Outside influence

This week on the boagworld podcast we ask how do we get clients to take us and the web more seriously.

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Paul Boag:
This week on the Boagworld podcast we ask how do we get clients to take us and the web more seriously.

Hello and welcome to Boagworld, the podcast for all those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. My name is Paul and joining me as always is Marcus. Hello Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Hello Paul.

Paul Boag:
So I’m not even going to pretend that we are recording this whenever the hell we’re supposed to be recording it.

Marcus Lillington:
But we are in the New Year now.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Unlike the previous one.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but the other one – the first one of the series we pretended that it was already after Christmas, but I haven’t spoken to you since we’ve got back to work this week.

Marcus Lillington:
No, not really.

Paul Boag:
So I want to know how did your Christmas go? Did you have a nice time?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes it was very nice thank you. We had family round on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and we had – we saw friends and we had a bit of a party, there has been a lot of sicky – sickliness around amongst my friends. I managed to avoid most of it, but Caroline wasn’t very well. New Year was very quiet, we kind of just stayed in the two of us. Did you do anything over New Year Paul?

Paul Boag:
To be honest New Year, do you want to know where I spent New Year’s Eve?

Marcus Lillington:
Go on then.

Paul Boag:
I spent it in an AA recovery van, driving past Southampton.

Marcus Lillington:
Indeed.

Paul Boag:
And I saw the fireworks go off. It was very pretty. And do you know the annoying thing is only a few hours earlier I was in Dubai who had for New Year’s Eve the biggest firework display the world has ever seen.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I watched that on the tele and I don’t know whether it was just poor sort of camera positioning, but it was kind of like well yes that’s pretty impressive. But it kind of was the same thing for five minutes.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I mean yes, just because you’ve got a lot of fireworks doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I mean I was sort of comparing it to… London.

Paul Boag:
Beijing.

Marcus Lillington:
Well no no, well yes that would have been, but no just like our New Year’s one.

Paul Boag:
Oh right.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, no.

Paul Boag:
Yes no?

Marcus Lillington:
The 2000 ones, the millennium ones along the Thames which I thought were more spectacular, but obviously nowhere near as many fireworks.

Paul Boag:
Ah there you go. It just shows that it’s not all about quantity, it’s about quality too.

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely. But talking about quality, and this is funny, because this is the second podcast and you still haven’t heard the new music.

Paul Boag:
No, I haven’t. That you’ve literally just finished like five seconds ago.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Ish.

Marcus Lillington:
Its – yes, I decided in a fit of pique that we were going to have a rock theme and now I’m thinking maybe that’s not right, but we’ll have to live with it for a bit.

Paul Boag:
Well, the trouble with a rock theme is I think it could get really irritating.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Well, what I will probably end up doing is making it much shorter.

Paul Boag:
Oh how long? Have you made it really long again?

Marcus Lillington:
No, not really long. Only about like 30, 40 seconds.

Paul Boag:
That’s still too long. It’s way too long for the intro.

Marcus Lillington:
Anyway just for now people can just hear some kind of 1970s guitar.

Paul Boag:
That’s – I’m sure it’s very nice for them.

Marcus Lillington:
And Leigh has done a very – a lovely little divider segue thing as well which is very different.

Paul Boag:
Right. I look forward to hearing this. It’s typical you mind, leaving it to the last possible moment to do.

Marcus Lillington:
Well that’s because I was working over Christmas, Paul, while you were – had your feet in the white sand.

Paul Boag:
Were you really?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I was really.

Paul Boag:
You came back on the second did you?

Marcus Lillington:
I wasn’t intending to, but I worked on the second all day.

Paul Boag:
Why, what happened?

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve been – I just had an enormous proposal to write. It’s one of those that you think yes I will do that in a day no problem and it was like no, one of those, but hey…

Paul Boag:
Busy at the moment isn’t it, which is good.

Marcus Lillington:
It is. It is crazy, it often is and I think people go in December, they think oh we’ve got that project or we’ve got this budget to spend and oh lets and we’ve got loads of things and if they all come in we’ve got a problem.

