352 Inc. / Digital Marketing / January 3rd, 2008

10 Absolute Answers! for Account Managers

I was reading a blog post on Wake up later about “10 Absolute “NOs!” for Freelancers.  We are not freelancers, but these questions are extremely pertinent for an established company such as ours. I will call this post 10 Absolute Answers! for Account Managers with a few more of my own.

1) Can you show me a mock-up to help us choose a designer/developer?  No.  
A bedroom designer asked this very question.  I asked him the following:   “If one of your customers requests a unique design for a bedroom in order to decide if she “likes your work,” would you design the room free of charge, or allow the customer to view similar/ previous designs which are already built?  When a client asks for a mock-up, inform the client that he/she can view your portfolio–any client should get a good enough idea regarding your style and skills from previous work.

2) Can you give us a discount rate?  No.   
I have provided discount rates in the past and I am sure I will, again, in the future; but. I try to avoid this because clients then expect more freebies.  In general, if someone is going to come to the table and haggle on price before you start the project, it is going to be a nightmare project.  Give all clients access to your services but if you think they will be hard to manage cut them ASAP—their business may not be worth the frustration in the long run.  Extremely difficult clients will often have a negative effect on the team and could create a “domino effect” with other clients.  

3) Will you register and host my site?  Maybe/No.  
Registering a site for a client?  I don’t really see an issue with this.  I have done in the past and paid for it out of my own pocket.  You are probably wondering why I would pay out of pocket and I will tell you why.  This particular client is one of the greatest guys I have had the pleasure to meet and do business with.  I will do anything for a genuine person.  Hosting, on the other hand, is a different story in that so many things can go wrong.  Generally, if a site goes down it is not the web designer’s fault, it is the hosting company’s fault.  So, do not get involved with hosting– suggest a partner company and the hosting environment required for the site to run and leave it at that.  

4) Can you copy this site?  No.   
We are a custom development and design company and, as such, develop tailored websites.  I have no issues looking at a site to gather ideas but copying a site is foolish.  Copying websites for companies in the same industry is just stupid.  If your “MO” in life is “just copy stuff,” you should not be in business.  Become an innovator, leader, and the person that stands out from the crowd.

5) Can I pay for my e-commerce site from my website sales?  No.  
This is a no brainer Just say “No Thank You” and end the call.  This is a complete waste of your time.  

6) I have a great idea. Do you want to…?  No.   
See 5.  

7) Do you have an IM account?  Yes/No.   
I have no issues giving out my instant messaging account to specific existing clients.  I use Skype and communicate with quite a few clients via in some cases, I do use MSN Messenger. But generally prefer Skype due to the video option.  With that, I would never give anyone my personal IM account details except friends, family, and some existing client with whom I am very familiar with. This also applies to your personal phone numbers–the last thing you want is a client on the phone on a Saturday night when you are on a first date.  The bottom line regarding communication with clients as an account manager is “keeping boundaries but making clients feel that you are available when they need you, open to communication, and they are number one.”  A client who feels like he/she is your only client will be a happy and satisfied client.  

8) Can I just pay the whole amount when it’s done?  No.  
Does Starbuck’s provide a week’s worth of coffee drinks and let customer’s pay at the end of the week? However, another option exists.  Suggestions are always preferable to an outright “No.”  Suggest that the client secure financing for the site as they would to obtain office space, supplies, etc.  If this doesn’t fly, refer them to or See 5 and hang up.  

9) Is there any way you could get this done tonight or this weekend?  No.  
Again, this depends on the client and can be tricky.  The key point is:  “If you do it once, they will expect it again and again,” Clients may also get annoyed when you are unable to work late nights, weekends, or holidays.   So, as a rule of thumb, I would provide the absolute earliest date the project can be completed with the caveat that you do not want to lose quality in order to finish more quickly.  However, if you have already committed to a deadline and the project is “running over,” make all attempts to complete it—no one wants to be threatened with a lawsuit.  

10) Can I be sure you won’t use this work for anything else? Yes/No.  
Again, this is a tricky one.  I would initially say that we would never use a client’s design for subsequent clients.  However, if we build a client  an eCommerce system or utilize other programmed features we will need to use some of the code over again for other clients.  Reusing code is a way to keep costs down for the company and our clients. We can use a small amount of the core code and customize it from there for specific clients.  In any case, if we develop something that is new and has never been done before, a contract clause limiting use of that feature should be included.  

Here are some thoughts from my own from experience:  

11) What if a client states he/she has a tight deadline or need the site built in 1 Month?  
A custom website takes anywhere from 3 months to a year (on the extreme side) to build.   Change orders and unexpected problems extend the process.  Since we offer tailored solutions, we don’t have a shelf full of prebuilt designs for clients to pick from. This is essentially the same for programming features but we do have a range of our most popular features such as contact forms, mailing lists etc.  But, changes in the original statement of work to add greater functionality will push the deadline out.  Overall, our company strives to provide innovative and impressive websites as quickly as possible without compromising quality in any way.  

