PART 1: Avoid Self-Diagnosis
Being a “good client” doesn’t mean that you’re inferior to the agency you’re working with…
it simply means that you’re allowing the professional that you’re consulting with to do their job most effectively.
I’ve been wanting to do a series on “How To Be A Good Client” to help businesses get the best experience possible when working with a design agency. Let’s face it, no one wants to waste time, and everyone wants the best outcome when working on creative projects together. I believe this series will help avoid a lot of the pain and headache that can go into the design process. The first subject I want to talk about in this series is avoiding “Self-Diagnosis”.
What is Self-Diagnosis?
Think about going to the doctor. The reason you’re going to the doctor is because something just isn’t right. You have pain, or feel funny, or have something going on with your body that you felt was serious enough to get help from a professional who can help cure whatever ails you. Now pretend for a moment that you had a stomach ache that’s been keeping you up all night, and then you finally went to the doctor’s office and the conversation went something like this:
Doctor: “Hey there, how can I help you?”
Patient: “hey Doc, I feel terrible. I’ve been throwing up all night. I have the stomach flu. I need some Imodium and antibiotics please”.
Doctor: “Oh, okay. That sounds simple enough. No problem. I’ll get that prescription written up right away! That’ll be $XX.XX”
If this were an actual scenario, then that doctor would be fired! The doctor’s job is not to simply take orders and write out prescriptions based on their patients’ self-diagnosis. The doctor’s job is to listen to the patient, run a diagnostic on their body, and find the actual source of their patient’s pain. A responsible doctor might reply with “oh, you think you have the stomach flu. You’re probably right… it’s been going around. Let me learn a little more about your symptoms and then run some tests to make sure”. No responsible doctor would ever simply take the patients word for it without proper diagnosis before prescribing a solution.
However, when it comes to business people do it all the time! The conversation goes something like this:
Designer: “Hey there! How can I help you?”
Client: “Hey Mr. Designer. I have an old outdated website that’s not getting a lot of hits. I need a website redesign, and want to make sure it’s mobile friendly so people can view it on their smart phone. I also want to add all this content and these pictures…”
Designer: “Oh, okay. That sounds simple enough. No problem. I’ll get that done right away! That’ll be $XX.XX”
A responsible designer would say something along the lines of “oh, so you think you need a website redesign to solve your problem. You’re probably right… Let me learn a little more about your company and do a little market research to make sure”.
Being a good client is just like being a good patient. It simply means that you make it as easy as possible for the professional to help you:
get to the root of the problem
provide an accurate diagnosis
determine the correct remedy or course of action
DISCLAIMER: Most Designers Aren’t Strategists
I feel it is necessary to make a disclaimer, though, that most designers are not strategists. The reason they like to design is to make things pretty. However, pretty designs don’t get results; strategic designs do. When working with a design agency, it’s crucial to work with one that specializes in strategy. The best way to find out is simply to ask.
Two Steps To Avoid Self-Diagnosis
1) Recognize that you have a pain point.
You’re obviously going to a professional for a reason, so ask yourself, “what is the desired end-result I’m looking for?” Focus on the pain and the goal, not the remedy and solution.
2) Consult with a professional, and be open.
You may think you need a specific remedy (i.e. new website, new logo, social media presence, etc.) but, be open to the ideas of the agency you’re working with. Don’t do too much prelim work because you will be attached to it and will not part with it easily. If you write out 3 pages worth of content that you think your website needs, you will do everything in your power to convince yourself and the designer that it is crucial to have in order to achieve your goals. Do research, yes. However, don’t come to an agency with a pile of work and say “here is what I need you to do… how much?” Instead, focus more on your end-result, and allow the agency to work in collaboration with you to produce the result you’re looking for.