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Why Thinking Long-Term Yields Higher Value Results

When building relationships with potential business partners, follow these three tips.

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This article originally appeared at our sister publication, Big Picture.

I DIDN’T REALIZE just how much has changed in the years since the global pandemic stalled the world. But when reconnecting with someone from a 2017 work project, I found things really had changed. My contact had moved, some of our mutual connections left for new careers, and a few — myself included — had babies during COVID. Minutes into our call, it became clear to me the world is very much open, IRL events are back full swing, and people are eager to reconnect or pick up where they left off.

During that 20-minute call, we discussed a substrate the company specified after guidance from myself and colleagues for a wall product prototype. At the time, my role as the company’s in-house and self-taught SME (subject matter expert), was to spearhead interior décor market development activities. For this project I was tasked with connecting the designer to a full-service PSP within our customer base who could handle printing, cutting, kitting, and drop-shipping.

In a full-circle moment, I learned the project was back on track after making headway with buyers at a major big box retailer. Since then, lots of new opportunities have popped up as consumers continue to personalize their homes with unique decor products. But for a product designer and creative new to our industry, finding a PSP who prints on that exact material, or could compete with overseas pricing, was next to impossible.

Keep in mind, the overseas printer offered a subpar alternative that removed paint after six months, a frustrating quandary for this designer, to say the least. They were still actively searching for a fulfillment partner to print on their specified substrate and pricing that still falls within fair wholesale and retail costs, with a profit.

Three lessons can be learned from this relationship — keyword, relationship — I’d like to break down that could help you build your reputation with designers, and ultimately convert to more business growth within the interiors market.

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Do Your Homework

Have you ever been in a discovery conversation with a potential business partner and you can sense by his line of questioning he did zilch to prepare and instead went immediately into his pitch?

Anyone in sales knows that doing some light research before you engage to ask a few tailored questions goes a long way. In this example, I did research early on about their brand and expressed interest and enthusiasm. Designers, like PSPs, mostly work project-to-project, so take it a step further once you’re in the discovery stage and ask detailed questions about the design process. This is a great time to explore how you might work together and educate them on the printing process, including what to expect. Anything from file preparation, color matching, to different inks and applications.

On a field visit to an A&D firm, I learned that offering smaller swatches for each job jacket not only made the contractor’s life a lot easier, but it also increased our chances of doing more business because we provided assets to their procurement teams.

Understand the Designers’ Priorities

As mentioned above, one of the challenges this particular designer faced is probably common. There’s a sea of information out there and navigating which service provider to partner with and then learning all the unbranded terminology of different materials is pretty daunting. Whether the substrate was vinyl or coated fabric, all he knew is the vinyl looked, well, cheap, and the latex printed material initially specified looked premium. Building out a print program for designers should ideally include an in-house SME and a range of substrates geared towards designer’s taste; the “good, better, best” pricing approach works here for an additional layer of offerings and flexibility.

Build a Long-Term Relationship

For project-to-project based businesses, we know that every step counts: from introductions, to the discovery, to proposal, negotiations, and through execution. However, there’s an opportunity to work with designers seeking to create their own lines. If your business has the capacity to tap into wholesale work that incorporates everything a brand needs from start to finish, you should think about how to strategically build long-term relationships with your clientele. It’ll take getting to know the ins and outs of their world, what’s driving them, how you as a business can be in better alignment and be able to churn out high quality goods that meet a product-market-fit, and pricing requirements. You never know when a one-time project could turn into a partnership.

Have you thought about tactical strategies that you and your sales team can implement in order to grow high-value clients in the decor space? If not, take the three pieces of advice I just shared and test them for yourself.

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