Paul Boag:
The old we can’t do it all.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
But I love that, I love saying I know I know you want us to work for you, but we can’t, we are too important. I always like that feeling. It makes – it boosts my ego.

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
So thank you for mentioning the white sands, because I was patiently waiting for you to ask how my Christmas was, but you didn’t.

Marcus Lillington:
I kind of had – I had to go off on the music thing because people would be going what the hell is that racket at the start of these podcasts. So I had to acknowledge it.

Paul Boag:
So I had a lovely Christmas.

Marcus Lillington:
Did you Paul?

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
Honestly, Marcus. Just unbelievable. I cannot really get my head around it. I didn’t think places like that really existed, do you know what I mean?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah you thought it was a touched up photograph didn’t you, the whole time?

Paul Boag:
Yes. Well you kind of do. You know you see them in movies and you think – you know and on photographs and you think well if they just turned around a bit they’d be a building site there you know or oh they’ve taken that with a wide angle lens to make it look bigger, but it really was just everything. It was 360 degrees beauty and 100% luxury. It was just incredible. So I had an amazing time.

Marcus Lillington:
But see you don’t listen, I have taken photographs in Mexico, where I’ve been a couple of times, that look like postcards and you don’t pay attention. I have shown them to you…

Paul Boag:
Yeah, but I don’t believe you either. I don’t believe anyone, I’m very cynical.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I have to say and I enjoyed your photographs, but I think some people didn’t and I think some people were saying let’s say uncharitable things about you particularly when you broke down.

Paul Boag:
I know I was – I really paid the price for that when I broke – when the tyre burst on the M25 apparently that was karma or something I don’t know. People are so cruel.

Marcus Lillington:
They’re cruel.

Paul Boag:
Just bitter and jealous and twisted.

Marcus Lillington:
I just felt good for you, Paul, with every photograph.

Paul Boag:
Thank you very much.

Marcus Lillington:
My pleasure.

Paul Boag:
So yes we are back. Well we were back last week, but we weren’t really because that was before Christmas and I just – am confused by that. We need to stop doing this because it really does screw my head up. But yes from our perspective we are back after our break, which was lovely and now we’re going to – we are doing a season if you didn’t listen to last weeks podcast on digital adaptation which is kind of a bigger picture kind of season. So we are looking at all the kind of things that need to be done to make an organization more digitally friendly. You know it’s not enough is it anymore, just to kind of whack up a website and a Facebook page and call it a day, we’re kind of moving – there’s this kind of titanic move away from the industrial era to a kind of new digital economy and we want to explore what that means for business and what it, how it’s going to affect us as web professionals? How is it going to change our job and that kind of stuff? So we’re going to get into things like our changing role, but also how a business has to adapt and how we can go about instigating change and all that kind of stuff. This season has been borne out of the fact that I’ve written a book on the subject which is coming out in March hopefully. And if you want to find out more about that book, then go to digital-adaptation.com. If you want to know more about the season, then go to boagworld.com/season/8. I think we are on eight?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes we are.

Paul Boag:
Oh good. That’s good to know. Okay, so this week we are looking at things from the perspective of outside agencies and freelancers. So some weeks we’re going to be looking at it from the perspective of an in-house designer or sometimes from the perspective of senior management, but this time it’s if you work with clients like Headscape does or if you’re a freelancer working with clients, how these big changes that are going on in the world really affect you and the way you do business and working with clients. And there are two areas in particular that we want to look at this week. The first one is convincing clients to be more strategic. As web professionals we know that to get the best out of the web clients need to think strategically about their sites and its long-term management, but often they don’t. So I want to look at that area a little bit. And then the other area I want to look at is changing the perception that people have of web designers, because most clients and bosses think of us as implementers and yet I think and I’m sure you would agree if you are a web designer too that we have a lot more to offer. So how do we change that perception? So those are the two subjects we are going to be looking at this week. Doesn’t that sound fun, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
I’m – yes, I’m itching that’s not the right word is it? I’m snatching at the bit or …

Paul Boag:
That’s quite – you’re biting at the bit don’t you? Or you’re raring to get going.

