How Designers Are Connecting With Their Clients During Covid-19
In our Shelter in Place series we’ve covered how to craft a communications plan in light of today’s world. Recognizing the needs of clients, not just press, during this time is critical to the future of your business. It is also an opportunity for deepening a relationship on a different level, one that is much more personal. We’ve taken note of some designers who are engaging with clients in interesting new ways. Here’s what they had to say about what works and what they’ve learned.
Beth Webb Interiors
Home as haven strikes a chord. Has that message taken on new meaning for you?
I’m not sure at this point what day it is of our self-imposed quarantine ( I believe it’s Day 34 ); but when we left Atlanta for our house in the low country what we thought would be the weekend, that three day trip has now turned into an indefinite stay. Our office had been set up to work remotely three weeks prior to the pandemic hitting, so making that transition was easier than I initially thought it would be.
We also are so accustomed to working on projects out of town, it was a simpler transition. With our new normal as WFH, I’m infinitely grateful and fortunate to live in two beautiful homes. In these uncharted waters and such uncertain times it’s more important than ever to be surrounded by beauty.
After 9/11, when all our worlds were upended, I’m sure we all collectively felt much the same. We needed that safe haven to cocoon and regain our equilibrium – a place to shelter in the midst of the storm. Now more than ever at this unprecedented moment in modern history, home is our haven. “Shelter at Home” is more poignant and meaningful than ever.
What point of connection within the industry are you most looking to make through social media?
Our design community is a group of creatives with good hearts and the collective coming together during all this has been amazing across the board. Everyone is being supportive of one another and lending a helping hand as we are all navigating this thing together. I’ve had CEO’s of companies reach out within moments of this all transpiring letting us know, as vendors, they are here to support us. There have been many Zoom calls offering support, advice and creative problem solving on the multitude of issues we are all facing. Of course, one of the most important things to remember in times of crisis, is laughter. There have been many mornings of late where laughter begins the day with all the humor circulating on Instagram.Together we are finding the joy and the beauty under extraordinary circumstances.
Carolyn Leona Designs
Liz Goldberg, Owner
Your CL Guides on Instagram are so helpful for folks who are at home wanting to change things up a bit. Will your messaging continue to incorporate little interior design tips?
Yes, more than ever we wish to share with our community during this unique time.
What we are all experiencing will clearly change the world indefinitely and it is so important to find connection and meaning in creative ways, so by providing more useful info and it really feels like that broadens our reach and purpose.
Social media has proven to be such an empowering platform to reach so many and it has been exciting to see how effective our published content and virtual conversations and meetings have been so far.
We started CL Guides to engage with clients or prospects to share insights and tips on common interior design topics that we often get questions on from clients or through Instagram and other social media platforms.
Our focus is on areas where people have trouble executing by themselves at home or are just interested in learning more on design principles. We like to take a simple and approachable tone to insure we don’t overwhelm anyone. Working on your home should bring joy and we want to add to that excitement and opportunity for creativity, rather than bring on any unnecessary stress. You can find these guides by connecting with us via our newsletter, on our blog, and by following us on social media – we try to share along a variety of our different channels.
We are definitely pushing to find new ways to engage, including sending our clients (most have families with young children) a ton of kids activities and coloring pages to offer fun ideas to ideally keep everyone busy and entertained for a little while and break up their days. We have some other really fun things brewing in addition to our usual design tips so be sure to watch what comes out next!!
You’re an artist, an have woven this sensibility into your work in normal times. How have you put those skills to work while sheltering in place?
I am actually making face masks with scrap fabrics! Three design projects were halted one after another as the city and economy went on a lock-down. With just one E-design project going, I had plenty of time and loads of great scrap fabrics. Initially, I wanted to make them for family members on the front line, after hearing family members on both sides of the coast describing the need for PPE. One said if you make one make it practical and really useful. We need to be able to talk through them without inhaling materials. Plus, not a loose gap around the face. So, with that being said I created a pattern and made a couple of prototypes that would have ample space between the mouth and cloth.
Once the CDC announcement was released to take extra protection by wearing a mask, I decided I need to be proactive and give my clients an early Christmas gift that promotes global health while staying well. Making them pretty and functional hopefully removes the stigma of “sickness” associated by wearing a mask. Additionally, these also serve as a sleep mask when this pandemic is said and done.
So you are using old samples and remnant fabrics to make masks and giving them to clients? That’s brilliant.
Yes. Thank you!
How do you personalize the packages?
I write a personal message saying “RND would like to help keep you safe if you must be out to get essentials!” I love handwritten notes. I give them because I like receiving them.
