Recently, we shared some thoughts about defining (and redefining) your brand promise. When marketing your small business, the brand promise is an essential filter for all business decisions. And while it may seem obvious that you should make conscious and careful decisions about the interior design of your space, this is one area where many small business owners come up short despite best intentions.

Naturally, you want your space to look good. But sometimes what looks good doesn’t match up with your brand promise. And what meets the eye doesn’t always take into account more functional components of your space. Knowing what to look (and listen . . . and even sniff!) for can make a huge difference in the customer experience.

Here are six secrets for smart interior design . . .

1. Consider professional advice.
Talking to a professional designer is worth the small investment, particularly for those who are just getting started. Too many small business owners skimp on this part of the process and trust their own eye to save money. And too often it shows. In a bad way. If designing on a budget, even a half day of consultation can help a lot and point you in the right direction.

2. Ask the right questions.
How does your physical space represent your brand promise? If you promise efficiency, or quality, or cleanliness – does your space reflect that? Is the layout of your space built for comfort or for speed? Who are your target customers and what will appeal to them? (Their taste may differ entirely from yours.)

3. Focus on the not so obvious.
When it comes to interior design, it’s easy to focus solely on obvious elements such as color palettes, materials, texture, furniture and general layout. But there’s more to it than that. Smart interior design moves beyond basic layout and visual components and takes into account other sensory elements of your space.

4. Close your eyes.
Building on Secret # 3, close your eyes and ask more questions. What do your customers hear while they’re in your space? What do they smell? They’re inside, after all. Shouldn’t interior design take a holistic point of view that considers all sensory points of engagement?

5. Keep it fresh.
Interior design isn’t a onetime project. Observe how your customers interact and respond to your space and tweak as appropriate. Reviewing your space on a seasonal basis and making subtle changes can make a big impression your customers and generate valuable feedback. Budgeting for regular maintenance to deep clean, repaint or repair is always a good idea.

6. Think “interior EXPERIENCE design.”
Here comes the real secret . . . . when interior design becomes an element of your greater experience design, then you know you’re on the right track. Experience design is all about integrating the many points of engagement with your customers. When you know who you are and who you want to be, when your brand promise is rock solid and all decisions are made for reasons that support your promise, your customers will notice. Not only will they see the difference, they’ll hear it, smell it, and feel it as well.

– Submitted by Sumter Cox, Communications