Interior designers, architects and garden designers, as sellers of high-value home design services, have many things in common. One of the most obvious is their customers.

The target audience of most home design firms consists, in crude terms, of two groups:

  1. people who can afford to purchase your services right now; and
  2. people who can’t, but aspire to purchase in the future.

We refer to the latter group as aspirational consumers. To them, your designer homes, interiors and gardens are aspirational services.

I'm not a Porsche customer

So how do we sell services to people who can’t afford them?

Firstly, just because something is unaffordable, that doesn’t mean it’s aspirational.

For example, I can’t afford a Porsche. But that’s OK because I don’t want one. Owning a Porsche is not an aspiration of mine. A sports car does not fix any burning need in my life, so if Porsche sends me glossy marketing, they’ll be wasting their time. I am not their customer.

The critical thing to remember about your aspirational audience is that although they can’t afford your services now, they want to be able to in the future. The desire is there.

That desire, or emotional intent, is what you use to attract them, and keep them engaged until, one day, they pick up the phone for a consultation.

Marketing using emotion

Let’s face it. No-one needs an £80k garden makeover like the one above. But many people would love to have one. To target those people, one of the things you can do is to tell the stories of your customers who were once in a similar position to them.

Telling your customers stories helps those people in the ‘can’t afford it yet’ category feel like their aspiration is achievable.

In basic terms, what you need to get across to them is this. “Our client used to be like you, but now their lives are better after we helped them by designing and installing their new kitchen/bathroom/extension.”

Storytelling helps to sell emotion.

The most important thing about telling stories in your business is that the hero of the story is always your client.

You are never the hero. Your role in any story is that of a guide. You help the hero (your client) to achieve a solution to their problem.

In Star Wars terms, your client is Luke Skywalker, and you are Obi-Wan Kenobi.

(If you want to dive more deeply into this, read Building a StoryBrand by Donald A Miller – it’s fascinating.)

But I can’t tell stories – I’m a designer, not an author!

These stories aren’t fiction – they are the stories of the transformations that you regularly bring about to the lives of your customers.

Every project you do has a story behind it. Why did your client come to you? What was the problem you had to solve for them?

Here’s an example from the world of garden design. A client comes along – their garden slopes so steeply, they cry, that they can’t use the space at all. They have children and a dog, and none of them ever uses the garden because of the slope. What they aspire to own is a garden where they can sit in the evening sun, entertaining friends, while the children play on the lawn and the dog runs around safely.

They are the hero of this story, and that’s their problem. You are a helpful guide who can provide them with a solution – an elegant, terraced, landscaped garden with lawns, play space and seating areas. You’ve extended their living space and improved their quality of life.

This is the bare bones of an aspirational story.

Every time you install a kitchen or design a barn conversion, there will be a similar story of ‘client problem meets our solution’.

By telling these stories as case studies, articles and client testimonials, you tap into the emotional needs of your aspirational audience. They relate to the same problems, and can now clearly picture that you are the company to help them.

Before and after shots
Before and after shots

Illustrating the story the right way

The most powerful way to bring transformation stories to life is with before and after photos. And this is a problem I see with many design company websites. They only show the after shots. That’s only telling half the story.

It’s like telling the punchline of a joke without the build-up.

There is very little emotion in a photograph of a newly installed bathroom, kitchen or garden. Yes, it shows off your standard of finish, style, design and choice of materials. But you see similar photographs everywhere.

If you are not an expert (i.e. you’re just a customer), a lot of the technical detail in a photo like this passes you by. It’s what’s called the curse of knowledge – you (the designer) know everything about what went into an installation. You naturally assume that it’s evident from the photos.

But to the customer, it is not.

What this sort of photography hides is the back-story behind your design. And the back-story is where the emotional hooks are.

If you can’t write stories, get your clients to do it.

Client testimonials, written in their own words, are one of the most powerful ways to tell a transformation story. Clients will talk in-depth about why they came to you, and about how happy they are with your solution to their problem.

But my customers are not interested in stories.

That’s not true. Customers are interested in many things but, most of all, they are interested in themselves.

You might think they want to hear all about your years of experience and the latest technical innovations. But what gets their undivided attention is their problems and finding solutions to their problems.

For aspirational customers, their problem is they want to have a better life in some way. What you want them to do is see that you and your service can provide it for them.

So, show them, and tell them how you can make their lives better.

If you’d like help with that, get in touch below.

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