Manage client expectations by listening, capturing brand-product knowledge and driving collaboration
In my industry, I work hand in hand with our clients collaborating on design ideas that come to materialize as orders–bringing product to their brick and mortar floors as well as their digital sites and building a revenue stream for my company.
As we strive to meet this final result, it is important that I am continuing to build strong relationships with my clients that help further business opportunities for the continued growth of both of our companies. Our goal is not to finalize one single order, it’s to build a long term business relationship.
This requires an approach to business that brings the client into the design process creating a “vested interest” above and beyond the financial goals of our endeavor. It’s important that we all have a sense of responsibility, pride, and emotional attachment to what we do.
Managing a client’s expectations is not always easy, but if I start with some of the fundamentals and keep them involved and part of the design process, I know they will feel invested in the final outcome. It’s important for each party to understand what each other brings to the table and utilize those strengths. It’s always about collaboration and listening to the client.
Here are three key concepts to managing client’s expectations and success:
1. Understanding my Client’s Desired Product Outlook for their Brand: Inspiration, Aspiration, Competition
I work with many retailers every day and in order to fully understand what they want to achieve with their brand.
I usually ask them the following three questions:
- First, I ask them what high end runway/couture designers they want to emulate as “inspiration”—meaning that purchasing these looks would be a small fortune and not realistic to their target customer.
- Secondly, what other major retailers do they use as a barometer as “aspiration”—meaning who could their customer realistically purchase but would potentially be at a higher price point.
- Third, who is their “competition”—who is literally out there that is competing for the same customer’s attention and dollars.
The answers to these 3 questions can usually help guide us to a final outlook that is in line to what the account is looking for. If I know the answers to these questions, I can usually design exactly into what their goal is.
I also ask them questions such as who is the age range of their customer, where else does she shop, what does she do for a living, what does she do on the weekends, where is she eating out—all of these kinds of basic questions help us to understand where she is most likely to spend her money and what kind of disposable income she has available.
Knowing what kind of money she has to spend helps us to understand what kinds of materials, trims, accessories, weights, details, etc. that we are going to be allowed to use in the design process to hit our targeted price points.
2. Being a Leader in Your Industry with a Pulse on the Selling Floor Makes You a Trusted Resource with Valuable Market Intelligence
Because my team and I are constantly exposed to the design ideas, requests, and buying/selling information of a broad range of retail accounts, we have the ability to provide spot on market intelligence to our accounts very quickly. By being able to tap into this information and share with my accounts, I become a trustworthy resource of selling information.
I have specifics as to fabrics, silhouettes, colors, etc. that are performing well at retail and sometimes NOT performing well which is just as critical. For every major meeting that I conduct, I always put together a service of market intelligence for my accounts. They are always interested to see what is happening in other areas that may influence their brand.
Many times, what is selling in the contemporary and fast jr. areas influences what is going to be trending in the kids and missy areas.
By being a leader in your market sector, you bring the asset of market intelligence. Client’s are always looking to have the most up to date information to help make smart business decisions.
Next- 3. Being Knowledgeable, Staying Relevant