12 tips for improving your e-mail correspondence with your design clients.
Hey true believers! At Go Media we’ve started having in-house “classes.” Basically any designer from Go Media that has some good advice to pass along to the staff will schedule a time to do a quick presentation. Everyone in the office can choose to attend the mini-class to learn something.
This past Monday I did a mini-class I called “Flawless Service.” The class was nothing more than me reading through every e-mail I had with a client for one particular project. Some of what I do during my correspondence with a client is nothing new to my staff. But some of it was, and it only took a second.
I can’t actually SHOW you the correspondence I had, but I did type up this quick list of the sorts of things I naturally do during a normal engagement with a client. I thought I could share it with you. It’s really just common sense, but a quick reminder never hurt.
1. Establish your contact and means by which you’re going to communicate. Clearly Identify who you are, how you are in contact and provide your contact info. It’s also VERY useful to force the client to pick one “leader” if there will be a number of individuals giving feedback. Make them all report to their leader, then that leader can provide one piece of clear feedback to you.
2. Establish the details of the job. What is the deadline? What format is this design to be delivered in? Are there proof deadlines? Make a schedule if necessary. I know this is elementary stuff here, but I still think some designers don’t do a thorough enough job collecting all the details of a job. Err on the side of asking too many questions.
3. Develop a rapport with the client. I frequently find myself talking with clients about things wholly unrelated to the project at hand. If I find out that a client is a Spider-Man fan – I can’t help but discuss why I think he’s the best super hero. Sometimes it’s about business, jogging, or whatever. Anything that piques my interest will be a conversation point. Feel free to engage the client in conversation of interest. Establish common ground, make jokes, whatever. This will endear you to the client, make you friends with them. This fundamentally changes the way a client works with you. Now, they’re rooting for you, helping you, they WANT you to succeed. They CARE about you. Because they feel like they know you. I really do this a lot.
4. Make sure the client understands the VALUE of what you’re doing, particularly if discounting your rates in any way. This has to be done with extreme subtlety and tact. Saying something like: “Dude, you are sooooo lucky to be working with me. I normally charge three times this much.” Will simply not cut it. But if you find an opportunity to slip in the value of what you’re doing without sounding like a jerk – take it.
5. Make them laugh, or at least smile. I try my best to slip in a joke or silly comment into my e-mails. If you can make a client laugh, you’ve absolutely endeared yourself to them.
6. Make a schedule and stick to it. Clients appreciate punctuality. If you take the lead in setting up a schedule and you hit your deadlines – you’re as good as gold to them. Don’t forget – the emphasis needs to be on the “…sticking to it…” part. If you make a schedule only to miss all the deadlines you’ve set, you’ll only be punctuating your own failures.
7. Carbon copy all interested parties. If there are other people who need to be kept “in the loop” then make sure you CC them on every single e-mail. I’ve made the mistake of leaving people out of the daily correspondence. The results are always a mistake that could have been easily avoided.
8. Give them options, but make sure you also give them what they asked for too. If you’re going to do something outside of the requested design – make sure you give them what they asked for too. This is very important. The client shouldn’t feel like they have to ask twice, or fight with you to get something. You CAN make a concerted effort to educate and pitch them on a different idea. But I would probably do this in a phone conversation. And reassure them that they will get what they want in the end.
9. Repost their feedback along with your revised proofs. When posting revisions – if they’ve given me a check list, I will often type back their check-list to them, and include little comments. This way they absolutely know I’m listening to and following their directions.
10. Up sell when things are going well. Now, Go Media is not a hard-sales kind of company. But when things are going very well and the relationship has been established, I will take the opportunity to let them know about other services that we have available. It might be something as simple as this: “If you ever need any web design, we do that too!”
11. Give them a little something for free. This is usually in the form of consulting. But it can be a real quick design project too. Here are two examples of things I might say/do: “I was thinking about your project last night and had a good idea for your new product…” Or “I noticed that your logo was a low resolution jpeg. I took a minute to vectorize it and output a high-res version for you. I’ve attached those files – no charge.”
12. Say Thank You. Nothing is more powerful than a well timed and sincere thank-you.
And with that, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you learned something.