Anyone who knows me will hear me often say “slow down to speed up’. It’s one of my favourite business expressions.
We are all running along at 100mph, doing what we do, putting fires out, trying to juggle many priorities and of course keep our clients happy. I am sure you can relate to that – I certainly can. I have been that person – it’s exhausting, and sometimes it feels like we are just running to stay still.
Here is something else I bet you can relate to… I was with a customer last week who has an issue with ‘scope creep’ which results in project overrun, stress in the team due to long working hours and ultimately less profitable work.
The problem is that clients don’t always know exactly what they want at the start of the project, so the give a brief or outline that is a little too vague. My client is then forced to make some assumptions to ‘fill in the blanks’ and invariably, some of these assumptions are wrong.
It’s only when they deliver the first version of the solution/design that their customer’s give a more in-depth brief (based on seeing what they don’t want!).
This is a really good example of ‘slow down to speed up’. If my client had a more thorough briefing process and was more assertive in saying ‘no we can’t start until we can complete this brief’ then they would get to the end result (a great design or a great solution) much more rapidly, with less pain internally and ultimately, with a happier customer.
I always tell clients you need a set of questions that must be answered and a set of questions that ideally you would like answered BEFORE they begin any piece of work. I call them your 5 non-negotiable questions (and I am going to blog more about this in the future since it’s such an important topic).
Let’s take a few steps back – you’re now in the prospecting stage and the prospect has asked you to write a proposal and in that proposal they’ve also asked you to provide some sample ideas of designs, graphics or web pages (or whatever you are pitching for) as part of the pitching process.
How on earth can you deliver your best work if you haven’t taken the client through your briefing process and have them answer those 5 non-negotiable questions?
In the end if you agree to pitch in these circumstances and invest lots of time creating designs, it becomes the luck of the draw and you have to hope that one of your designs really resonates with the prospect!
Now I know I’m not going to change the world because for a long time prospects have asked for strategies or layouts / designs without briefing the client fully but when you have an ideal target customer as a prospect it becomes much easier to apply this thinking and get them to agree to either brief you properly or not to have to do these designs as part of your pitch.
You’d be much better off selling them the briefing immersion process that you will take them through when they buy from you. This is another example of ‘slowing down to speed up’ by explaining the logic of your thinking to your prospect and getting them agree to buy into the process rather than a vague outcome or random pretty picture!
As busy entrepreneurs there are so many areas of our life and our work where we would do well to heed the slow down to speed up mantra . Sometimes just taking a breath, standing back and seeing a situation with some objectivity enables us to ensure we are focused on the right things that move our agency forward and it also helps us push back or even say NO more often.
Let’s imagine the scenario – you have just won a new client (let’s say it’s a new website) and are excited to get started on the project. You have had some fact find discussions and have enough notes so both you and the client believe you know what is needed and get started with the design.
Fast forward several weeks and you are ready to show the client your first layouts. At this point the client gives you more info based on the designs – they don’t like the way the home page looks or the navigation. It feels too corporate. So back to the drawing board – you leave with a little more info and start work on draft 2.
Sound familiar? Many of us have experienced this resulting in ‘scope creep’, over service and ultimately not being profitable.
Those that know me, will know this is a favourite expression of mine and applies to many business areas, including this one. If we slow down to really understand the client’s needs and wants then we give ourselves the best chance of getting it as close to ‘right’ the first time around. If we don’t, and find ourselves making assumptions, then in our haste, we end up taking much longer to deliver a project, which ultimately means eating away at profits.
So what is your briefing/creative process? Is it documented? Do you train your staff to use it? Do you ensure one way or the other, you take your clients through the process BEFORE you start work on their project?
If you don’t have one, make a list of the 3-5 questions you MUST have answered when taking a brief. Make a list of the next 3-5 questions you would ideally like to have answered. Make sure you understand how to link the business objectives to the creative objectives of this project. If the client can’t answer these questions then you have 2 choices: either write a brief for them and get them to approve/amend it or walk away from the project.
A popular and important discussion and one that I frequently have with my clients. If you want some help with this, get in touch. There is a lot more info on this and similar topics in the whitepaper section of my website.