Well, the simple answer is creativity, ideas and problem-solving. But perhaps you get a lot more value than you may think?
Recently I signed up a new client. Like most of my clients, this one came to me at just the right time – right at the beginning, when they were starting to plan their project. In this particular case the client was a start-up business and like most start-up they need a visual identity to differentiate themselves from their competition.
So a branding assignment? Not quite – this brief was for a website!
I had a discussion with the client about the process of developing the website, how to scope it, why we need to wireframe and what the content will be, etc. All the time the discussion kept coming back to “How will the website look?”.
At this point I showed the client a couple of website I had done for other clients in a similar start-up situation and how initially, these too had no visual identity – but before a ‘look’ for a website was developed, their identity was developed first and this was then applied to their website and other colaterals, not the other way round.
The client nodded, confirming his understanding that before anything else, he first needs a brand identity to communicate his service to his customers.
Now, I was not attempting to solicit additional work from the client, but like any assignment if was going to be done, it needed to done correctly. I was after all, advising the client that there was a better starting point for this assignment than the one initially considered.
So, the briefing meeting started again, but with a different focus.
During the meeting, I kept probing the client with questions such as what is his business plan, who is the target market, what are the expected sales, what’s the price positioning, who are the perceived competitors, what is the strategy for growth, etc. These are questions that most designers would ask of their client in order to successfully answer a brief.
But what I found was the client had no answers to these questions!
The client had no business plan, was unsure of his target market and hadn’t thought about how to grow the service he was providing. As a designer, this poses a problem in developing an effective solution for the client. But it also poses a problem for the client’s business. However, I persevered as answers to these questions are needed to successfully fulfill the brief.
To achieve a direction from the client, I utilised a coaching methodology called GROW. This is an acronym for Goals, Reality, Options and Wrap-up.
Firstly I helped the client identify exactly what goals he wanted to achieve for is business. Then we discussed the reality of his particular situation by establishing where he is, what skills he has at his disposal and what resources he can employ to fulfill identified goals – are they achievable?
We then moved on to discuss what options were open to the client, which routes he could take to achieve his goals and finally, we wrapped up with a synopsis of what he wanted to achieve and how he would get there.
Of course, the great thing about this type of dialogue, is that it is perceived as a conversation, a discourse. But in reality I was getting the client to discuss his business with me so I can provide him with a better design solution.
I continued the conversation to establish both a wide and specific target market. The client indicated that specifically, his service was of benefit to the female motorist, but generally all motorists, mainly in the Dublin region.
Great! I now had concepts for imagery for the website, a creative direction was being formed for both the identity and the website as I now had a picture of the ideal customer!
With an agreement on a potential direction, I then asked about potential business expansion. Together we established a number of complimentary services the client could offer his customers further down the line once the company had been established. Many of which the client had never been considered before our meeting. Once I felt all avenues were explored, I turned my focus on how the client was going to promote the launch of of his business – more importantly how he was going to achieve this with little or no budget! After discussing what options were available we settled on targeted press releases and the use of social media.
So, let’s recap on what the client got?
Well, clearly the client go an effective design solution for his brand identity and an on-line presence to boot! That’s a given when you deal with any professional designer. But this client also got a coaching session in which a number of potential new markets were opened to him while, retaining his core business offering. Being cognisant of these new services being offered in the future meant that the website was designed specifically to accommodate new sections in phase 2 – so another problem solved. The client was also advised on how to promote the launch of his business in the press, received training in the use of social media and got some Public Relations advice.
This client’s needs are not unique, many clients have similar problems requiring solutions. So, next time you have a meeting with a designer, be aware that they are bringing more to the table and are giving a more value added services than you may have initially thought.