Authentic Marketing and Networking

networking over lunch helps interior designers

My father shared with me that he once took a course on negotiation, and that the core lesson he learned was that the longer he engages the person he is dealing with, the more likely they are to meet his price.  The point is that it is easy to say no or dismiss an offer that you are not invested in.  The moment you start getting invested is the moment your internal gauge shifts.

This could be used if you are buying a car, for example. If you go to the dealer multiple times and engage with the same salesperson, he/she is much more willing to agree to your low-margin offer than if you walk in and offer that very same amount in the beginning.

How does this apply on the seller/providers end? And, how can our interior design clients, in particular, use this to promote their business?

To answer these questions, let’s use two seasonal videos to learn our lesson (you can ‘x’ out the advertisement):

and then, a minute or two of this one: (sorry about the soundtrack)

My marketing mind notices a pattern- the people in the first video who were first engaged in relationship with the administer of the survey were more likely to give the person a kiss than in the second video where the guy was just sitting there and pointing up at the mistletoe.

Often the biggest hurdle in sales is the making of original contact.  Until contact is made you are just another stranger who wants something from them, whether it be a kiss or money.  Once the contact is made, once we meet as people, layers of distrust melt away and our natural trust surfaces.

Some people kissed the guy in the second video.  But so many more kissed in the first video after rapport was established.  In sales and marketing language we refer to as it as having a higher conversion rate.

Making Your Website Personal

So, what can we do to increase your conversion rate?  Make your marketing message as personal and engaging as you can.  Let them start developing a relationship with you through your website.  This will never replace the relationship that can develop on the phone or in person, but it certainly increases the likelihood of those relationships happening.  Show your picture on your site, speak from your voice.  And, let the words of your clients describe you.

In the survey they asked people how they would act in a situation before they exposed them to the situation which called for their action.  This is a great way of getting the person to reveal their true needs before their defenses have a chance to surface.

When I went car shopping last year I had many salespeople say to me “are you ready to buy today if we can get you into the right car?”  I always responded “no.”  It made the power shift from them to me.  I exerted control of the process.  What would have been a better question for them to ask which would have been the first of a series of yeses?

How about “when you find the right car at the right price do you think you might act on it?”  I’d say yes to that!  And, then they could say, “well let’s see if the right car for you is sold by this dealership.” I would feel respected and my defenses would drop. Next thing I would be the one kissing under the mistletoe.

Networking In Your Community

You don’t want to be the stranger sitting around waiting to get kissed. If instead you show up to community gatherings you will get known. If you like yourself then people will like you.  And, then they will happily kiss you under your mistletoe, which is to become your client. It is so much more safe to say yes to the designer you met at a party or charitable event than to a designer who you only met online.  People are attracted to people.  People trust people.  It is our root, underneath any suspicions and facades of distrust that we have. Deep down inside we are all in it together, and we know it. We are all extended family.

So, step out into your geographic world and shake some hands. Develop friendships. Invite people to lunch. Volunteer wherever you see a need. Help the less fortunate.  Make it your mission to be a lovely, healing force in the community who gives endlessly. Give freely what you can, except for your professional services to those who can afford them. Otherwise, don’t hold back.

The more you give, the more people will connect with your heart. Trust will develop, relationships will grow, and projects will come.

If I have a medical question I call my brother the doctor. Why would I trust any other doctor more than him?  Who would so selflessly take care of my interests as he does?   If I need an accountant I turn to my friends for advice as I trust their recommendation of one, even if it is just a character reference.

Are you sensing it is a numbers game here?

The more people who know and trust you, the more projects that will surface.  If not your friend, it will be your friend’s friend. Regardless, they will come. It surely helps if you network amongst those who can afford and depend upon interior design services. But, don’t exclude others. My programmer came to me on a referral from a friend who has a friend who said that the guy has been amazing to work with.

Your Unique Offerings (That No One Can Duplicate)

The online world is commodifying most everything these days.Designers seem like they are a dime a dozen.The specialness of knowing and having a designer feels like it is dissipating. Shopping for an interior designer or home improvement specialist on Houzz doesn’t look so different from shopping for a book on or a spouse on  But, that is just the surface, the illusion of the mind.

What separates you most from other interior designers?  Why would a client choose you over others?

The truth is that there are plenty of designers who are as creative as you, who might even understand textiles or window treatments or antique rugs much better than you.  But, one thing that you have that not one other designer in the world has is your place in the world.  You have your own situatedness. You are embedded or enmeshed in your social fabric in a totally unique way.  Don’t trivialize this!  This is huge.

