Pick Your Customers Wisely (or Prepare to Pay the Price)

marketing ideas 101 pick your clients

Chris Lema, VP of Software Engineering at Emphasys Software is a WordPress advocate. He maintains an informative, engaging blog at chrislema.com where he regularly discusses the in’s and out’s of WordPress development, best practices and client engagement. In his post Two Kinds of Customers, he describes two common scenarios in the web development world:

Customer #1: The Savvy

They’re clear about the tasks they want to assign you and have reasonable estimates about how long it should take. They want to know about your availability and cost to see if they can afford you. […] they want a web site, they know they want WordPress used as their CMS. They know that some themes are better than others, so they’re ready to pay for one of the more popular and well-coded ones. […] You get off the phone, having enjoyed your time and no more than a minute goes by before it rings again.

Customer #2: The Neophyte

This customer sounds like they don’t know a thing about what they want. […] They’re not clear on the tasks or why you might be the right answer. They don’t know anything about technology […] And they’re hoping you have time and aren’t too expensive to help them. […] They have no sense of budget and can’t grasp what aspects of the project could be done in minutes verses days. […] All they know is that they need something – and of course, they’ll know it when they see it.

Chris’ big question:

If you could only pick one customer, which do you pick?

pick your customers

At first blush, Customer #2 is the kind of customer I think we all cut our teeth on and eventually strive to get away from. Of course, there are always exceptions to every stereotype. Some of these Customer #2 types turn into fast friends, great advocates and long-time clients, while Customer #1 projects can fall prey to phenomena like bad technical karma, long response times and “design by committee”.

Still, stereotypes exist for a reason and Chris has held up these two for us to consider.

We who have been in business long enough to have been knocked around by customers who think we wave magic wands that materialize websites (widgets, whachamahoozits, whatever.. you name it..) eventually begin to gravitate toward more savvy clients. Why? Less heartache, higher-profile projects and “professional grade” budgets and attitudes.

Yes, margins can be wider for that lower-hanging, Customer #1 fruit. If a customer just needs to migrate to a WordPress platform (as many do), an outsourced migration can offer a wonderful return. We’ll do those too, so long as the prospect answers an extensive questionnaire designed to solidify their vision. If they don’t survive the questionnaire process, we figure they weren’t serious about their project and we have managed to keep our attention on the folks that matter most; those who already know us, like us and rely on us for web and marketing services.

My recommendation: Develop a questionnaire to help you address the price-comparing tirekickers. Include all the questions you typically need to answer in order to develop a proposal. Include questions about their budget, timeline, goals, audience, tone, and competitors. All of this will assist you in bringing together a project that fits the client and it will serve to separate the chaff from the wheat.

P.S.- We recently ‘fired’ a prospect who said he didn’t have time to answer our web design questionnaire (a 7-page Word document.) He wanted an overhaul to his ecommerce site, but resisted updating the look and feel to accommodate a new cart (WooCommerce). When he said he couldn’t find the cart on the example we gave him (it’s located prominently in the horizontal navigation bar) we knew disaster lay ahead. In our eyes, that project was not worth the $5,000 he said he was willing to invest. We have ZERO interest in doing work for folks who don’t have time to invest in their own projects, resist change for the new and better, and have problems navigating websites based on common user interface standards.

Once upon a time–when we were hungry for work–we may have taken this client under our wing. In this case however, I let them know we would not be a fit for what he was looking for and I respectfully referred him to some other web designers in town.

What would you have done?

In support of your efforts,