Building Relationships

How do you meet the needs of a client if you don’t get to know them? Andrew explores the idea of building lasting relationships with clients and the mutual benefits it can bring.

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Look into my eyes…

People often ask me if we work with companies overseas, and my answer to this point has always been no. That’s not to say we never will, but I wonder how you can adequately get to know a client without spending a decent amount of time with them.

That’s why I always insist on a face to face meeting when a prospective new client calls.

“Building trust…is of utmost importance when two or more people are working together.”

It’s important to me to get a feel for the person, what their aims are and what motivation they have (more on this later), and it’s important for the client to put a face to who they’re dealing with. This is the beginning of building trust between client and designer – something which is of utmost importance when two or more people are working together.

Understanding Motivation

From my experience, there are two different kinds of clients in the web design industry; those who want to promote their business, values and goals, and those who think they need a website because everyone else has one.

You can recognise the latter instantly. They aren’t so keen to meet in person, and when you do get them in front of you they offer little in terms of passion or ideas. My suggestion? Avoid these people like the plague. They tend to put little importance on their marketing, and make it evident with limited budgets and unrealistic demands.

But let’s not focus on these type of people. Now that you’ve had your first face to face meeting, and found your client to be as eager, enthusiastic and passionate about their website as you are (am I dreaming?) you need to get down deep and understand their true needs – why do they want a website? What will it be used for? Who are they targeting? Do they have the motivation and budget to really make it work?

Get Personal

The best way to truly gage your client’s needs is to spend time with them in their place of work. If needs be (and they’re willing!), grab your laptop and bring it down to their office and just sit, watch and listen. As they go about their day, you’ll see where their passions lie, what gets them frustrated, what makes them happy. In short, you’ll see their personality – and this is what should be reflected in your design work.

Of course, this is often infeasible. Instead, try to arrange as many meetings as possible as you work through the project. Make it social – have meetings over lunch, coffee, drinks – somewhere where you can both relax and be yourselves. Talk about things other than work (just try to avoid talking about your penchant for dressing up as a hobbit and attending role-play partys).

Reaching the Promised Land

As an obvious introvert, I have found this to be quite taxing. I’d much prefer to reduce my time spent in meetings, rather than increase it. But the benefits of building a lasting relationship with a client are what good businesses are built upon.

As a client gets to know you, they begin to trust you. When it comes to important design decisions, they give you authority. When you are persuading them to increase their budget so that you can put more effort into a certain feature of their site, they’re more inclined to do so. And when their associate needs some work done, your name is put forward. Trust allows for flexibility, understanding and worth.

Once a client begins to value your input, they will begin to consult you on other aspects of their business. A number of our clients now consider us a part of their team, and include us when making decisions on where to move forward, expand and how best to market their product or service. This is the Holy Grail for designers, and how we see SOLID developing in the future.

And for the client? They have someone who is now personally invested in their business, wants the best for them, and will go that extra mile to see them succeed.

Written by Andrew Rossborough

Andrew heads up creative direction at SOLID, managing projects and taking a hands on approach to client consultations and design decisions. Follow Andrew on twitter.

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