What’s on the agenda for our interior designers and online content event.

Polly Williams is the founder of the multi-award winning designers’ advisor Camberyard and judge for the Good Web Guide Awards 2019.

To celebrate the launch of the Good Web Guide’s ‘Homes & Garden’s’ category for its ‘Website of the Year Awards 2019’, on 4th July, from 10:30am-12:30pm at Waterworks, Camberyard founder and Designers’ Advisor Polly Williams will chair a panel talk: ‘Launching and growing a digital presence – everything designers need to know’.

Ahead of this event, Polly is here to introduce the brilliant panellists: Leanne Walstow, editor of ‘The List’ by House & Garden; Nicole Salvesen and Mary Graham of the interior design studio Salvesen Graham; Hugo Rawlins of the interior design PR and marketing agency Rawlins George; and Alex Minchin, of the digital growth agency Zest Digital. And to whet people’s appetite for the discussion (taking place over brunch), she and the panel have considered some of the points that might be raised.

Digital is now inextricably linked to the interior design world; with its immediacy and quick turnover, online content allows ‘us to be much more fluid and reactive,’ says Salvesen Graham. Alex is more bullish: ‘Digital in [the design] industry is absolutely unavoidable and should be the centre of all marketing efforts.’

How then can designers make the most of it for their business? Our panel breaks it down.

Creating a polished website and eye-catching Instagram account are two obvious outward elements. ‘Having a digital presence in the form of a website and social media,’ Leanne points out, ‘is the quickest way of reaching a large, international and varied audience, so it’s well worth taking time to invest in great images, a sleek website and a consistent social presence’. As the Designers’ Advisor at Camberyard, a key part of my business development consultancy work is helping designers do just that – advising on the right approach, linking them up with the people who can make it happen (photographers, web designers, branding agencies, copywriters) and, if they’re looking to refresh their existing site, discussing how best to go about it. First impressions do matter – particularly in a design-based world – so getting one’s digital presence right is essential.

And what about the term that seems to be on everyone’s lips: search engine optimisation (SEO)? It ‘needs to be considered at the design stage’, Alex advises; and if done right, ‘it is undoubtedly one of the most effective drivers of sustainable high-intent traffic (and revenue) growth’… depending on the role that you want it to play within your wider strategy, that is. Salvesen Graham find it most important for brand development or for their product/collaboration side. Taking time to integrate SEO upfront will save time and money later. Having worked with clients who have done it both before and after, I can attest to this!

Consistency within and across platforms is a common theme. ‘It is important to have a coherent presence across all the digital platforms you are using’, advises Salvesen Graham. ‘This isn’t always easy, but the end goal is that people can switch seamlessly across various elements and still see and feel a brand identity.’ Hugo agrees that it’s worth ‘taking your time to ensure consistency in the visuals as well as voice’, but points to the need for more traditional media as well. ‘You need a consistent and strong presence both on and offline, so that the mediums all support each other.’ As he warns, you don’t want to end up appearing as if you have two different brands online and offline! For his PR and marketing work, offline/digital is not either or – it’s having a presence across both and ensuring they’re aligned. For the Camberyard Collective, my network of creative professionals across the interiors world, I try to offer opportunities on both digital and offline platforms, from talks and events at design fairs, to workshops, round tables and articles in leading industry publications. While online is an extremely versatile and useful form, amazing at connecting people, I still firmly believe in the value of face-to-face introductions and collaborations.

Industry-wise, interiors and design/style-based businesses, Alex says, ‘lend themselves to stunning visuals’ – thus, investing in quality imagery is agreed to be essential to the success of a designer’s brand. Given how image-oriented Instagram is, it’s no surprise the panel has found it transformative for the design industry – a brilliant tool for getting one’s own work out there, as well as to discover and collaborate with other designers and brands. Summing it up as ‘a digital lookbook for designers that has the ability to reach potential clients, journalists and the general public all at once’, Leanne uses it to not only manage House & Gardens’ ‘The List’ account but to spot new talent and seek members’ news stories.

While Hugo finds Instagram invaluable, amongst other benefits, helping to drive new business and create a more informal environment in which to talk to the press, he acknowledges that ‘with algorithms constantly changing [across all social media], it’s important to keep abreast of what’s happening and how to continue to get the most out of your chosen platform’. He cites Pinterest, for example, as a platform playing increasing importance in the social media mix.

Keeping abreast of the constant changes in the digital realm is important. Taking that to another level opens up the world of analytics. It’s a complex topic that could have its own blog post, but the potential value in it is why Alex says you should make analytics your best friend. Not only because it ‘contains all the clues for what you should do next on your website’, but because ‘those who track and collect relevant data, and use it, grow faster and stronger than those brands who simply guess what to do because they think it should be done that way.’ Unless you are an analytics whizz, to use it effectively will likely require some expert guidance.

Digital’s immediacy also means designers should keep all online platforms updated frequently. ‘Little and often’ is Leanne’s rule of thumb. But before you can start putting out content and building your brand, you need to know two things I talk about with almost all of my clients: your USP (who you are, what you’re offering) and your target market (who you’re offering it to). Without a clear proposition, you will fail before you start. Considered content is thus key – when developing your brand and putting yourself and your offering out there, it’s quality, not quantity. I always advise my designers to take branding seriously, invest in it, and spend time ensuring your message is clear, concise and, importantly, on-brand. Don’t post things for the sake of it. Ask yourself: why I am doing this? Is it relevant? Is it high quality? Is it on-brand? If the answer is yes – go for it! And then test its impact through analytics – and your bottom line.

By Polly Williams

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June 2019