Five things all clients want to know

I meet potential clients on a regular basis. The first meeting can often determine if you win or lose a job. So, what can you do to convince a client that you are right for the job?

Over the years, I have found that most clients don’t want a sales pitch, they want reassurance. They want to know if you can be trusted to help them solve their problem. The most common questions that they are likely to ask include:

1. Can you deliver what we want, on time and within the budget?

Can you explain a simple, logical process for delivering the website to the client? Can you explain how problems can be avoided or resolved?

2. Will the site work?

How will you reassure the client that the site will operate as they expect? Can you do this without resorting to complicated technical explanations?

3. Will the site look good?

Do you have previous site samples you can show the client? Can you articulate how you will work with the client to achieve a design that they and their users will like?

4. Will the site be easy to maintain?

How often will the site be maintained and by whom? If the client is going to maintain the site, have you allowed for client training and a “settling in” period? If you will be maintaining the site, do you have a maintenance process and a contract or transparent cost structure?

5. Who will look after the site in the long term?

Will you be around in 12 months, 2 years or 3 years? Do you have a backup in case you are hit by a bus?

If you are able to answer all of these questions calmly and confidently, you will be well on the way to a reassured client!

Date: 10 July 2007
Author: Russ Weakley
Category: Articles, Web
Tags: , , ,

Comments so far

  1. Matt Robin says:

    These are five good rules for anyone to stick to Russ – well said!
    You’ve listed these quite concisely, and the calm, confident reassurance for clients is certainly invaluable.

    I’m trying to fine-tune my approach to things at the moment, and even doing most of what you’ve said – some potential clients that I’ve met (cheap ones perhaps?) seem to be more scared off by the costs of hiring a designer to make their site than anything else. Reassurance is excellent and a MUST…but what happens when the potential client is only thinking about their budget and little else? [Note: I'm fast realising that there are a growing percentage of potential customers who are like this! Well, here in the UK at least...]

  2. Russ says:

    @Matt: I think this is inevitable. Some clients have small budgets and others have large budgets. no easy answer :)

    I’ve noticed this problem in other areas such as content writing more than design. As most people can write basic content, there is a definite reluctance to pay someone else to write their content for them.

    This is sad as content writers can bring a lot to the table such as a consistent tone and language across a site, clearly defined reading levels and an understanding of the importance of keywords within content (for SEO).

  3. Should not content actually be provided by the owners and then SEO for best results??? Thats the way I personally try and do it.

    btw in regards to the post and tips I have to agree with them totally and I have in the past failed on some of these but hopefully no more :)

  4. Russ says:

    @Jermayn: Agree, initial content should be provided by the owners or clients but ideally a content specialist could come in after this and rework the content using the methods mentioned above (seo, tone, reading levels etc). This is often seen as extravagant by clients.

  5. Chris Blown says:

    Yes! These are great, nice and simple – yet easy to forget how to answer.

    I for one find that 5 is really important, esp when its easy to forget the jobs since completed, especially when the updates come in thick and fast years later…

  6. Russ says:

    @Chris: I agree. I have watched very experienced web developers who forget this. When asked by the client “what happens if you get hit by a bus” the common answer is “I won’t”.

    This does nothing to reassure the client.

    The answer is to provide backup plans. This could include things like:

    1. Have a backup person who can take over your domains and sites (even if just to manage mail servers, domains etc)

    2. Find a person with similar programming knowledge and skills and set up a shared “take over in emergencies” partnership

    3. Document all aspects of the job and hand the client a detailed package so that they can hand it on to someone else in an emergency.

    The solutions are probably much more varied, but the point is to plan for this sort of situation and be able to articulate it to clients so that they feel you will not leave them high and dry if something terrible happens.

  7. Most clients do not see the reason behind it, to do stuff like that, like what you suggested Russ. All of the clients I have dealt with think that google is some magical formula that you say “go to front page” and it does…

  8. music says:

    A great list. I would highlight two in particular. First, I think nothing you can actually offer the client is better than an example of past work. This is true of any business, but web design in particular is both an artistic and a functional product, and if you can show off these two sides of your own successful projects, you have gone a long way towards convincing someone that you are capable of constructing a quality site for them. This has to be done effectively, though. It is important to make sure that you don’t show the client several sites that are identical. Just as he or she (or they) wants to be reassured that you have a track record of making solid sites, he or she also wants to believe you are making something individually tailored to his or her needs. Everyone wants to stand out in the marketplace, and your expertise can allow companies to do that. Demonstrate you can by showing off several very different kinds of sites that you’ve designed. But more than that, as you say at the end here, the key is being calm. High-pressure sales suggests something to hide.

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