Meetings – What to Take

Documents

I see young web designers always carry a laptop/tablet to meetings. What for?

I have loaded my portfolio onto a laptop with the idea that prospects will be able to browse through them. Or, I can quickly lay my hands on a specific example of the sort of website they might be wanting.

It doesn’t work. However, I still take the netbook to show that I am something to do with computers.

I used to print screengrabs of my portfolio and put them in transparent pockets. The screengrabs were printed on coated paper for colour density and simply glued on the page.

The folder of screengrabs always gets attention if you remember to leave it out on the table. And you can still lay your hands on that site.

DSCN1355Pic Folder

Lately, I upgraded the folder. I either printed my own postcard sized screengrabs or got them done at a Postnet. And stuck them on black card. And bought a plastic comb binder. And put a transparent sheet as the front and back cover.

Now they look presentable. I also made sure that the visually appealing sites were at the front. As new sites arrive, I can print grabs and add them.

What else? A company profile is worth putting together and leaving behind. One thing that is useful is a file of AWStats printouts to show the prospect what he can expect both in terms of traffic and general information.

Also take any relevant emails – they’re more useful than you think.

I also take an exercise book and couple of pencils. I bought a very fancy plain paper, leather bound book in India. Very striking. I usually make notes in it and prospects do remember that book. It’s got a huge clasp on the front that presents a massive lump that is almost impossible to write on. But they remember that book.

Pic Books

Your Bag

As long as it’s not shabby and unprofessional, anything will do – even an old leather briefcase. I use a black nylon laptop bag that will take the laptop and also has a bunch of pockets for things like a laser pointer, the cellphone (ALWAYS turn it OFF) and car keys (don’t have them bulging out of your pocket). I also have a simpler document bag, also black and nylon for short non-prospect meetings. In both bags is a supply of business cards. I also put one in my shirt pocket so that it can be produced with a flourish.

Pic Bag

OK, You’re cool and out the car. Carry your bag in your left hand. You’re going  to shake hands. Prospects will not like to shake hands with something that’s hot and very sweaty.

Do Not Change What They Want!

An  easy mistake to make.

You can see clearly that what your client wants is deficient in some way and you have the right answer at your fingertips. If it’s something related to the design of the website and it’s not a show stopper, let him have it.

My experience is that all you end up doing by inserting your sensible improvement is upset the client. Even if you get your way, there is still residual resentment. It’s a little thing he thinks he got right and you got wrong.

Even if you win a couple of battles, your client will declare war and you will definitely lose.

I Like this – and this – Oh, and this . . .

Every website designer has had clients who think they’re doing everyone a favour by suggesting other websites that they have seen and liked. Sometimes we make things more difficult for ourselves by telling them to come up with a website example. I have done this for years on & off and to be honest, it’s rarely worked.

Clients have little idea of the complexity and cost of other websites. Because you have quoted them R10,000, they think every other website on the Internet costs the same. After you have quoted, they will suggest a website that they like and upon a little investigation it is plain that this website costs way more than R10,000, sometimes at least ten times more and has a permanent web team of five people.

Explain this to the client and they think you’re looking for an excuse to nickel and dime their website with the unsaid suggestion that after quoting you really have no idea what they want.

websitesThe other thing is the ‘multiple examples’. The client will suggest typically two or three websites that are completely dissimilar but he likes elements of – but doesn’t tell you which elements. This is a real recipe for disaster because eventually, after buggering about, they still won’t like what you offer.

I then tell them that they’re suffering from Analysis Paralysis and ditch all the suggestions and start from basic principals. They fixate on the graphics which are among the easiest elements to change. You tell them that the website will sink or swim depending on the words and pics and how they are laid out.

As a side matter, the problem with colours extends all over the place. ‘We decided on this colour but I see when I got back that you’ve changed it’.

No I haven’t. My computer display is set differently to yours – and your ambient lighting is different – and maybe you’re using Mac . . .

I usually make them choose one – or none – and then perhaps MAY introduce elements from the other websites as development proceeds.

confusedI had a request for a quotation the other day – ‘We want a website with the sort of functionality but a different skin of this site.’ Now, when you look at ‘this‘ site, it has nothing to do with their core business. If they have a website address on their email I always check it out and also look at the code and who designed it.

