Reading the Client: What they say and what they mean

Sounds simple, but sometimes we miss it. Long-time Back40 client Rodney Stamps emailed me minutes before I shut the office down for Christmas break and said he’d like to have a recently produced video on his website. Rodney and his wife, Paige, own StampsCo, an alarm, fire and building technology company that over the past few years has experienced tremendous growth.

Revision Request
Both owners have always been very hands-on in the marketing of their company. Over the years, Back40 designers and programmers have produced multiple marketing projects for StampsCo including multiple websites, company branding and print marketing pieces. I could tell Rodney was proud of this video and would like to post it online quickly. I read that part of the project correctly. I emailed right back and told him that Reyna, our web project manager, would get with him about specs, format and placement as soon as she returned after the holiday. Great – seemed simple enough.

Spidey Sense Alerted
What happened next? The website revision assignment bounced around between Reyna, Rodney and the company that produced the video. There were a number of emails back and forth detailing format, size, possible placement locations. I was cc-ed on some of the emails and I could sense a quiet, but growing sense of client frustration.

Problem Identified
Long story shorter. Rodney emailed me Monday and asked where we were on getting this video posted. When clients use phrases like “sorry to bother you,” “Who have you assigned,” and “need an update on time line” – they are frustrated. I email back immediately and told him that, as I understood the progress, we had the video and Reyna was waiting on him to tell her where to place the video. Rodney immediately emailed back and told me (in client code) he doesn’t know where the video should go – he’d like us to tell him. Problem identified.

Into Action
I cranked up PhotoShop and took screen shots of his Home page and another Back40 web client that had a similar promotional company video. I did a little cut and paste, typed up a quick few lines outlining the plan of using a smaller format teaser video on the Home page and a larger format video placed on a page in their About Us section. A minute later Rodney was looking at the attached comp and e-mailing back:

StampsCo email

Within a day of the above response, Reyna and her crew had the revisions approved and live for Rodney.

What I knew, temporarily forgot and was again humbly force fed:
Clients that know what they want – tell us what they want.
Clients that don’t tell us what they want – want us to tell them what they want.

Other lessons relearned and reinforced:
Clients like visual explanations. Screen shots and quick mock-ups cut down written and verbal descriptions.
Clients like quick responses. They would like what they pay us to provide: service.

Thanks Rodney and Paige. Thanks for the years of trust and business – and occasional patience. And for letting me post this blog.

Website comp - StampsCo Home page

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