re different for every one of us. But pay attention to what your gut is telling you. And use these tips to be sure the right potential clients are headed your way!

xo,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

10 Tips for Winning Over that Skeptical Client

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persuasion

We’ve all been there – we have a great client “on the hook” but they just won’t commit. It can be so frustrating, especially when you’ve practically designed their entire house in your head and you’re ready to jump in! So what’s a creative to do in this situation?

I have 10 tips that will help you move that client right off the fence and into your “current client” category! Try these to hone your art of persuasion:

1. Take it face-to-face. Often in this digital age, we’re talking to clients via email, text, and phone rather than sitting down together for a meeting. We use the excuse that everyone is too busy and that taking care of it all online streamlines everything. But what that also does is keep you from establishing rapport with that potential client, and that’s not good. So if you have a client that’s wavering, have a meeting where you can sit down and just talk!

2. Don’t make it personal. First, don’t let your emotions get in the way. If you’re pushing too hard, some people will naturally back away. I know you’re excited, but don’t let that overwhelm the situation. And on the other side of the coin, don’t get angry or frustrated because they aren’t saying “yes” right away. People can always sense that frustration.

confidence

3. Be strong. Okay, let me clarify: I do NOT mean that you should strong arm them! What I mean by this is don’t cave on your pricing structure or bend your own rules and procedures because you’re caught up in the moment of trying to get them to sign your contract. That’s not going to work out for you in the long run.

4. Show your knowledge – and confidence. There is one reason that people are seeking you out – you have knowledge and skills that they don’t. So be sure that you’re showing your confidence in your abilities. That confidence will make them trust you and your ideas.

5. Draw them out. See if you can get to the heart of their hesitation. What do they really want that they aren’t telling you? Do they need more time to decide? Are they feeling overwhelmed? Ask them how they are feeling about what you’ve presented, and tell them that you love feedback.

6. Listen. People can give you feedback, but it’s no good if you don’t actually listen to it. Be sure that you are really hearing what that person has to say and what they really want. Sometimes the very information you need to finish the sale is in what they’re saying – and not saying.

listen

7. Use a little humor. This is always a really stressful time for people. Even if they have a lot of money, it’s hard for some people to commit to giving you thousands of dollars. And then you add to it the fact that it’s about their home, their most intimate spaces, and the emotion goes up 1000%. So try using a little humor to break the tension – but only a little.

8. Be committed. You have to commit to making the sale. What I mean by that is that this can also be emotional for YOU – and a real confidence sapper. So instead of following up with meetings and questions, you may avoid the hard work of getting to the heart of why the person is hesitating. But you have to commit to seeing it through. Go back and look at #2 – it isn’t personal.

9. Show you care. Everyone loves gifts, right? So be sure you’re giving something thoughtful and heartfelt to the potential client. Maybe for a meeting in their home, you could take a set of books for their child, or a basket of dog toys for their pet. Show that this is the type of fantastic client experience that they will have through the whole process with you.

10. Prove that it’s smart decision for them. This is really the big one. You want to show them how you will save them time, money, and headaches – and you’ll produce their dream home for them, too! Give them the facts and figures they may need to see why going with you is a smart idea. And of course, don’t let it just be about your fees because you never win when you play that game. It has to be about your expertise, your knowledge, and your contacts that will save them money in the long run – not a savings on your fees.

So what do you think of these tips? Do you think you can use them to get that ideal client into your pipeline? Let me know in the comments section below!

xo,

Tobi-Signature