KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Jan 11 2011

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A New Year, A New Start

Happy New Year!  I hope this year is off to a rousing start for all of you.

One of the biggest changes to our industry from the recession has been the shift in homeowners’ perceptions of their homes from cash cows to long-term lifestyle investment.

Now this re-focus suits me (and probably a lot of you) just fine, although it does mean more time spent in reassurance, which I think will be our word of the year. Homeowners are leery of making mistakes. Some have been bitten badly by the cheapest bids and their own inexperience. With the new thinking above and a new year, many seem willing to consider expertise along with price.

So what can you do to position yourself first for the budding interest we’re seeing this year?  Here are a few steps I’ve taken during every post-recession recovery. (Okay, not every one. The first one I bit my nails like everyone else. By the third, I got smart, or at least like to think I did.)

  • Tightly tailor your first client meeting. At one time, everyone wanted to see the design possibilities and every photo in your portfolio. Now, the key word is “safe.” Homeowners want to see photos of projects that look like theirs. They’re reassured by anecdotes that you’ve worked in their neighborhood or even the same house plan. They want to see photos that most closely resemble their layout, materials and vision. They want to know that you’ve installed the very faucet or tub or tile that they’re looking at.

  • What do you know that a homeowner doesn’t? This is a tricky one because what I’m really saying is, “Can you answer the question the homeowner doesn’t know to ask?”  Case in point: Last week, I was in a tile showroom where a woman was yelling at the tile specialist. It turns out she had ordered some marble tile (the exact amount, of course) and two pieces didn’t look like the others. The showroom caters to the trade with few retail customers. Unfortunately, they expected her to know that stone might vary and to order extra. If your potential client is thinking about a stone backsplash, it doesn’t hurt to mention the need to order extra and why, or explain the different level of qualities in stone. (Can you get examples of poor, better, and best to show? A picture is worth…you know.)

  • Tell them how you’ll make their lives easier. Homeowners can’t hear enough about your level of detail, but they don’t want to sit through a 4-hour presentation. Break it down, “We have 3 easy steps to…based on our years of experience….” then elaborate on the points where they indicate interest.

  • Who’s part of your team? Key point. I can’t tell you how much the homeowners relax when we tell them that we took 3 years to find our subcontractors and that most have been with us 6-8 years. Take pride in your team. Relay stories about how they went to bat for both your clients and you.

  • Don’t forget to remind potential clients you’re still standing. It’s been a tough few years, but you’ve survived when others didn’t. You must be doing something right—right?

Until next time,


This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1.  details and design |

    Excellent points Kelly! Very good advice. I use the last one EVERY day and tell them did not move to new 3000 sq ft showroom because inherited bunch of money! But still here and have been for 12 yrs. They like to hear this…esp when looking at how many are gone. And the point about “knowing what they do not” is great. I always say you must know the right questions to get the right answers and often clients do not…and that is what we are here for!