tell your clients what to expect

design project timeline
while job specifics vary, the process follows the same path.

we get so familiar with our own businesses and practices, that even though we may explain what it is we do, sometimes that’s really different from empathizing with the outsider’s unfamiliarity with our services. let’s not leave these things to their imagination. when we’re in the position of buying, often what we’re conscious of is the artifact, or the end result we’re shopping for, but our senses are busy researching the experience we’re buying as well. is this a good person to work with? will this business really take care of me? think about how you feel when you read testimonials that express excellent customer service—it’s a wave of relief, trust, and a subconscious vote of confidence.

recently i was preparing a brand brief for my father’s new hypnotherapy practice, and in researching other hypnotherapists in the immediate area, we only found one practitioner who took the time to walk through what a patient could expect when they sign on with her therapy practice. everyone else had a lot to say about what hypnotherapy does, took time to dispel myths about what it’s not, and made sure to list their credentials, but only one practitioner dedicated a page to what happens in her office after you walk through the door. it wasn’t information i was expecting to get, but when i did it allowed me to picture myself doing it, which was a powerful surprise. most of them let the reputation of hypnotherapy sell for them, she sold her personal touch on the experience.

finally, this past week, the AIGA held one day for design as an open forum for discussing the future of design. the discussion was varied, but there were a good deal of voices calling for the industry leaders to educate the public on the value of design, with an undercurrent about clients just not getting the true value of what we do. i gotta say, it doesn’t work that way. educating people on what any of us do in our businesses, and how it can be valued and leveraged is entirely up to us. the less tangible your service, the more important it is to show case studies, offer examples, and answer questions about how it works. our industry organizations are there to back us up and support us, not sell our services for us so we don’t have to. take charge of the conversation and have it wherever you can!

spend some time with your own marketing materials and ask yourself how much you’re speaking directly to potential clients to help demystify exactly what service you offer. try not to rely so heavily on the deliverables—unless you’re selling an entirely unique product or service, they generally know what artifactual item they’re shopping for. appeal to the instincts that are comparing experiences. if you have a web site, and look at analytics, let some of the more popular and unexpected searches be a guide as to what potential clients are yearning to learn from you. tell them about what you bring, and how you bring it.

some tips:

• don’t assume people know even the basics of how your industry works. write up a draft from start to finish of your ideal process, writing to the kind of project you’d like to be doing.

• use past experience as an example: take cues from every time you’ve had a disconnect with a client, or realized they assumed things would go differently. this is what people don’t know about how you work—tell them about it!

• ask clients for feedback on how you helped them understand the process. ask them if there are standout factors that help them decide between two similar services. what are their deal-makers & deal-breakers?

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