About 25% of my clients live out of state. So, I’m used to communicating with them digitally. For my two most recent projects (one in PA the other in FL), I never even saw the rooms in person. My client supplied me with videos of the spaces, digital photos of each room and furniture item that she wanted to keep and measurements. From our conversations and information that she provided me, I was able to create vision boards & floor plans. I emailed her furniture option boards and fabric/color scheme options.
This is a tactile business and I feel that the client really needs to feel the fabrics or see the nuances of the tile color (for instance) before they can say “yes” to moving forward. So, I mail the fabric/color schemes to the client and email them a detailed video explaining my selections and why I chose them. There is a lot of back and forth. It’s not ideal and it doesn’t lend itself well for full service design. But if the client doesn’t mind doing some of the leg work, it’s an ideal situation for them.
“In my social media posts of recent, I’m hoping to convey that the digital process isn’t wildly different as the in-person consult.”
In all honesty, I prefer to see the space in person during a consultation. I get a much better grasp of the client, the space and the surroundings. But, it’s not a game-changer. And, in these strange times, people shouldn’t be scared of hiring someone to help them with design services. I think, in general, the consumer believes that high end digital design can’t be done successfully if it’s not done in person. With the social media posts that I’ve been posting recently, I’m hoping to convey that the digital process isn’t as different as the in-person. It’s more of a shift in mindset than anything else!
Your Tips of the Day, and past project mood boards are a great way for followers to share your style and creative process. What other elements of design are you excited about sharing?
I really love putting digital room boards together, but I can’t wait until the ADAC showrooms are open again (so I can pull fabrics). I would love to post more fabric room inspiration images! I just don’t have a lot of samples at home!
Through this new initiative, are you trying to nurture leads for after this pandemic is over? Or create a new revenue stream?
We, like many businesses, had to streamline our team a couple of weeks after COVID-19 brought the economy to a veritable halt. It was tremendously painful to have to take these steps, but as business owners, we had to make the best decisions for the company while still caring for and respecting our team, ensuring that they were taken care of.
On the showroom side of our business, we pivoted and are conducting virtual appointments with our trade clients across nine Midwest states so that we can continue serving our showroom clients and the artisanal vendors we represent. At present, there are three to-the-trade options including a virtual business chat with the two of us, a 30-minute sourcing appointment and a one-hour full line presentation. This is new to us and them but what we are finding–the silver lining in all this–is that we are able to do this based on past experience and it is just a new way of doing things. We anticipate that we will continue to do this long after COVID-19 is resolved because it is an efficient way to get information and inspiration to our trade members.
The last thing is a bit of a return to basics. Blog posts and email blasts! The largest amount of traffic to our website still comes from old blog posts and from communicating with the people who have signed up to be on our email list.
What are you learning in these appointments? Any surprise finds? Are you learning anything specifically about the process that will be beneficial towards continuing to offer them in the future?
We have just started this process so we have not yet gleaned exactly what we have learned from doing them; however, what we have learned preparing for these virtual meetings is that we are able to provide a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to our trade showroom clients during times when we all need inspiration and a reason to keep on keeping on!
Arlington Home Interiors
Offering quick advice to clients about building a home office space for both adults and kids is helpful information for families adjusting to working and learning from home. What kind of buzz has been created by opening up this dialogue to assist past and future clients?
We’ve been reaching out to past and current clients via email and personal phone calls to check in on them. We’ve taken this opportunity to let them know we’re still able to provide design services remotely via FaceTime and Zoom. We’re also sharing this message on our social media channels, along with providing simple design tips that our followers can do on their own. We’re also offering quick office design solutions using items in stock at Retail so that people can create more comfortable work spaces for themselves quickly. And for our current projects, we’ve hosted our design presentations on Zoom to keep these projects moving.
We’re going to participate in multiple Zoom presentations this month to provide design tips and changes that can be made without purchasing anything new (like rearranging shelves, shopping your own house, and finally hanging your art). We’re finding people are super aware of their design pain points because they are stuck in their homes, but many are not sure how to move forward. People are also looking for something to do with their free time, and wanting distraction from all of the bad news. Our goal is to help them brighten their home and make changes with confidence. And these webinars will hopefully help us stay top-of-mind for when folks are ready for larger projects down the road.
Have your clients responded in ways that may lead to future projects down the road? What have you learned about the needs for your clients so far?
Our audience has been very supportive, and seems interested in the information we have to share–although some are still too overwhelmed by the situation to move forward. What our clients need most right now is patience and understanding that this is a difficult time for everyone. We feel it’s important to build our community right now, and let everyone know we are there for them if they need us. Life will get back to normal and we think we are going to get very busy!