Communication may just be the most overlooked ingredient in building a great website. I’d argue that it’s just as important as awesome design and development skills.
Without it, the final product is going to suffer. The site may look nice enough, but is it on target with regards to branding and messaging? Will the functionality match up with your client’s intended goals?
Despite its importance, communication is also one of the hardest skills to learn. In addition, it’s a two-way street. Even if you’re gifted in this area, your client may not be.
Let’s explore some ways to improve the dialogue with clients and better ensure a successful project.
One thing to realize about your clients is that they often have busy schedules. In other words, dealing with their current or future website is just one of many things on their to-do list.
As the old saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. This means that people tend to deal with whatever situation is right in front of them in that very moment. If your website project isn’t in their immediate line of sight, then it’s probably going to stay on the back burner.
To avoid a project that hangs in the air indefinitely, it’s up to you to reach out to clients. Check in on the status of that content you’re waiting for, or the example sites they were supposed to send. Offer your help and to answer any questions they might have.
Taking this little bit of initiative can kickstart the process of actually getting things done.
Dig for Details
It can be difficult to gain an understanding of what a client really wants. They may sometimes give vague instructions or be otherwise noncommittal when it comes to the look and features of their site.
This can be quite frustrating as you are left to guess the best path forward. It can also lead to a seemingly unending cycle of revisions and, once again, a stagnating project.
You may even get the impression that this person is being hard to deal with. However, that’s most likely not the case. It may just be that they really aren’t sure what they want or are having trouble explaining it.
This is another instance where being assertive can help. Ask probing questions, provide either-or scenarios and try to make the discussion a productive one.
It’s important to remember that this is a process and that things aren’t always clear from the get-go. Sometimes, it requires peeling back a few layers before we can find that solid foundation for moving forward.
Keep Clients Updated
Another key element in communicating with clients is keeping them abreast of progress. After all, they’re investing a good bit of money into their website. It’s only natural to want to know where things stand.
This can be a bit of a delicate balance for designers. You don’t want to overwhelm your clients with constant updates. Yet you don’t want to underwhelm them when there just hasn’t been much progress.
Depending on the scope and timeline of the project, usually a weekly update is enough. And, even if you’re struggling with a specific aspect of things, it’s okay to share that as part of your status report.
Things such as technical roadblocks or even an unexpectedly busy schedule are bound to happen along the way. Most people are pretty understanding about it, so long as you let them know. Rather, it’s the uncertainty that comes with a lack of communication that is more likely to spark a less-than-kind reaction.
Create Opportunities with Mass Communication
While so much of client communication is person-to-person, there are other opportunities to stay in touch. By taking advantage of available tools, you can get your message out to highly-targeted groups.
Social media is a big one these days. And it can actually be a good place to talk to clients – albeit in a more generalized way. Use it to let them know about articles and tools that may be of interest.
Sure, your feeds may be followed by non-clients as well. However, that can be a positive. By sharing worthwhile information, you become a trusted source. And trust is key for turning prospects into paying customers.
The other mass communication tool is the good old email newsletter. This is still a great forum to share ideas. And, unlike social media, it’s easy to target clients or even a subset of them.
Even better is that clients can respond directly to your mailing, starting what could be a real conversation. At the very least, it’s a solid way to keep them in the loop.
One bit of advice: Avoid making flat-out sales pitches. They’re already your clients, they’ve already purchased something from you. Make sure that whatever you post or send out is of some genuine value.
Better Projects, Better Relationships
Effectively communicating with your clients isn’t so much about being perfect. Rather, it’s about making the effort to better understand who they are. The goal is to find out what they’re hoping to achieve and then devise a plan to help them do so.
The end result is a project that accurately reflects their wants and needs. That, in turn, will help you build a solid, lasting relationship.
Just think, if you are able to regularly accomplish this feat, you’ll have loyal clients and be set up for long-term success. It’s a winning formula that both you and your clients will benefit from.
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