That statement above is all I get to submit a quote on. And they wonder why the quote changes so much when I know more about what they want.  Prospects love to lock you in to a price range before they deliver the ‘Oh, by the way, we also want a database and eCommerce.’

After years of frustration and irritation all round, I think it’s best not to suggest any layout but come up with what you think is appropriate – and generally they’re happy.

The Filter Bubble

I take pride in not only developing a usable website – and hopefully an attractive one – but also one that generates revenue. This means that it has to appear on the first page of Google.

It’s a battle between me and Google. In South Africa, it’s not too difficult to get websites on to the first page, sometimes within a week but for reasons unknown, others struggle.

Doing the Google Check

Part of the search optimization routine is to check that you’re having some effect, that your clients’ sites are marching, however slowly up Google’s results pages.

I generally check every couple of months to see that these sites either continue to do well or are improving. The trouble is, Google remembers all your searches and and assumes you’re really searching for whatever is on those websites.

Of course you’re not. You’re looking to see where the sites are positioned for various search strings. You already know what’s on the websites – you created them but Google doesn’t know this, simply that you continue to search for them.

Bein’ a smartass, it gives these websites priority over other websites. If your website of interest is on page 5 of Google and you keep checking up on it, you notice to your great satisfaction that it slowly percolates up. But only for you. This is the ‘filter bubble’.

Being Just a User

This isn’t of much use. You want the search results that someone searching for the site for the first time would get.

The way to get around this is to constantly delete your browsing history. There are several addons to Chrome (which I use) and I assume for other browsers. Chrome allows an anonymous search which collects no information and deletes all traces when closed. You may find that your chosen website is not so well positioned as you thought but these are the pages that first time visitors to that site will get.

A Google Alternative

Another option is startpage.com which claims to be the most private search engine.  It uses Google’s database so the results (as far as I can make out) are identical to those achieved by searching Google itself but without the predictions. Another option is gibiru.com.

Using several browsers also helps to overcome the ‘helpfulness’ of Google and Chrome permits the deletion of browsing history – but I don’t trust it.

Prospects – Getting to the Gig

OK, what are you wearing? There is one rule. Be the best dressed person in the room.

007I work in Durban which is very humid in summer. Wear a suit and you look like a sloppy journalist just out of the pub. Have the aircon in the car turned up high.

If you wear a jacket, leave it on the car hook. Don’t forget that the guys you are meeting probably work in air conditioned offices.There is a workaround though.

Most young male company men have a uniform. Blue long sleeve shirt, brown long pants, brown shoes. I wear something similar – a different coloured shirt – and a tie. It doesn’t hurt and you can leave it loose until just before you get out the car.

Getting to the Gig

Never be late. If I have never been to meetings there before I always allow an extra twenty minutes even if I get there OK and have to sit in the car for a few minutes. Park in the shade if there is any. I’m a Luddite and don’t have a GPS although should invest in one.

GPS or not, get a ding on the freeway and you will be 30 minutes late.

traffic

I limit site visits to within 10kms of Durban CBD. I have driven plenty further on the odd occasion but you are in no way regarded as enthusiastic, more as pathetic and desperate.

Your Wheels

vetteI know this is not an easy thing to change but the wheels should display authority and sufficient cash. Not a beach buggy.  And make sure it’s not covered in bird shit and full of baby things and supermarket bags.

I use a somewhat geriatric Audi A4. It’s enough, I hope to distinguish me as a discerning motorist. I used to have a 1976 Corvette which was guaranteed to get the conversation started.

External Evaluation

Right, we’ve done some detective work and have now arrived at the prospects. Big operation? Small? How many staff about?

Look in the staff car park. A row of luxury cars will also tell you something about the company’s largesse. Lots of Dough?

luxurycars

Maybe but the row of SUVs will all probably be on lease which may mean they have no money for a website – can go either way. But you may find out during the meeting.

Turned Up Early?

Always be on time – obvious really.  Late for a meeting may also imply late replies to website queries. I have found that if you arrive early, it’s taken as a sign of professionalism rather than desperation.

