Educating clients on design discoveries— Case study

Patrick Branigan

Designers know, selling a solution is fairly easy. Selling your investment…not so much. We tailor our work to fit the challenge at hand and its constraints. Explaining this to clients, however, can be a challenge.

So, while working with the team at DockYard, I led in designing a digital prospectus that we distributed to our potential partners (our clients) that helped increase sales and engagement in design discovery and design sprints.

Challenge

We would get to a point in our negotiations with clients where it was clear we wanted to work with one another. It was clear that our partnership would deliver something valuable in the end. We just might not know exactly what that is yet. To get there, discovery and design sprints were needed. To sell those, however, wasn’t easy.

Clients often had a tough time grasping what exactly would be delivered to them. They desire what’s tangible. They need to see and feel what their money is being spent on. “Thinking? Anyone can do that!” they’d say. “Exploring? We’ve already done that!” they’d say.

We needed a better way to educate them on artifacts, methods, and techniques employed in the creative process so that they could trust what they were investing in.

Objective

My job was to create a digital prospectus in the form of a PDF and a PWA (to satisfy any level of distribution depending on the client). We wanted to expose clients to our language, our thinking, and our value in the form of deliverables they might expect. It was to showcase our depth of knowledge, educate them on the intent of our work, and provide them an early understanding of processes they would be partnering with us on. It was our hypothesis that we would sell more successfully the idea of engagements around design discovery and design sprints.

Research

The research on this project was straightforward. We wanted to investigate what were the driving factors in landing or losing business that sold design discovery or design sprints. This meant interviewing current and past clients.

We uncovered some telling themes in our discussions. The following reasons were most highlighted as to why design discovery and/or design sprints were not sold (or engaged in) during projects:

  • An unclear definition of what they would receive (literally) and to what fidelity.
  • An unclear understanding of common design terminology such as “wireframes,” “UX,” and “journey maps.”
  • An unclear understanding of how a design discovery and/or sprint differed from clients ‘brainstorming themselves’.

Giving the idea form

After assessing our own processes of selling and engaging new and returning clients, we recognized that these discussions around design discovery were mostly happening during our sales funnel — well before designers and engineers (or even PMs) were fully involved.

This meant that what we delivered should be clear and easy to digest, in the hope that sales folks and clients could view, engage, and discuss the prospectus without the reliance on outside expertise. This also informed our model of delivery. We determined this product could be a strong brand awareness tool that could be left with clients during their processes of deliberation. Discuss it during the meeting. Finish by leaving it with them to take. Deliver it to them after the meeting. Make a resource that could be revisited.

We started by creating a PDF book. It was short, performant, and easy to deliver. Its accessibility and clarity were paramount.

(Later, a progressive web app would be built to act as a universal resource — a glossary of sorts that not only delivered the same education but did so in a fashion that displayed our skillset when it comes to creating PW problems.

Prototype

The prototype (or first run) of the product consisted of the following sections:

  • Personas
  • Journey maps
  • User Interviews
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Stakeholder Analysis
  • Wireframes
  • Prototypes
  • Production-ready designs

Sections were arrived at by looking at patterns of most often commented on exercises and deliverables during our interviews. Each section gave a 1–3 sentence definition, a greater description and value proposition, and a supporting image representing the topic.

These sections used visually concocted to emphasize our brand aesthetic, giving clients a sense of visual design and depth as to emphasize our care and quality even in such supporting documents like this one. Its light, clear, inviting tone and personality is intended to allow for the client to envision their own respective projects taking the shapes and forms presented.

Validate

After 3 months of using the piece with sales, we found exciting results:

  • This took the form of a marketing material that reached beyond our current and past clients.
  • Prospective clients were more likely to engage in paid contracts prior to first sprints.
  • Prospective clients were more likely to recommend our company to peers even if no project contract was arrived at.
  • Sales of discovery engagements alone increased by 20%.

Takeaways

Ideas can be easy. Designing is rarely easy. To those who aren’t as familiar with the creative process(es), engaging in partnerships can be scary. Often times all it takes is transparency: allowing your prospects to see how and why you are the best fit for them. Even then, if you take the initiative to educate them and involve them, the likelihood of a successful partnership is that much greater.

A few years later and I’m still providing this material to prospects and still seeing a promising return.

Unlisted

Patrick Branigan

Written by

Product Designer by day, gamer by night.

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