Doing Web Development As A Small Business Advocate

Listen to this Audio Blog post here:

In a past San Diego WordCamp presentation I encouraged the audience to become a “client advocate.” To consider, what it would be like to do whatever it takes, to make that client successful. It’s a bold statement to an industry that has gotten in the habit of complaining about its clients. Truth is, we are in a service industry and any business that is in a service industry complains about its clients. I’ve thought a lot about that statement since I made it and have spent more time thinking about broadening that idea and even refining its meaning.

Becoming A Small Business Advocate

Clients are who we interact with every day. Businesses are who we work for. We build websites for the business, we don’t build websites for the client. The success of the website is a success for the business, not a success for the client. Of course I’m segmenting here and creating a distinction between the client, a person or people, and a business, the entity for which the client works for. Now sometimes the client and the business are one in the same, a consultant, for example and the differentiation is still the same. You are not your business, your business is your business.

Now that I’ve got all of you nodding your heads in disagreement, let me explain. Here’s a good example. My wife is a stylist (hairdresser). People have been coming to her for years to get their hair done. When a new client comes in to get their hair done, there is a small courtship. They want to see if they are compatible with that hairdresser. Do they listen? Do they get a good cut and color? Is it affordable? Do they like her? Essentially, they are buying into her brand. After a few years or maybe even a few months, they just want to get their hair done. She doesn’t socialize with her clients that much. They don’t call on the phone to see how she’s doing. She is not her business. Her business is cutting and coloring hair. Her business is her business.

Saving The Business From The Client And Us

When businesses come to us asking for help with web development, they are entrusting us to better their business. To make it better than it is. At that point we are a business consultant. It’s our job to make that business successful. The client is that businesses representative. They are our contact. The person we interface with for the business we are trying to make successful. We have to guide that client down the path to success in a very tactful way. So what is the path to success?

  • Define goals early. They should be simple and attainable.
  • Make sure the end result is well defined. It should do this.
  • Agree on a measurement for success. We want people to regularly read our blog.
  • Establish a support mechanism. Agree on a method and number of hours.
  • Suggest future features and scalability. Start talking about Phase 2 early.

By creating a structure, you stay away from tangents, diversions and the inevitable “you know what would be cool…” conversations. A structure is not only to protect the business from the client, but also to protect the business from your business. As web developers, we are not that businesses target market and we should not pretend to be. We are there to help that business achieve success by building them a website that adheres to the established business goals. Our success is their success and like I’ve said before, if that website is taken down after a year, we have to ask ourselves, did we do everything we could to make that business successful?

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