So we’re back with our second to last episode of, “How Are You Handling This?”! I have to admit that I’ve been loving having these, and I hope you’ve been loving listening to them! Hearing from so many fantastic designers on how they’re handling the transition into this crisis, and plan on transitioning out, has been really enlightening. It’s a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly – which right now is exactly what’s to be expected. No one is all great, all the time (so don’t feel pressured to be that way either). There’s a lot of just trying to hold on as they course correct from one day to the next, and learning as they go.
However, there is one common theme. They’re all trying their darnedest to find the good that’s hiding beneath this whole mess. It’s not always easy, and let’s be honest – sometimes nearly impossible, but it is there. And they’re digging hard and fast to find it. In between their role as business owner, designer, teacher, mom, wife, toilet paper seeker, and so much more, they’re all getting out their shovels as often as life allows, and digging their way to positivity.
An Insightful and Sensitive Eye
This week the designer digging her way to positivity is Kimberly Scanlon of Vela Creative. She’s an award winning residential and commercial designer from Minnesota, who not only creates designs that are knock your socks off good, but also brings an incredibly insightful and sensitive eye to everything she does.
During this episode Kimberly and I talked about a variety of different topics. From having to teach your children in Spanish when you have no idea how to speak it yourself, to considering profits before you consider the pivot. We really covered it all, and it was not only a great laugh (which we need lots of right now) but also a great learning experience.
Pushing & Pulling Clients through Technology
Like everyone else in the design world, Kimberly has experienced ups, downs, and pauses on projects. Some are moving ahead, some are on hold, and some are transforming from what they once were. And as she says, it hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t been perfect. For the projects that are on hold, she has both fear and understanding. A complete and total understanding for why the client wants to put the project on hold, and a bit of fear as a business owner as she doesn’t know when they’ll resume.
For the projects that are moving forward, there are the expected hiccups. There’s a bit of pushing and pulling with clients, to help them help themselves. Technology may not always be easy, and definitely creates a great deal of frustration, but right now that’s all we have. So, how do we meet them where they’re at? How do we get them to use the necessary technology that will in fact improve the efficiencies of the project, without “forcing them?” How do we get them to see the benefits, when all they feel is irritation?
Well, as we talk about, you work very hard to make it easy for them. You put yourself in their shoes. You become the client whose frustrated by this new technology, and doesn’t know a thing about it. You pretend like you know nothing and ask yourself, what would help me get through this? What information or assistance would lessen this burden and make this seem more achievable, or at least help me to see the benefits?
The answer? Well, you create video tutorials that walk clients through the technologies you use, step by step. You do live screen shares (which you can also record and later send for a reference) to show clients where they go and what they need to do. You send simple, step by step, bulleted points on exactly what it takes to get from point A to point B to point H, and what needs to be done once they get there.
Make everything as easy, straight forward, and straight lined as possible. Clients don’t get to choose the technology we want them to use (and possibly never expected it to become part of their relationship with you). But, here we are. Here we all are.
So when clients are feeling a bit frustrated or irritated, or overwhelmed with this new introduction of technology into the designer client relationship, it’s important to just take it one step at a time, one breath at a time. Explaining something that you know incredibly well to someone who knows nothing about it (and frankly finds it irritating) can be a bit like nails on a chalk board, I know. But once you get over that initial hump of frustration and education, things start getting a whole lot easier on both sides. And maybe even, dare I say, enjoyable.
A Profitable Pivot
With the advent of extra technology though, thankfully, can of course also come extra opportunity. So as we discussed, Kimberly is in the beginning stages of putting together an e-design offering for clients that they’ve worked with in the past. But they’re not just the typical “e-design,” they’re more robust. They’re also more in tune with what’s realistically possible right now.
As she perceptively noted, now is not the time to be focusing hard on gaining clients that are completely new to you, and you to them. That’s a hard sell. But, starting work with clients who’ve already worked with you and loved you? Well, that’s a heck of a lot easier. It’s a pivot, but a mindful, considerate one. It’s one that she has thought long and hard about, ensuring that it has potential for both profits and longevity.
A Marketing Double Down
Now how is she starting to connect with clients about these robust e-design packages? By doubling down on her marketing. She’s starting a newsletter. She’s consistently posting on social media. And she’s keeping up with her blog posts. And she’s carefully walking the line between taking things seriously, but not too seriously.
It’s a hard time to know what is and isn’t appropriate to post right now, but Kimberly’s approach is fantastic and incredibly insightful. When she creates something, she firsts asks herself, how would a person who had a sick loved one feel about what I’m putting out? How would someone who has a full house of healthy people but little time feel about what I’m putting out? Would any of them be offended? And then she posts, or doesn’t post, based on that. Brilliant.
Some Things Never Change, Like Your Followers’ Love of Your Spaces
Right now things are changing at a very, very rapid pace. We don’t know what’s going on from one day to the next. Quarantine will end April 22nd. No, wait, now it’s until further notice. High Point is postponed until June. No, wait, now it’s canceled completely for the spring. At some point it may be canceled for the Fall as well. Life just keeps changing, in very big and dramatic ways. And we don’t know when it will stop.
But, in the midst of all of this change, remember this. Your followers won’t change their love for interiors. And they won’t change the love of your interiors either. People follow you and your work because they love something about it, something about you. That won’t change, even from this.
So take heart. Yes, many things will change. But some things will remain the same. Some things will continue on, just as before. And in this case, it’s the love of your clients and followers, for what you do, and how you do it. And thank goodness for that.
How are you doing with transitioning your clients to a heavy dependence on technology? Leave it in the comments below!
And if you’d like help focusing on the client experience at this difficult time, check out the listing of guides and resources available to you here!