Join Our Community

Maximize Networking & Relationship Building to Build a Design Business

how to get interior design clients how to promote my interior design business interior design marketing marketing for interior designers networking Mar 06, 2024
 How to Maximize Networking & Relationship Building to Build a Design Business

In 2023, roughly 5.5 million applications were filed to start a new business in the U.S., up from just over five million the year before. While this number spans all industries, it illustrates how much competition both new and established businesses face.

When you decide to start your own design business, you need to do everything you can to raise awareness, drive growth, and ensure success. A solid business plan is essential, but you also need to put time and effort into networking.

It might seem counterintuitive to befriend your competitors. However, building relationships leads to opportunities in the design world, as in many other industries.

Naturally, you don’t want to hand over your business on a silver platter, but there will always be things you can’t do. Having a network of other professionals to tap into can help your clients in the short term and provide an incentive for professionals in your network to return the favor down the line.

Why is it so important to build and maintain a network of other professionals in the design industry and related fields? How can you maximize the benefits of networking when growing your design business? Here are a few things to consider.


Why Networking Is Critical to Small Businesses

Figuring out how to get interior design clients is a complex undertaking that involves myriad approaches. Research and marketing are high on the list, but networking can be equally critical for several reasons.

For one thing, networking is a great way to learn when you’re starting out and trying to build a thriving business. If you’ve launched a business, you probably know a lot about interior design already, but connecting with other professionals provides opportunities to gain insight into every aspect of your industry and observe successful operations.

Networking also opens doors to new clients, new markets, and potential for collaboration and cross-promotion.

When there are jobs you can’t take, for whatever reason, you can refer out to others in your network, serving client needs and strengthening professional relationships. This, in turn, may lead to more referrals coming your way from clients and your network alike.



How to Connect With Other Professionals

Running a small business is a lot of work, and you’ll likely wear plenty of hats in the beginning. However, you can’t afford to let networking fall by the wayside. You need to focus not only on meeting other professionals but building strategic partnerships that help your business grow.

You must set aside time for networking activities just as you do for any other aspect of your business. Opportunities to network could come in the form of industry events. Additionally, a lot of the effort behind networking these days takes place online through professional networks, lead groups, and social media.


Industry Events

As the saying goes, no man is an island. Your interior design business might offer a range of services, but there are always going to be gaps.

For example, you may need to work with other professionals who offer demolition, plumbing, or electrical services. You might need help from movers, painters, and a range of suppliers for everything from flooring and wallpaper to furniture and fixtures. There could even be times when you simply have more work than you can handle.

Industry events can offer benefits like obtaining new knowledge and skills through panels and workshops. They also provide untold opportunities to grow your professional network and add mutually beneficial strategic partnerships.


Professional Networks

Joining professional networks may seem like one more thing you simply don’t have time to pile on your plate. However, the benefits of joining professional associations are well worth it.

These organizations do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Most offer an online platform where you can easily access valuable information and connect with other professionals.

They often organize member events, with local and national opportunities to learn, promote, and socialize with others in the industry.

Professional networks can keep you informed about related events like contractor trade shows and realtor conferences so you can interact with a range of people in adjacent industries whose partnerships and referrals can help you grow your business.


Lead Groups

There are plenty of avenues to explore when it comes to marketing for interior designers. The right marketing firm can help you develop strategies that get results with tailored online marketing strategies. While you can’t rely entirely on word of mouth, satisfied customers could also help boost visibility with positive reviews or referrals.

Networking can lead to other opportunities for marketing and promotion, and lead groups are an option you’ll want to explore. Often, these groups are made up of people from different but compatible industries.

The benefits of such groups typically include offering information and advice that can benefit all members, sharing sales leads, and members promoting each other within their own professional networks. Regular meetings allow members to connect, share, and help one another.


Social Media

Social media isn’t just about advertising or adding value for clients. It offers endless options to connect with your industry as well.

For one thing, you can follow professional accounts you admire, learning from what they do in terms of interior design marketing and creating winning narratives.

While you don’t necessarily want to copy, a big part of market research is following what your competitors do so you can spot trends, learn from their successes and mistakes, and formulate innovative strategies.

However, you can also make efforts to network with other designers and industry professionals, starting with following, liking, commenting, and messaging. This can lead to follow-backs and chances for cross-promotion, collaboration, and referrals.


Making the First Move

Once you’ve found networking avenues that appeal to you, it’s time to figure out how best to connect with other professionals. Receptions at industry events are ideal for shaking hands and collecting business cards, but building and maintaining relationships requires more.

You’ll likely be drawn to other professionals for specific reasons. Perhaps they offer services that will help you better meet client needs. Maybe they have a strong reputation or a large social media following that appeals to you. It could be that you simply admire their work and their whole vibe.

You can’t just hold out your hand and expect others to give. The best way to build relationships is to start by offering something. If there are professionals you want to invite into your network, you might start by referring out to them.

Or you could try to connect over common interests or ideals just to get the conversation started. Showing interest in others and offering them something of value are ways to build rapport and work up to getting value in return.


Follow Up and Stay Connected

Follow-up is incredibly important in maintaining a strong professional network. After an initial meeting, make sure to follow up on professional and social channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) and reach out to remind people who you are and what you discussed.

You can also reach out through email to start a more formal or in-depth discussion. Make sure to connect regularly and send out referrals and leads rather than messaging only when you need something.


Creating Relationships That Last

There’s no shortage of tips to be found if you search “how to promote my interior design business,” but creating a network that does some of the promotion for you is a great way to work smarter, not harder. As with any relationship, though, you get out what you put in.

When creating connections that last, you need to pay attention to what others say so you can understand their goals, values, and needs. You should always behave authentically to build trust. Be open to suggestions, share information, and follow up.

With a desire to connect, platforms that facilitate networking, and a strategy to build relationships, you can create a professional network that helps you reach your goals.

If you need marketing assistance while you build your business, check out Behind the Design’s Marketing Services for interior designers and architects.



Sign Up for Our Monthly Newsletter

Get helpful career, business, and design tips right in your inbox each month.

At Behind the Design, we are committed to building a stronger design community by reimagining education, training, and support for interior designers. Through our various software training options, educational articles covering everything from leadership to marketing, and soon Continuing educational courses, we are committed to helping you. Join our newsletter to get the latest education and training updates.

Sign Me Up!

More on Behind the Design...