SPEAKING IN TONGUES by Jennifer Roberts with Scott Benton and Mark Roberts

 

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NO MATTER WHAT YOUR BUSINESS, at some point you will likely have to engage a professional to help you with something. Traditionally, this has meant accountants and lawyers for most. In the past ten years, we’ve added design and technical professionals who help us create websites, manage social media, and conduct e-commerce.

But, jewelry artists and website designers often are birds of a very different feather. Communicating with each other effectively can be a serious challenge. To be your own best advocate, remember that communication flows in two directions and you must be an active participant in any discussion. Some thoughts on both sides of any conversation:

HOW THE PROFESSIONAL TALKS TO YOU
Half of the professional’s job is to complete the task you have hired them to perform; the other half is to help you understand where you are and where you need to go. Phrases like “it’s too complicated” and “you wouldn’t understand” are huge red flags. So is overuse of acronyms without explanation. Unless you are talking about string theory, there are few concepts that can’t be concisely explained in a sentence or two, even if application of those ideas gets very complicated. If your website designer starts talking at you about PCI compliance and doesn’t bother to answer your puzzled look with a clarification that PCI compliance refers to a set of industry standards for credit card transaction security, move on.

Important: This is not the time to profess that you are a hapless artist and could never possibly understand a contract or basic usability conventions. Engage and pay attention. Ask questions when you don’t understand something and ask more questions until you do. You have both a right and a responsibility to under- stand the services and deliverables being promised BEFORE you sign any contract!

 

HOW YOU TALK TO THE PROFESSIONAL
You can get a good feel for how the professional will talk to you in your very first meeting. But you have an obligation to hold up your side of the conversation, too.

Your participation in any conversation will vary substantially depending on the circumstances. Website designers and other creative professionals who help you market your work or cre- ate your packaging. You’d think artists could talk to other artists about just about anything, but start talking about the color scheme for a phone app and many artists clam up.

“Jennifer’s box of rocks, ribbons and doodads was a great way to convey the contrast and texture she was looking for with her website and her brand. We laid all the items in the shoebox out and tinkered with them as we discussed the design concept for PMC Connection. The shoebox was also rattling around our office as we were coding the site and it kept us mindful of our aesthetic goals as we completed the technical challenge of launching an e-commerce site. Because we were able to talk so effectively with each other, we have seen clear business results in Google Analytics, with site visits up 69% and pages per visit up 497% since the re- launch.

“Clients have many issues on their minds when they come to us for a new web site. Over the years, we’ve found some helpful things to consider before the first meeting to jumpstart the creative process:

  1. Collect your current marketing materials—logos, existing brochures, any brand guide- lines you might have developed, etc.
  2. Gather a list of your favorite websites and be prepared to explain what you like about each. Pay special attention to the websites of your competitors and other companies relevant to your industry. Also don’t hesitate to include paint swatches or textures you like. The more input you give, the more likely you are to get some- thing you like.Think about what your site needs to do. Will it be a blog or will you be selling something, or both? Do you need to be able to change the content often or will it remain relatively static? What kind of bells and whistles will you need, like calendars or interactive elements? Now is the time to make these decisions. Adding functionality becomes more expensive as you get further along in the process.
  3. It is critical to decide on a timeline for the completion of your website. Even if the deadline is arbitrary, it is important that one is decided upon. From that deadline, you and your designers should create a calendar with key mile-stones and interim deadlines.
  4. Try making a basic sitemap. On paper, draw a box for each page or section you think your site will require. Then fill each box with a brief description of content (i.e. home, shopping cart, contact us). This will probably change, but it gives the designer an idea of the size and scope of the project.

Mark’s checklist will get you started on the right foot when talking with a Once you’ve established a relationship and started working together, get estimates and check in regularly to be sure you agree about how work is progressing, what remains to be done and how much it will cost. It pays to find the right person for the job and to ensure that you can communicate effectively with one Too many people ignore the second half of that test with disastrous results. Hiring a professional can be an expensive undertaking. But if the lines of communication are open and flowing in both directions, it can make your business.

MCAM 4.2_Page_22_Image_0001JENNIFER ROBERTS is the president of PMC Connection. She also is an attorney with a background in business litigation and animal law.

SCOTT BENTON and MARK ROBERTS are principals at PumpHouse Creative, Inc., which has provided creative marketing solutions to clients large and small since 1998.

 

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