Regardless of the exact type of work you do (white-collar, blue-collar, entrepreneurial, freelance, etc.), there’s a good chance you’ll have clients or customers of some kind. (Logical so far, right?) Those clients typically are similar in a few basic ways:
- They have a budget
- They want to see value
- They have their own set of internal politics and reporting relationships that you may not ever completely understand
Those are kind of a “big three” of similarities, and after that, every client relationship is different — industries, HQ locations, number of employees, and — perhaps most importantly — profit set-up.
Public organizations, such as government branches, usually have a much different “pitch approach” required than non-profits. Both of those require a different approach than mid-size to enterprise for-profit companies. Each situation is different, so this post can only speak in higher-level examples, but here’s a guide to understanding a few of the different ways to get (and retain) different types of business.
A quick website example
Go ahead and open this website in a new browser. Then open this one. We’ve worked on both in the past year or so. The first one is a company who sells services to nonprofits in DC. As you can see, that website is much more about the value-add of the organization and its services, as well as different ways to connect. The second website, Contentverse, is a document management system from us. While we still work hard to convey value in both places (more in a second), the second has more immediate “sells” on the page — a phone number, a chance to download the app, etc. The approaches, and even the layout schematics, are very different. But the same people (give or take) worked on both websites. This isn’t brain surgery, no, but it underscores how different clients require different approaches.
Governmental organizations and process
The idea of “process” is interesting in a work context. It’s probably the fastest, most effective way to scale an enterprise business — but over time, as more people and more check boxes are added, employees can come to resent the idea. In governmental organizations, though, there’s usually a strong reliance on process. This is often a compliance issue. What it means for you is this: the quality of your work obviously matters, but if you mess up the process steps along the way, you probably won’t retain that work. With an enterprise client, it’s not good to mess up process — but it’s not always a deal breaker. With governmental-type clients, it almost always is. Remember, then: following their processes to a tee is important.
The importance of front-end questions
Much research has been put into the importance of intelligent questions on any work project, with some even attributing this as the core reason behind Instagram’s success. This advice applies regardless of client type. You need to ask the right questions at the beginning of an engagement, including:
- Why are you doing this project now, as opposed to anything else you could spend on?
- What are your goals?
- How will you know if the goals are reached?
- What’s the metric/measurement you are using?
- What’s most important to you in a working relationship?
- If this project goes well, what should be the impact for your company/org in 1 year?
- Who are the internal teams involved?
It’s all about gathering context for why this project is essential, how they see it being done, and who will be involved. If you enter into a project with a good contextual background, you’ll usually be successful.
The end game is value
Whether it’s a government branch, a $1B company, or a small non-profit, most decision-makers in organizations want relatively high value for comparatively low cost. (That’s the essential definition of ROI.) We’re not arguing that you should suppress your costs — everyone’s gotta eat. But if you consistently understand what the client needs and deliver that value, you’ll retain relationships (and can probably increase the cost over time). You just need to always be cognizant of the climate in which that specific organization works and makes decisions. Each client you have is likely to be very different in that regard.