uring my career as a designer I have spent more time marketing than on any other single activity. That may come as a surprise to some, but stop and think about it for a moment. No matter what your specialty or area of practice, connecting with people—whether clients, architects or other designers—is the best way to be chosen for their project. That is a form of marketing. I have a passion for connecting with people and understanding their needs, and have always taken pleasure in being part of a talented team.Making connections is just one piece of a strategy to establish your personal brand. In order to make yourself stand out in a field of competitors for interior design services, you must properly position yourself in the marketplace. Assess your own strengths and weaknesses, and determine what you can deliver better than any one else in your market or area of expertise. Compose a statement that expresses your unique abilities and the value you bring to clients and other members of the team. This value statement should be so concise and clear that you can express it to someone during an elevator ride of a few floors. Be creative in how you let others know about you. Creative marketing is much harder to track and sometimes takes years to pay off, but it does—in spades. At my firm, we did a billboard campaign that created a buzz for over five years. In fact, some people still mention it 20 years later. The slogan "We make an art out of office design" was the tag line at the bottom of an oversized billboard displaying original works by various Tennessee artists that we placed at a prominent intersection. The artwork was changed quarterly, culminating with a self-portrait by Red Grooms as "Andrew Jackson, Hip Hopping over the Nashville Skyline." We printed posters of these works and gave them as favors at our holiday parties. The creativity of taking an unsightly billboard and making it art won us several contracts and tons of good will.Your efforts don't have to be larger-than-life to get noticed. Each year Roz Cama of CAMA, Inc. sends out a personalized holiday greeting card of original design. The cards always display a wonderful spark of creativity and personal warmth. Imagine being a client of hers. What a unique way of saying thanks and illustrating the design capabilities of the firm. The card enhances the firm's brand as both caring and creative—great marketing for healthcare designers. Getting involved in community service projects and putting your own stamp on your participation will quickly position you in your community. Many ASID chapters help out with Habitat for Humanity and similar groups. Besides the publicity the chapter receives, individual designers get a great opportunity to show their skills and make a difference in the lives of the occupants. This builds name recognition and reinforces your brand to a wider audience, as well as benefiting a great cause.Along similar lines, being a good corporate citizen pays dividends both personally and professionally. Today's consumers make informed choices and gravitate toward those who are responsible stewards of our resources. Many of our valued partners in industry have led the charge of supporting environmental causes and aligning themselves with efforts to protect the future of our planet. This is not just marketing hype. Doing the right thing, regardless of the chosen cause, sets you apart from others and strengthens trust. Volunteerism also opens a wealth of contacts for future business relationships. The important thing is for others to know who you are and what you can contribute. The brand you create for yourself will then extend to your work, your firm and many other spheres of your life.
ASID president Anita Baltimore has served as an ASID volunteer at both the chapter and society levels for more than 25 years. She is a founder of Interior Design Services, Inc., located in Nashville, TN. ASID can be reached at (202) 546-3480;
fax: (202) 546-3240; www.asid.org.