The GVHBA Suppliers' Council (which I chair) hosted a forum this morning where we asked five interior designers and specifiers to talk about what works, what doesn't, and things they'd improve in working with their suppliers. John Friswell of the well-respected local renovation firm CCI Renovations made a great point: since marketing is something we all need to do, it's also something we can share. In the architecture, design, and construction world, many trades and many products go into a building project, and everyone needs to be able to promote their work. For suppliers, it's even more important because people can much more effectively visualize a product that's installed in a project than looking at a product in a showroom--it's all good to have an amazing faucet, but seeing what sink that faucet could pair with, and what tile you can put behind it, elevates the whole design.

You can share marketing efforts in a lot of creative ways. Here are a few we've seen:

  • Builders will often be profiled (or have a project profiled) in a magazine, particularly if a project wins an award. Writers are always looking for a good story, and if you used a particularly uncommon product, make note of the product. The supplier of the product might end up using a detail of your project to promote their product, which leads to them also recommending you as being a particularly good example of what to do with their product and someone who knows what to do with it. More work for both of you!
  • Some products just naturally go together. Cabinets and countertops. Office walls and lighting. Flooring and millwork. Doors and lock hardware. Advertising can be expensive, so why not share the space with a supplier with a complimentary product that you trust and work well with? If a half-page ad is less expensive than two quarter-page ads, buy the half-page ad together and split it. This also makes sure that your product is showing up next to the complimentary product, so you both win. This can also work great for tradeshows; we've seen two smaller suppliers share a bigger booth, which also relieves the pressure on each person running the booth. (If you've been standing for hours at a tradeshow, you know you'd do just about anything to get off your feet!)
  • Share photo shoots. How do you show off a particularly great installation? Through photos, of course. If you can share your marketing with another affiliated party, it brings the cost of photography down for everyone, and each firm gets the images they need.

We make it particularly easy to share the cost of photography with the way we structure our pricing. Ideally, you only want to have us come on site once, because that makes it easier on the owners, so the more we can pack into those on-site days, the better it works for everyone. Since each company is going to be using slightly different images, we charge a combined creative fee for all the on-site work we do, and then charge per image for usage. This saves money for each party because each party has particular needs and probably won't need all the images from a shoot, but they will likely need different images. For instance, if you're a builder and you're sharing costs with your cabinet supplier, you'll definitely be wanting a shot of the exterior, the living room, and the media room as well as the kitchen, but the kitchen supplier will want a half dozen images of the kitchen and bathroom. This also means we can edit the images a little differently: we can make sure that the images for the cabinet supplier bring out the wood grain in the cabinets, for instance, where this might be distracting in shots intended for the builders' more general use.