magazine | Jul 16, 2021 |
Stay in touch: 7 designers share how they keep clients in the loop

Keeping a client engaged in and excited about the design process is one of the more underrated keys to a project’s success. Here’s how seven designers bring their clients along for the ride.

Stay in touch: 7 designers share how they keep clients in the loop
Lynn KloythanomsupColin Price

Constant Contact

Our contract and proposal process is quite lengthy, so buy the time they’ve signed on, there’s trust. We have a lot of barriers to cross for us to get to this stage, and our deposit is very high—about 50 percent of total project fees, so $50,000 and up, which we hold for safety and return in one or two years’ time when the project concludes. To trust us with this money, they have to be very committed. Our projects are mostly construction, and we try to join the team when the client is hiring everybody else—the architects and contractors. Interior designers are often the closest to the clients, so we’re their medium; we become their first point of contact, and I think clients really appreciate that. We try to meet every week or every other week, and we write into our agreement that we expect clients to participate in the process to keep things moving along. We’re telling them, ‘Let’s set a day’ to meet consistently, which makes them feel included. Building trust is integrated into all of our interactions with clients, from showing up when you said you would to answering them in a timely manner to having it built into their calendar and really getting into their life. They know to expect us.” Lynn Kloythanomsup, Landed Interiors & Homes, San Francisco

Stay in touch: 7 designers share how they keep clients in the loop
Letecia Ellis HaywoodClay Bailey

SEND A NOTE

“The last thing you want to do is go radio silent in the beginning. You may be working hard pulling everything, but clients don’t know that, because they’re not seeing it. I engage with clients weekly so that they are part of the process. I keep my outreach casual, but it’s structured. Every Monday, I reach out to all of my clients with an email that explains what we’re expecting for the week. On Fridays, I end with an email that says, ‘This is what we’ve accomplished, and we’re looking forward to next week.’ I bill hourly for my time; this way, at the end of the month, they know exactly what we’ve done. I’ll also send them a photo I took at a showroom and say, ‘I pulled some of these options,’ or a text or an email that says, ‘I found this and it made me think of you. What do you think?’ It’s about creating a rapport, not: ‘Let me force this thing on you.’ I’ve found that clients are excited when you send something their way and are asking for feedback. It’s like, ‘Oh, you’ve been thinking of me!’ They know that we’re working together towards the common goal: to give them the home they deserve.” —Letecia Ellis Haywood, Houston

Stay in touch: 7 designers share how they keep clients in the loop
Jenny BrownSarah Hazlegrove

STAY IN TOUCH

“After our initial meeting, I’ll have a kickoff session where I show a few different directions—images of rooms I like or projects I’ve done before, general schemes, and 10 to 15 fabric, wallcovering and trim samples to show my ideas. It’s not so specific, but I can tell a color or pattern story and see what the client responds to. That way, I know we’re all on the same page, and we can grow from there. My spaces are an evolution of collected things, and my relationships with my clients are, too. I like them to feel some ownership in the process, so I’m always checking in via text or on Instagram. I don’t want them to be there cutting the plastic off the lampshades during the install, but the goal is that it exceeds their wildest expectations and yet they’re not going to feel like strangers in their own home. There can be a dark period [while I’m designing], but I deal with it by being in touch and available if my clients need me. All people want is to feel like they’re being heard and understood. I was listening to a podcast with a CEO of a big company, and he said that it’s all about replying. Even if it’s fast or scrappy, just get back to them.” —Jenny Brown, Chicago

Stay in touch: 7 designers share how they keep clients in the loop
Mia JohnsonTorrie Maas

GENUINE ENGAGEMENT

“I’m new as an ‘official’ firm, but I’m a certified Project Management Professional and spent years in that part of the business world, so that flows very easily into my design business. I start with a mood board, and as we move through the process, I’ll show some 2D renderings with the caveat, ‘This is not necessarily complete, but here’s where we are,’ or ‘This is how what you liked will be staged.’ Even if it’s a quick email and a copy of a design, it keeps them engaged. If it’s the type of client that I know would like to hear from me more often, I’ll email or Instagram message saying, ‘What do you think of this?’ even if I think I know the answer. It shows that I’m always thinking of their design, it makes them feel comfortable, and it keeps my creative juices flowing, too. Especially if I’m reaching out quickly on social media, I’m not looking at this as billable time. I signed a new client yesterday because she talked to a previous client—she told me, ‘You were the highlight of her life in this project,’ and it was because I’m in constant communication about where we are.” —Mia Johnson, West Bloomfield, Michigan

Stay in touch: 7 designers share how they keep clients in the loop
By giving clients access to her mood boards as she’s building them, Ashley Ross collects real-time feedback. For this recent project, she styled custom built-ins with a mix of family heirlooms and contemporary global accents.Tiffany Ringwald Photography
Stay in touch: 7 designers share how they keep clients in the loop
Ashley RossTiffany Ringwald Photography

SCREEN SHARING

“Designers used to spend gobs of time in people’s homes getting to know them, but in the world of e-design, you still need to get to know these people. We build everything in Mydoma, and we make everything visible to the client the moment we feel we have enough that they can see the vision. They’re seeing us build the room in real time, and they can accept or reject items at any time—our way of letting technology extend our listening period. After our discovery call and consultation, we have three meetings over the next four weeks: our project kickoff, a layout and logistics meeting and the presentation. We bring mood boards and 2D renderings to the layout meeting, which is a pre-presentation to make sure the design concept we’re working with is going in the right direction. There, they start to see the custom color story, and they’re looking at actual furniture. When we come to them with this rough draft, the clients who want to be hands-on have already participated in the process. Because people are going on that journey with us, they’re much more open to trying new things. It changes the dynamic.” —Ashley Ross, Muse Noire Interiors, Charlotte, North Carolina

Stay in touch: 7 designers share how they keep clients in the loop
Kiley Baun and Betsy HelmRachel McGinn

WEEKLY UPDATES

“We’re working all the time, but clients don’t know that—it’s our job to tell them. We used to have a weekly meeting with clients, and we [realized that while] not every project requires a weekly face-to-face, the rapport was fantastic on the projects where we did have those check-ins. So we implemented weekly emails to all of our clients two years ago—even if the project is just a living room or something small—to keep them feeling engaged. Anything we’re working on, clients get an email about it. ‘We’re pushing along the quotes for the window treatments,’ or even what we’re waiting for. We’d rather over-inform—that way, when they receive our monthly invoice, they know what it’s all for. If there’s a lull, they’re still getting that weekly email from us—even if it’s a non-update update and a note that we’re here if they need anything else in the meantime. We used to get those emails out every Friday by 5 p.m., but now we try to get them out early in the day so that they have time to send us questions during working hours and get an answer. It also holds team members accountable. They know that whether there’s good news or bad news, Friday is it. ” —Betsy Helm and Kiley Baun, Shophouse Design, Philadelphia 

Homepage image: For projects like this Bay Area kitchen renovation, Lynn Kloythanomsup often becomes the client’s primary point-person, helping translate their vision to the other trades. She schedules a weekly meeting with her clients to keep them engaged in the process. | Haris Kenjar

This article originally appeared in Spring 2021 issue of Business of Home. Subscribe or become a BOH Insider for more.

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