Marcus Lillington:
Raring to go, yes. I’ve never been more excited in my life.

Paul Boag:
I don’t believe you. You lie. I was more excited when I was swimming with whale sharks.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I bet you were.

Paul Boag:
That was amazing.

Marcus Lillington:
Did James do it?

Paul Boag:
Yes, he did.

Marcus Lillington:
Good man.

Paul Boag:
They were really good actually because they would basically – they got really a good view Kath and James because Kath was going look this is the thing that you’ve wanted to do all your life just go, right. So I was like off the boat in seconds, but of course they were a bit slower but in the meantime they – when I – after I got off the boat they pulled the boat round right in front of where the whale shark was coming. So while I was paddling away trying to catch up with the thing they would drop down right in front of it. So they got a really good view, although I did later so it was fine, but amazing things, amazing things. We only saw a baby which was four meters long, but they get up to like 21 meters over where you went actually in Mexico.

Marcus Lillington:
I didn’t see any.

Paul Boag:
Didn’t you?

Marcus Lillington:
We had turtles and stuff.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I love turtles. They were lovely, saw them as well.

Marcus Lillington:
And rays and things.

Paul Boag:
Yes, rays and reef sharks and we saw octopus and eels and all kinds of stuff. Yes, very cool. Anyway should we start talking about our first subject? How did I get on to that again?

Marcus Lillington:
I’m not sure. When is it going to stop Paul?

Paul Boag:
Never. Never ever until I go on the next one. Yes, so let’s talk first about convincing clients to be a bit more strategic.

Convincing clients to be strategic

As web professionals we know that to get the best from the web, clients need to think strategically about their sites long term management. But how do we convince them?

Have your say

Okay. So strategic, I think what one of the problems that I had when I was writing digital adaptation is that I knew that the people that were buying the book were not the same people that would benefit most from it right, because most of the people that will read the book will be web professionals, but actually the people that kind of need to be thinking about how to adapt the business and things like that are business owners and senior managers and let’s face it they are very unlikely to purchase a book like this. And I think the problem with that audience is that they often perceive the website as a kind of marketing tool and that’s about it and actually I recently wrote a post, link in the show notes of 10 different things other than a marketing tool your website can be.

So we kind of know that the web is about a lot more than just marketing and there is a lot more that you can do on it. And so there is a kind of need to convince clients to take the web a bit more seriously and to think a little bit more strategically. And I think this is a particular problem for those of us that are outside contractors because clients come to us often with a very specific brief of what they want to be – want produced and that brief is born out of a somewhat blinkered view of what the web can do and it is – it’s not a – this isn’t a criticism of those people because they’re just doing what they know. They don’t know that there are other options and so.

The problem is that they kind of perceive us as technicians that implement their vision and don’t really consider that the web could completely revolutionize their business, because I think in a lot of cases the web really could. So what I want to discuss is how we broaden that – the clients view when they are really not asking for that kind of advice from us and certainly not paying for it. How do we go about taking them from a net relatively narrow brief and turning it into something that harnesses the full potential of the web in the clients business, how do we get them for that matter to start paying for some strategic advice.

And the other question is, is it – is this even our job to do? Are we just happy as web designers being implementers of the client’s vision or do we want to turn into what essentially is business advisors? So that’s what I was asking on the website and we got some really great feedback that I want kind of go through some of that now. So where should we kick off – I mean what’s your thoughts on this Marcus before we get into what other people have said? Do you – I mean obviously Headscape have moved into the kind of more strategic areas, do you prefer that or do you prefer the good old days where we just built websites?

Marcus Lillington:
It depends what you mean, strategy isn’t just a thing. Strategy can mean planning a project in association with business objectives etcetera, etcetera things that we’ve talked about many times in the past. So you can have a strategy for your website or you can have a strategy for your entire business, which includes the website. I find – I’ve found that dealing with digital strategy as a whole quite – it’s quite a tough thing. It’s something that encompasses things – some things that we are really good at and know loads about. And others things that maybe we’re not so up to speed with, we know a bit about and search engine optimization would be a good example about – of that.

