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Industry: From Blogging to VOCs

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, one of the top interior design podcasts, Nick chats with Adam Japko from Esteem Media and Phyllis Harbinger jumps in with some business tips on turning leads into paying customers.

Wine and Design with Adam Japko

Adam Japko, a founding member of Esteem Media, always surrounds himself with good wine and good people. With Esteem Media, Adam creates connections amongst design professionals and educates this community on marketing themselves. He’s heavily involved with putting on the Design Bloggers Conference and an additional resulting event, Design and Wine Italy 2016.

Adam received great feedback from the first Wine and Design Tour was able to learn a ton from his involvement in planning the trip. In addition, Adam was able to marry his two passions: the personalities of design professionals and discovering new wines. Overall, around thirty design individuals from across the US set off for a week from Venice to Verona. Adam is excited to announce another Wine and Design trip coming up in May of 2017.

Adam’s High Point Blog Tour and Design Bloggers Conference

Serendipitously, Adam had reached out to his High Point relationships and is now leading a blog tour where he recruits ten bloggers to spend two days visiting around fifteen sponsors and vendors. The bloggers are paid and create quality content about the tour and vendors.

2017 is the seventh year for the Design Bloggers Conference. This time, it is located in Los Angeles, California in March. Adam mentioned that you don’t have to be a designer to go. Topics covered include content marketing, mobile phone photography, search, and even podcasting (to be presented by The Chaise Lounge’s Nick May!). Design Bloggers Conference is an opportunity to learn about these topics in addition to the priceless networking that happens at events like this.

How Fran DuCharme from Benjamin Moore works with Designers and Architects

Since she was a young child, Fran has had a passion for color. She graduated from a two year design program and has worked in the industry for almost 30 years since. As a rep for Benjamin Moore, Fran is a resource for designers and architects. She provides them access to material and the largest and most complete color palette.

Fran also supports the specification of products and provides education which can include events, webinars, introducing new  products and CEUs. She mentioned that the most popular CEUs currently are 1. How color perception changes as you age, and 2. Creating healthy environments with new technologies.

A Deep Dive into Paint with Fran

In today’s marketplace, you can get any color anywhere. Any brand will match any competitor’s color. However, each brand has their own formulas and colorants, so matches may never be exact. Color is not the only factor in choosing paint.

DIfferent kinds of paints, beyond sheen, display different qualities and levels of serviceability. There are different formulations for different characteristics. For example, all paint is scrubbable, but not all is stain resistant (like, Ben vs Aura). Fran prefers Aura paint in a matte due to the luxurious finish, and that it covers in two coats.

What are VOCs

VOCs are volatile organic compounds that are carbon based and evaporate into the air. In the past, the concern was around these compounds affecting the ozone layer, but today concern is that VOCs in interior environments are higher, which can affect your lungs, breathing, asthma, and allergies. Paint companies, including Benjamin Moore are creating products with zero VOCs to address this concern.

Utilize your Rep to Problem Solve for your Clients

There is a great variety of products available within the industry. Benjamin Moore has grown from one product in nine colors to multiple products in thousands of colors. Specific products to meet specific needs. In the past, many thought that you needed to use semi-gloss only in bathrooms to reduce mold, but now there are specific bathroom products to resist mold and mildew, like hydrophobic paint in a matte finish.

The best way to get in touch is through the Benjamin Moore website’s architect and designer locator where you can put in a request for your rep to contact you.

Fran recommends connecting with your rep before you need them to start to build a strong working relationship.

Phyllis on Turning Prospects into Clients

Phyllis was able to join Nick in person at the Porcelanosa building in the Flatiron District in New York. She began with a recommendation around multiple touch points between a designer and prospect. Rather than a simple, impersonal email or phone call, she suggested meeting in person (when possible) or a Skype call to understand the prospect’s needs and even deliver a scope of work or review a proposal. This allows a designer to read body language and clearly explain away any confusion.

Phyllis also suggested to not hold back during consultations and be specific in proposals so that clients know what they are paying for, including and handling or shipping fees. This prevents any surprises later. Phyllis charges a design fee the moves forward with a percentage on product purchased. It is important to be upfront with clients on how you charge too.

Phyllis the referred to the paint schedule available in her book that can help ease the process. Everyone will be on the same page with what is happening in each room, colors, sheen, type of paint, etc. While anecdotal stories are helpful for clients to understand what may happen or pop up, it is also important to ask about their budget before accepting a project.

Its also a good idea to have all parties sign the agreement and initial each page. Take business classes if this is not your strong suit, and even hire a bookkeeper if you need to. Put Phyllis’s recommendations into action to set yourself up for success!

If you would like to connect with Phyllis:

Wrap Up

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com.  Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business. See ya!


About the Author
Host of The Chaise Lounge and The Business Brush Podcast, owner of Walls by Design, and Creative Director for iMayMedia LLC.

One comment on “102 – Industry: From Blogging to VOCs

  1. Andrew Pennington says:

    Great interview with Phyllis Harbinger, she makes great sense and passes on valuable business experience to shore up those contract details when drafting the scope of work formalities. Nice job, thoroughly educational. Thanks Phyllis!

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