When you walk into a bakery, what’s the first thing you want to know? Do you care that the bakery was started back in the ’60s by the current owner’s immigrant Grandma? Or that the head pastry chef’s favorite dessert is a strawberry cheese Danish with the perfect blend of cheesiness, flakiness, and strawberry-ness? Or how about that the tiles on the floor are hand painted ceramic from a little town in southern Morocco? You’re probably bored already, aren’t you? Just shut up and give me my cupcakes, you might say; I’m late for my nephew’s birthday party.
When you drown your clients in information they don’t need to know, they’ll usually have a similar reaction. Your clients are just as busy as you are – they have goals for their businesses, and they simply won’t care about details that aren’t important to them, even if you think they should be. Such is the life of a freelancer. Following are three simple ways you can improve your communication and get down to the nitty gritty with clients, so that you won’t waste time assuming that they need to know things they don’t, and instead focus on using that knowledge to benefit them without them having to strain their brains.
1. Getting Specific About Your Services
It’s super important to always be specific about what you offer as a designer. I know it seems smart to try to reach as many customers as you possibly can, but in actuality this is one the things that can really hinder your career progress. When a potential client asks about what kind of design services you offer, do you tell them something to the effect of “oh, a little bit of everything?” If so, stop doing that ASAP. Do you really do every kind of design? Do you design buses, baby carriages, and tea kettles? No you don’t – so there’s no need to tell potential clients that you do.
Don’t assume that they already know what you’re all about – they won’t unless you spell it out for them. This is the one time when providing more information is actually a blessing rather than a curse. Now if you’re thinking that people won’t take you quite that literally, you’re probably right. However, they won’t really remember you as a standout choice for their project either. No one wants to hire the bland, generic designer who “does everything.” They want to locate the service provider who’s perfect for their specific needs. Be specific about what kind of value you offer, and quality clients will be far more interested in your services.
2. Be The Brains Of The Operation
Do people a favor and think for them as frequently as humanely possible. They’ll love you for it. Don’t make assumptions about how much people know or what they want in a design. You’ve probably heard of a book called Don’t Make Me Think, by Steven Krug. One of the basic premises of the book is that people have a limited reserve of mental energy, and the last thing they want to spend it on is figuring out how to use your website or information product. This basic principle extends far beyond just web design and usability; it creeps into every aspect of every product that has ever been designed for use by a human being.
There’s a reason Apple products are so universally loved and constantly talked about by design-conscious folks. It’s not just because they’re attractive to look at – the real beauty lies in how easy they are to use. If you force someone to work or expend valuable mental resources on the unnecessary, you risk destroying their “reservoir of goodwill” and making them frustrated enough to leave and never come back.
3. Marketing Out Of the Box
Another area where designers make broad assumptions is in their marketing strategies. Many designers assume that their potential clients are looking for someone who can give them a website, a logo, or a brand identity. But that isn’t quite true. What they’re really looking for is someone who can think for them and come up with solutions to problems they don’t even know they have. They’re looking for someone who can take their business to the next level. Quality clients don’t simply want to be known as the “generic law firm” or the “generic band” or the “generic dentist” any more than you want to be known as the “generic designer.”
Your clients are eager to work with a designer who understands their need for prime market positioning – because that’s what you want as well. If you have an intriguing personality or design style, you’re not doing yourself or your clients any favors by suppressing it because you assume no one is interested in your quirkiness. Market yourself out of the box. Don’t be generic – you’re a unique designer, so make sure your clients can see that in everything you present to them.
By not making assumptions about what response you’re most likely to get or what you think people want to, need to, or should know, you can turn your clients into true fans. People who feel as though you understand them will be genuinely excited about working with you, and will be eager to recommend you to anyone who will sit still long enough. Become a mind-reading rock star and no one in your niche will be able to resist you.
What Do You Think?
What are some ways you can improve the assumptions you make with your clients? How does zeroing in on just the right kind of information improve your chances of leaving a customer satisfied with your work?