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Fred Berns

92 – Industry: Social media, choosing an Interior Design program and finding success

This week we focus on our Industry, which means Nick is joined by Phyllis Harbinger a few others that bring great value to you the interior designer.  On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Holly Mattson from CIDA on interior design program accreditation, Fred Berns shares tips on sales and marketing in the design industry, and Phyllis Harbinger jumps in with some social media strategy.

Interior Design Accreditation with Holly Mattson (0:20)Interior design accredidation

Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Holly Mattson is the Executive Director of CIDA, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation. With 186 currently accredited programs in the US, Canada, and abroad, CIDA sets standards for quality assurance in professional level interior design programs. In her position, Holly works with the programs on an administrative level, where volunteers conduct evaluations of the programs, which include student interviews to ensure standards are being met.
Acquiring accreditation is voluntary and is obtained by completing an application on basic eligibility requirements and complying partially or completely with 16 specific standards. These standards range from basic resources, like faculty and facilities, to a focus on professional content, including a minimum of a bachelor’s degree within the program and other basic education credits. Programs are reviewed every six years for re-accreditation.
While attending and graduating from an accredited program is not a necessity to become a professional in the design field, there may be an advantage. Accredited programs expose students to a rigorous process and curriculum, which can help prepare them for the professional environment. Employers may be looking for accredited programs on resumes and the level of preparation and education may better prepare student for NCIDQ, the National Council for Interior Design Qualification.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please visit accredit-id.org.  The FAQs, list of programs and contact information, online programs, and program accreditation history list may be a good place to start.

Marketing and selling yourself with Fred Berns (10:08)

Fred Berns - interior design businessNick and Fred have known each other for awhile now, going back three years. Nick had called Fred for a live event in Denver. Interestingly enough, this event turned into Nick speaking with another group of designers and business owners, which ultimately parlayed into The Chaise Lounge. Now, Nick is podcasting on a weekly basis!
Nick and Fred were able to reconnect more recently at the Interior Design Society National Conference in Dallas. Fred spoke on the Selling Methods of the Masters. As he mentioned – It’s not rocket science!
Fred has been coaching interior design professionals for quite some time. He stated that so many work so hard, but so few earn top dollar. Throughout working with his clients, there are a couple of things in common when it comes to sales and financial success:
● Designers must sell themselves. They may not be the best designers, but they must be the best self promoters.
● Many say they don’t market themselves. If you have a website and/or social media accounts, this is marketing! It’s more than an ad in a magazine.
But what if selling is not your specialty? What if you have no sales experience? How do you get better?
  1. Build your network. Make a hit list of who you need to know.
  2. Probe for pain. What are the challenges, dilemmas, and pain points of those who you need to influence? Come up with solutions for that pain. Be the caregiver.
  3. Blog, market, and produce content for social media on those pain points. Solve your clients’ problems.
The biggest mistake interior designers make in sales: Leaving money on the table. Too many clients are treated as one and done. But rather, Fred proposes:
  • Work with clients on a regular basis; be dependable.
  • Educate clients on all services they offer and all they can do.
  • Include a bio on your website, Houzz profile and other social media to spell out your capabilities.
  • “Play billiards” – Set up your next shot. Up sell, cross sell.
By increasing repeat business by 40%, you will double your income in a year! Don’t act as an “order taker” but as a problem solver – If they are changing all décor items in a room, they will likely want to paint, which will lead to drapery. Interior Designers should be design consultants who coach their clients. Turn a one time contact into a long term contract.

If you are picking up with Fred is putting down, you can find more words of wisdom on http://interiordesignbusiness.net/ where he offers personalized coaching calls to take your business to the next level. Fred also specializes in promotional bios for designers at Bio Briefing and website coaching at Website Onceover.

Social Media with Phyllis Harbinger (24:16)

Anecdotally, in the design industry there is quite an array of social media savviness from a low level of understanding to those who rock it and to those who pay others to help. Regardless of where your level of comfort lies, social media isn’t going anywhere. We need to embrace a social presence.
Phyllis mainly uses Facebook, Instagram, Wecora, and Houzz.

On Facebook, Phyllis utilizes her personal account as well as pages for DCI Studio, Harbinger Design Consulting, and even some private groups she has created or been invited to. By posting on these pages and within groups, Phyllis is able to get more visibility and attention on her content from these relevant audiences. Phyllis also mentioned that she is getting into Facebook videos more.

Phyllis also mentioned she works with Donna Cravotta from Social Sage PR. While it is absolutely acceptable to employ help with social media, it is important to remember that the content and engagement should be in your voice.


While Pinterest is a very popular social platform, Phyllis uses Wecora to connect with her clients instead. She invites clients to discussion boards to show and share thoughts back and forth. If you are interested in a promo code for Wecora, please contact The Chaise Lounge.

Phyllis uses Houzz to give prospects homework prior to meeting. She asks them to create ideabooks and reasons why they like those photos, which helps to interpret the clients’ needs and wants as well as likes and dislikes.
Overall, social media can be a reflection of who you are, personally and/or professionally. Be mindful of how you are portraying yourself.
If you would like to connect with Phyllis:
● Email: info@harbingerdesignconsulting.com
● Phone: (914) 734-1382
● Facebook:  Harbinger Design Consulting
● Instagram: DCI Studio

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!