Meeting Face to Face With Clients
Meeting clients face to face in the beginning of the project, even before a contract is signed, and can instill a personal angle that often leads to better collaboration in the planning phase and a competitive edge when the company ultimately chooses their vendor.
One of the benefits of working with those in my region (currently Kansas City) is the opportunity to meet clients face to face in the beginning of the process. As I establish regional business roots, more and more of this local work is trickling in, and I have the chance to put a face to an e-mail address before work on the project begins.
The benefits of meeting clients in person are subtle, but qualitative. First and foremost, most people like to know who they’re working with. A lunch meeting, or a visit to their office, allows me to chitchat some small talk, ask more questions about their business (not to mention see their business), and really get a gut feel for the client before signing any contract.
More than once, when having these personal interactions, the client has commented that it is nice to conduct business in person — that too many web designers want to do everything remotely — and that they really appreciate my willingness to drive across the city. It’s an older approach toward business, and I am finding that many, many people still value that. (On at least one occasion, it was the face-to-face meeting that ended up being the competitive edge in winning a large project.)
What I like most, however, is the impromptu spirit of collaboration that often pops up. Clients love to describe their vision — their logo and brand colors, what they want new visitors to see first, special super-secret download areas, 15-minute intro animations — and I have the opportunity to scribble sheets of notes as they talk. If I can just get them to elucidate for 30 minutes or more, the site is already half-designed in my head before I get in the car.
I’m finding that e-mail is not a very reliable medium for translating visual ideas. Or perhaps more accurately, it’s not very efficient. It takes rapid back-and-forth conversation with lots of questions, and (surprisingly often) a drawing of an architecture diagram on a napkin, before I am confident the client and I are on the same page about the scope, direction, and timeline of the site.
I suppose agencies and other successful businesses have long known the value of face-to-face interactions. It’s probably why I have printers visiting my company’s building unsolicited every week. It brings business to a more personal level. Makes it feel more real, more visceral. Signing a contract with both a pen and a handshake beats trading faxes any day.
If at all possible, I recommend meeting with clients face to face, at least once, in the beginning of the project. It’s made a real difference in my business, especially as deals and the scope of projects get larger.