If you want to turn off a potential client, talk about HTML, CSS, Javascript and technology features. 

BC Partner Fraser McCulloch shares his thoughts on plain talking and owning the deal.

Read on over at Adam Broadway's BC Evangelist blog.

View Comments
In the last two posts, we've taken you through some easy steps for establishing better client communications.

Today, we'll talk about how you can create a solid action plan and sow the seeds for a long-term relationship with your client.

Create An Action Plan

You've gained an understanding of your client's business, talked strategy, and set some business targets. By now, the client is probably asking "How are you going to pull this off?" and you're most likely wondering that too. This is where you can demonstrate your expertise by giving the client an understanding of the Online Business you're about to build for them and outline how it will achieve their goals.

Once you've explained the motivations and what the goals are, you need to provide a documented timeline of where it goes from here.

1. Short-term
Your clients most immediate need is for you to build a website to roll-out and go live. The goals tied to this are all structural:

  • You need to provide suggestions for what content is required (and a mini plan for your client to deliver that content)
  • You need to discuss with your client what features are going to be implemented e.g what questions they need to ask in their contact form to qualify their customers? Do they need an online shop? What about a blog or forum?
  • What about the navigational structure of their website?
  • Other features and widgets or integration with social media?

2. Medium-term
Talk about launch and post launch marketing activities. These might not be done by you, but you need to give them a plan so they know how to nurture and grow their Online Business. Remember that a failed website often boils down the website owner having a "set and forget" mentality to maintaining their site.

Maintaining your client's website is an on-going process - think about eCommerce updates, new revenue generation, Email Marketing, SEO, SEM, utilizing the CRM Database and Advertising.

3. Long-term - What's next?
This is all about looking to the future and achieving long term goals. Websites need to stay dynamic or they quickly appear static and fall behind. What are you going to do to help your client overcome this?

Provide them with a plan for yearly site redesigns and encourage fresh, new content. Sow the seeds for future promotional work, email marketing templates, or advertising creatives - all of which you can provide them with in the future.

What's Next?

After working with their Online Business for a while, your client will figure out what works and what doesn't and they'll be much more involved in the next iteration of their site.

The key here is to establish yourself as an expert who will enable their business to succeed online, so in the future, they'll seek out you on-going assistance and require your services.

View Comments
Communication In the last post, we ran through the first two steps toward better client communications, beginning at your initial meeting. So far, you've talked in-depth about their business and gained an understanding of exactly what they want to acheive online.

Today, we're looking at how you can start talking strategy, and set business targets.

Talk Strategy

You need the business owner (your potential client) to see that what you're talking about is of strategic value to their business.

We've talked with them about what they want to achieve, so now we'll take a step back and paint a bigger picture. Show them that it's about more than a website, explain to them how they can use Twitter, comments on products, email marketing, or SEO to help achieve their goals.

At this point, we're aiming to make it clear - a simple website doesn't cut it anymore. A website is an integral part of their overall business strategy

As part of this strategy, their website requires a marketing plan. Websites need thought put into to how they will convert their visitors, meet business goals, capture leads, and make money. Expressing this truth to your client is what makes the difference between them seeing you as overpriced vs. them believing your services are worth every cent.

A business owner who treats a website launch just like they would treat the opening of a new office or branch is almost sure to be successful. Just like their brick and mortar store, their online store is a business that needs on-going attention, planning and strategy development.

The two goals here are to:

  1. Help the client perceive how important a website really is
  2. Make them to see you as an expert, offering a valuable, strategic service which will help them succeed.

Set Business Targets

On a piece of paper in the meeting, try and draft 3-5 basic and easy to understand business oriented goals for their Online Business.

Try for a short term, medium term and a long term goal. Here are some example of great goals that will excite clients:

  • 10 new customer leads from the web per week
  • $300 of online sales per week
  • Building a marketing database - 1000 subscribers by years end
  • 50 entries in their online competition
It's important here to avoid setting a goal for site traffic, as it's not meaningful. Always relate goals to something with meaning for their business - leads, revenue and costs.

You need to make sure the targets reflect what the client said they want to achieve, that they are buying into these goals and they don't feel like you're rushing through the process.

What's Next?

What is next? So you've opened your client's eyes to the need for stategic thinking in doing business online and set some solid business targets.

The key here is to establish yourself as an expert in what you're offering and show the client where you can help take their business.

In doing so, you're building the trusting relationship needed for better client communications well into the future.

In the next post, we'll be capping off the series by looking at how you can create an action plan for acheiving the goals you've just set and stick to it in the long-term.
View Comments

You may be a professional web designer, but that doesn't mean you're also a mind reader - that's why it's crucial to have a process for communicating with your clients effectively.

This is the first post in a new three-part series, "Your Guide To Better Client Communication". Over the coming months, we'll be exploring how you can establish a better flow of communication with your clients, starting on day one of your business relationship.

