My customers usually do not know why they want a Web site. I mean sure; they’ll say, “Hey Scott, I need a Web site.” They’ll even insist that it needs doing immediately and that enough time’s been wasted and opportunities, subsequently missed. Thieves love this kind of client. They swoop in, cape flapping from behind and with lots of convoluted language and alien concepts, collect the booty and run. “Boom! Here’s your site,” says the opportunistic Web designer. “There’s your killer logo in the upper-left corner, your copy’s over in that spot.” And voila! Web site!
But while my customers assert that they know why they need a Web site, all too frequently, when I ask them why they want a Web site built, their answers are comprised of empty, spoon-fed platitudes. You see my clients are hard-working, often over-worked small and medium business owners with little spare time. They have however polled friends and family. They’ve been lovingly mocked by their sons and daughters for their lack of computer and social media savvy. They get it. They’re old fuddy-duds. Hardy-har-har. Truth is though that they’re just plain frustrated by evolving socialized Web trends and are fed-up with the conversation on the whole. The need to build a Web site was an idea inserted, neigh, forcibly uploaded from the people around them and from there the mandate was established. And despite this boot camp-like ambush that has been so generously supplied by their circle, the notion of a Web site, as a business tool, remains a nebulous concept not remotely of my clients’ authoring.
Because my clients don’t truly know what to expect from me, it is alone my responsibility to ensure that clearly defined and sensible goals be the hallmarks of the project. The ambiguously defined gig never fosters customer loyalty and return business is rarely achieved. And in my field, the goal is the retainer, not the project. After all, I have as much at stake as does my client.
And so to force my clients to thoroughly conceptualize their needs I have them complete a questionnaire designed to define their audience and their current business model. Who is there customer? Is the customer a he, a she or is it a mix? Is she 18 years old or 55 years old? Is he a father? Is she married? Is he divorced? Is she wealthy or like most of us, somewhere in the middle? Is he highly educated or again, like most, possess a Bachelor degree? Where do they typically shop for your stuff? And somewhere toward the end I ask a host of questions dealing in how your business model accommodate your buyers?
This buyer persona exploratory, which is what I’ve dubbed it, I have each of my prospects complete and return to me before I will even agree to submit a proposal. Prospects unwilling to complete the exploratory, I pass on.
Having the client complete such initial steps has made me a far better “Web guy” than I ever was prior. For one, it has removed any unclear or poorly defined project objectives by allowing both the client and I to understand deeply what the client’s buyers need from them. Knowing this at the outset makes our conversion funnels smarter from the outset. It makes the design more intuitive and leaves ambiguous design concepts out. This creates less guesswork once we need to adapt to evolving trends.
Secondly, it helps the client understand what to expect and so all those lofty or unreasonable Web site goals are reigned in early and packaged instead, in intentional and most importantly, achievable milestones.
And third, the client is armed now. She understands why she’s spending what she’s being asked by me to spend on me. In my line, sticker shock is common. And once upon a time, I’d panic whenever it reared its’ ugly face. I’d end up stuttering and stumbling over my words as I tried to explain my fees. After the client has completed this preliminary survey, the client seems to return it each time with eyes wide open. As a matter of fact, I’ve only received praise from prospects for asking them to complete the exploratory.
You see, I need you to deeply understand what you should expect to achieve with a Web site. You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to demonstrate to me that you understand your buyers and most importantly, how useful you’re being to your customers. In the end, if you’re not paying strict attention to your customers and the way with which your business accommodates them, I don’t want your business because if I accept the gig, I’m doing to you what you’re doing to your buyers. Not listening.