The Things I Learned About Creating a Niche in Interior Design

A Well-Designed Business® podcast is now a year old with over 150 episodes. Having conducted all of those interviews, I now have the benefit of recognizing certain trends and patterns that have emerged in the business of design. One of the most widely discussed and mentioned trends on the podcast is the use of niches to grow your business and increase profits. Many of my guests have achieved success by identifying a particular client, need, philosophy or interest to serve as the core of their business, as opposed to being all things to all people.

So let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is a niche? BusinessDictionary.com defines it as: “A small but profitable segment of a market suitable for focused attention by a marketer. Market niches do not exist by themselves, but are created by identifying needs or wants that are not being addressed by competitors, and by offering products (or services) that satisfy them.”

Why Create an Interior Design Niche?

In today’s business world, the saying “go big or go home” is often touted as the key to success. For many design businesses, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, however, going big can translate into increased competition and less visibility. Overcoming these obstacles can take significant investments of time and money with varying degrees of success. Scaling down your marketing efforts to a specific segment of the interior design business can eliminate excessive competition and assist you in standing out from the crowd.

Not convinced yet? Here are a few other reasons why you should consider a niche:

  • By focusing your efforts and your business on a smaller component of the industry you will increase your profits.
  • With a specific potential client in mind, you can be more specific with your marketing efforts and make the most of limited resources.
  • The smaller focus creates clarity for yourself, your staff and your potential clients – it can sharpen your messaging.
  • Establishing a niche market for yourself sets you apart from other businesses in your area.
  • You can raise your fees because you have expert status in your niche and you have separated yourself from your competition.
  • Fewer objections to price because you are the “go to” business for this product and service.
  • Easier to establish brand awareness for your company.
  • Once you have done a good job and earned your customer’s trust, it is easier to market other services to them outside of the initial niche.

Cheryl Janis was one of our podcast guests in Episode No. 41 who spoke about the benefits of a niche:

“You can charge more. That is another benefit of being a specialist. It definitely sets you apart from other interior designers if you specialize in something. You are the expert in that.”

Interior Design Niches 101: Where Do You Start?

If you’re ready to consider a niche for your business, the first step is to choose one. The good news is that your niche can revolve around almost anything that narrows down your potential client’s interests – such as a specific service, specialty, location, price point, age group or even a client’s personal philosophy like feng shui, free-trade or eco-friendly design.

Still not sure? These questions may help you uncover your niche.

1. What is your passion? What interests do you have? If you love history and storytelling, you already have a great foundation for connecting with owners of historic homes. You can even expand that love of history and develop a preservation specialty.

Niche Tip: Develop a list of 10 interests and passion areas. Focus on whatever comes to you and don’t over think them. Once you have your list, review and prioritize them. You may be surprised to see what rises to the top.

2. What skills and experience do you have that your competitors may not? Or what do you do that doesn’t feel like work? If you love organization, then you may be able to provide a project management component to your design services that others cannot.

3. What needs are not being met in your industry? What problems can you solve? Are there certain groups whose concerns are not being addressed? If you’ve noticed that empty-nesters get far less attention than first-time home buyers, that could be a perfect opportunity – especially if you’ve already sent your kids off to college. You now have keen insight into your ideal client’s mindset and needs at this new stage of their lives.

4. What is your competition not doing, or not doing well? If your competitors are horrible at customer service, make customer service your top priority in all customer relationships.

Katie Deedy described her passion for history and storytelling in Episode No. 77 and how it helped inform her design niche:

“What I did with the wallpaper at that point is I took my love of narrative which was infused with the illustrations I had been doing, and I incorporated it into my pattern making and wallpapers.”

Examples of Niches

For interior design professionals:

  • Boutique specialty health care
  • home staging
  • new build market
  • kitchen design
  • small space design

For window treatment professionals:

  • To the trade window treatments
  • Motorization of blinds and shades
  • Specialization in product lines like drapes, shutters or awnings

Other types of niches can be based on:

  • Blog writing or Podcasting
  • Hosting workshops at your library, PTA or in your own showroom
  • Writing e-books on various subjects related to your expertise

Interior Design Niches 202: How Do You Launch Your Niche?

Now that you have identified your design business’ niche, it’s time to learn everything there is to know about it — truly become the expert on the topic. If you want to target 50 and above communities, you need to research every aspect of those communities including their needs, wants and desires. Conduct thorough research and interview everyone from those who build them to those who live and maintain them.

Learning everything you can about your niche, will help you to reorient your business and marketing tactics including elements like your website, social media, blog or podcast topics, where you advertise and how you advertise your services.

Taylor Spellman described this process perfectly in Episode No. 106:

“My competitive advantage is that I will be catering to men, and be the only interior design firm that is exclusively for bachelors. So therefore I immediately know, to some degree, who I can target and whether that was going into male only spas, barbershops, gyms, various places like that, where you know my demographic is coming in every day and whether it is leaving a pamphlet or leaving information and literature out… that was very helpful and did wonders.”

You can always test out your niche before committing fully. If you’re not ready to overhaul your entire website, start with a landing page and see how much traffic it drives. Offering an e-book on your website is also a great option. If no one signs up for your free e-book on the essentials of home office design for dog owners who love green, maybe your niche is too specific or maybe it’s just not the best option for your business.

Once your niche is rolled out, don’t forget to do the following:

  • Feature the information about your knowledge and passion for the niche on your website.
  • Talk about the credentials that back up your expert status in your niche on your about you page. Fred Berns, a successful business coach for interior designers and window treatment professionals, advises us to say: “You are the areas only window treatment professional who has Lutron certification and is versed in all home automation technology.” Another example: “You are the only area interior designer who has completed the SLS Academy’s Real Estate Staging Professional Certification Training Program on Home Staging for Interior Designers.
  • Develop a marketing plan that features your niche and why you are qualified. This could include a blog post series, an email newsletter campaign, direct mail pieces, community events, Facebook ads or Instagram posts that communicates or demonstrates your talents in the niche.

Looking for Even More Tips and Advice?

I’ve had some really great conversations with my podcast guests on the topic of niches within the interior design industry. Many of my guests are living proof that the right niche can catapult you to success and increased profits. As Nancy Ganzekaufer reminded us in Episode No. 15: “Niche is Rich”.

If you’re looking for examples of a successful niche or need inspiration for creating your own niche, check out our podcast playlist:

10: Denise McGaha – Deadline Driven Design

41: Cheryl Janis: Create Clarity for Your Interior Design Firm and Watch Your Profits Grow

58: Maria Killam: Color-When You Can Own It As An Expertise, You Can Charge Higher Fees

77: Katie Deedy- Founder of Grow House Grow- Inspiration, Guts, and Hard Work in Creating a Business

82: Deborah Rosenberg – Tailoring Your Interior Design Firm to Your Core Beliefs

106: Taylor Spellman- An Inside Look into the Career of Bravo TV’s Co-Host of “Yours, Mine or Ours”

132: Power Talk Friday- Cathi Hargaden-Feng Shui Influences Your Personal & Business Success

148: Michelle Wiebe of Studio M: How To Break Into The New Construction Custom Luxury Design Niche

157: Charmaine Wynter – How to Niche in Small Space Design

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