Talk About Their Business

When meeting with a client, what's the first thing you talk about? For most successful Web Designers out there, the answer is unanimous: talk about the client's business.

It doesn't matter if they're a cold prospect or someone who's found and approached you - this is your chance to make your pitch about genuinely improving their business rather than focusing on technology or your own skills.

It's a matter of one simple question:

"So, before we get into it - tell me about your business"

Find out when they started, how business is going, what they sell and how they sell it. Show interest and ask questions - "that's an interesting sales process, how does it affect XYZ?" - you're fishing out information about the way they sell and run their business, so you can customize a solution for them.

Your goal is to set the agenda of the first meeting as being about your client's business and what you can do in your capacity as a web designer to help them improve. Everyone loves to talk about their own business, so this is also a nice way to break the ice.

Understand What They Want

Now that you have a firm grasp of how your potential client's business works, the next logical question is: "what are you hoping to achieve online?"

You've got to understand what their expectations are, their motivation and their desired results. Why are they going online? Why do they want to work with you?

Try and get them to express their goals in business oriented terms - I need to: "reach a wider audience", "generate online sales", "get old customers to come back" etc. Some clients are not going to have a clue and look to you for guidance. Others will think they know everything and promptly go about showing off how much they know.

Both the content of their answers and their attitude in answering gives you important information. You may need to alter their expectations, dialing down their enthusiasm to a more realistic level. On the other hand, you may need to significantly ramp it up, opening their eyes so they can see the possibilities they're missing out on.

The key here is to get inside the head of the client and understand how they work and exactly what they want, before proceeding with the project.

What's Next?

What's Next

So you've talked in-depth about their business and gained an understanding of what the'yre looking to achieve online - all from the very beginning of your designer / client relationship.

The open flow of communication and level of understanding you've established has set the stage for better results and a happier a client.

In the next post, we'll be continuing the series by looking at how you can start talking strategy and setting business targets with your clients.

View Comments

You don't need another reminder that we're working through a period of slow economic growth and a jittery business climate. But amongst all the doom and gloom, this stormy cloud comes with a silver lining for people working in Online Marketing and Web Design which are traditionally B2B consulting services.

Your prospects and clients probably realise that when times get tough they need to get creative and innovative with their products, their services and, most importantly, their marketing. It's a time to invest in the future and look inwardly at how you can improve, all so you can prepare for the next boom.
Despite this fact, it's no secret that you're finding it harder to close deals. But lets go back to basics: your pitching needs to begin with education, and education begins with asking the right questions. Here's some questions you should be asking your prospects to clinch your deals:

1. What's In Your Marketing Inventory - Is it working for you?

One simple activity I like to do is pull out a spreadsheet and line up all my advertising spending and how many leads each one is generating for me. 'Leads' can range from anything to phone calls, inquiry forms, direct emails, site registration for forum participation, leaving comments - whoops, there's one problem - I don't actually know how many customers I'm getting from all my offline advertising...

The point is that print ads like classified ads in the local paper and yellow pages ads are expensive and have declining reach and readership.
Most importantly, it's hard to measure how much business they generate for you. This is not to say they're valueless - but contrast this with an fully fledged online business. With concrete and clear metrics, you know the exact ROI of your online marketing campaigns. Best of all, you can optimize and redeploy online campaigns in a few hours - dollar for dollar, online is where the smart money is.

2. People are staying home, and staying online more - what are you doing about it?

Tight belts and high gas prices mean people are spending a lot more time at home in front of the TV and the computer. Where are they hanging out online? Have a think about this - you need to be advertising in their space, participating in their blogs and becoming an authority in their forums.

For example, let's  imagine you sell model train kits. You could be sponsoring some train modelling blogs and forums in return for some inexpensive and targeted advertising. These banners can link back to pages on your website which could be designed to educate, sell and encourage online community participation. All of which is 100% measurable, so if it's not effective - just cut the spending.

3. What's your Freemium Strategy?

People love free stuff and they love it even more when they haven't got much to spend. I'm not asking you to give away your products for free but what about online 'cash' coupons or discounts that they have to register on your website to receive? And once they've registered you'll be able to market to these customers in a monthly e-newsletter. We all have to move stock and attract new customers - so think about some clever online marketing strategies to do it...

4. Have you Cleaned your House yet?

Back to basics once more - now's the time to be pushing business branding and website makeovers. Is the website from 2003 looking a bit tired? Does it match up with your bricks and mortar branding? Does your customer service live up to your promises? Is your content up to date? Are your landing pages and catalogs well laid out and easy to use? Lets spring clean your whole online business 'house' and entice those customers back.

5. You are the Online Business Hero.

Working in a B2B industry, you're going to get worried business owners looking for advice and solutions to their problems. You can gain their trust by giving your expert advice for free. And to your clients?

Well you can tell them that anybody can make a dime when times are good. But true to the old saying, when times get tough...the tough get going.

So ask them: What are you doing to toughen up your (online) business?
View Comments