Sometimes… Clients Just Don’t Know What They Really Want

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Those of you in the creative industry would’ve probably experienced this before. Sometimes, just sometimes, clients themselves don’t really know what is it exactly that they want… Not knowing what they want is not a problem. That’s what creative people are here to help you with. However, not knowing what they really want, yet adamant about what they think they want is a problem…

How To Positively Initiate A Creative Job Enquiry

Potential clients approach us for a job that they want done. For the sake of discussion, let’s call this a new brand of soft drink. So they’ve developed a new soft drink, new flavour, new recipe, and probably has a target market in mind too. Now they want to launch their new product into the market, and they want to publicise it.

A positive way to approach this project is to enter a no-commitment discussion with zero expectation. You’ll be surprised just how much can be revealed just by bouncing ideas off one another. Just a short hour or two of discussion is all that’s needed. And we’ll be able to determine what the client really want, and how much they’re willing to spend on it. Plus, we’ll also be able to map out a ball-park execution plan and cost on how best to approach the project.

What Happens When Clients Think They Know What They Really Want

A not-so-positive approach is to directly request for a quotation for the specific jobs that they want done… And I mean really specific… Here’s what they normally ask for :-

  1. To come up with a concept of the brand
  2. To design a logo for the brand
  3. To develop a brand name
  4. To design a project website with very specific pages (e.g. Home, About Us, Our Product, Launch Event, Contact Us, etc.)
  5. To produce a product launch video advertisement
  6. To advertise video on social media channels
  7. To design a product launch poster
  8. To provide copywriting for the poster
  9. To design a product launch leaflet
  10. To provide copywriting for the leaflet
  11. To provide services for leaflet distribution
  12. To design e-newsletter
  13. To provide services for email blast
  14. To organise a product launch event
  15. And other specific demands

If that’s not giving you a headache yet, they’ll tell you that they have no budget for this project… And by that, they mean that they haven’t decided how much they’re willing to part with to run the project.

“Give us your proposal and quotation first. If we like your proposal, then we’ll see if we can squeeze something out from our non-existent budget to pay for it!”

And to throw a spanner into the already messed up situation, they’re gonna launch their product in six-months’ time… Good luck to you!...

The Problems With Clients Who “Know” Too Much

Before you can even decide which of the jobs you want to execute, you’ll need to have a good concept to work with. Everything else downstream from there will be tied to the concept. So without the concept, there’s literary nothing for you to design or produce. And, conceptualisation is the most abstract process, and also the most expensive part of the whole deal.

In essence, there’s no way for you to decide which channel, or which media you want to publish your contents in, if you don’t have a working concept. You can’t decide on how your website will look like, or how it will convey what you “feel” to your target market. Heck, you won’t even know how to add words to your website, poster, leaflet,

So what needs to happen is that you’ll have to engage the creative agency to conceptualise the brand, the brand name, the background story, and maybe even some visual representation of the brand (i.e. logo, colour palette, fonts, patterns, etc.). And by that, I mean that you’ll have to pay the creative agency to produce the concept before they can even propose how to proceed from there onwards.

But the problem is that a concept is an abstract idea, an intangible asset. And the common misconception is that if it’s something you can’t touch or hold in your hand, it’s not worth anything!…

“Print Your Name Cards With Us, And We’ll Thrown In The Design For Free”

Sounds familiar?… That’s what’s been happening in the real world out there today. Printing houses are charging only for the printing work done. And to entice customers to print with them, they’ll even do the design for free. But the consequence is that customers will be accustomed that designs are inherently “free”, since they can’t hold or touch the “design” as compared to the printed name cards.

And because of the irresponsible act by some print houses, graphic designers are denied the opportunity to earn an honest living selling design services. Graphic designs are deemed “worthless” because printers are bundling them for free in exchange for printing jobs done.




… Back To Clients Who “Know” Too Much

Clients need to understand that conceptualisation, just like graphic design, is an important, albeit intangible aspect to every downstream executable jobs. Jobs like copywriting, website design, poster design, leaflet design, etc. And yes, conceptualisation is a service that is chargeable. Whether or not you continue to engage the same creative agency to work on the rest of the other executable jobs is immaterial. If you engage them to develop your concept, then pay them for their hard work that they had done and delivered. Give credit where credit is due.

Complications On Downstream Executable Jobs With No Clearly Defined Concept

(1) Website Design

One very common problem with clients who “know” too much is that they have a very rigid expectation when it comes to “website design”. What they have in mind is a typical undead website. So changing their expectation from a single payment for a job “done”, to retaining content creators to continuously attract visitors to their website is next to impossible. Do they simply just want a slice of the cyber presence, even when nobody knows that they exist at all? Or do they want a continuously active presence that attracts new and returning visitors?

(2) Video Advertisement Production

If you don’t know what the concept is, there’s no way you can produce a video, let along work out a quotation for it. Do they want simple moving infographics that can be done completely without shooting anything at all?  Or would you want a professionally produced video, complete with talents, directors, producers, editors, location rentals, prop rentals, incidental fees, etc. The difference can be as much as adding two or three zeros to the production cost for the latter.

(3) Leaflet Design And Distribution

Depending on the concept and target market, you probably don’t even need to do this at all. Especially in this day and age when 90% of what gets shoved into your postbox are spam. The other 9% are probably bills. Only the last 1% (maybe even less) is something that’s actually addressed to you personally. Again, do you really need leaflets?…

(4) E-newslatter Design And Email Blast

Just like their physical counterpart, 90% of what you get in your inbox are probably spam. I mean, do you really want your e-blast recipient to associate your brand identity as a spammer? And risk being permanently filtered out as spam?… Or worse, have your email branded as a spammer or scammer. Remember, social media is a very powerful tool for news dissemination, regardless whether true or false.

(5) Product Launch Event

Just like the video production, there are simply too many variables. Do you want to hold it in a private location or a high-traffic public facility? Are you engaging a professional event organiser, or running it in-house? Again, the difference can be an additional two to three zeros to the total cost between running everything in-house and getting professional help.

You see, there’re simply too many variables, too many unanswered questions, to be able to come up with a viable quotation. And the only way to obtain all the information to work on the quotation is to have a proper concept worked out… Which also means, pay for the conceptualisation job before even thinking of which direction to go on your publicity campaign.

“Educating The Client”

I’ve actually come across the idea of “educating the client”, so as to let them know what goes on behind the doors of the creative industry. However, not many clients take nicely to it. The notion of educating the client is a good intention, but many see it as belittling them. Hence, many are quite reluctant to open up to new ideas. You certainly don’t want to risk insulting the potential client unknowingly.

You can probably counter propose something more realistic to the potential client. If he or she bites, then you can proceed to elaborate in detail. Otherwise, it’s better to lose the job in good faith than to have them spread nasty feedbacks about you to others.

In Conclusion

Of course creative agencies would want to sell their expertise for a fair price. But sometimes what’s considered fair to one party isn’t to the other. So approach all potential clients with the highest level of professionalism. It doesn’t matter whether you get the job at hand or not. It’s more important to part ways with a positive experience. Your reputation too valuable to be tarnished with a single lost job.

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