You’ve gotten a lead and the client has agreed to develop a new website for their business. Great! Well, where do you go from here?
One of the most common mistakes I see is that many people tend to dive headfirst into design. Should we use blue for the background? Implement a side navigation? What types of visuals should we use? Oh, and we need content too.
Let’s just start the project and compile a to-do list. You then come up with the schedule, an agreed price, and an estimated delivery date. Now, the design begins. This is where you start digging a hole for yourself that is getting deeper and deeper by the minute.
At this point, you will bleed money and the client won’t be happy with what you’re delivering. In the end, you will lose them as a client or you’ll have to go back to the drawing board.
In my 15 years of experience, I’ve followed some mandatory steps that have allowed me to ensure projects run smoothly, on time, and on budget. We want to avoid constant revisions and changes that will delay the process. By following these steps, you might even make more money by being able to upsell your customer and create a long lasting relationship.
In the first part of this two-part series, I’m going to talk about how you can successfully direct your team and clients in the right direction in the first and second meeting.
Having your First Meeting
The first meeting is where you set out the ground rules and make a good first impression for them. Here is a list of things we should do during the first meeting.
1. Be VERY familiar with the business and industry your customer is in
The first meeting is crucial for this. They need to know you understand their pain, you see issues with their existing website, and most of all you know how to solve them.
You need to look at their main competitors, search online for news, and conduct an analysis on their industry.
Your clients know their business really well, but so should you. It shows them that you care and you’re knowledgeable about their needs and wants.
2. Understand their target audience and website users
Separate them into different categories based on facts. Looking into the analytics is one of the best ways to find this information.
Ask your clients and find out who they want to target and communicate with. Do they want to explore and engage with others? Are there other audiences your client is looking to target but aren’t currently? It’s crucial to further understand this by asking them why.
3. Ask them what they want to achieve with the website
Now, this can be tricky. Most of the time, you clients will tell you they want leads and conversions. There is nothing wrong with that, but you need to dig dipper!
If the client offers only one service, it’s not a bad focus. But, what if they are offering different types of services? Then, you will need to dig deeper and ask appropriate questions to find out. Ask them:
- What does your ideal website look like?
- What are their ideal KPI’s you would like to track?
- What are some website features you like from your competitors?
4. Understanding their business culture
These types of questions are more “personal.” However, understanding their business culture gives you a better idea on how their company operates. It gives you a better insight on their employees as well. Find out:
- What would they like their customers to know about them?
- Is there something that they are really good at?
- What is their corporate culture like?
- Do they give back to the community?
- What is their social footprint?
5. Discovering their brand identity
Does your client have an established brand? When they have a brand guide, it makes it easier for you to understand how you can match the website with their brand guidelines. However, the issue here is that most small to medium-sized companies don’t have this regulated or they haven’t thought too much about it. This makes for a great potential to upsell them because having a brand voice is important when building a great performing website. You don’t have to be an expert in branding, but you can achieve a lot by combining the answers from above. Remember, if they wanted a brand exercise they would go to a big agency name. So you are good here.
6. Answering all the technical questions
Often times, your clients will have a number of technical questions regarding their site, especially if they’ve had experience with web design before. They’ll ask about where the site will be hosted, the ability to connect third party plugins to the site, the CMS they would like to use or will be using, and many more. Make sure that you know if this website will be in multiple languages. It’s important to know from the beginning, so you can optimize the site for the structure, user experience, and navigation.
If your clients aren’t asking these types of questions, you should be the one to ask them as well. You want to get as much information as you can.
7. Website content
Content makes for a crucial part of your website. Sometimes, a client may come in with a website with lots of great content or one with simply none at all. If there is a need to create content for the website, it’s important to find out who will be creating the content. In addition, if you client wants to have different languages for the site, who will be responsible for the translations?
8. Know your decision makers
Make sure you have a specific contact from your client’s company that will be responsible for making final decisions on either specific stages or the entire process. You want your client to be transparent so that you’re not waiting back and forth for responses from their management and decision makers.
To ensure there is seamless communication throughout the process, you want to know who you can contact while the point of contact or decision maker is away. Be familiar with their schedule, so that you can work around these dates and ensure the project continues without delay. Sometimes because this is not defined up front (or they went on vacation), you can spend weeks working on revisions only to find out that the feedback provided is not from the decision maker themselves. Then, you will go over budget and push timelines. And the worst thing, ITS YOUR FAULT!
Off to the Second Meeting
Once you’ve completed your first meeting with them, you’ll be off to a good start. In the second meeting with your client, there are still a number of things to discuss.
1. Be prepared to talk about front-end solutions
I highly recommend doing a visual UX flow, so you can show the client how the audience will be interacting with your website. You don’t have to be extremely detailed, but try to have an outline to identify that you understand where their website traffic will be coming from and how they will be navigating through the website.
In addition, highlight some of the key components that you would like to do for them. Different types of content, video creation, and any information isn’t currently available on their website – explain why this is important. Make sure you are flexible, so you can do this in a phased approach. Remember to show sensitivity to their budget and make this a partnership.
2. Technical recommendations
Show them your thoughts on the solutions and back it up with facts. Make sure you are transparent when it comes to 3rd party costs and whose responsibility that will be.
3. Introducing the budget
Be ready to have an estimated scope of the work and ensure that it can be easily presented to the client for them to understand.
Be specific when it comes to the number of revisions, changes of copy and responsibilities of yours and theirs during the project and after launch.
4. High-level schedule
If you are towards a specific deadline, make sure you analyze everything you are offering to the client so that you can deliver everything on time. You want to stress to them all the complications that may interfere with the flow with project. This way, there won’t be any surprises when the timeline is pushed due to complications that have already been addressed. I know what you’re thinking about right now. But trust me, if you communicate with them their responsibilities at this point and inform them of all the possible roadblocks or critical milestones and dates, you are halfway there.
Now that you’ve gone through all the critical steps for your two meetings, you can move onto starting the project. In the second part of my blog, I will focus on the execution of the project and how you can further nurture the relationship with your clients.
In my opinion the one thing people forget about spending time on is answering the questions and creating an interesting, eye catching website. While it may not be the most important thing in the long run, design is what catches the users attention and makes a first impression. Answering the technical questions is one thing that people neglect, and that causes frustration to the community and user audience.