Have you ever noticed that similar clients get very different results when working with different website or design agencies?
What separates mediocre results from great ones? Hint: it’s not always the design team.
In this article we will review 5 tips that successful clients regularly employ.
1. Find the right agency / design team for your business
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to design. Successful clients don’t seek out the biggest or most awarded agency, but rather the agency that is best suited to help them achieve their goals.
All too often small to midsize businesses pay top dollar to hire the most popular agency around, but due to their size (and the sheer number of clients popular agencies have), the clients with the smaller budgets tend to be handled by less experienced designers.
On the flip side, if these clients took their budgets to a smaller agency, the client would receive more time and often more experienced designers assigned to their project.
Here are a few tips to consider when choosing an agency / design team for your business:
Review work that potential agencies have done in the past. Have they worked with clients similar in size and in the same industry as your business? Does the style of work fit what you are hoping for?
If the agency’s portfolio isn’t appealing to you and your target, it’s probably wise to look elsewhere.
You may have heard the popular quote by Dr. Phil, “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” While that might not always be 100% accurate, it’s a safe guide when it comes to picking a web or design agency.
If a number of clients that have similarities to you have been successful with a certain agency, it is likely that the agency has the skills and expertise to also bring success to your project.
In a world of YouTube tutorials and Photoshop lessons, there is an increasing number of freelance designers and mom-and-pop shops. Some are hidden gems and others… well, are not.
It pays to ask how long an agency or designer has been working, where/how they were trained, and what credentials they bring to the table. The design will only be as good as the designer. And though it’s not always the case, you usually get what you pay for.
And last but not least, personal compatibility matters. If you work at a highly structured business with tight deadlines, you need to ensure the agency you are working with can work successfully with you.
Likewise, if your business embodies a particular value (such as religious, political, environmental, etc), you want to be sure that the agency you are working with is not in opposition to your values or goal so it won’t make you lose credibility with your target.
Also pay attention to how the initial meetings and day to day conversation flows. If you have trouble talking to the folks working on your project or have personality clashes, you might want to consider another agency. After all, your agency becomes a business partner that is instrumental in your success!
2. Communicate clearly
Once you have established a great partnership, clear communication is the next essential key to success. No matter how amazing your agency is, designers are NOT mind-readers and they don’t know the key goals, aspects, and details of the job unless you tell them.
Before beginning a project, we encourage clients to provide:
- An accurate and detailed description of their business
- A written brief that contains goals, requirements and any other pertinent information
- How you will determine success
Different agencies handle this process differently, but at 11Web we put a lot of time and energy into this stage because we’ve found that it saves time, money, and frustration in the end to be on the same page at the beginning of a project.
3. Give helpful feedback
So you’ve done everything right so far and you get your first look at the design and it’s not right…. then what?
Even experts miss the mark, but how you provide feedback and direction can affect the success of your project.
Here are some tips to ensure the problem is corrected and the design team is able to accurately adjust the design.
- Point out the areas that aren’t working and why.
- Share your concerns, but don’t try and come up with a solution. This is one of the most common mistakes we see at 11Web. Clients naturally seeks to offer solutions (and sometimes they are right on the money!) However, if you are going to offer a solution, also make sure you explain what isn’t feeling right. Designers can often think of a variety of design solutions, so if they understand the problem or concern, they can offer the best solution (which may be different than the client’s suggestion).
- Ask questions. If a design choice feels off to you, ask why it was made. Perhaps the font that feels off to you was chosen to appeal to your target audience – not you. Design is a delicate balance of staying true to a product and brand and appealing to the target audience. Sometimes personal likes and dislikes are sacrificed for overall effectiveness in reaching the target market.
4. Trust the process
As with anything, spend some time reviewing and making sure you understand the process. Design is a process. The process is in place to reach an end goal.
Just as when you are hiking, you don’t always see the final destination and the trail might have twists and turns. Speak up if you are concerned along the way, but also trust the journey. There may be points where you can’t see the destination but keep pressing on to the goal and trusting your guides. After all, this is why you hired them!
Here are some questions to ask to ensure you are clear on the process:
- What is the process for this project? What happens at each stage?
- Is there a timeline for each stage?
- How are responsibilities divided? What will the client need to do / provide and what will the agency handle?
- At what points do we provide feedback?
- Are there specific considerations that need to be made?
5. Trust your team and don’t micro-manage
For small businesses, we find this is one of the biggest challenges. Entrepreneurs have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into building their business and have been extremely hands-on in all areas of the business as they built it from the ground up.
So when they hire a design team, they expect a high level of involvement, which in itself is not an issue. Challenges arise when the company decision maker tries to manage the design process and/or seek to direct or actually do the design. We encourage our clients to use their expertise on their business and let us at 11Web use our expertise to create a truly effective website or design solution.
One of the questions we ask is: Are you hiring an expert to build your brand or an extra set of hands to execute your design vision? If you simply need a designer who can draw an idea you already have, hire a college student or intern to do the work.
However, keep in mind that design is just as specialized and skillful as other areas of your business. Would you or an experienced CPA do a better job with the books? The same is true with design. Anyone can figure out how to add a font to a graphic, but only skilled designers know the visual tips and tricks to truly create a professional and effective design.
A key element to any successful partnership is trust. If you can’t trust the expertise of the agency or designer you hire, then you should be looking for a different agency. And this goes both ways. Most agencies can tell you of a time when they had to let a client go because the client wasn’t trusting the process. Don’t let that be you! We hope these tips will ensure that your project is as smooth and successful as possible.