12) What if a client’s contact email address is a hotmail account?  
Basically, this is a very big red flag.  I am very leery about investing time and energy speaking with or writing a proposal for a client who may be attempting to hide his/her identify.  In order to create a trusting and effective business relationship, I feel a client should provide his/her business contact details.  There are companies out there that will get you to put together a proposal so they can compare against it against another proposal; or worse, steal your work.  The bottom line is, if you use a name other than your registered domain name, I will be hesitant about working with you.  On the other hand, if you are a start-up company or working with an e
stablished company and are up front about your intentions, I will likely be more
than happy to work with you.  I do understand that there are entrepreneurs out there who are still “working for the man” until they can get their great ideas turned into reality.  

13) What if a client says:  “Im a budding designer and will be the main contact for the project?  
This is another red flag and can be disastrous; however, sometimes this is out of your control.  The most important step is communicating with the decision-maker in the company in order to “nip this in the bud” during the sales process.  I have not had good experiences working with “hobby designers; specifically, it has been a nightmare. Nothing will ever be good enough based on their likely limited understanding of present web standards.  The biggest problem is they often do not understand why we don’t use for code or open source software.  Just because something is already built doesn’t mean it is the best solution for your company or can be customized to suit your needs.  And, while we are on the subject, remember that just because your favorite color is red and you love flash doesn’t mean your clients do.  Mass appeal is often more important than individual preferences.  Sometimes, I would rather work with the marketing manager’s cousin’s girlfriend’s grandmother who will often have more useful feedback looking at the site as the “end user.”  As is usually the case, an exception to this is a company with an internal web team with is outsourcing the design because they are under pressure.  

14) Can you provide clients’ information to serve as references?  
This should be a “two-way street.”   If I provide a client with contact details from previous clients, I expect the same in return.  And, by the way, I don’t want the references you decide to give me either–I don’t want a bunch of “hand-selected” people telling me how great you are.  I want to know if you pay your bills on time, how well you work with other companies, etc.  Valuable time is lost if we are tracking you down for payment or constantly in contention.  So, it is simple—references are useful on both sides of the deal in order to know what to expect.  If you are going to be an extremely difficult client, I would rather be forewarned.  

15) I want a site like “Facebook” or “You Tube”?  
It has already been done—innovation and creativity does not equal replication.  However, if you have your own spin on it like a community site or a Facebook-style site for retiring baby boomers, then why reinvent the wheel.  Again, the key is a tailored website.  A website for the 60 and over crowd would obviously need to take different things into consideration but the infrastructure is already there.. 
EXAMPLE: Things to consider when creating a website for an older crowd:

Color:  It is recommended to choose colors from opposite sides of the color wheel (i.e. blue/orange, black/ white).

Font:  Use at least 12-point size; larger font is easier to read.  A style sheet can also be installed so the user can pick their choice of font size.

Navigation: Avoid a very deep hierarchy.  Due to spatial and working memory decline, elderly people are more likely to get lost while navigating a web site.

Sound:  Use lower frequency tones as the ability to hear higher-pitched sounds declines with age.

Content:  Always provide text equivalent to auditory and visual content. Layout and Style:  Use large areas of white space and small blocks of textI as this increases readability making pages cleaner looking and easier to navigate.

Education:  Provide easy to use on-line aiding and support documentation in order to tailor to novice users.

Bobby:  If in doubt, check your site with Bobby.

16) I don’t know what features I want on my site, can you tell me?  
You don’t go to a restaurant and tell the waiter to bring you “whatever”? I’m not a mind reader–if I was, I would be living it up in Vegas.  Start by speaking to each internal department in your company (not necessarily department heads) In order to figure out what features are essential.  Speaking to staff members is also key—including new staff members and those who use the site the most.  Also, do not forget to speak to your clients and a representative group of people who would likely use your site.  Ask these people what they feel is essential in a good website as they are the ones who will be navigating the site.  In addition, think about your user population and where they will be accessing site; for example,

“If you sell construction materials, many of your users may need to access your information offsite.  If an air card or Smartphone is used to access your site, having a site full of flash and large advertising banners may be a waste.”   

Easy navigation is another key component in an outstanding website in addition to text plus low bandwidth images, a pdf download option with specific product details, and an advanced search tool.  If the user cannot access the information they need, unnecessary calls will be made to your company putting undue pressure on your staff.  Also, if a site is difficult to use, the consumer might move on to the next company put forth by the search engine.  Even spectacular-looking sites with all of the “bells and whistles” will lead to lost business if they are difficult to navigate.  

E-Strategy Consulting, in my opinion, is the best place to start if you do not know what you want. Our team of professional information and technical Architects will solidify your ideas (even rudimentary ideas) into a well- developed tactical web strategy.  With a focus on maximizing your return on investment, we will perform the necessary extended discovery to determine the “who, what, why, when, where and how” of your project.