Know Your Client’s Expectations and Mindset

Categories Business and Leadership, Tech

I recently had my Honda in for body work (got hit while parked, yay) and was given a 2012 Ford Focus as a loaner.

The Focus is a pretty impressive car overall and I am pretty sure it got slightly better gas mileage on my commute than my Civic actually. However, I found one glaring interior design flaw while picking up breakfast.

Ford Focus cup holders

Notice the spill next to my cup of hot green tea? Yeah. The Focus has terrible cup holders. As in completely useless. My cup would not stay upright at all unless I held it up. This would be enough to eliminate the Focus from my list of potential purchases.

When you think about the design process, mistakes like the one above are what manufacturers and other producers of what I would call “non-iterative” or “fixed” goods fear most. A flaw that makes it past all the usual error checking and into the finished product undetected until real-world use.

Obviously a poor cup holder is nothing compared to a manufacturing flaw that could be deadly or force a product recall, but the principle is the same. Clients that deal in these kinds of products are going to have a very different mindset than those that deal in online goods, services like consulting and other iterative processes.

Manufacturers want to achieve perfection, or as close as possible, up front because in their businesses that is how things work. At these companies it may be much more difficult to understand the “beta” culture of the Internet and the process of constant iterative refinement that is the norm in the space.

Communication issues can abound because as a provider of online services you are actually speaking in a completely different language than they are used to and coming at them with an entirely different mindset.

“Soft launch? What’s that?” In order to be successful at providing services to manufacturing and similar companies, their approach must be understood. Often, there will need to be some up-front education on work styles and processes you would take for granted otherwise. Make sure these kinds of clients understand where you are coming from and how your project or service will be executed before work starts — or you may run into trouble.

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