Paul Boag:
Sure.

Marcus Lillington:
I suppose what I’m saying here in the answer to your question is it’s unavoidable? Well that’s not true, because as you said some clients come with a very strict brief and can you do this and this is the brief and don’t argue with this. But that’s not how we – that’s not part of our processes. We always challenge and I think through the process of challenging and asking questions and getting people to prioritize things, then you’re creating at least the beginnings of a strategy anyway so I suppose what I’m saying is just doing strategy work and strategy work that encompasses a very wide remit I find quite – daunting is maybe not the right word, but I do still quite like focusing in on the detail of design, so I miss that, in answer to your question, so I like projects where we’re looking at website strategy and I like projects where we’re still doing design relating to that website strategy.

Paul Boag:
I agree with you. I do kind of like to follow it through and I don’t enjoy the projects as much where you just do the strategy part and then walk away, because that can be – it’s interesting the reason that I got into the strategy side of things was – the more business strategy side of things was because we were coming up against client after client that we would do them wonderful design work and then they wouldn’t implement it for months because they didn’t have internal resources and hadn’t thought about that or you would come across some barrier in the business or the business’s culture that would essentially prevent us from being successful in our design and development job. But now you’ve – you can also have the opposite problem where you come up with this wonderful strategy and kind of deal with all of those kinds of things, but the client never follows through on that either. So it is quite kind of tricky to get the balance right.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes and I think that the next part of my thoughts on that are kind of slowly, slowly. If you’re approached by a new client or even by an existing client with a particular project, then don’t kind of like shove that off the table and say we need to sort all this strategy stuff out first, use – discuss how that project might affect a new strategy and so – I’m not explaining myself very well, but kind of go – talk about these things while you’re doing the initial project and …

Paul Boag:
Yes, use the project as a launch point for those broader things. What you were saying about you kind of inevitably end up looking at strategy is, I think a really good point because – and Sally – somebody called Sally raised this issue in the comments and she said “I always find – I always make sure that any brief I go through it with the client to understand their rationale for requests, regardless of whether I’m a consultant/analyst or I’m involved in the build. I don’t see this as an extra service; I see this as part of the research and development phase in order to do my job properly.” And I kind of really agree with Sally on that. I think she is spot on. It is a kind of part of it. It’s a matter of how far you want to take it, isn’t it? Because there’s – for example yes I would consider it a kind of built in part of the job to start to talk about business objectives and those kinds of things success criteria, target audience, all of that kind of stuff. That kind of can’t be avoided to some degree, but where I find myself increasingly drawn is into the kind of more heavy duty stuff of cultural change in an organization. For example how the web team is always the bottom of the heap, do you know what I mean, they’re just seen as implementers within the company. How do you change that so that they’re innovators that they’re the ones setting the priorities within the organization or alternatively how do you take a senior management team that sees a website just as a marketing tool and actually help them realize it could be a productivity tool or a distribution tool or any of these other things how it might enable them to create entirely new products that they haven’t considered before. So that’s where it kind of moves from being just digital strategy for want of a better word into actually business strategy with a digital component.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. I mean that’s – we more and more are trying to involve senior management, board, that kind of thing in the projects that we do, particularly the consulting projects. I mean yes, if we are doing a very kind of design oriented projects then that’s – the need to speak to senior managers is less so. But we always propose and we always – it’s usually an optional extra, but to present strategies, findings, research, whatever to senior management during or at the end of the project, but as you’ve already alluded to, often internal politics suggests that the web team or the marketing department or whatever are saying, ‘Oh no, we don’t want to do that because they will just mess it up.’ But it needs to happen. I think that this – what you’re saying here, what the point of the book is that the leaders in these organizations need to be brought in and need to be part of the process.

