Top Marketing Tools for Design Firms

by Autumn McGarr

RICKI, The Kitchen Think Tank, recently released a report on the top five marketing tools used by designers and dealers in the kitchen and bath industry. The initial survey done by the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence included a list of 26 tools, and the top five selected were based on perceived effectiveness. The top five tools used, in order of most used to least used, included referrals/word of mouth, website, Facebook, Houzz and print advertisements.

However, it’s one thing to have a top marketing tools list, and entirely another to know what to do with it. Each platform creates a launch pad and should be augmented to assure the greatest visibility to your target audience. For that reason, this month I’ve taken the top five tools and broken out additional suggestions to maximize each vehicle, ensuring optimum consumer interest and sales conversions.   

Referrals/Word of Mouth

At 73%, word of mouth referrals was deemed the number one marketing tool used across all segments of designers and dealers. Word of mouth creates a buzz and is a free form of advertising activated by the customer’s experience. By impressing one person, that person spreads the words to friends and they tell their friends and so on. According to, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family are more compelling than other advertising.

Enhancing referrals

  • Tie in email marketing to your client base and offer a reward, gift or discount for referring a friend. Additionally, ensure all interaction with customers asks for an email address to keep the customer up to date on current products and special offers.
  • Ask for customers to review your company on Google+, Facebook and Houzz. Entice more reviews by offering a gift or a chance to win a gift.
  • Take written referrals and craft them into social media posts. For an even greater impact, include a photo of the client or project.


Not surprisingly, 68% of designers and dealers use their website as a primary vehicle to market their work. A website is the perfect place for a designer and/or dealer to showcase his or her work. An attractive website design including a portfolio of professional photography of your firm’s projects is a great way for consumers to make a connection to your work.

Enhancing websites

  • An effective SEO strategy should be implemented to ensure a dealer’s website is found by consumers searching the web.
  • Make certain your current website is responsive and automatically adjusts to sizing for mobile phones and iPads. Mobile traffic accounts for a minimum of 30% of overall traffic. A slow site will be ignored over a faster loading website.
  • Be certain your website is secured with a HTTPS protocol to assure ongoing visibility online. Websites with a standard HTTP URL will lose favor over a secure HTTPS website. Your webmaster can seamlessly implement a secure site for you.   


Facebook is used by 50% of designers and dealers to promote their work. We predict that this percentage will increase over the years, as younger generations who use social media more often will begin purchasing their own homes. Facebook is also a great avenue for cheap advertising that reaches thousands of users. Demographics can be specifically chosen to target households that make a certain income, have interest in kitchen and bath remodeling and more.

Enhancing Facebook

  • By defining your audience, setting attainable goals and mixing up your content regularly, you can put Facebook to work for you without breaking the bank. Conversely, by utilizing the tools that Facebook offers, you don’t need to spend every waking moment on it to keep your page up to date. Facebook also taps into a two billion user market! No matter your industry or market space, you’re sure to find your clientele here. 
  • What unfortunately tends to happen with those using Facebook is that businesses start out strong with a digital marketing push that they oversee on their own, thinking it is the most cost-effective method to market their brand. That may be true and effective to a degree, but what often happens is, over time, the attention to detail gets lost, and the oversight to maintain and push the brand can be diluted. This situation presents itself through inconsistent posts, incorrect or missing partner tags, improper audience designation, etc. There’s nothing more cringe worthy to a digital marketing person than to scroll down Instagram (a subsidiary of Facebook) and see a designer posting content with hashtags that have incorrect characters. This ultimately creates failed execution and the attempt to market themselves properly is unsuccessful. The result is the designer/dealer/business just spent a year throwing money into something that was not properly assessed and executed. This prevents people from trusting a process that could make them exponentially grow.


Falling close behind Facebook, Houzz is used by 49% of designers and dealers to market their businesses. This percentage is also likely to increase, as Houzz continues to offer more opportunities for professionals to promote their projects. Opportunities include both free and paid features.

Enhancing Houzz

  • Ideabooks chock full of professional photography of your work will draw homeowners to your business page. Be certain to “tag” and provide as much detail about the space as possible. To increase the visibility of your project page in search results, include project budgets, location and products used.

Print Ads

Some 38% of kitchen and bath professionals use print advertising to market their businesses. Professionals associated with a showroom are far more likely to use print advertising than independent designers or those with design/build firms.

Enhancing print advertising

  • Review the media calendar of the publication to ensure your advertisements are placed in issues that will garner the most attention.
  • Submit projects for editorial consideration in kind. Choose only your best work to submit.


Marketing is very complex and can become overwhelming for one person to maintain, which is the reason many firms are hiring marketing agencies. There are a lot of moving parts that all need to work cohesively to get the best result. Between the advantages of the many platforms listed, your brand vision, your monthly/yearly spend and the consistency of content, you’ll need to plan your strategy carefully.

Develop your marketing arm to become a fully functional extension of your business. As the millennial population grows into adulthood, buying homes, running businesses and more, you will see that the implementation of these practices will pay huge dividends over the next three to five years when used effectively. Remember, marketing is not an expense; it’s an investment to ensure your company stands out from the competition. ▪

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