Interior design professionals, designers with shops, freelance designers, decorators and in-house interior design teams from international architecture practices all share the need to plan all aspects of their businesses. The larger the organisation, the more there is the tendency to do the planning ‘properly’. The larger the organisation, the higher the tendency to stick to plans where possible and the lower the ability to react quickly to unexpected opportunities.
A small design practice might have had several successful years and yet each year did not follow the plan that was set at the start of that year.
A large in-house design team’s manager might bemoan the amount of time s/he has to put aside to planning and budgeting each year.
Focussing initially on marketing, a design graduate might shy away from a financial plan when starting out in business. Only then to realise that the financial plan is really only what the bank is interested in when it comes to taking out a startup loan.
A fledgling business-owner might spend many nights worrying over the financial forecasts of cashflow and sales as those are what pay the mortgage, the salaries and office rent.
So we all come at business planning from a different perspective and we probably all agree that some degree of planning is necessary. You might just be a bit confused about the difference between a marketing strategy/plan and a business strategy/plan – as many people use those terms to mean the same thing.
Essentially what we want to know is how to allocate the resources we have; people, money and time. And then how to measure, monitor and control that allocation.
But what brings you here is probably that you want to know how to allocate your resources SMARTLY. And how others in your industry do it. You might want to just find a plan that someone else has already done that you can follow and copy to save a bit of time.
Well I think I will have a series of textbooks to write to answer all of those questions! And many plans to collate and link to in order to get the right one for all the readers of this.
So before we go any further let me just point out that there are some links to other materials at the end of the article and that the remainder of the article will just touch on a few aspects of marketing and business plans.
Plans and strategies (and goals for that matter).
A business goal is EXACTLY what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it by. The business strategy is the method by which you want to achieve it. You might also have some longer term aspirational stuff set in missions, visions and values but I’ll leave that alone here.
Goal: 10% growth in sales revenue this year at existing gross profit levels.
Strategy: By organic growth from existing customers.
This higher level stuff is important in the sense that it will determine what happens lower down in the organisation. For example the strategy I have just laid out might well require existing sales people to think of themselves as ACCOUNT MANAGERs and undergo the appropriate training rather than recruiting 10% more sales people. Or it might not! But you get the point hopefully.
So these goals and strategies will filter down to the various parts of your business. They will manifest themselves in various tactics when seen from the MD’s point of view. From within each department (if your business is large enough) your department head will be tasked to achieve these organisation tactics. It’s just that they will instead view them as their GOALS. So their departmental goals then require departmental strategies and tactics and so on, cascading down to the individual level.
What your marketing strategy needs to do is figure out all of this in terms of customers.
So one of the first things you will need to do is to work out who your target customers/markets are. You NEED to do this in terms of groups or types of customers. These groups are called MARKET SEGMENTS. You SEGMENT or divide up your entire market into distinct measurable groups. It’s important that these groups all behave in a similar fashion. This is because when you try to reach each segment you will want to simplify the ways that you appropriately reach (market to) that segment.
You are based in, say, Central London so you will need to narrow your market down by area, say Chelsea and Westminster and Islington or specific postcodes. Presumably also narrow it down by house value as well and so on.
To quantify your market segments you might then soon come to realise that you need to be looking at the website of your local council to look at planning approvals. Free information that will tell you exactly which building work will be started in 1-6 months time by postcode. It will probably also tell you the owner and architect/builder. Or you might decide to drive around your target postcodes and look at the building works already in progress. Usually the architect will have a board outside. Would you try to do show homes? (You might target varying sizes of construction company). Or you might try to tackle it further down the line at the estate agent level knowing that a buyer is going to spend money on interior design fairly immediately after buying a house, rather than in 6+ months time when construction starts? Of course the house buyer may well already have the interior designers/decorators sorted out at this stage or might simply be doing it themselves, it might be prudent to make contacts as early in the process as possible
And of course building firms and architects (and maybe estate agents) probably already have existing Interior Designer contacts or in-house capabilities. I never said this was going to be easy! But then again they may have been let down on the last project and could just be looking for your services.
But the point of all of this is to narrow your thinking down. Then to focus your efforts. The silly but obvious example is that if you had not chosen specific postcode target markets you could be driving around the whole of London for the next two months or spending many evenings trawling through London Borough Council websites. But of course if an ad-hoc opportunity comes your way you grasp it even if it is not in your target market (within reason).
Or you might have jumped straight in to building a web site saying what a great London Interior Designer you are and how good you are and where you were educated and so on. When the reality is that the people you are trying to reach might NEVER even look at the internet for an interior designer. Your target market might just use the internet to check you out after they have received a contact from you from some other (non-digital means.
So; for each target market you then need to think about the 4P’s of marketing: Product, Price, Promotion and Place.
4P is easy to remember but not necessarily helpful so here’s what they are to you:
- Product – really the service(s) you offer to EACH target market (they could be different or tailored)
- Price – you got that one! (Here’s something I wrote earlier)
- Promotion – the marketing/promotional/PR type activity you will be be using. (Here’s something I wrote earlier).
- Place – or Distribution – or how you get to your true, end client. what MIDDLE MAN you use. eg the architect or estate agent in the above example. This ‘PLACE’ might not be so important if you are going direct to your customer.
- S – SITAUATION: What is the current state of play. The problems, opportunities, worries. What are you good at in this particular area?
- O – OBJECTIVES: Exactly what do you want to achieve? Use a SMART goal (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-delimited). eg increase my awareness in a certain targetmarket by 5% by the end of the year, measured by XXX.
- S – STRATEGY: How are you going to achieve this? eg By increasing my online presence in social media
- T – TACTICS: How are you going to achieve this in a bit more detail? focus on Twitter Restauranters and LinkedIn Restaurant Groups
- M – MANPOWER: Who exactly is going to do all the various activities. eg My partner
- M – MONEY: What will it cost. Probably very little in terms of cash.
- M – MINUTES: How long will it take? 2 days set up and then 2 hours every Sunday night.
- M _ MONITOR: How are you going to check how this is all working? You might have a special new web page that is the same as your homepage but called index2.htm. All your twitter activity and LinkedIn activity might point only to this new web page. That way you can track EXACTLY the hits you get from your new activity to see if it is working.