Clients, right? No! This is not an article where I’m whining about the clients who do not understand how the web works. Because if they don’t it is my job to teach them. They are the ones seeking guidance, mentorship and expertise that they lack – in an ideal scenario. Well and then there are other clients. Clients who are not listening to what you’re saying but rather telling you what they want to hear.
Let’s pretend a client is asking you how to improve their content strategy. The answer is not only “it depends” but also a bit of “I don’t know”. Because let’s be honest. That’s what workshops are for! That’s what getting to know each other in more than one meeting is for. That’s what a research phase, maybe including interviews, analyzing competitors and doing polls are for. There are so many reasons not to tell them that you have all the answers but rather emphasizing, that you’ll find the answers together. And here comes the main take-away from this post I guess – the masterplan is a myth. Whenever a client is asking you to tell you the universal truth about their business and their users, it is your duty to tell them, that no-one will be able to tell them just that after the first meeting. You have the experience to find these answers more quickly than others. You have a portfolio of exercises worth doing in order to get closer to the truth, but it remains trial and error. You have to continue testing your assumptions and move on from there. A car mechanic has to open the hood first in order to see what’s wrong with your car. Otherwise he would be a magician. Same applies to digital work.
The days of fixed budgets are over and now we need to make clients understand why.
The good thing is that there are a lot of tools to figure out a plan to get closer to the truth. Talk to people, ask them for feedback, analyze your visitors (you don’t need to know where they’re from or how old they are in order to know what works or not) and keep iterating.
Another obstacle we need to overcome, especially when writing proposals, is that the days of throwing a fixed amount of money at a problem that we not yet understand are over. The days of fixed budgets are over and now we need to make clients understand why. How can you be creative when you’re constantly checking on the money. How can you possibly try out every solution that comes to mind when you want to fix a problem that is still a bit unclear? Don’t get me wrong there are still problems that can be estimated quite accurately but these problems have been solved hundreds of times and maybe these are not the problems you need to get a creative digital agency for, right? If you want creative solutions, if you want creative thinking and if you want to concept, design and build things that are outstanding and innovative you have to let go of fixed budgets. They just don’t get you where you want to go!
If you want creative solutions, if you want creative thinking and if you want to concept, design and build things that are outstanding and innovative you have to let go of fixed budgets.
Think in baby steps. At my agency we learn that you can rarely find clients anymore who pay you for half a year without seeing and knowing how you work before. Break down your roadmaps into smaller milestones and with every milestone you successfully reach, you’re able to build trust. Then it’s time for the next milestone. This does not only ensure that the client is overwhelmed by a half year budget for a bigger team, but that the client understands that you’re both in this together. Because if your work is not successful, the client can move away before paying you for half a year and as an agency you must make sure that every milestone is successful so that the client keeps paying you. Sounds simple, right? Well, let me tell you it is still a long way for a lot of agencies towards this direction, mine included. But I believe that this is the best way forward. And maybe start the next client interview by saying: “The masterplan is a myth”. When the client continues to listen, then you’re in for a good working relationship.