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Building Strategic Partnerships for Interior Designers

Building Strategic Partnerships for Interior Designers

Interior designers today focus on three marketing tactics involving referrals, their website and social media to promote their business. Let’s talk about how you can use these methods to build strategic partnerships.

Ask for more referrals

Referrals have always been the most predictable way to build a business, but it’s not enough to create a consistent pipeline today. Referrals come from two sources: happy clients and referral partners such as vendors, realtors, builders, contractors, and subcontractors.

If you are relying on client referrals and your projects last a year or more, it may take some time to see a steady stream of referrals. Some clients don’t refer their sources because they want to take credit for the work, they don’t think about it, or they are extremely private.

If you’re like most interior designers, you feel uncomfortable asking for referrals, or you don’t ask for them consistently. This is low-hanging fruit for generating business. A happy client should always be your goal, and if you do a wonderful job and create an outstanding client experience, you’re more likely to get an organic referral.

You can also consistently ask for referrals throughout your engagement. For example, set the stage when you sign a contract with a client and let them know that you grow your business by referral. Remind them during an emotional reveal that you’d love to work with more great clients like them, and that you grow your business because of your happy clients.

Referral marketing from clients is the mainstay of building your business. You just need to make sure you’re doing it properly.

Nurture your strategic partnerships

Nurturing strategic partnerships is another way to build your business through relationships. We love people, don’t we? We love to build relationships, and when we do it right, we find that our business grows consistently with the right kinds of clients.

Think about the people that you’ve worked with for years such as realtors, builders, architects, and contractors. Are they working with your future ideal client? If not, develop a list of new strategic partners to approach.

Create a plan to do regular outreach at least six times a year. Your goal is to build relationships. Start with what you can do to help them. Find out about their pain points. Are you someone who can help them solve those problems? Wait to ask for referrals until you’ve referred business to them. Once you have and that referral becomes a client, then you can let them know what an ideal referral is for you.

Make relationship nurturing and outreach a daily activity. It will pay dividends over time. Schedule time every day on your calendar. Just don’t expect immediate results. Patience is a virtue.

Ideas for outreach


  • Share design trends.
  • Offer to help with client walk-throughs if you’re an expert at remodeling design.
  • Provide gift certificates to buyers for design time.
  • Send gifts for referrals – be sure to check to see if they are limited to gifts under $25.
  • Take them to lunch or drinks – again find out the policies for their firm.
  • Stay in touch with cards and handwritten notes.
  • Highlight their firm on your blog or social media as a top realtor in your area.

Builders & Contractors

  • Share design trends.
  • Explain how you can help them by being the one who keeps the decision process on task. Many builders don’t enjoy the herding aspect of dealing with their buyers’ indecisiveness.
  • Some builders will build in your fees to their process because they understand the value of using a designer.
  • Share your process document – how you manage the process to keep their clients on task.
  • Highlight their firm on your blog or social media as a top builder or contractor in your area.


  • If an architect doesn’t offer in-house design services, they’re a great prospect for a partnership.
  • Be sure you share your process with them and how you partner with them without stepping on their toes or egos.
  • Share resources that would be helpful.
  • Send referrals.
  • Send gifts and handwritten notes.
  • Send helpful books or articles.
  • Give credit for their architecture on your website.
  • Highlight their firm on your blog or social media as a top architect in your area.

Relationship building will ultimately be one of the best sources of continuous referrals. Just expect it to take two to three years to see the full benefit of this marketing strategy. It’s worth it!

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