Marketing guru Seth Godin offers four paths for clients seeking designers:
1. Those Who Know What They Want
These are clients who have done their research and have a sophisticated vision available to execute upon.
2. Those Who Aren’t Quite Sure, But Know What It Looks Like
While these clients may not have a complete vision, they have a good head start. They have industry/competitor references available and understand the overall shape the work needs to take.
3. Those Who Understand What it Needs to Convey
These are those who understand that design has the power to convert, and know the end-goal but aren’t sure how to make that happen or what it looks like.
4. Those Who Will Know it When They See It
The most frustrating path, this approach is not recommended for either clients or designers unless you have unlimited money and time.
So – how is this relevant for a design services agency or consultant? Well, as Sun Tzu would say, the first rule of battle is to know your opponent. Not that we should equate clients with opponents, but the point being, the better & sooner we can get into the mindset of our customers, the more equipped we are to deliver what they need and want. While the above represent the four paths to working with a designer, the flipside is true in that the above represent the four types of clients we are often serving. How we approach a project with a Type 1 Client is going to vary greatly from our approach with a Type 3 Client, and we should have the tools in place to identify the red flags common with Type 4 Clients before it’s too late.
Whether it be personal or professional, communication is the key to the success of any partnership. In asking the right questions at the onset of a new inquiry or discovery we can typically establish client type before investing much effort in the project. Often, a standard sales questionnaire or introductory call will provide the pre-requisite information.
Once we start viewing clients and projects through the additional context of Client Type, we have a better sense of what questions to ask (as well as what questions not to ask).