I loved reading Erika Napolitano’s post where she explains that she has to be a little bit of a dick with her clients. I agree and ascribe to her premise that when someone is paying for an expert’s advice, they need the expert to tell them the truth. I also love that she has the guts to write, no holds barred, although Erika takes it to an extreme that is several standard deviations above the mean of where I fall in using “colorful” language.
I definitely clean it up when I write. I guess it is similar to the way I would would run out for a quick trip to the market in my sweaty workout clothes, but I would definitely change and put on lipstick if there was going to be someone out there taking photos.
But, back to the topic of telling the truth. I have written before about my ability to see the poo in the pool, clearly and quickly which I consider one of my two superpowers. I have the ability to see the problems in a situation when others can’t or don’t even notice. (My other superpower is being able to see a trend before most people, and take action on it that works to great advantage. But that will be a post for another time.)
So, like Erika, if someone is asking for, or paying me for my opinion, I feel obliged to give it to them straight so they will know what they are getting into.
This also shows up in my home life. One of our adult kids was looking to buy his first house. Knowing I am an expert in Real Estate matters, he wanted my opinion on his final choices before making an offer. On one occasion, he showed me a house that he was excited about, that was in a great neighborhood. I went to look at it and immediately saw that it was on a very busy street (strike one).
The next thing I noticed, since we were driving down the steep driveway was that the front yard sloped down to the foundation of the front of the house (strike two). As we walked into the house, my step-son told me that the entire lower floor had just been renovated and they just put in a great new floor. Hearing that, the bells went off, ding, ding, ding (strike three). I blurted out, “It’s a definite no. This house flooded and that’s why they they had to “renovate” and replaced the flooring.”
My family calls this dropping truth bombs.
With clients, I tell the truth but there is a continuum and sometimes I don’t do it with enough emphasis. Later when they do it their way, I feel like I let them down by not being a little more of a dick. For example, a few years ago, a couple I know with an established business in Alaska did a Talk it Out Session with me about a much needed website redesign in WordPress with easy eCommerce functionality.
At that time, we talked about her project quite extensively. During the conversation my friend told me that their first site was done by a graphic designer friend of theirs and she knew he was really looking forward to trying his hand at doing a site in WordPress. She felt that she needed to give him the chance to do it.
Ding, ding, ding. . . I told her at that time that designers just getting into WordPress a) don’t typically know much about web design and b) have a hard time at first with the concept that the design has to play an important- but supportive, role to the website functionality and its ability to convert visitors into clients. In fact, designers new to digital marketing don’t usually have any knowledge about, or pay enough attention to, usability or conversion.
The second thing I warned her about is that new WordPress designers make a lot of mistakes since they don’t know the best practices needed to create a site that is functionally easy to use and is also technically robust.
At the time, I knew that her guy was not going to be able to do what she needed for her business but I didn’t come out and say it that way.
Every so often over the past two years, I’d look at her website and see that the old one was still up. Hmmmm. What’s with that? Then, last week this person called me again to talk about their website. Turns out the designer went ahead with the project without direction of any kind from anyone who had a strategy.
Now the site is built and looks like a nice brochure, with just placeholder text and it is so overly designed that it will never work to get the job done that she needs it to do. Not only that, technically it was not done with best practices and it is not mobile responsive. And since he has finished his part of the site, my friend already paid him for his work.
When she called for a consult for me to evaluate the site, I gave her my spiel about the purpose of a website is being able to attract the right visitors, make them know they have come to the right place, and then lead them to give you their email address so you can nurture them into a lifelong customer, even if they are not quite ready to buy that instant.
We talked about what it takes to do that. I suggested she download our Website Analysis Checklist to get the overview about the things that are needed for a site to work and be effective.
She got that the current test site was not going to work for her at all and knew her graphic designer didn’t have the expertise to change it. She asked me, “How should I tell my graphic designer?”
I told her that the best thing was to tell the truth. Tell him this was all her fault. Since she likes him so much she made a big mistake and put him in a bad situation by turning over a project to him that is crucial for her business knowing he did not have enough experience. And that she hired a content writer who didn’t pan out so then he didn’t have any support from her or the content writer. Now she has realized that she needs a mobile responsive site that will work to get them more customers, and that the site he has been working on just won’t do the job she needs it to do.
The thing is, I saw this whole thing play out before my eyes during our consultation. Just how direct should I have been with her before? How could I have told her exactly what was going to happen? The path she chose cost her thousands of dollars as well as lost revenue that could have been prevented by getting a website that worked for them two years ago.
I have to claim my super power. I need to know how to wield that information better but I can’t and shouldn’t suppress it. People come to me because I know what I am doing and I really have a responsibility to tell them the truth; when their copy is bland and boring, or they are wearing a suit that looks like Jim Carey selling something, or if their logo sucks.
Erica Napolitano called it straight up about the importance of being a little bit of a dick. And although I am loathe to say that word in writing – that is exactly what people need and want from an expert. Whether it is your doctor or your air conditioning repair person or your website developer, we hire experts for their expertise and we need them to tell us the truth.