At your first meeting with new clients and as the fact-finding process begins, keep in mind the importance of the Before and After Case Study for your SEO and local marketing programs.
After you’ve worked with the Before And After Questionnaire a few times, you’ll find that the information you need becomes second nature. Until you get comfortable with the process, use this Questionnaire as a guide so that important details don’t get forgotten or over-looked.
1. The Challenge
What are the homeowners’ top priorities? What are the things they want to correct in their existing kitchen? What are they passionate about? What are their “must-haves”?
This list will help you focus and get answers to the essential questions.
- New look (Could it be that things related to a “new look” present a bigger challenge than construction? If true, be sure to include details.)
- Space for multiple cooks
- Space for family activities
- Upgraded / more / larger appliances
- New or additional pantry storage, like a butler’s pantry or pull-out pantry.
- Built-ins for, among other things, counter-top appliances, lift-up for mixer, silverware and utensil drawer storage, tray and baking sheet storage, trash and recycling centers, corner storage solutions, drawer storage for plates, spice storage in drawers and in cabinets
- Open floor plan, i.e., open up kitchen to existing living areas
- Improved kitchen work triangle
- More countertop space / upgraded countertop material
- Updated sink / additional prep sink
- New door to outside / new windows
- Improved lighting / LED lighting / decorative lighting / task lighting / display lighting
- New floors
- Glass front cabinets for display
- New backsplash
- New wall color, window treatments
- Open display shelving
- Soft close doors and drawers
- Removal of unwanted elements, like a fireplace, pantry or door
2. Take "Before" Pictures
Take lots of pictures. You can always delete ones you don't need or want, but once demolition starts, there are no more "Befores".
When you visit the clients’ home for your initial assessment, take as many photos as you can. Not only will they help you remember details when you sit down to design, they are worth gold in the Before and After Case Study.
Everyone likes to see the awful “Befores” so be sure to capture the good, the bad and the ugly (especially the ugly).
At this stage, photos taken with your phone or digital camera are acceptable. Also acceptable is showing the messy space, if it is messy. Just make sure you can see the Spanish-styled cabinets, stained sink and dated appliances, the wall that’s getting removed, the inaccessible pantry that’s getting upgraded.
3. The Challenges
Explain your thought process while you were developing the solution, how your clients liked your initial design, how their input impacted the ultimate outcome, how you got through the challenges.
Think back: what created a design challenge, or engineering / construction challenge?
- Was the budget sufficient to meet the clients’ “want” list?
- Did they want too many appliances for the existing space?
- What compromises occurred to meet their most important goals?
- Was it difficult to fit seating or table size needs?
- If you removed and/or added pantry closets and replaced with cabinets, explain and show benefit
- Did you encounter difficulties designing a unique piece like a hood, island, furniture element or banquette?
- What became less / more important as you worked through the design?
- Did removing or moving or adding a wall create a permit or inspection expense, project extension, or engineering challenge?
4. The Solution
This is where you talk about how you saved the day, to tell how you “relieved the clients’ pain.”
- Recap briefly how you got through the Goals and Challenges stages
- Talk about the idea exchange between you and the clients and how that interaction ultimately created the kitchen
- If you are having trouble remembering, re-create the discussion about alternatives for the project. Maybe they wanted a certain design element when you first met, but you changed their perspective once they saw your proposed design
- Perhaps the clients insisted on something you didn’t think was smart or even possible, but after deliberation, you came up with a solution or compromise
- Tell about a particularly challenging problem you encountered and how you solved it
5. After / Wrap Up
- “After” photos are your money shots. Remember that we’re in the fashion business, and our business is totally visual. People have to be able to see how you solved the problem outlined above and how beautiful the results are.
- Your “After” photos should be shot professionally if at all possible. Houzz.com has a list of professional photographers in all areas of the country who are willing to shoot your jobs for a reasonable fee. Make sure you get the rights to use these photos without having to pay more.
- Limit styling props so the beauty of the floors, cabinets and countertops shines through. Use the homeowners’ decorative items if they are available. Some fresh fruit, wine and wine glasses, cake or cookies on a pretty plate – keep it simple. No paper towels on the counters. No sponges and dish soap in the sink. No workers’ tools visible. No jackets hanging on the back of chairs. Those types of things in the photos detract from the final objective of showing the fabulous finished kitchen.
- Have cabinets opened and built-in accessories pulled out so they can be seen.
- Call-outs on the pictures add emphasis. Example: “Here’s where the unused laundry chute was located. We took it out and replaced with pull-out pantry.” Give manufacturer and model numbers of appliances.
Take it from the experts: people are going to ask you about the smallest details shown in your photos: “Where did you buy the canister set on the counter?” “Where can I get the bar stools?” “Where did you get the dish towels hanging on the stove?” “What color are the walls painted?” Be prepared. You think readers will only care about the cabinets and appliances, but not so. If you worked with an Interior Designer on the project, you can hand off these types of questions to him or her.
- Talk about results. How the kitchen not only looks good, but improved the clients’ entertaining style or provided more countertop seating for children’s homework or whatever their goals might have been.
- This is the ideal place for a testimonial from the happy homeowners.
- Include any lessons you learned during this process.
- Many home style magazines include “Before and After” Case Studies. Houzz.com devotes an entire section to Before and Afters. Take a look at some of these to see the kinds of information that gets included. Remember, however, that the published articles have been edited to fit a specific size; your Case Studies will include much more information. But you can get an idea of what consumers want to know and how their lives can be improved with a new kitchen – designed by you, of course.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
How are you going to use the completed Case Study -- print, email, or website? If you are printing it as a stand-alone piece or as an e-mailer, you will need to include information about your business that you won’t need if you’re only using it on your website.
Important: If your manufacturer/supplier requires mention or their logo for you to receive co-op credits, make sure this is included.
If you are optimizing photos with keywords for SEO, name your photos using the keywords.
What to Include when Submitting for Publication
- County/Town/City/State where project was completed.
- Your NAP (name, address, phone number), website and any other information you want included.
- If you have won any awards, don’t be shy -- here’s your chance to shine.
- Community or industry affiliations, like NKBA
- Social media accounts – Face Book, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.
- The names and contact information for any members of the trade who also worked on the project, like a contractor, interior designer or architect.
- Manufacturer and model numbers of appliances, finish colors of cabinets, counter top material, decorative lighting, hardware finishes, etc. to be used as call-outs. Call-outs are the caption circles, bubbles, or arrows above photos. Think of these as the project highlights.
The Before and After Case Study can tell a powerful story that shows off your talents and expertise. If you think about it as putting “the end at the beginning,” you can structure your information gathering and notes about the design process as you progress through it. And reap the benefits when homeowners see what you have done for others and what you can do for them.