Paul Boag:
I find that very interesting that you talk about the point to my book. Have you read it Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
Every word.

Paul Boag:
Yes, that’s interesting because it’s on Editorially which by the way is a great web app for writing.

Marcus Lillington:
If I wasn’t so busy, Paul.

Paul Boag:
And you haven’t actually accepted my invite to look at the manuscript.

Marcus Lillington:
I know.

Paul Boag:
And you know this – I’m obviously putting out information about Headscape and how we do things and I’m mentioning clients and all this kind of stuff. You’d think that some kind of peer review with somebody within the company might be nice, but no, no that’s fine.

Marcus Lillington:
Has Chris read it?

Paul Boag:
No. Neither of you have looked at it.

Marcus Lillington:
We are extremely busy to be fair. I can’t claim that maybe …

Paul Boag:
Can you go for the – instead of saying, ‘I’m extremely busy, I don’t have time for you, Paul.’ Can you maybe go for the approach of, ‘I trust you so implicitly that I don’t feel the need to check your work.’

Marcus Lillington:
That too. I’ve always felt that way, Paul, as you know.

Paul Boag:
Oh dear, what now then. Yes so I think Sally raised a really good point that it’s not an optional extra. But that is still – and it’s interesting that you quite enjoyed the kind of more – where it actually follows through into the design and development because Jim said he personally prefers to do the advisory work than actually the construction because he feels that you’re actually contributing something of value. And he hates this thing where you put out a piece of work that you know is not the right piece of work. And I think that’s what really has driven me more and more in the direction of kind of getting into the business strategy stuff, because I was just sick of doing stuff that I knew wouldn’t be as effective as it could be.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I would – yes, I mean in using that as an example I agree entirely. If you’re working on something that’s got this constraint that you know is completely wrong, then yeah, no one enjoys that.

Paul Boag:
But that doesn’t happen all the time by any means, does it.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. I had a meeting with a potential new client yesterday which is really interesting and it’s – and it’s interesting because the navigation is going to be really complex to make it work.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
And that kind of thing I really enjoy. So …

Paul Boag:
Which is fair enough, I think this isn’t necessarily for everybody and it kind of takes a range of different skills. But the question is if you do want to be doing more of this stuff, how do you convince clients to be strategic? That’s what we’re supposed to be talking about and we actually got there yet. So there is some interesting ideas on that. Joseph had an interesting one. He said, ‘My instinct of pushing back and challenging clients’ assumptions requires a lot of tact to do right.’

Marcus Lillington:
Something you’ve got loads of, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I’m full of tact, I am. And he says tact is something that he lacks, so I can’t really associate with that. So he hasn’t been doing a lot of it, but yeah. Do you need tact? To some degree I think one of the advantages of being an outside contractor is you can get away with saying things that you couldn’t if you were an employee.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, absolutely. And I think it – you have to judge the people you are dealing with, some people do need to be dealt with very tactfully and ….

Paul Boag:
And in which case you keep me away from them.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, and others want – they really want to be kind of driven in a particular direction. They want you to be the expert and say, ‘this is what we’re going to do,’ and that’s why they’re hiring you, kind of attitude.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
So it depends on the person there.

Paul Boag:
It always depends, doesn’t it. Brad raises an interesting point about getting clients to think strategically, which is something that we do, which is, he talks about presenting it as a process. So he breaks down the web build into its component parts which helps the client see, ‘Oh there is a process that you go through,’ and that approach does include a discovery phase and a strategy phase and those kinds of things. And almost by just saying, look, this is the way that we work, this is the process that we go through, that kind of gets people to start thinking about the strategy stuff rather than treating it as an optional extra. Again he goes back to Sally’s point I guess. But I quite like that idea.

Sally said something else, which I really like which she talked about some specifics of how to convince clients and stuff. And she talked about cold hard data which I love. I mean that’s what worked so well – we had a client where they were spending a lot of money on marketing campaigns. And we were suggesting that they didn’t spend the money on that and they spend it on improving the usability of their website. And we used analytics to demonstrate and statistics to demonstrate if you took that money you were spending on advertising and used a tiny fraction of it on the website you would generate 400% more income from that. So doing things like that is always good.