Internal Evaluation

You’ll get a good idea of what the prospect might pay by simply looking around. Expensive fixtures, plants, hardware like computers, maybe even a server will indicate that they are looking for a top end website. The boardroom, where most meetings are held will tell you a great deal.

If you are ushered to a tiny room packed with product or piles of paper then it’s likely the prospect wants ‘just a web page’ and is looking for the lowest possible price. You don’t know however, often until you get to the place but when I see this sort of operation, I’ve pretty well wasted a couple of hours.

office

 

 

Prospect Meetings – Pace Yourself

Get yourself informed about the prospect and what he expects before you start the pitch. You can then deliver a much more measured delivery.

carsalesman1The ‘running off at the mouth’ that is often employed by web designers both at web design meetings and on their websites is meant to impress upon the audience how much they know.  All it does is impress the audience how disorganized (and sloppy and illiterate) they often are.

It’s a balancing act. You don’t want to sit there and say nothing – the prospect does want to have an opinion about you other than ‘taciturn’ (or ‘chancer’ – even worse). On the other hand, you mustn’t dominate the conversation and sound like a car salesman.

The trick is to be friendly but sound profound. Not easy and you have to think on your feet.

Get Your Position Right – Right from the Outset

It’s important to create a hierarchy. Who are you?

Are you the guy who is going to jump at every phone call demanding yet another change? Or, are you the consultant who will dispense his manifold skills to their advantage and to whom they will prostrate themselves?

Are you the maid or the doctor?

It may sound arrogant but it has consequences later on. If you come across as weak, submissive and pliable, you may get the gig but you will get communications that will have that expectation – how high can you jump? Why are you not adding all this extra stuff to my website – now!

consulting

Alternatively, if you are the doctor, it will be – ‘What do you think of this?’, ‘I understand it may cost more but how about adding these?’ The consequence of the ‘consultant’ position is, of course that you can charge more by reason of your professionalism.

Of course listen to the prospect and be adaptable. Be pliant but not pathetic.

Webbie Qualifications

I don’t like regulations but it is a problem that there are few real yardsticks of website designers’ performance out there. Most website designers are self taught. Only a few will come through existing courses (subject of another post). Prospects in my experience pay more attention to you personally than to your portfolio.

SImilarly, this poses a small problem in that prospects pay more attention to you, your appearance, your knowledge and authority than to a piece of paper. Which may be worthless.

Tell Them

  1. A little about the company background and perhaps your own background as it relates to the business;
  2. Tell them why you love designing websites;
  3. How many sites you have designed and for which big important clients;
  4. The types of sites – marketing, database, CMS, eCommerce etc. and their uses
  5. Your SEO skills that get your clients cash;
  6. The way you go about developing your websites;
  7. Things you can do to marketing websites to increase their pull – social bookmarking, newsletters, blogs, client lists, testimonials etc.
  8. Special services like hosting;

Answer any questions promptly and then resume. Make sure that your tone is knowledgeable but informal. Cut the anecdotes – they distract people and waste time. They don’t want to deal with Victor Meldrew. Nor do they want to deal with Justin Bieber.

Bye Bye

farewel1Be aware of meeting fatigue. People being distracted, looking at their cellphones, what’s going on outside the door. Paper shuffling.

Time to wrap up and go. In my case usually between 45 minutes and an hour.

Do not make them sit there while you go over your last 9 points.  They will think that if they give you the gig you will micromanage it to death. Use the space they will give you to speak to get the main points over then talk about their own requirements.

Have a list of less than important items that can be left off if there is no time.

  • In my case – web design courses;
  • Control panel uses;
  • Anecdotes;
  • How busy – or otherwise – you are

Time to go, thank them all, get out and thank them again in an email. If you agreed to quote then follow up a few days after it’s submission.

farewell2

Prospects – Meetings 101 or Why You Were Invited

Un-ideally, and usually, the meeting  takes place after you have submitted the quotation. In other words, your prospect has shuffled a bunch of quotes together and for reasons unknown, you have ended up on his little pile.

