Tariff challenges are appearing in different forms. When it comes to the home furnishings manufacturers, we see different tactics coming into play. For brands who are primarily domestic, the impact of tariffs is less. But they’re finding ways to leverage this differentiator among an industry strife with uncertainty. But for manufacturers with a significant stall in their strategic plans due to tariffs, uncertainty is the least of their problems. Brands are looking for ways to mitigate the risk of tariffs. For some, it means defining new channels for revenue without disrupting their brick and mortar channel. And for those brands, we have content built for you. We’re going to talk about how to increase revenue through designers. It’s a new revenue channel without a lot of disruption.
Over the last decade, interior designers have flooded the streets of High Point, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and New York during furniture Markets. As a 25+ year Market veteran, we’ve noticed the trend of attendees shifting. And with that shift in attendee comes a shift in conversation. We see more interior designers who aren’t partnered with retailers but stand alone and succeed. Some choose to take a traditional route and forgo the dealer license with their preferred brands. This adds a middleman to the process of design but for these growing segments of our industry, that doesn’t matter.
How Today’s Shopper Works
We can’t start an article about exploring new revenue channels and increase revenue through designers without discussing the consumer’s journey. Personalization is a critical component to the buying journey. Along with the ability to have a digital presence in the buying process, personalization is key. We’ve witnessed success in retail stores where interior designers are used to generate revenue. They provide a personalized experience for the shopper online and in the store. As more Millennial shoppers enter the furniture-buying marketplace, this experiential shopping will be more valuable. And the retailers or manufacturers who embrace this will find themselves above the fray.
While your business is working to overcome tariff challenges and industry shifts, you can employ the same tactics. Without disrupting the rest of your sales channels.
How to Find Designers to Sell Your Brand
Now that you’re on board with this new sales channel, how do you start to increase revenue through designers? Where can your company find designers who have the skills and style to sell your products? These aren’t an exhaustive list of options. But it will start your journey to a new sales force.
We’ve identified furniture markets as the primary source for collecting designers to join your brand and increase revenue through designers. Mentioned earlier, attendance of designers at Market has increased significantly. MicroD spends several weeks at Markets each year. And as time passes, our conversations happen more with designers looking for ways to grow by selling furniture first and designing second. They’ve identified this source of growth as sustainable. For many, they’re taking the initiative to collect licenses to sell through manufacturers directly. For others, they use relationships with retailers to grow their sales. Market streets are teeming with designers who are eager and willing to make a big leap.
Because your Market has traditionally focused on the retailers, reps, and product launches, this may require a new strategic team to join you each year. But your investment in acquiring interior designers at places like High Point Market will be well worth it.
Associations and Organizations
Another source of high caliber interior designers is the industry associations. We’re fortunate to work among several large organizations that cultivate relationships with interior designers. They’re going to networking events, conferences, and Market-related events as part of their organization. WithIt is a great example of this. Each year, we meet many designers through the industry’s organization supporting women in the furniture industry. Not to mention the value in networking with these designers outside of a sales channel.
If you don’t belong to one of the organizations, find one to support.
How to Support Your New Revenue Channel
Interior designers need several things from you to be successful in this partnership and increase revenue. If you are committed to pursuing this revenue channel, it’s important to cultivate the right relationships. And once you create them, support them.
1. Highlight Designers On Your Website
Take the digital real estate in your website and make better use of it. Create a section where designers can be highlighted in a portfolio of their work in your collections. Many brands already work with designers on the collections and new products. But when you’re using designers as a revenue channel, you need to structure the relationship differently. Depending on the way you structure it, you could create a tier of featured designers that get unique profiles on your website. If you have an easy-to-use CMS, provide access to your designers. This will empower them to maintain their own portfolio and profile page on your branded website. It will allow you to outsource the manual labor of the content creation. But also keeps your brand intact and your designers stay on brand with you.
