By Michael Killen from Sell your service.
Who is this post for?
If you’re a web designer and you’ve just landed a new customer (first of all, awesome work, well done), you’re in the process of talking about websites, these are the 6 questions you should ask every new customer.
I’ll assume that you already have a sales and delivery process, these are the questions you need to ask when they’re about to sign on the dotted line.
1. How do we know when the website is a success?
This question is really important. Use timescales, for example, ‘in 12 months time, how will we be celebrating a successful website? What it does is two fold. First, it gets the customer to visualize a successful and completed website project. Secondly, it gives you a series of objectives to tick off to show that the site is live.
If your customer is being hesitant (first timer, not particularly communicative etc) then throw in a few suggestions. Start off with ‘well for example, customers in the past have suggested…’. Some of your examples could be-
- new leads within a month of launching
- works across all platforms and browsers
- X% revenue from the site within 12 months
- #X new subscribers to the newsletter
- all CSS and HTML edits taken care of
Try not to let them say (or get away with) ‘when all the content is uploaded’. Your content is NEVER finished uploading. In fact a couple of my peers and colleagues have been even leaving content out of the whole process. Educating and training their customers on uploading their own content page by page. This is perhaps a little extreme in most cases, but don’t let content drag the site down.
Understand what your customer expects to achieve by working with you. At what point does the site no longer fall under the original budget? If they ask for further edits, that’s fine, but you’ve got to charge.
2. What do you expect from the website launch?
Fireworks? Red carpet affair? Champagne or a pint? For some businesses, a new website is part of a larger re-branding and launch campaign. If their website really is going to make them money (and it WILL, RIGHT?), they should treat it like any other investment.
Beyond all that, it’s a really good idea to understand the expectations that your customer has of a launch. I once had a customer very disappointed when I told her the site was live. She literally expected a ribbon cutting. So now my customers get a bit more of an ‘event’. A few emails, a welcome video on the CMS backend, for larger websites I even send a small bottle of champers.
The point of asking this question, is that you can address both what they want the site to do when they launch AND what they think will happen when it’s finished. Some people will just say, ‘now you’ve got all the content, upload it and we’re done’. Others might want training, further options and a de-brief. Ask them this question and find out.
3. What part of the process are you most nervous about?
It’s really important to make sure your customers are happy. They are going to be nervous, at least about SOME aspect of the whole process. Most of the time it’s from a bad experience with other designers. It’s your job to put that fear to rest.
By asking what they’re most nervous about, you’re showing that you want to make the transition as smooth as possible. Some customers might be a bit shy, perhaps worried that they might offend you. But try to get it out of them.
Most people will be nervous of you taking their money and running. Frankly, if they are feeling this, then you’re a way better sales person than I am, because if they think that then they shouldn’t be working with you.
Other people have had bad experiences before. We’re not running a therapy clinic here, but just asking what some of those bad experiences were, could be the start of a much longer relationship. DON’T offer suggestions, you don’t need to put negative points across. Some customers might not have any issues at all, but by asking, you can make sure to address them.
4. What part of the process are you most looking forward to?
This is a really interesting question. Every time I ask it, my customers are a bit taken aback. It’s a chance for them to understand that the process of building a site shouldn’t be painful. It might be hard work, it might be intense, it might even be fun, but it shouldn’t cause pain.
The answers I get vary every single time. Although most people would admit that having a site, that they can be proud of, would be high on their list. I’m very open and upfront about the process we’ll be going through. From content design to competitor research and building. I’ll often have talked through the process by this point, so we can look at a few key areas that they’re really looking forward to.
It could be the design aspect, it could be uploading content. Whatever it is, make sure your customer is aware of where and when you’ll be doing this. Get them involved AND send them a few email updates telling them that we’re getting closer to THAT BIT. This is an awesome method of keeping milestones, and making sure that the customers is involved in the right way.
Finally, you might find that you BOTH look forward to a certain part. I love mapping out a marketing strategy. I remember talking to a customer and they mentioned that they were REALLY looking forward to the marketing strategy. So I made sure that this part came just after the part that they didn’t like. All the while sending a few emails about ‘we’re getting closer to something you’re looking forward to’.
5. How often do you expect to be kept in touch with?
SUPER important question. This can literally go either way. This question might be the most important out of the lot. The reason you need to ask this is because you need a map and a series of milestones to keep bot the customer and you on track. Nothing is worse that a project that hangs in the air because the customer is waiting to deliver images or text to you.
- I want daily emails and updates on what you’re doing. If you’re given this answer, don’t reply with ‘sorry that’s not my style’. You need to ask why they expect this. Every day might be extreme, but larger projects would probably have a project manager that will ask for an update every week.
In all honesty, this is not the worst answer you can receive. By simply marking down what time and milestones they expect updates, you don’t need to have a customer chase you. If they want to do it just because they’re nosy or micro-managers, then we need to address why they want this much information. Get down the milestones and updates that they NEED and then flip the process on them. Ask from them for regular updates about where content is and whether they’ve delivered it to you.
- I literally only want invoices and an email to tell me when it’s finished. Trust me when I say that these customers are more dangerous. We all think that we’d like a customer to just leave us to it, but the truth is that they simply won’t be happy with the results. The reason for this is because they’re not involved and it almost comes as a surprise. They had a very specific vision of what they site would look like, and because there was no communication, you’ve delivered something else. Now you have to go back and change it all. Which sucks.
Ultimately, get a piece of paper, write down the steps and a few dates that the project will encounter. Talk to the customer and agree WHEN you’ll email them with what they’ve done/
This process of regular communication IS project management. I kid you not, this is 90% of project management. Ask ‘what are you doing this week, what are you doing next week?’. The ask, ‘what did you do last week, why didn’t X happen, what went well?’. Boom, project management in 2 sentences.
Embrace project management with your customer, they’ll appreciate the updates.
6. What’s the one thing I’ve done so far, that you would change?
Nice question to finish on. Talk about the process so far. Qualification, consultancy, on-boarding, your contract. Ask where they felt it was working and if there was anything you’d change.
The most life changing aspect of my business came from a total flip of my proposal/contract.
Originally my proposals were PAGES long. They had loads of detail, points, processes and overly complicated. I tried to include everything I could to make sure the customer knew what they were getting. On the other side, my contract, or terms of engagement, were really short. It basically said ‘I won’t mess you around and you owe me X’.
After asking a customer this question, he said my proposal and contract need to be balanced out. Now my proposals talk about what the project is going to achieve, the time scales and the budget. The contract on the other hand is now more robust. Still not too long, but it is super comprehensive and has covered me on multiple occasions.
So to sum up, by asking questions to your customers when they’re going through the buying process, you’re on-boarding process is a lot faster. Get them involved right from the start. Understand that your customers are part of your business.
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