Working with clients
As a freelancer Marketing Designer, I had the chance to work with a very big variety of different types of clients, whether it was a one-person business such as private lawyers, real estate agents and a construction engineers, small companies with 10 to 50 employees and all the way to major companies like educational institutes and pharmaceutical companies.
They all had all kinds of different projects. Some needed a new website, some needed a logo, a whole branding and marketing strategy. I’ve noticed that the questions I had to ask them were pretty much the same and my job becomes much easier, the more I follow this process of asking the right questions. I wanted to share this process and the questions, I ask every client, whether it’s a small business owner or a big company.
I know it sounds funny but before I even meet the client, the first thing I do is homework and when I say homework I mean research. What do they do? Do they have competition? (They better have…) what is their competitors’ strategy? what is their social activity and what is their general look and feel?
The first talk with a client, whether he approached me or I approached him, is an Interview. I get to know him and he gets to know me. Who is he, what has he done in his life? I know it sounds like a waste of time for a lot of people who like to get straight to the point, but I have learned that this little “chitchat” makes you really understand a person, get to know him and his taste and find out what he would or would not like to do for his business.
Step two is an interview for its business: “what is your business? Who are your clients? What is the main problem your business can solve for them?” Even if we know the answers after our little research it’s highly important to ask them these questions because, whatever we think we learned and already know, the business owner probably knows better especially if he dedicated his life to it. Also, he (the client) shows you his perspective, so you get to know what he thinks and how he evaluates himself and his business.
Whether a client wants a Facebook page or website or even a YouTube channel, When I meet my new client in the first time, the first question I ask him is: “what is the main goal of the project?”
Obviously, there’s a big difference between the website that is trying to get clients on the phone and the website showing the address on a map for a local business. Usually, The bigger the business, there is a very precise strategy for whatever you need to design for them. In this case, you’ll probably be guided through your design, according to the companies strategies and goals.
The smaller the business, (one-person-show in particular), the questions needed to be asked are going to be much deeper. This is where it’s getting interesting. You see, small business owners don’t have a marketing plan, social media specialist or an advertising strategist. A business owner might have heard from a friend that he needs to be on Snapchat because this is the next thing, but this friend has forgotten to mention that the average age of Snapchat users is between 18 to 24, so if you’re a chiropractor and you’re targeting a middle-aged man with back problems, Snapchat might not be the best solution for you. That is why we need to guide our client with the right questions to the right answers to get the best results for him.
Once, I was asked to design a Facebook page for a fast-food restaurant. The client said that he “heard” that he needs a Facebook page, so he approaches me and said: “I need a Facebook page for my restaurant.” I said: “Great! do you have a long-term strategy for Facebook?” He said: “No… I just want a Facebook page…” “Do you have anyone to manage your Facebook page for you?”
I tried to explain that a Facebook page is not a poster nor a website. Facebook is a social alive platform where you can follow and stay connected to your friends. It’s all about sharing and we have to engage people in action for your posts to be shown and found to get bigger exposure as possible. We were thinking about ways to make the followers share and comment on our posts so they get more views.
He proposed to make a competition in which the participants are going to have to share a story about the best burger they have in that restaurant. The winner will get a free burger. The problem was that after this competition, only one client is going to show up to get a free burger. Maybe get a drink or his friends will buy something but, eventually, we were thinking about taking the competition concept and just sharpen it the little bit to make it much more profitable.
How about we ask for the participants to go to the restaurant to take a picture of them having their favourite burger. They are going to have to post on the restaurant’s page and ask the friends to like and share it. The person with the most amount of likes and shares is going to get a meal for two or something like that. This way the participants gonna input content in our page for us and then going to share it with their friends + they are all going to visit the restaurant and get a burger just for participating in the game.
Collaborating not providing
Every designer has been through that routine. A client asks for a website or an ad. The Designer provides two or three options for designs. The client pics one, in the best-case scenario, sometimes he doesn’t pick anything at all.
Why does it happen?
Whoever the client is, I make sure he is completely aware and being a part (as much as he can) of my process. I shared with him everything I’ve discovered in my research about him and his competitors. I ask him to send me examples of websites he likes or dislikes. Even if It’s a website about aliens I ask him to let me know, what he liked and disliked in it. Send him the colour palettes you were thinking about, explaining every colour’s purpose and why you picked it.
Make the client collaborate with you instead of just sending him 3 options.
This collaboration makes humans feel like they’re part of this project and that we’re building it together. It makes the clients much more attached to the project and most chances he’ll like it more and feel more connected to the project, trying to help as much as he can, making it work.
Sometimes business owners think they need something but don’t really understand why they need it or how it’s supposed to work. I’m sure you know this story of a business, creating a website and nothing really happens. It’s because the website is not advertised properly and there’s a chance that this particular business doesn’t need a website at all. Maybe a youtube channel or an Instagram account will do better.
Whatever the business is about, collaborate with him to find out what he really needs for his business and what is the best strategy to put it on the market.