In this article Allison walks you through six vital tips for maintaining wonderful client relationships.
Be transparent about your process.
Far too often we’re reluctant to show clients half-finished work. Throw those insecurities out the door! Don’t be afraid to show your sketches, comps and semi-functional prototypes during the early stages. The last thing you want is for them to think that what you do is magic, or that an “easy button” really does exist. They’ll respect you more for being transparent about your process for getting from point A to B.
As Jason Fried said in his book REWORK, “Let people behind the curtain, they’ll feel a bond with you and see you as human beings instead of a faceless company.”
Don’t over-promise and under-deliver; deliver what you promise.
It can be tempting to promise more and charge less in order to land that killer portfolio project or win over a coveted account. While it’s exciting to see the potential client impressed, it’s only smoke and mirrors if the goal isn’t realistic to begin with.
Only promise what you can actually carry through with – not the first page of Google or more “likes” on Facebook. Those are variables you can’t control, much less guarentee. Be up-front and honest about what you can and will deliver to your clients, and they’ll happily come back for more work.
Often times to keep myself from over-promising and under-delivering, I’ll refer to the project triangle and choose two.
- Design something quickly and cheap, the quality will suffer.
- Design something awesome and cheap, well, you get the point (that might take awhile!). This prevents me from promising all three.
I also love Trent Walton’s interpretation of Maslow’s hirearchy of needs pyramid which can be helpful in assuring that you’re embarking on a “healthy, well-rounded project.”
Make them feel as invested as you are.
Involve the client. It only helps both parties to get their buy-in throughout the whole process (this brings us back to transparency). By leaving them out you’ll likely be met with much more resistance when it comes time to present your work. Don’t depend on weekly status meetings – call or send something their way when you want their feedback. By the end of the project, they’ll feel just as invested and proud of the final product as you are.
Stay respectful but in control.
While it’s important to be flexible and respectful of your clients and their work – don’t forget that you’re the professional when it comes to designing for cyberspace, and they came to you for a reason. Take control and stand up for what you know is right. (Ex: No, the primary navigation cannot go at the bottom of the page!) The web is your turf, and you’ve got the home team advantage.
This goes for contracts, too. Establish expectations and specific deliverables to meet business objectives and user needs. Agree upon them and stick to them to keep everyone on the same page.
Remember never to ask “What do you think?” or “Do you like this?” without backing it up. Remind them that just because they (and their neighbor down the street) don’t like the color purple, doesn’t meet the users won’t. Keep them on track and remind them of their objectives and user personas.
Don’t underestimate human interaction!
Just because you’re talented and efficient at what you do, doesn’t mean you should forget about what simple human interaction can achieve. Go out of your way for that extra “Hello!” or friendly “How was your weekend?” Learn more about their industry and take an interest in them as a person. You don’t want to come off like you’re in it for the check.
Marry their industry knowledge with your expertise and people skills, and together you’ll have an overall more successful, polished product – and it’ll be enjoyable along the way!
Just because the project’s over, doesn’t mean your relationship has to be, too.
Maintaining contact is key to a healthy relationship with clients. While the project has come to an end, that doesn’t mean the work is done.
Blogs and newsletters with valuable content and advice are a great way to remind clients of your expertise and encourage return business.
Pick up the phone and give them a call. Go out of your way to send them a tweet, direct message or personal email with information about useful tools, tips, and suggestions. Be their go-to advisor when it comes to anything and everything web.
For more tips and advice on web startups and business, check out Ryan’s free hour long web business video course.