A couple of years ago when Houzz first launched, it was the perfect inbound marketing tool (will be discussed more later) to help designers drive leads by sharing digital content online. As Houzz grew as a direct channel between designers and potential clients, it also provided a platform to designers to be discovered by the print and web media sources previously unknown. The best part is that Houzz membership was (and still is) FREE.

What I have since discovered is that Houzz has begun selling online advertising space to users such as architects and designers. Like Zuckerberg’s social network, buyers can choose to be featured in specific geographic areas of interest to target potential clients.

In the old days, when print media was thriving, I was a firm believer in the separation of advertisement and editorial. Today, with the influx of digital content and lines between advertisement and editorial space blurred, many designers and architects are confused between which content are actual earned features versus pay-for-play advetorials (advertising + editorials).

So how much is Houzz charging to play? To cover the Bay Area, including Marin, SF and Silicon Valley, the price ranged to about $1,500 per month or about $18K per year. The cost is pretty high when Houzz is working with a reference price of ZERO (not including the time it takes for users and designers to upload content and manager brand communities).

If you are a designer or architect considering investing in any type of advertising (even on Houzz), you must ask yourself: What is the difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing?

Let me help you. Inbound marketing is organic. It’s about developing compelling content and distributing that content online so that it can be found and deliver inbound (potential clients!) traffic to your website. Outbound marketing is disruptive. It involves direct mail, competing for advertising in magazines, and more in digital advertisements on all sorts of sites.

Essentially, Houzz is a form of both. As a member, you can choose to organically attract a client with photos of your latest project or get in the face of a visitor with a large ad (that will still compete with free content).

So, why pay? A better solution would be to allocate those funds to a marketing plan that includes distribution of content from Houzz to other places online.