So yes, wherever you can use cold, hard data that’s great. But she also talks about something called impact, which is kind of tied to the above. And it’s talking about the idea that making certain changes can have a kind of ripple on effect. And it’s really interesting because I quote a strategist called Richard Rumelt in my – in the book who talks about this idea of doing tasks or taking actions that have a kind of cumulative effect, that they build upon one another. So I’m just trying to think of a good example of it, but you might do – by improving our cause to action, not only do we increase the number of people that are buying our products on our e-commerce site, we also increase the number of people that are signing up for our newsletter. So it has multiple impacts. Do you get the kind of idea? I really like that, I think that’s a good way to go. And clients really like it because they feel like they’re getting something extra for free or that, that it’s identifying the things that have the most impact on the business. So I really like that kind of thing where you confine them, they’re really good.

What else have we got comment wise? Yes, there was really only one other that sprung to my mind, which is if you want to do more strategy work, says Gemma, you need to be talking about that. This is what it comes down to, doesn’t it, and that’s always been our approach to any new piece of work that we want to do. If we want to do more – I don’t know, charity websites what do we do? I start speaking more about charity websites at conferences, I start blogging more about it, I start putting out information. You can’t just wait for work to come in from those sectors. You have to actively create content that draws those kinds of people to you. And a really great example of that recently is we wanted to do some more Agile work and so I wrote some posts on Agile, and it happened that one of those comes up as number one on Google. I think it’s the Agile web design agency. And now – yes that’s it, Agile web design agency. Now, as a result, we’re getting leads coming in and saying we want to work in an Agile way, you seem to do this.

So it’s great. If you just talk about it enough, then you do begin to attract people that are in interested in whatever that you want to do whether it would be strategy or agile or usability. I think you have to be proactive with these things I guess is the point.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Anyway, anything else you want to say on that? On convincing clients to be more strategic? No?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t think so. I’m going to repeat myself here, but I think you need to make it part of your processes and if you do that then it will happen sort of naturally and you need to be patient with some clients over others.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Not every client’s going to want it or get it and that’s fine. If they don’t want to pay for you to do that and they don’t want to engage you in that way then either you’ve got a choice of not working with them or they – just giving them what they want. And that’s fine, that’s okay.

All right let’s move on to changing perceptions.

Changing the perception of web designers

Most clients or bosses think of web designers as implementors, and yet many have so much more to offer. How then do we change this perception?

Have your say

Okay so the other area I wanted to look at was this idea of changing how we are perceived as web designers, that most clients and bosses think of web designers as implementers and we want to be so much more, we’ve more to offer. So how do we change that perception? It’s a kind of really interesting question actually. The thing is as we’ve – I said a minute ago, whenever a client comes to a web designer they almost always come with a brief outlining what they want built. Sometimes these briefs are less than useless, but there is still a perception from the client that they define the solution and we as web designers build it. And things are pretty much the same for in-house web designers as far as I can see in most cases. Somebody higher up the food chain decides what needs to be done when it comes to the web designer to do it.

In many ways this is a ridiculous state of affairs because most web designers live and breathe the web and they’re far more aware of the webs capabilities than most of the people that are coming to them. In short they’re better placed to come up with a solution or a brief than the client is. So what should really happen is that the client or boss should come to their web designer with a problem and the web designer should suggest solutions. For example, a client could come with a business need such as, ‘We need to increase online sales by 20% before the end of the year,’ and then the web designer kind of works out the best way of doing that. Unfortunately we are just not seen in that kind of way, so how do you shift that perception?