2. Designer Locator
While we’re on the subject of website property, our next tip for supporting interior designers is a locator. Just like you offer a Dealer Locator for your retailers, offer a similar search function for the designers in your partnership. Investing in the opportunity for your designers to generate business from your website is the best way to support them. Keep it simple and provide a basic search function with the following fields:
- Cities Served
- Link to their own website or your designer page
3. Sales and Marketing Materials
One of the most important ways manufacturers can leverage interior designers as a revenue channel is through marketing.
Here are some of the most basic items you should keep in a Marketing Asset Library for your designers:
- Product Photography – Not just a collection of the silhouettes but a variety of room scenes, vignettes, and other lifestyle shots.
- Sales Calendar of Events – Does your brand offer an annual discount for Memorial Day? Make sure your designers know it! Combine the most important dates for sales, new collections, and events to put in a calendar set annually. Giving your designers this information will let them create the best marketing and sales strategy for the peak months and the rest of the year.
- Social Graphics – Designers are great at design. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be capable of creating dozens of social media graphics to post. Hire a marketer to create a library of social media graphics that are evergreen or related to your static events during the year. By offering these in a library to your designers (and your dealers, to be honest) you will have more control over the branding and messaging on social media. No matter who is selling it. Plus the easier you make it to share and be present on social media with a specific brand, the more likely your designers will post it.
- Tearsheets – Make sure that your website access to designers provides an easy and appealing tear sheet. Too often, these are time-consuming documents that designers will create separately from the brand. Again, to control your brand’s visibility and help your designers sell your furniture, make these tearsheets a standard sales aid.
4. Showroom Showtime
Another way to support your designers is leveraging their time at Market. We opened this article admitting that furniture Markets have become inundated with interior designers. While they’re out in High Point or Las Vegas, make use of them inside your showroom. As you’re using this time to recruit more designers and dealers, showcase your successful designers who contribute to the company’s revenue. Empower every designer in your partnership to be a brand ambassador.
How to Increase Revenue Through Designers
Now that you’ve got a plan for finding interior designers to build your revenue, how do you grow it?
>> If you’re looking for inspiration, listen to our podcast about finding inspiration for creative minds.
Offer Sales Training
Not all designers are built to be great salespeople. And in order to be successful at selling your products, you need to equip these designers with the right tools. We’ll focus on the technology later. But at the core, sales training is imperative. This may be a formal process or a casual approach. No matter the delivery, it should be deployed early and often.
Bring your designers together before a Market, during a performance group meeting, or even a quarterly conference call to learn new sales tactics. This will give you the chance to determine how your ambassadors sell your furniture. But it also gives your designers the best chance to succeed. And when they succeed, your bottom line will follow.
Encourage New Strategies
One critical component to success is listening. If you want to grow this revenue channel, you need to listen. Create a performance group of your best designers. Collaborate on new ideas, collect feedback on the current strategy, and encourage participation. When you’re enabling your sales channel to identify what’s working and what isn’t working, you find the impediments faster. As a home furnishings brand, you may only see tariffs as the impediment to more sales. From the selling designer’s perspective, there could be a smaller problem with an easier solution. Tackle the practical. And use your team to develop solutions to revenue challenges at the bottom.
Build New Technology
There comes a point when new technology will be passed the tipping point. In our discussion about tariffs, we talk about technological innovation stalling with the uncertainty. But while you’re investing in this new revenue channel, look at new technology to support it. Visualization products like 3D technology, Augmented Reality, and better-performing websites are on the rise. And your retailers have been asking for help to adopt. Designers in your revenue stream will start to focus on these new technologies to sell your furniture as well. Don’t sleep on how you’ll increase revenue through designers tools.
Find a partner who is making progress with proven success in these technologies. As you identify the needs of today’s consumer and how your teams of retailers and designers can sell to those needs, explore technology innovations that will support the entire cycle.
A Future of Hope
Tariffs and economic uncertainty will always be present. How you adapt will determine what your business looks like on the other side of it all. By leveraging existing strategy shells to explore new revenue channels, you will future-proof your business as best as possible. You can increase revenue through designers. But you need the strategy to implement it well. Interior designers are the next evolution of the home furnishings manufacturer. Not only with collection design and influencer partnerships but also through sales and revenue. Will you make the choice to expand your brand?