Welcome to our series, Turning Clients into Creative Partners. Our previous post was Understanding Client Motivations. In this earlier post, we discussed client expectations and how to sort the reasonable requests from the unreasonable request. Moving forward, we’ll be devoting several posts to tactics that creative teams can use to meet those reasonable requests while managing down the unreasonable expectations.
Let’s begin at the beginning of the project lifecycle: project intake.
There are two client behaviors common at the intake stage that can put a project at risk before it even begins: submitting shallow creative briefs that don’t have all the information needed, and not anticipating all of the different elements needed for the project. Both can result in project delays, interpersonal friction, and reduced quality of work.
We’ll start by addressing solutions for that first client behavior – not providing the information that the creative team needs. Typically, the project intake process begins with asking clients to fill out a creative brief, work order, or some kind of request form. That request form represents several opportunities for improvement:
- Develop a library of creative briefs
One size does not fit all. And one brief type does not capture all. There are particular characteristics and differentiators for print projects, web projects, video projects, etc. Developing different briefs for those different content types will let you collect the specs and direction your team needs.
- Ask the right questions
Ask specific questions with multiple choice answers instead of open-ended questions to make it easier to coach clients through the brief and allow less room for misinterpretation. This makes the intake process easier and faster for the client, they simply select radio buttons and drop downs instead of writing out long paragraphs. This can apply for most variables like audience, goal, or color scheme.
- Ask for and encourage attachments
A picture is worth a thousand words, and an example can be the best way for colleagues who aren’t trained in design to communicate creative direction. In addition to project components like copy decks or product shots, encourage clients to submit samples of visuals that they like (or don’t like) and examples of similar work they’ve had in the past. Remember to ask them what it is they like about the samples – layout, use of color or fonts, graphic style, etc.
- Ask, “What else?”
Save time and energy by asking up front if there are any other elements that the client will need for a project. If you usually end up doing a banner ad whenever you create a new landing page, then when somebody submits a request for a landing page, find out if they’re going to also need a banner ad. You can do this as a multi-select option or with a simple link to another request type. It’s better to know about extra deliverables up front when you’re planning your team’s activities then when it becomes a rush job later.
Download our Sample Creative Brief to take a look at what these best practices look like for a typical print project.
Up next, we’ll tackle ways to manage client expectations during the project execution phase and the review and approval process. Be sure to share your project intake questions and success stories in the comments.