We all have friends and family, neighbors and colleagues. Each of these people have their own social fabrics- their webs of connection.  No one stands where you stand.  No one knows everyone you know. A mathematician determined that “it is practically certain that any two individuals can contact one another by means of at most two intermediaries” within the U.S.  Within your geographic area you can cut that in half.  You are linked to everybody by just one intermediary locally.

It has been said that one should never eat lunch alone- that every lunch should be considered an opportunity for connecting (the feeling equivalent of networking). If that were done 50 weeks of the year it would be 250 lunch dates per year. If that were done just once a week there would still be 50 opportunities to develop and deepen connections.

What would it be like to have lunch with the manager of your favorite furniture showroom?  Or, the owner of a painting company?  The account manager at the upholsterers?  The manager of the local independent hotel?  The head of a local charity?  A Realtor?

You’d be surprised how much people are wanting to help you if you take the time to listen to them, see them, and accept them.  In 1960s lingo, if you send someone good vibes they will send them back your way.

You Have Two Businesses

Every professional has two businesses simultaneously. Your core business is the product or services that you sell.  The second business is the relationship that you sell.  The former is the what, the latter is the how.  We often focus our marketing on selling the what even though it is the how that determines much of our success in sales and customer service.

Part of approaching the how is dropping your thoughts of separation and moving into having a unified interest with your clients.  Clients know when you are unified with their vision and their needs and they will love you forever for gifting them that.   So, make it your mission to be unified with the needs of others while simultaneously taking care of your own needs.  This isn’t a call to drop taking care of yourself- this isn’t to encourage the creations of martyrs and stoics.  This is instead the recognition that when someone takes care of themselves fully that they are overflowing and thus have so much to give to others.

Your embeddedness, enjoyment, and engagement within your social fabric, as well as your generosity of spirit, are major keys to your business success.  In many ways your business success reflects how fully you are showing up for yourself in your life.  If business is at a trickle, it can reflect that something internally is also trickling, and that it needs to be set free.

They say it takes money to make money. I disagree.  But, I can see how they came to that mistake. Rather, it takes generosity of spirit and trust in existence to make money.   It takes courage to make money- courage to be yourself, to show up authentically and to give your all. Courage to not get caught on the small stuff and to always remain focused on the big picture. Courage gives people charisma and radiance. Courage makes people likable.

My most confident, empowered, courageous clients get the best work out of me because they give me the trust and the authority to give my all. Their confidence in me supports me to in making their marketing campaigns great.  And, they tell me that they have the same experience with their design clients. Everyone loves trusting clients. Not just because they are easier to deal with, not just because of the absence of the negatives, but because of the life-affirming joy that comes from the positives.  Energetic misers (those who don’t share of themselves freely) not only don’t inspire us, but they actually can sap our intrinsic love to work.

Thus, when you show up authentically in your world, both the lived world of your community and the digital world of the Internet, your energetic/emotional fingerprint will be matched by those around you and your business will grow.  People will resonate and trust your honesty, earnestness, and generosity. You will earn people’s respect and trust, and that will be the fertile grounds that the seed of prosperity will grow.

Marketing Idea

Many designers focus their interior design blogs on interior design topics.  This can be helpful in many ways, but it also is limiting.  What would it be like if you instead focused on your community and its members?

If you had one lunch per week with a member of your community and then wrote up some notes on it and included the person’s photo and a link to their website, would that be helpful?

Might these people be grateful that you are providing them with some extra promotional support for their businesses and want to return the favor?

Might they feel like a permanent relationship has been established in some way because of the long-term visibility of the blog post?

Might your site come up in more local searches?  And, might you get more people in your community looking at your pages even though they weren’t searching for an interior designer?

What if you joined all the local organizations you can find on LinkedIn and like all the local pages on Facebook, and then post these blogs there?  You think the local insurance agent or home inspector would appreciate you for exposing them and their business to wider circles?

Then you can imagine how people’s collective perception of you would change.  You’d be viewed as an insider, as a hub within the local community.  And, you’d likely have people start calling you and taking you out to lunch.  (You could even hint at that opportunity on your blog)

Remember, don’t just market the what of interior design but also the how of sweet, trusting, harmonious relationships. Don’t aim for increased sales, aim for enhanced relationships. Once trust is established you will have no further need to worry about sales.

Let’s Stay Connected


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