We were stressed. There was a bit of chaos.
In an uncharacteristic outlet of frustration, we sent an incredibly blunt email to a prospective client. They had been pushing on budget and trying to squeeze more commitment out of us … and, well, we kind of just lost patience. We didn’t mince words. We’re learning how to say no to projects that aren’t a good fit, and we had started to assume this was one of them.
I won’t go into detail here, but it was surprisingly well received. The contact thanked us repeatedly for our honesty and now we’re working out some genuinely reasonable options for everyone.
Which lead me to ask the question of the team — what are some hard truths you wish you could say to clients but don’t?
I found their answers to be approachable and necessary parts of our communications with potential clients. Let’s take them a few at a time and make this a nice little series:
1. Always double your technology budget.
Having been in the industry as long as we have, we often feel like this should go without saying…so we forget to say it. Technology is a real and necessary cost of doing business today. And if you’re coming to us you’re doing something new, different, innovative, and sophisticated enough that those plug-and-play solutions aren’t going to cut it. So it is going to take investment to invent something new together, whether it be a brand or an entire digital experience. Things are going to come up during development that you hadn’t thought of. Opportunities, mind-changes, stakeholder delays.
You don’t want to skimp. We don’t want to do a poor job. You don’t want a half-baked experience. We’ve rescued enough stalled projects to say with certainty: your customers and users will notice if you cut corners.
Work out your ideal budget and then double it. If that expense is too much for your business, consider scaling back your needs or raising more money.
2. You are a technology company.
Whether it’s a marketing website or a complex mobile app — you are to varying degrees a tech company. And your tech needs to be maintained, updated, and managed with just as much priority as your offices and storefronts do. This is a commitment and an investment that many businesses are surprised at and it’s often a sore point in conversations. Technology changes at a rapid pace and no software, website, or mobile app will be stable and relevant forever.
Depending on the level of what you’re building, there needs to be a conscious decision to maintain a budget for keeping up or understanding the risks of letting it slide and falling behind. We are, of course, happy to have long term relationships with our clients to maintain their technology but part of being an agency is that we don’t own your product.
3. Your favorite feature may not be the most valuable one
Here’s something that we’ve gotten better at saying to our clients: Learn. To. Prioritize. And by that we mean not only be able to clearly identify and rank the features you want to build, but understand and communicate why. Does it provide the highest ROI? Is it most likely to get investors interested? Is it the simplest way to engage initial users? What is most important and relevant to the end goal?
So often we see visionaries with fantastic ideas for multi-faceted experiences…and when we get into the design phase and are able to do research and talk to users, all of that changes. We find out, hopefully before it’s too late, that users don’t find value in a certain feature. Or it’s too costly to build for the benefit. Or that they would have been more engaged if only…
We don’t pretend to be experts in your business, but we are experts in technology and digital experiences. When we make recommendations, or even on occasion disagree with you, it’s because we want you to succeed. And because we don’t want to build something that we can’t believe in.