Ask your clients the right questions

When making a pitch to a prospective client or kicking off a new project, it’s essential that you drive the conversation by asking the right questions. During the sales process, it conveys your expertise and value to the client, and during project planning, it can help to ensure that everyone has a correct understanding of what needs to happen and why.

In his article “What to Ask a Client Before You Start Their Project” on Web Designer Depot, Cameron Chapman lists eleven questions, including several that I’ve found to be crucial:

3. What sets your business apart from your competition? — If you’re designing a website or marketing materials for the client, you need to be able to convey why people should do business with them.  If they don’t have a good answer to this question, then you might have to work with them to come up with one.

6. What do you want visitors to do on your site? — This is the most important question of all, because the success of the client’s website depends entirely on the actions taken by visitors.  There might be multiple answers to this question if you have multiple audiences to serve.  Once this has been clarified, the next steps are to figure out how to get visitors to their ultimate destination as quickly/easily as possible, and to measure the results.

7. What is your budget? — This can be a tough question to ask, but a valuable one.  First, it can help weed out clients who don’t have a true appreciation for, or understanding of, the quality of service you offer.  More importantly, when creativity is involved, budgets can vary significantly, and it’s better to pare down a proposal than to have it rejected for being too expensive.  Furthermore, in situations where the client’s budget is very high, submitting a quote that’s significantly lower can sometimes give the client the impression that you don’t really understand what they need.

Although all eleven questions are valuable, the least important might be:

9. What are your long-term plans for your site? — It always helps to know the client’s intentions, especially if they want to make significant changes during the upcoming year.  Regardless of their plans, however, you should be able to create a website that’s relatively easy to redesign or expand as needed, because this is the inherent nature of most websites. Make sure you separate design from content, and allow space in your design for more content, and you should be able to avoid backtracking or starting over in the future.

Regardless of what questions you ask, the important thing is to be prepared, and to do your best to ensure that both you and the client are equally involved in the planning process.