How to Identify What Clients Truly Want

One of the most important tasks for an ad agency is to make all customers happy. Be it a tiny logo or a huge ad campaign they need from you – what they want is what’s important. This requires you to know what they want, though… I will offer you some insights into clever ways of interacting with clients and, based on that, show you how you can find that out easily and make client proofing a breeze.

Establish A Framework

Prepare a clear process on how to onboard new customers. It’s easiest to determine what potential clients want before you start working for them. Discuss the details up front: What is it your client wants you to create for him? Just a logo? A design for business cards? A detailed website? An entire ad-campaign?

Prevent any misunderstanding about what you are supposed to deliver. This ensures you get a detailed image of what your customer needs and wants (and also prevents any ugly discussions about “incomplete work”). Bring these points on paper and make your customer clear what you will provide him with.

Although this doesn’t help you identify what your clients want per se, it helps you keep their expectations in check. In doing so, you actively influence all the “possible wants” your client may develop in the course of your collaboration. This makes identifying the “actual wants” so much easier.

Preparations and Planning

Now that you have a clear understanding of the kind of work your client wants you to do for him, you have to find out what the final product is supposed to look like. Plain asking can work fine, but especially for customers who seem to be indecisive, you want to have a set plan to confront them with. Therefore, you often have to take some preparations.

What works really well is to create a kind of questionnaire for your clients to answer. It doesn’t matter if you interview them face-to-face, offer them a web link or a sheet of paper. What’s important is to determine precise questions to get your clients talking because, in the end, they know best what they really want.

Rule of Thumb 1

It doesn’t always have to be difficult: Asking and being direct can go a long way!

Here are some general suggestions for questions you may want to include in your own questionnaire:

  • What is your business? What do you do?
  • What kind of product/brand/idea are you selling?
  • What is the goal you want to achieve with my work (e.g. “my campaign” or “my design”)?
  • Who do you want to reach with my work? Who is the target audience?

These questions give you a general idea of what a client wants. After all…

A shoe manufacturer has a different kind of image than a supermarket chain - you have to implement that fittingly in your work.

A new kind of industrial robot needs a different kind of advertising compared to a new movie.

Is your work part of a B2B (“business to business”) or B2C (“business to consumer”) marketing strategy? Do they want to reach their existing audience? It’s probably wise to consider older designs or ad-campaigns.

Another way to get to know your clients better is to ask them if they have any example of the kind of work they would like from you. Maybe there is a logo they like a lot, an ad campaign they found to be intriguing, or a design they found memorable. On top of that, offer a portfolio of your own work that might fit your client’s concept and also include some designs from other companies and products you researched beforehand. After all, you are the professional, and you know about good and bad designs. What’s relevant and appropriate for their brand/product?

Rule of Thumb 2

Show them what they can’t put in words!

Drafts and Feedback

After having engaged your client with both, detailed questions and visual examples, you should have a pretty good sense of what kind of design fits them. The process of identifying what they want sadly doesn’t end there. You still have to ensure that the final product your customer receives from you captures all their needs and wants.

This is probably the point where the biggest part of your creative process has to manifest itself. Start by creating drafts and sketches. Show these to your clients and use their feedback to cut ideas they deem unfit. It’s important to ensure a smooth process of implementing and receiving feedback. Client proofing is not easy to do by hand or email, so don’t shy away from software solutions that can help you out.

Keep your clients always up-to-date! Communicating drafts and what your clients want to have changed is key to creating a product they really like… so don’t waste time and energy on creating something they don’t really like.

But keep it simple, and please don’t flood them with review requests! You want to make them content, not annoy them, after all.

Rule of Thumb 3

Don’t overwhelm, don’t stress!

Final Thoughts

As you may have guessed, identifying what your clients truly want is not witchcraft. The smartest way to go about it includes some thorough preparation and planning. On top of that, you have to prepare a way to get feedback without wasting time and energy on emails.

So make sure you give yourself enough time before you engage your clients. When you start to interact with your customers, keep a precise plan for gathering information at hand. Portfolios, similar designs, and your client’s answers to your questionnaire will kickstart your creativity.

I hope you found some inspiration in this article to optimize the way you interact with your customers. With these tips and a bit of patience and routine, you will soon learn to identify what your clients want with ease.

With an open mind he tries to bring a little creativity in everyone’s life. His credo: Communication is key to success.

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