Well that’s the kind of question that I want to get into and I think at Headscape we’ve had I reckon some reasonable success in this area, but like anything, we don’t have all the answers. So – and sometimes we’re – we’ve been forced to turn away what could be good clients because they cannot kind of conceive of us as anything more than implementers and they want to do something dumb-arse, which can be frustrating. How do you think we get round this problem, Marcus? This kind of perception problem, or are we now at a point where we don’t get that as much anymore because people just perceive us differently?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I think there is a bit of that. I also think, maybe this is throwing a bit of a spanner in, but I think that maybe some web designers aren’t good at that kind of strategic planning and that they are better at implementing other people’s ideas. I think that we and our peers within the industry are all people who can bring a lot more to the table. And using the internal web design team example, if there is – the leader of that team is someone that can do all the things that you were just saying, will – would be a really useful member of a team who is coming up with ideas as to how a certain goal can be reached, then they need to make sure that they’re in those meetings.

And in our case – in Headscape’s case, we kind of say, ‘These are our processes’ – I’m repeating myself from the previous section – ‘and our processes are very challenging,’ we challenge. We say, ‘Okay, this is the brief, but we think X, Y and Z. You should be considering that.’ And normally people go, ‘Oh, really? Yes I hadn’t thought of that, yes, let’s bring those ideas on board.’ I think that we have promoted ourselves as strategists, analysts, consultants whatever term you want to use for a long time now. So I think people hire us – most people hire us knowing that’s what we do.

Paul Boag:
How do you think we – how did we make that transition?

Marcus Lillington:
That’s a – I think it’s probably because of – as we were discussing in the previous section, too many times thinking why are we doing this and not – and trying …

Paul Boag:
Yes, but – you misunderstand – I understand why we made that transition, but it’s like I’m trying to think, how did we shift people’s perception of us from being – because when you look back at the very early days of Headscape we would get a brief, we would build what they asked. And somewhere along the line that shifted and I’m curious …

Marcus Lillington:
I think it was a kind of slowish transition. And ultimately we were able to show good results from previous projects. With a new client, we did this, similar client to you, you’re saying new client that you should – we should be doing this for you, but with a similar client to you, we challenged that and suggested a different approach and that was successful. We managed to – we’ve been able to prove with data, etcetera that doing this strategic title work is effective. So I think yes, being able to show previous examples of using us in a – an analytical way or using our analytical skills is a very – probably the strongest way of persuading somebody to take out analytical skills seriously

Paul Boag:
Yes, I mean Zack talked about that because he talks about using concrete examples of past projects and data from those past projects as a way of kind of convincing clients. I think that’s a really good point, it’s a really good way of shifting perceptions when you can say, ‘Look, we did this and it was successful’.’ And nothing kind of really beats that. But he also talks about showing your expertise in terms of demonstrating your knowledge, which I think is a really good one of, ‘there’s this current trend going on,’ or just being able to say, ‘Well, you know,’ not just ‘we did this in the past,’ but say ‘well gov.uk took this approach and New York Times took this approach and these people did that and this, we think that…’ and it shows that you kind of know what’s going on in the industry and that you’ve got that kind of knowledge and expertise and so I think people take you more seriously that way as well.

Marcus Lillington:
I really like Chris’s point of ‘charge more’.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
I know what he means, it’s kind of like if you’re reasonably expensive then that exudes a certain type of confidence if you like and I think that that – if someone is paying a lot for your services, then they’re going to expect more. So …

Paul Boag:
And they’ll listen.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, exactly.

Paul Boag:
Because I always joke about that, I mean, I must have said this on the podcast before, but I always joke about that when I go into companies with their web teams. A lot of the time they’ve already got the answers, they already know it, but because the cost of them is a hidden cost just rolled into the cost of the company, they don’t value their opinions, they don’t take them seriously. But when you’re paying an outside agency and you can really see that cost in your face, then you have certain expectations, which is great.

Chris also raised another good point that I like which is about taking control of the project immediately, which is – so when the client first engages with you, you need to take control, you need to say this is the way we do things, this is the way we work and also not to be afraid to kind of educate the client through the process. He talks about how some clients, they talk about the colors they want to use in the imagery, the copy and stuff. Well you need to come back and start talking about color theory and typography and white space and usability and ratios and responsive grids and all of those kinds of things again to demonstrate your expertise, but also to show that there is a logic and a thinking behind what you do rather than it just being personal opinion, which so often that’s how they perceive it. Because they know that maybe they’ve got a nephew that built a website once, so building websites is easy isn’t it? So you’ve got to show that there is so much more behind it and I think that’s a really good one.

