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.

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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.
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Communication

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.

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Last month, we looked at Automating Customer Service using BC. This month we're looking at how to "Generate New Leads" as a strategy for your Online Business. Check out what we had to say last October, as part of our 6 Online Business Strategies.

Help Your Clients Qualify and Generate New Leads

Do your clients have a strategy or a process for generating new leads and passing them on to their sales team? Do they sell a highly customized or intangible product that can't simply be given a price and sold online?

Business Owners today are using web forms and quotes to automate the process of qualifying and generating leads. They're using workflows to alert the sales team via email and SMS, cutting the time the customer is waiting for their enquiry to be followed-up.

Here are some great examples of lead generation and capture on BC:

SimpleFlame - lead generation from a rebranded partner...


For our partners, you can optimize your own lead generation process by following this great example created by SimpleFlame. By placing effective calls to action at the base of the page they are funneling visitors to their contact page. The contact page uses a customized web form to capture additional information, including company details, cell phone number and most importantly, the type of job that the prospect is interested in engaging Simpleflame to quote and complete.

Every time this form is submitted, a workflow is triggered, alerting the sales team via email and SMS. If you or your client have large sales teams, you can use Customer Service Ticketing to delegate the enquiries to the team member with the least load. For more information on setting up CST, visit the:


House Of Bamboo - capturing leads using web forms...


Created by Click2It, this Online Business uses two highly customized contact forms to capture and qualify leads. You'll notice that the contact form collects information regarding the current project the prospect is working on. This is important for businesses who offer services that can't be sold online because the quoting process is too complex. Collecting this additional information gives the sales team a better understanding of the lead, allowing them to generate quotes and take a more personalized approach.

House of Bamboo also has a seperate business contact form, helping seperate sales leads from business or career enquiries.

Selling the 'Generate New Leads' Strategy To Your Clients

A familiar theme exists in the two sites we've looked at - they both effectively direct prospects to customized web forms, generating and qualifying new leads. These forms capture additional information about the lead which greatly helps the sales team in approaching them.

Sell this as a strategy to your clients where you can help them generate new leads by wisely placing calls to action, implementing customized contact forms and triggering workflows which automatically notify the sales team via emails and text messages.

In the next post, we'll be looking at how BC Partners have built sites that Build Customer Loyalty for their Clients. 


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