Why You Are There

The reasons could be a low price (Ugh!) or, you hope, the professional service you offer. Or anything else. But, you need to go into this meeting with a good mental picture of what you quoted for and the amount you quoted. Take any emails because for sure, he will have them. Look through the correspondence in relation to the quote. Have I missed something?

angrymanIn most cases it’s the price that got you there and not your fancy quote form so expect some horsetrading.

At the meeting, additional functionality/pages will be brought up either by your prospect (to squeeze the quote) or yourself  (to increase the quote).

The Curve Ball

He has had the chance to look at several quotes and thought to himself – “Hmm, didn’t think of that!”, “Ooh, I want LOTS of those!’ or “That would be nice”.

He will try and get you to commit your price to this additional functionality, which may be significant – (“Oh, we thought we’d have a database driving those extra 20 pages”).

Your Response

Resist, although things may may otherwise going swimmingly. There are probably a bunch of people round the table BTW so there may be a little pressure. He may ask you there and then – “Well, how much extra do you think this will cost?”.

interrogationResist – although there may be some pressure. Tell your prospect that you need to evaluate the new spec. and you’ll submit a new quote tomorrow.

Tell him that your quotations are prepared very thoroughly. Get your breath back when you get to the office – and don’t leave it too long before reissuing the quote. I have done this and even got mixed up with what client wants what.

When You Get Back

No matter how much you impress him with the approximate-ness of the figure, this figure gets itself set in concrete between the meeting and your quote submission. What you’re going to do is have a relook at the quote, add stuff from the meeting and have a REAL thorough inspection of the existing website in case that content is going to be reused.

The devil is in the detail. Too true.  I have found some horrific stuff in the basement over the years.  Some little, weeny text link leads to a whole new 30 page website.

quote_timeOnce you have done this, put the quote together making sure that the new stuff from the meeting is itemized in there together with the unpleasant discoveries from the resent website.

If there was stuff discussed that was optional, include them and quote for them separately so your prospect has a choice.

Cover Yourself

In your quotation make sure you specify exactly what you are going to do for what fee and that extra pages/functionality will be quoted separately.

Don’t submit the new quote ‘tomorrow’ – leave it a day or two. Chances are, he will be seeing other webbies so get your quote in after theirs JUST after, before he chooses. Otherwise he may use your quote to get a lower quote at a subsequent meeting.

Next Post

What to take to the meeting.

Outsourcing Website Design Work

Sometimes, you don’t have the expertise to complete certain website design tasks – PHP/ASP is an example. The option is outsourcing this website work overseas.

If you take a bus in India, it deposits you almost inevitably at your destination on a spot of sand at the edge of the road, from whence you fight with tuktuk drivers to get the best price into town.

durban web designers - outsourcing to  technosoftI was waiting for a bus in Jodphur to take me to Pushkar on said patch of sand. I had about 45 minutes until the bus arrived and I looked around and right next to me was a small two storey office  building with the words ‘Technosoft – Website Developers‘.

Ha!

I have time to go in and chew the fat. It turned out they also had offices in Delhi and Baltimore. A couple of years later I had need to get a member login system and contacted them. They were very reasonable and after one  bit of editing got it right in about a week. I was impressed.

I got the client to deal with them directly and I just added the code.

Outsourcing to PHP Jabbers

durban web designers - outsourcing to jabbersA few years ago I came across PHPJabbers. They sell PHP scripts and will install the whole thing for you at no charge if you want. They’re based in Bulgaria.

Their selling point is their support and over the years, there have been plenty of tickets. They will come back to you typically within an hour – very efficient.

I have bought some scripts for myself to try and for clients. The scripts are just the hook because although they are standalone, they will inevitably need some modification which they are pleased to do. The modification rate is very reasonable.

They will also design a whole website around the script which is a little expensive, apart from the to-ing and fro-ing necessary to finish it.

Simple CMS

They also have free scripts. One of these used to be a Simple CMS.

This is a fantastic little system. It’s not a full architecture but can be bolted on to any part of any page. It uses a MySQL database and the FCK editor so the backend is like WordPress’s. Now, they charge $28 for it.

cmsMost of their scripts have two licensing levels – User, for a single application and Developer for up to five applications. The Developer licence is about three times the user licence.

© Durban Web Designers 2013