The success of a graphic design business – or any online business – will not only be down to how to get clients but also how you keep and maintain them. This is why client communication is extremely important.
There is a right and a wrong way to communicate with a client. Get it right and there will be a long and mutually-beneficial relationship. Get it wrong and client goes elsewhere.
Don’t baffle the client with technology
Ask yourself “is it necessary that the client knows this at this moment?” And if the answer is “no” then don’t bother. So, don’t say:
“WordPress works better on Linux servers operating Apache rather than Windows operating IIS. If you are using a Windows host we could muddle through but it might be better to change hosts which will involve you changing the Name Servers at your domain name registrar.”
But, do say:
“I will set up your website for you”
It’s very important to know your client’s knowledge. If they don’t have any technical knowledge it’s best not to try to explain the “how” of the job. Just tell them what they’ll get out of it.
Keep it simple, stupid!
Clients don’t like things to be complicated. They are paying you to keep their life simple. So the last thing they need is questions, uncertainty and complexity. So, don’t say:
“There are so many different ways to send email to your customers. You can register them with Google’s Feedburner and have your latest posts sent out automatically. This is a free services but it takes a bit of setting up. Or you can set up an account with an email service provider. This will cost a bit more but give you more flexibility. And, finally, you could just send emails out via your own personal email client – I may be able to help you with this.”
But, do say:
“I will give you the ability to create and send beautifully designed email newsletters to your customers in a matter of minutes.”
Similarly to not getting too technical, don’t explain the options unless it’s absolutely necessary.
The relationship is everything
Don’t involve any of your colleagues in the conversation with the client. The client wants a relationship with you. They don’t care how you get the job done they just want the job done well and, if there’s a problem, they want you to fix it. So, don’t say:
“I will employ the services of an PHP developer to enable some of the website’s functionality but I have done this many times before and there has never been a problem.”
But, do say:
“I will design, develop and maintain your website to function exactly as agreed.”
Do what you do best and outsource the rest. Every graphic designer must have loads of freelance contacts they can call on to help them complete a job. This is not of any specific interest to the client. The client is interested in the finished product that you will deliver not how you deliver it.
Don’t ask too many questions
Sometimes during the execution of a design or a task, a question becomes apparent that wasn’t covered in the brief. I usually try to make a decision as to what to do with this. A lot of the time the client isn’t available for further consultation and as far as they’re concerned the job has been briefed and they don’t want to hear back from you until the job is finished. So, when this is the case, don’t mention any of the problems you’ve had in completing the design. So, don’t say:
“I had a lot of trouble with this. You didn’t mention if you’d required x, y or z but I thought you might so I put them in anyway”
But, do say:
“Please find attached a visual option for the job we discussed. I look forward to your valued feedback.”
I find time and again that clients will go with your decision on some aspect of the design they haven’t thought about. That what they’re paying you for – they’re paying you to make decisions for them to save them time.
It’s all about communication
The most successful graphic designers – the most successful people who deal with clients online – are the ones that communicate best.
If you understand what a client requires and can then over deliver that on time and on budget – you’ll do very well in this business.
What do you think?
As ever, this has only been my experience with clients. We all work in different niches with different disciplines. What’s been your experiences?