As business owners, we're always consumed with and saturated in the things of our industry. We know the ins and outs of our business, the proper terminology to use, and the reasons behind each of our processes; they've become second nature to us. But when we're working with new clients, it's often easy to forget that our industry is most likely foreign and unfamiliar to them. This can lead to frustration on both ends and prove to be detrimental for building solid client relationships.
"Amateurs get frustrated with clients. Professionals educate them." - Paul Jarvis
You can guard against this dilemma by educating your clients before and during your working relationship. Today I'm sharing why client education is important as well as 5 ways you can put it into practice in your own business.
Why is it important?
It sets your clients at ease. Chances are, your clients don't know very much about your industry (that's probably why they're coming to you in the first place!). And in the off-chance that they are familiar with your industry, they may not know much about your individual process and business practices. Giving them information and educating them on these topics clears any concerns they may have; it sets them at ease while working with you. It also allows your clients to feel comfortable asking you questions, which is crucial to client communication and a great working relationship.
It demonstrates your qualifications. Educating your clients also positions you as the professional. It allows them to see that you know what you're talking about and you have experience in your field, which leads to being taken seriously. Your client will feel more comfortable taking your advice and trusting your judgement when they see you as the expert.
It affirms your prices. I don't know about you, but I've come across some prospective clients who are uneducated about my field and in turn, don't understand my prices. Many times that leads to an attempt to talk me down, which leads to me feeling under-appreciated and frustrated. By educating your clients and even your prospective clients, you have the potential to explain all that goes into your work and affirm your pricing.
It builds trust. Clients want to know that they're in good hands, especially when they're investing time and money into working with you. By explaining your decision-making, reasoning, business practices, and parameters, you show that you're experienced and knowledgable and affirm that you know what you're talking about. Communication and education build trust.
5 Ways to educate your clients
Set and manage expectations. At the start of a project or working relationship, outline your offerings, business practices, terms of service, communication methods, and timelines. Break down your process and go into detail about what each step looks like and what's expected of both parties for each one. This troubleshoots against any miscommunications, missed deadlines, or confusion, and it leads to clear communication and trust with your client.
Before I book a design client, I spend 30 minutes to an hour discussing my process and branding package with them over Skype. I explain in detail how they can reserve their date, how I will be contacting them with rough drafts and revisions, how I hand over files at the end of the project, which information I will need from them beforehand for collateral items, what to expect throughout those 2-weeks of design work, etc. Educating my client about the parameters of the project and setting expectations for our working relationship ensures that both me and my client are on the same page.
Explain your decision-making. This has been extremely beneficial for me with my design clients. Each time I send them an inspiration board, logo concepts, or the design of their website, I take time to break down and explain each decision I made. Not only does it demonstrate that I have a purpose and reason for each component that I design, but it allows them to see things from a different perspective and trust my judgment and experience.
This may look a little differently for you depending on which industry you're in, but explaining the decisions you make as a creative entrepreneur can greatly benefit your client relationships by positioning you as a professional, setting your clients at ease, and building trust.
Speak in simple terms. We all have special terms that we use in our industry, but if I bust out terms like "hierarchy," "negative space," or "sans serif typeface" on a client who is completely unfamiliar with the technical aspects of design, I will probably get some very confused looks. Use terms that your clients will understand and teach them the definitions of your fancy terms. Not only does it benefit you as your working relationship continues, but I've found that clients love learning new terms and "sounding the part."
Make your information accessible. There are many creative ways to educate your clients and prospective clients apart from emails and phone calls. One of my favorite ways to inform my clients about my creative process and website platform of choice is to point them back to blog posts that I've written in the past. Many of these blog posts have stemmed from FAQs and topics that regularly come up during client meetings. Consider writing blog posts to educate your clients. Not only are these posts helpful to refer back to later, but I have a feeling your other readers will enjoy reading them, too. Another helpful tip for educating your readers is to create an FAQ page on your website.
I also find it helpful to make information not only accessible but engaging. One of my favorite ways that I've gone about this was through creating an infographic for my branding process.
Ask for questions. Consistently work on clear communication with your clients by looking for opportunities to educate them. I do this often by asking my clients for questions every time we interact, whether it's over email or a Skype session; I want to make sure that I'm not leaving any stone unturned or any question unanswered.
Do you put an emphasis on educating your clients? How do you share information and maintain open communication with them?
P.S. Are you tuning in tonight at 9:00pm EST for the first Elle & Company Twitter Chat? We'll be discussing blogging, design, and business, and I'll throw out related topics for discussion and feedback. I hope to 'see' you there!