Sam Barnes – Vice Versa Client Management

My notes from Sam’s talk at DPM:UK 2014.

My approach to client management.

Common perception in digital that clients are stupid. Then I managed the redesign of our own company website and I became a client. I found out being a client is really hard.

10 tips to help you:

1. Hiring a digital agency.
Took more effort than I imagined. Tiring & repetitive. Many clients find it daunting. Many clients don’t have dedicated time for projects.

2. Proposals.
I didn’t read every page. I skipped to the costing page (much to my shame!). Common structure of proposal is repetitive.

Why not put costs first in proposals. Always find out the client’s budget. Here’s what we’re worth and this is why.

3. Timelines in proposals.
Overselling is a false economy. Quite a few proposals had unrealitic, impossble timelines. Put’s project & team in jeapordy. You don’t want to be realigning client expectations after sales phase.

What can I do about overselling? Get involved in pre-sales. You can’t always sell under ideal conditions. Lern both sides.

4. Client meetings.
Audio record client meetings (practical tip). I want to be fully immersed in meeting, give client 100% attention. Use a small digital voice recorder, better than having laptop open. Some clients funny with it, but most are fine with it.

No bullshit meeting talk (experimental – can backfire with wrong client). Be direct and honest. Managing clients is easier if they and you can be direct.

5. Educate your clients
Lots of clients have no experience managing digital projects. Present your PM process.

  • Explain digital PM process
  • Whole project lifecycle
  • Common project issues
  • Create a project process manual

OMG design iterations. I was a nightmare client and didn’t care about iteration limits.
I underestimated how difficult it was to brief a design agency / how to comunicate what I wanted. Also, what does an “iteration” mean to a client, likely to be different from what an agency thinks.

Would be helped by more education at the start. Explain your agency processes in detail.

6. Manage clients like your team
If a client is failing, you’re failing.
Treat them like one of the team, support them.
But *never* at the expense of your actual team.

7. What a client’s day is like
Reputation on the line, high exposure internally
Everyone has opinions in the client’s organisation
Client’s often don’t have a team internally to support them. Often they are alone and have to argue their case / changes to a project / new costs with their boss – a tough position.

Make the clent look good.

8. Managing expectations
Avoiding bad surprises. It’s not just for clients. For your boss, internal stakeholders, project team.
One simple technique – Be honest

Practical tips:

  • Weekly reports from day one (what was done this wk, what will be done next wk, blockers/issues, revised project timeline, revised project budget). The minute something goes wrong, tell people. CC to your boss + team.

9. Dealing with “Megabeasts”
Really crappy clients, those which want to “Hulk” you whatever you do.

How to deal with them

  • Just do the right thing. No matter what, just keep doing the right thing.
  • Remain professional
  • Exposes the problem in the right way

10. Get client feedback
After project completes, ask them for honest feedback on project process.
Really listen, learn and change

Think about your clients in a new way. Empathise, help them, learn from them so you’re constantly improving.

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