Serving your clients or your client’s clients

serving-your-clientsFolks who cut hair get it. They want to make you look good, but not just for you. They want to make sure everyone that looks at you likes it too. It took me a long time to figure out this truth:

I serve my client's clients just as much as I serve my clients. 

He was like every other startup CEO.

Tons of ideas. All of which sound appealing. He was a vision caster. He was energetic. It was virtually impossible not to get excited every time we got on the phone.

And nothing changed when we started talking about refreshing his website.

Why would it?

The skills that had served him to well in every other part of his life should translate, right?

But they didn’t.

Because his website, as I would fondly explain more than once, wasn’t for him. It wasn’t about his vision. It wasn’t about his energy.

Who Is Your Site for?

It led me to one of my favorite parts of client discussions—the question about who the site is for. Initially, customers quickly answer that the project is for them—that they’re the stakeholder.

But after some talking, we quickly recognized a reality that I spent almost all last year sharing at WordCamps across the country.

  • The measure of success for a website isn’t determined by what my client wants.
  • It’s not determined by what my client needs.
  • It’s not determined by what my client likes or even requests.

No. In reality, the success of my client’s website is determined apart from my wants/needs as well as my client’s.

Success is determined by how well we serve our client’s clients.

It’s a no-duh moment when we get there. But there can be some protest before we get there. Because we all want to think that we know what our clients want.

And our clients think the same thing.

And in the end, in statistical terms, all we’ve figured out is n=1. That’s a sample size. In statistics it tells us how many people participated in a survey. N=1 is the easiest way to say that we were looking and listening only to ourselves.

Success is determined by meeting my client’s clients needs.

How Are You Figuring Out Your Client’s Clients Wants and Needs?

Two of the projects I worked on last year helped WordPress product companies refresh their company sites. In that work, I do the normal analysis that everyone does when trying to help a site deliver greater value.

    • I  look at copy.
    • I look at messaging.
    • I look at design.
    • I look at ease of use.

But I look one more place to capture my client’s clients needs and wants.

I ask for access to their support forums or ticket systems.

In this way I am able to find out, in greater depth, where their clients are struggling. And that allows me to make specific suggestions about everything else.

Learning to Say No, Politely

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working with a client who has some interesting ideas. Some of them are awesome. It lead to a post I wrote about the other day.

But other ideas aren’t as great. And I have to say no. Politely.

Because if I protect him from his “not so great” ideas, guess what? He’ll be much more willing to pay me to help him on his great ones.

But he has to know that I’m the kind of person that will call it like I see it. And give him a realistic sense of consequences.

I'm not the “do it for the money” guy

I know there are some folks who will tell me that the client is the one paying, so it's my job to do what they want.

I disagree. The client, if they knew everything I knew, could do it without me.

They come to me for

  • help
  • advice
  • suggestions
  • best practices
  • and some execution.

But if I fail to protect them from themselves, I'm not a professional. I'm just a guy who can type.

So how do you think about all this? Who are you helping?

And are serving your clients or your client's clients?