He was like every other startup CEO that you’ve ever met. Tons of ideas. All of which sound appealing. He was a vision caster. He was energetic. It was virtually impossible not to get excited every time we got on the phone.
And nothing changed when we started talking about refreshing his website. Why would it? The skills that had served him to well in every other part of his life should translate, right?
But they didn’t. Because his website, as I would fondly explain more than once, wasn’t for him. It wasn’t about his vision. It wasn’t about his energy.
Who Is Your Site for?
It led me to one of my favorite parts of client discussions—the question about who the site is for. Initially, customers quickly answer that the project is for them—that they’re the stakeholder.
But after some talking, we quickly recognized a reality that I spent almost all last year sharing at WordCamps across the country. The measure of success for a website isn’t determined by what my client wants. It’s not determined by what my client needs. It’s not determined by what my client likes or even requests.
No. In reality, the success of my client’s website is determined apart from my wants/needs as well as my client’s.
Success is determined by how well we serve our client’s clients.
It’s a no-duh moment when we get there. But there can be some protest before we get there. Because we all want to think that we know what our clients want.
And our clients think the same thing.
And in the end, in statistical terms, all we’ve figured out is n=1. That’s a sample size. In statistics it tells us how many people participated in a survey. N=1 is the easiest way to say that we were looking and listening only to ourselves.
Success is determined by meeting my client’s clients needs.
How Are You Figuring Out Your Client’s Clients Wants and Needs?
Two of the projects I worked on this past year helped WordPress product companies refresh their company sites. In that work, I do the normal analysis that everyone does when trying to help a site deliver greater value.
- We looked at copy.
- We looked at messaging.
- We looked at design.
- We looked at ease of use.
But I looked one more place to capture my client’s clients needs and wants. I asked for access to their support forums or ticket systems.
In this way I was able to find out, in greater depth, where their clients were struggling. And that allowed me to make specific suggestions about everything else.
Learning to Say No, Politely
Over the past few weeks I’ve been working with a client who has some interesting ideas. Some of them are awesome. It lead to a post I wrote about yesterday.
But other ideas aren’t as great. And I have to say no. Politely.
Because if I protect him from his lame ideas, guess what? He’ll be much more willing to pay me to help him on his great ones.
But he has to know that I’m the kind of person that will call it like I see it. And give him a realistic sense of consequences.
When Your Customer Doesn’t Want Success…
The last aspect worth looking at here is when you’re dealing with someone who really doesn’t care about their own customers, and instead is driving decisions simply based on their own likes and wants. At that point, I find that I have to decide. Do I want to finish the project, or do I want to gracefully exit from the project?
I’m not talking about the use of sliders here. I don’t like them but I won’t quit a project over it. But I have quit projects where, in the name of getting people on a mailing list, clients have wanted to do some seriously wrong stuff.
What About You?
What’s your approach to helping clients find success? Some folks do the “it’s their money, I do what they pay me to do” and others don’t.
What camp do you fall into? And how has that impacted how you work with clients?
Chris Lema is the VP of Software Engineering at Emphasys Software, where he manages high performers and oversees product development and innovation. He’s also a blogger, ebook author and runs a WordPress meetup in North County San Diego. His coaching focuses on helping WordPress businesses, or businesses wanting to leverage WordPress.
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