I don’t know the first thing about fire protection sprinkler systems, I’m not sure what the difference is between wet pipe, dry pipe, pre-action systems. But I can tell you this, I’ll soon be doing my homework. I just signed a web design deal with a company that provides these kinds of products, and like all my other clients I do my best to understand their product or service in as much detail as they, and their customer’s do. It seems logical that when you build a website (or any marketing piece really) for a company that you would take the time to get to know their product, but you’d be surprised how many freelance designers skip this step.
Before the creative stuff, you need to understand your client’s products and services.
It can be tough, most websites us freelancer designers make are for small businesses that do mostly less than glamorous things (cleaning up dead things for example), so it may not be that interesting of a subject to do research on. Not to mention with tough deadlines and usually less than amazing pay, it can be easy to conclude that the client should provide you with all the resources for the site, and you be none the wiser when it comes to their products, services, and industry.
Remember WEB DESIGN is a by-product of MARKETING; not the other way around. You need to get into the mind of your client, and their customers, if you’re going to make an effective website that will help their business (that’s the goal right?).
Two things you need to understand about your client’s products & services.
1. Understand why your client makes what they make, or does what they do.
2. Understand why their customers pay for it.
How can you find this out?
Use the product, as directed. If you’re making a promotional site for shampoo, by golly you need to change shampoo for a week. Making a marketing piece for a new gum brand? Get chewing.
Obviously their are some exceptions to this rule, I’m not saying to take up smoking if you’re making an ad for cigarettes… And I doubt that you’ll buy a private jet to learn about them. If you can’t directly interact with the product or service, get someone involved who can, and pick their brain. Ask yourself, or them “What is the benefits to the customer?”, “What is it about the product or service that makes someone go out and specifically ask for their brand by name?”, is it the value? Is the thingy patented? Does it make their life easier? Is it more convenient? Does it give them status? Do they use it in ways that were not intended? All of these questions get you closer to the product, customers, and your client.
How can this help you?
It may be more time effective to skip this process and just read about the subject on Wikipedia, but keep this in mind: if you can go above and beyond the expectations of a client you’ll get more than just the payment… You’ll get recommendations out the wazzoo. By providing them with an outside prospective and recommendations that will improve their business, you become their go to guy for marketing advice (oh, and don’t forget to charge for this advice).
How did Alka Seltzers double their sales over night? Someone with an outside perspective suggested that they show two tablets dropping into the water on their commercials instead of one. Why didn’t someone in R&D come up with that idea? Because they were to close to the product. Your informed perspective is worth good money, prove your worth and they will pay you for it.
So what do you think? How important do you think researching your client’s product and services are?