Web design and development is a curious industry.
A lot of people would say that we deal in design. Or code. Or graphics. Or marketing.
These are merely by-products of what we deal in. They are not the products themselves.
Web agencies only have a few things that they sell: their relationship with the client, their team, and their problem-solving process.
Because of this, trust is everything. Your word is your bond.
The strength of our client-agency relationships, and the amount of trust between these two, determines the quality of the work.
The Golden Rule
If I could write one Golden Rule for every web professional, it would be this:
Do what you say you’re going to do.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
The Reality Out There
If you’ve ever done a web project before, maybe you’ve found out the hard way — the bar is ridiculously low for customer service and integrity.
An agency that does what they say they’re going to do is already ahead of half the competition out there.
I’ve won a ton of business for Lockedown Design in the last couple of years simply because of this fact. I’m 100% sure this trend will continue.
You see, promises are easy.
Making sure you set expectations and follow through seems to be the sticking point.
Trust Is A Two-Way Street
Trust is everything to me. I can’t do my best work with people who don’t trust me.
But it’s all too common that business owners have been burned so many times that they don’t trust anyone in our industry anymore.
When you’ve been burned, it leaves a scar.
There are times I’ve been able to help heal that, and help people know not all web agencies are cast from the same mold.
In return, these clients have been my biggest supporters.
They trust my judgement, because I’ve earned their trust.
Great Work With Great People
I don’t say yes to everyone. I don’t turn everyone who fills out my contact form into a client.
I have a checklist of red flags that I assess any prospect against. Too many red flags means I will refer you to someone else.
Life is too short — and time is too precious to work with people who don’t trust the people they are seeking to work with.
If you’re an agency or solopreneur, what can you do to build trust with your clients?
These are things that have worked for me.
Four Guidelines For Great Work
#1: I always leave margin in my schedule. It is a scary thing to pack your schedule so tight that there is no room left for error. Things always take longer than you think they will take. This goes for phone calls, emails, design, development…whatever.
By leaving an appropriate amount of margin in my schedule, I leave myself enough room to take care of things that come up at the last minute or take longer than expected.
This is part of setting expectations.
#2: Manage expectations. When you set expectations correctly, you are always in a position to over-deliver.
Never ever under-deliver.
If things are going to take much longer than anticipated, you have to communicate that back to the client right ways. People are generally understanding, so long as you’re up front and honest.
Doing a proper project discovery is a large part of setting expectations on client projects.
Discovery also allows the agency to get a true grasp on how much time and resources it will take to solve the client’s problem. From there, the agency can set expectations realistically. The same time margin we talked about a minute ago goes into the project roadmap.
People get anchored to the first numbers they hear, when it comes to project price or a project timeline. So the agency’s goal is make sure that the numbers they put out there leave them enough room to be successful.
#3: Always follow-up on what you say you’re going to do. This one is self-explanatory. Your word is your bond. Your reputation is everything.
People may not always agree with your opinions, but if you always do what you say you’re going to do, they will respect you for your integrity and reliability.
#4: Just be honest. Communicate often, and have integrity and truth as your guidelines, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Honesty is a hard one for a lot of people. Many folks act as if all relationships are like two seasoned poker players at a high-stakes table. Few people want to cut through the bullshit. More often than not, both sides are trying to avoid giving a “tell” to the other side of the table. That’s not how great work gets done.
Web design projects should be more transparent than that. Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship in your life. Your professional relationship with your client (or agency) is no different.
Communication is the bedrock for any relationship, and it builds trust on both sides of the equation.