Efficiency v. Effectiveness; a Critical Difference for Interior Designers

Can You Love a Sloppy Business?

I once wrote an article entitled “Learning to Love a Sloppy Business.”

I pointed out that it’s an odd viewpoint from an M.B.A. and business school professor who digs down into spreadsheets on a weekly basis trying to find absolute truth in data.

But for small firms like interior design firms, the cost of pursuing perfection is way too high, which means they must learn to live with some inefficiency…but not ineffectiveness!

Which means it’s vital to understand the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.
And It’s only the latter—effectiveness—that you should care about.

Marketing is the easiest way to make this point, so let’s start there. In my “1-Day Marketing Plan” course I suggest you consider targeting a neighborhood or suburb that you know has hundreds of ideal potential ideal clients, and then owning that neighborhood just like the real estate agent who puts American flags in your yard every July 4.

You can reach that target audience a number of ways, but let’s say you’re going to purchase an excellent mailing list by zip code and net worth (easy to find) and mail them a letter or brochure.

If you were a big company, and wanted to be extremely efficient, you might do something like this:

  • Purchase the list from multiple vendors and merge/purge to get the latest addresses;
  • Run those addresses through postal software to identify deliverables
  • Mail multiple variations of the piece, perhaps with separate headlines and tracking codes
  • Track all returned mail to update changes of address in the database
  • Hire a telemarketing team to follow up (“Did you receive our brochure?”)
  • Have a call to action in their mail piece and carefully segment respondents for separate, more personal follow-on campaigns
  • Tag respondents in their CRM and enter them in a sales funnel for ongoing “drip” marketing campaigns
In just those seven bullet points, I have pointed out the need for software systems like a CRM, employees like list and database managers, and possibly even a direct sales function to do the follow up.

Not Going to Happen in a Small Firm

That level of efficiency is just not going to happen in a small firm and wouldn’t be cost justified even if you had the technical chops to pull it off.
So, what do you do? My answer is that you just mail the piece! You don’t care about the delivery rate. If 10% or even 20% don’t get delivered, no big deal, in fact, you’ll probably never know. You don’t follow up either, but you do have a call to action in your promotion and you do ask new prospects, “How did you hear about us?” Or, “Oh, did you get our brochure in the mail?” You track those results by making stick figures on a Post-it-Note, not through some complex and expensive CRM system.
At the end of either of these approaches only one thing matters—new jobs won. And if the number of new jobs is three for either approach, then they had exactly the same effectiveness, even if one would have been more efficient than the other.
At the end of the day, it’s okay to be a bit sloppy as long as it gets the job done in the lowest cost and simplest manner.

NEW - IDMBA Program

Learn about the new Interior Design MBA - one academic program to deliver the complete business education interior designers need.