Updated: Jul 19
"So, it's the 21st century, technology is all around us but my company doesn't have any gadgets for us designers to help wow clients. Is there anything out there that would make the process easier?"
Don't feel bad, a lot of Design companies are still getting on the technology bandwagon and it's only a matter of time until Silicon Valley catches up to the window covering world.
There ARE in fact great tools you can use to make your job easier. Here is our list of the top 10 MUST have technology tools integrated in your business to take it to the next level.
CRM - Customer Relations Management software: Your single most important investment in technology in order to scale your business upwards and better service your clients. Investing in a CRM is a critical milestone from an impressive $500,000 home based business to achieving a millionaire dollar level and growing your team. Without the ability to track your client's jobs, keep all important customer information together, and run reports to repeat successful patterns, you NEED a CRM. Want to know about the $$$ - Expect an investment between $25/month per user to $75/month per user plus approx. $5-25,000 in setup costs.
Scheduling system: As the world of technology develops, and you grow to the next stage of adding team members, the first thing you need to delegate is automating your scheduling system. Whether you bring on a new assistant to help you schedule or integrate an online shareable appointment calendar for your clients to choose when they meet with you, getting a strong scheduling system down is one of the biggest time savers you can implement quickly. Want to know about the $$$ - Expect an investment between $0/month for basic (non-logistic saavy) scheduling to comprehensive logistic and auto tracking softwares to $85/month per user plus approx. $1,000-$5,000 in setup costs.
Accounting system: Assuming you've already been using some sort of software to track your invoices and payables, reaching million dollar status is time to upgrade your Accounting software features. Once your team grows, you'll have other's dipping their toes in the finances. By upgrading your accounting system you can add layers of login security, track profit margins, and automate payments to keep your financials healthy and out of the red. Want to know about the $$$ of an upgrade - Expect an investment between $5/month for basic accounting reporting to a complete revamp upwards of $100,000.
A Dynamic Email software: One of the first things you probably did besides setup your website was add an email address since today we use it so frequently to confirm and connect with people. As you grow, make sure your email system is setup to add new employees easily with your unique domain (& switch out your gmail addresses), can alert you to important emails, or even sync with your scheduling and CRM systems. Want to know about the $$$ - Expect an investment between $12/month per user (plus $5-$10k + setup fees) for comprehensive Microsoft packages to boutique softwares upwards of $40/month per user.
A Website or Personal Profile Page: Everyone needs one today. Everyone. It's probably the first thing you did. But when you reach a level when you add new designers to a team - you have to start making sure their plate is full and making a digital introduction for client's trying to google a sneak peak at who's coming out. Additionally, a website with strong SEO analytics will be a bulletin board attracting visitors in the market for you on Google. It's important to invest in a marketing firm that will work for you to increase your online presence and lead generation. They will pay for themselves. Want to know about the $$$ - Expect an investment between $250/year for a family friend to setup the basics and have you edit up to $200,000+ for a full service marketing firm.
Mass Marketing Platform: I am a convert to marketing tools that help me save time. Companies like Constant Contact and Hootsuite can automate your email blasts and social content to save you time from having to write for hours daily. These also help you keep off the "blast list" from recipients thinking it might be spam - when you know they'd be interested in your deal. Want to know about the $$$ - Expect an investment between $0 to $30/month.
Invest in a Tablet with Time Saving Aps! Technology for your internal operations is just as important as what your client see's in their home or your showroom. Clients are still impressed with using gadget in their home to pull up examples at your finger tips. Manufacturers now have come out with great quoting tools, picture galleries, and video examples of their products to get quick buy in from your clients. You can even take payment and sign contracts in seconds to make your time in the home efficient. Want to know about the $$$ - Expect an investment between $500 to $900 per person.
A Social Presence: Allows you to see what your client's are into, scope out their community, and keep you engaged with them long after a sale is complete. Great personal connection sites include: Facebook - to tag your client's on their completed installation pictures, Instagram - for sharing your favorite fabric and wallpaper samples, LinkedIn - for connecting with neighborhood builders, designers, and other referral sources, Houzz - for posting your latest completed projects, Yelp - for your raving fans to share their favorite moments of working with you, and Angie's List - to stay connected to your servicing your community. Want to know about the $$$ - With the exception of "ads" and "boosts" signing up to simply have a presence and post is FREE!
Sketching Tool: A designer cannot be complete without her ability to sketch a beautifully simple design upon client's request. Aps and computer programs make it easy now to recreate a beautiful rendering to show the client EXACTLY what their room will look like. Manufacturers even have come out with digital programs to show off their products with the right size and proportion to wow your client. Want to know about the $$$ - Your investment can range from FREE web links from your manufacturer or mere dollars for aps to full interior design features of $45+/month.
Quoting Tool: Finally our wishes have come true with new softwares on the market to quote window coverings with automated updates from the manufacturers. Gone are the days with having to lug in the big reference guide that intimidates clients, and having to spend 3-5 days tracking down the details of the price just to delay the client in making a decision even more! Want to know about the $$$ - Your investment can range from $20/month per user softwares and aps to a fully customized solution for upwards of $150,000+!
You eat an elephant one bite at a time, so start in one place, and keep adding as you are selling. What's just as important as implementing automated softwares to save you time is pre-planning into your budget to make the necessary upgrades and tech advancements your business needs from year to year. We recommend you put aside a good $50,000-$100,000 a year (in your first 5 years) to actively improve your technology to be ahead of the curve, and jumpstart your productivity.