If you’re a savvy service provider, you’re one who’s interested in your relationship with your clients. Having a good relationship with clients increases the likelihood that they’ll keep coming back and/or sending additional business your way. Recurring work and referrals are the lifeblood of an awesome web design practice, so naturally a great client relationship is something you’d want to have high up on your list of priorities.
Clients, on the other hand, usually aren’t thinking about finding the perfect web designer; they’re usually thinking about how to get the site they want at a price they can afford. The focus is on dollars and not relationship.
Navigating the first conversation with a prospective client can bring this glaring difference in approaches into sharp focus, at least for you. There’s no way to avoid price-shoppers, but there is a way to identify your ideal clients before investing all kinds of time putting together a quote or a proposal. And that is the client questionnaire.
What to put in your client questionnaire
The purpose of a client questionnaire as stated above is to help you weed out the price-shoppers who probably aren’t your ideal clients. Doing so will help you run a more efficient business — you’ll know which clients to chase and which ones aren’t right for you, right off the bat. Another benefit, though, is that this questionnaire, which serves as an intake form or onboarding process, will make your life much better when it’s time to write a proposal and start work on a project.
An effective questionnaire clarifies two main things: the purpose of the new site, and the visual aesthetic the client wants. Your questions should cover everything you need to know for both the proposal and the project itself. This may include any (or all) of the following sections and questions.
About the client
- Client name and contact information
- A brief description of the organization — could include mission or purpose, size, and an elevator speech of sorts
- What sets the organization apart from its competitors — some designers will even ask for information on the top two or three competitors and links to those sites
- Who will be involved on their end, who the decision-makers are, and who your (only) point of contact will be
About the audience
- Target market and ideal customers
- Site elements to include or not include
- How the client wants the site to be used
- Whether or not there will be an eCommerce piece
About the project
- Why the client wants a new website
- Any problems with the current website, if this is a redesign
- Any existing or intended logos, tag lines, slogans, etc.
- What content will be included, who will be providing it, and when (this includes images)
- Keywords to optimize
- Timeframe (start date, turnaround time, and/or end date)
- How fast they expect to see results with the redesign (this is to give you a sense of how realistic they are)
By the time you shape questions around each of these topics, you may have a pretty lengthy questionnaire. Don’t feel like you need to send every question to every client. The more you work with a client questionnaire, the better your sense will be of what issues to hit with which clients.
How to create and deliver a client questionnaire
One great thing about the idea of a questionnaire is that it can be used on the phone, over the web, or in person. Once you’ve got a sense of the information you need to capture from a prospective client, you’ll probably think of quite a few options for delivering the questionnaire. If you’re speaking with a client over the phone or face to face, it can be easy to run down your list of questions and take notes on (or record) the responses. Doing so may make it more likely that you get some of the information you need, but it also requires your time.
An alternative that may be more convenient for both you and the client, who has the opportunity to assemble all the information you need without being on the spot, is to deliver your questionnaire electronically. There are quite a few ways to do this. You can design an online form that the client completes and submits, assemble a PDF or Word doc with a list of questions for the client to fill out, or even cut and paste your questionnaire into an email.
There are pros and cons to any delivery method. Web forms allow you to mark some questions as required, but some prospective clients might be frustrated by that. A PDF or other attachment is fast and easy to send and gives you another opportunity for a positive interaction, but it limits your ability to customize your questions for individual clients (especially if you go the PDF route). Cutting and pasting into an email allows you to customize your questions easily, but taking the time to do that might not be your best use of time, and it might also mean you give up consistent branding.
Final thoughts on the client questionnaire
You probably already have a good sense of how you’d like to present your questionnaire to prospective clients. And the good news is that you get to make your own decisions about how you conduct your business, so if one method ends up not working, you can always switch to another.
Do you use a client questionnaire? Why or why not?