After completing my MBA, I joined an advertising agency where I fell in love with the whole concept of designing communication. For two months, I used to sit next to my graphic designer friends and play around with colors, fonts, and copy; it was so much fun. After a few months, I noticed a pattern; the creative team created five options for one poster and multiple feedback every day. It wasn’t fun anymore.
Being client-facing, I felt responsible for my friends in the creative team, creating multiple options, and spending drunken nights in the office (Working!). It came to the point that I learned how to make the ‘logo bigger’ myself, export PDF, and send it to the client myself. (Kidding!)
I thought it’s not me; it’s the client. They are indecisive and cribbed about them with the creative team to gain sympathy and get the work done. But I knew I was in trouble when it happened to us again.
That’s when I decided to seek help and gathered my creative team to brainstorm ways to increase efficiency and get the design right in the first go. We discovered the problem wasn’t that the client was indecisive, but we didn’t know the client and the business much.
Why was that happening? Every meeting with the client, we tried to please the client by filling the awkward silences with something while we should have heard the client instead. We were not asking the right questions to solve the business problem with the design.
When you start talking, you have taken away your client’s chance to think about what you have said. You stop them from digesting the design you carefully created, and you start sounding like that annoying pushy salesperson that no one likes. Instead, you can get inside your client’s head, so you know what they really want — and let them do the talking.
You can become a trusted advisor in the business process, and you use your client’s own words to give them what they want.
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” ― Voltaire
Listing down the questions that we decided to ask every client before getting onto a design phase, use these questions for your next campaign brief or freelance project to save time and become that trusted advisor to your clients.
1. What are your long-term and short-term business goals?
This question does two things. First, it gives you a roadmap to follow to help you provide for your customer’s immediate needs. When you can help make your customer’s short-term goals a reality, you become a partner in their success. Second, beginning to understand their long-term goals establishes you as a partner for the long haul. You stop being just a person trying to achieve a one-time sale, and you build a relationship that helps you to become a trusted confidant.
2. What’s your single most significant challenge/ problem when it comes to your product/ service?
People don’t buy products/ designs; they buy a solution to their problem. Asking these questions pushes your client’s to think and tell you exactly where the problem is.
3. How did you discover that this is the biggest challenge?
Humans tend to assume things, this question will help you identify the hypothesis and finding the root cause.
4. Major challenges that you have faced in the last 6 months or a year?
This is an extension of the previous questions and brings recency to the conversation. Every client wants to first address the immediate problem, and once the solution works, they will look for a long term relation with you.
5. What have we done already to solve this challenge?
This will help you understand all the ways the client has tried solving the issue and if you think it was the right approach, dig down deeper into understanding the execution. You will know which ideas to work on and which ones to discard right-away.
6. How do you define success? What are the KPIs?
This will help you track success, and if you are in digital, this will help you course-correct if the design needs any iteration.
7. What are the no go areas?
I remember working for a client that hated typography and loved quirky wordplay.
The Key to Your Success
The best way to know your client is to ask! For that matter, anyone. If you do it right, you’ll identify countless options to solve problems, become an asset, and help your clients succeed.
I still won’t guarantee that client won’t ask you to make the logo bigger.
And finally, don’t ask them how much budget do they have. If you have a great design/idea, they will be open to extending the budget. Trust me when I say this, I have been on both sides of the tables.