Michael kind of follows on from this point where he talks about explaining that there is best practice. I think a lot of clients think design is arbitrary, that it’s a matter of personal opinion, all that kind of stuff, and there is so much more that’s going on there and it’s really important to demonstrate to clients. Look, there is best practice, I know that best practice, I have experience in this area, it’s not just something I picked up in my spare time. Which I think, if you’re a freelancer working at the lower end of the market that can be a real problem for people. So yes, I think that’s great, that idea of taking control and showing your expertise and all that kind of stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
My son has just come home. So hello James.

Paul Boag:
Well, did we need to know that?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, well he said hello and I was …

Paul Boag:
Oh you felt a need to reply to him.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Oh, that’s very loving.

Marcus Lillington:
I thought you were saying how – what where the things that changed to make us more strategic? One thing – when we made the decision not to do speculative design, that sent out quite a strong message that we confidently know what we want to do and we want to offer. So that I think is a really good example of …

Paul Boag:
Yes, I think what’s good about that is it says to a client I’m not your bitch. We are equal peers here. There are ways that we work, there are ways that we operate and we will work in partnership with you. It’s very important to break away from that. I remember doing a talk once in America, and I was playing off of the whole class system in Britain, and that there is kind of – the client wants to be treated like royalty and we’re his servants. But you’ve got to break that, you’ve got to break that way of doing things and actually think of it as, we’re coming in as your partner to work alongside you to find the best result for your business. And so there are lots of little subtle ways that you can do that from, yes, saying we don’t do speculative design, to saying – to challenging a brief, to charging more, to taking control of the project. All of these things are basically saying, ‘We’re your equal, you’re – we’re not your servant.’ And I think that that’s really an important thing.

Also stepping back as well. Jim talks about, even if a client comes to you with a brief, go back and look at the ultimate aim. He always starts by looking at what affect the website will – should have on the business. Do they simply want more customers, do they want different types of customers, what do they want their site to be doing, all of those. By kind of almost ignoring the brief, not ignoring it completely but saying, look, there are other issues I need to know in order to do a good job for you guys, says that you’re taking control. It’s all the same thing isn’t it, really? Just different ways of saying don’t treat me like your bitch.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, you’re the expert, you’re the hired expert.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, which is very different to, you’re the implementer of someone else’s ideas.

Paul Boag:
Indeed. Indeed it is. Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Hello.

Paul Boag:
Do you have a joke?

Marcus Lillington:
I do.

Paul Boag:
Is it a good one? Perhaps it’s time we drop the jokes. I’ve tried this so many times before and then every time we get in trouble or I get in trouble.

Marcus Lillington:
There’s this one from Ian Lasky, it’s more of a kind of little story, really, than a joke, but …

Paul Boag:
I like Ian.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Ian is going to – I hear by – remember Andy Kinsley?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Who I declared a knight of Boagworld? I hereby declare Ian Lasky a knight of Boagworld as well. So we now have two.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m sure he will be delighted.

Paul Boag:
I’m sure he will.

Marcus Lillington:
We can have a round table one day.

Paul Boag:
We could, yes. That’s cool. I love it. All right go on.

Marcus Lillington:
I left my car in a car park the other day, when I came back to it the bumper and rear lights were all smashed up. Then I found this note under the wiper, it said I just accidentally reversed into your car. Quite a few people saw me do it, they think I’m leaving my name and details, but I’m not.

Paul Boag:
That’s a really good idea. I like that a lot. Yes, cunning. All right, well I think I’ve talked enough about the Maldives and we’ve mentioned web design once or twice, so I think it’s time to wrap up the show.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
We will talk again next week. Bye.

Marcus Lillington:
Cheers, bye bye.

Headscape

Boagworld